Posted 07 January 2010 - 01:22 PM
Out of breath, panting, heart pounding, legs burning…macabre, surreal, yet stimulating, fun, and a little sad – my "children of the corn" finished the job in fine fashion. The buck was dead and now the real work begins. That's when, for the first time in two hours, I began to look around, assess the situation and try to get a bearing on where we were, where the truck was located and how to get the three of us and the buck out. What a day this turned out to be – first day of the New Year 2010 - and to think it all started the evening before, New Year's Eve, last day of the season, last 20 minutes of the last hour.
A wonderful year 2009 was too. It started with a bow-kill spring bird, some really cool bow fishing for long nose gar, a trip to Wyoming to finally bow hunt pronghorn and I connected on a trophy buck the first morning on stand. The fall whitetail was definitely a positive one having collected two does and a decent 8-point buck. My son Case collected his first Pope and Young buck, so he was pretty happy. There was nothing in the season, or during the day on New Years Eve, or anything during my evening sit on that last day to prepare me for the adventure that began near sun down.
The sun would be setting near 5:30, a quick glance at my watch – 5:10. I was beginning to feel the close of a wonderful season setting as well. Redneck-Techno-Nerd that I am, I began texting a few hunting buddies telling them Happy New Year and talking about the season everyone had. There were no deer sightings the last three evenings, and nothing at all that evening. Imagine my surprise when I glanced up and saw a doe feeding toward me. She was a nice plump late-season doe that looked to be passed her prime a little with a pot belly and some gray around the mouth and ears.
"Perfect!" I shouted inside my head. The cell phone slid into my coverall breast pocket, the bow slid from the holder on the left side of the stand and into position. The hand warmer was moved around to the side, release on the D-loop and I readied for a shot in the opening she fed toward. I judged it to be about 25 yards and so waited for my opportunity to end the season with one final kill. Slowly and methodically she fed toward the opening, stepped into it and obligingly turned broadside and waited.
Twenty-five yards is well within my effective shooting range and, even though the temperature was in the teens and warm moist breath was wafting all around my head, I was confident this doe was going home with me. WACK!!! I watched slack-jawed as the doe trotted behind brush obviously unharmed, turned and stared quizzically at the real estate she just vacated. In the "perfectly clear" opening through which I aimed and released was now a gently swinging finger-sized grape vine – there was no wind…certainly no wind that would only blow just that grape vine and nothing else. Bow hunter nightmare #47 known lovingly as "cuttin' timber" strikes again.
Before despair could take root a familiar crunch-crunch approached from my left. I turned to see a very nice, though slightly broken, 9-point buck walking directly toward me. So, with renewed hope, I reached to my quiver which is temporarily attached to the right side of my Summit climbing tree stand, retrieved arrow #2 of 4, reloaded, repositioned, drew, anchored, and picked a spot behind the shoulder as the buck – again, obligingly – turned broadside at 18 yards and waited. Bump-THWACK! The buck made a similar turn and stare just as the doe had.
My lower limb hit the front bar of my tree stand and caused the shot to completely miss – perfectly good 18-yard slam dunk blown all to…blazes. The buck is now standing at 25 yards hard-quartered away. In my head I'm hearing the line from How The Grinch Stole Christmas as Boris Karloff drones, "and he puzzled and puzzled until his puzzler was sore…" all the while retrieving arrow #3 of 4 and coming to full draw. This was the most difficult of the three shots because of the distance and the severe quartering away shot. However, that is a shot I can make all day long if I concentrate and concentrate I did. Two misses had me rattled and I was not going to release this one unless it was dead on.
The buck sprang at the release then walked away seemingly unharmed. My mouth is completely dry now from hanging open in single digit temperatures puzzling and puzzling until my puzzler was sore. What the (sorry kids) happened to THAT shot?! Now I'm completely rattled as I watch the buck walk 100 yards or so and lay down. He appeared to be chewing his cud, but I knew what he was really doing - mocking me. I was mortified to say the least.
"But wait a minute!" Harry Carry shouts in my head, that familiar crunch-crunch sound again. Turning to my right I see the doe, who watched everything with the buck, was coming over to investigate! I now retrieved my final arrow - #4 of 4. The quiver is empty. The first three arrows were tipped with G5 Montec solid heads, this one had a G5 Tekan expandable head. It was the last arrow I added to the arsenal before leaving the truck and the expandable head was the only one remaining in my broadhead box.
I came to full draw and waited for the doe to step from behind a poplar tree, picked a spot, she obligingly halted and waited (of course) and I released. Apparently one of the blades was already extended before releasing because I watched in horror as the arrow cork-screwed 18 yards toward the doe and struck it squarely in the paunch, a good foot and a half to the right of my point-of-aim. She wheeled around, dashed 20 yards or so and stood. For 20 minutes she stood until it was dark, didn't move a muscle.
The moon was full and bright, so I sat and watched her hoping she would fall or lay down. Meanwhile, the buck rose from his bed and walked off to the south in a straight line – none the worse for wear. Finally, the doe lay down, stretched out with her white belly showing, came to rest and didn't move. I watched her for 30 more minutes and she never moved. However, the second my boots hit the forest floor I heard a commotion, turned in time to see her jump to her feet and trot off. I decided to leave my stand in the woods, circle around to my truck and retrieve her the next morning. She watched me from a woodlot across the way, but never bolted. I figured she'd be there in the morning.
We enjoyed board games with the neighbors until midnight, watched the ball drop in Times Square on television, said Happy New Year to everyone, ate too much food, went home and went to bed. First light, about 8am, I, my son Case and the neighbor's kid Hunter – appropriately named – set out to retrieve my doe. I told them all the story; Case and Hunter were ready to track this doe – both are avid whitetail-a-holics. Hunter is 13 and Case is 15, but they're years ahead of the curve with regard to woodsmanship and tracking.
When we arrived I told the boys to begin tracking, I would go to the woodlot and start grid searching confident the doe would be exactly where I left her or somewhere nearby. Wrong. I grid-searched the entire woodlot – nothing. The boys on the other hand tracked her around the woodlot and were crossing the highway into an adjacent woodlot – some 300 yards away. I was amazed they covered that much ground on such a scant blood trail, but these kids are good. Excuse me, these young men are good.
I joined them on the trail, and a mere 60 yards or so inside was the doe, head erect and frozen in place. Hunter said, "I've never seen a deer die and freeze like that with it's head up." I replied, "They don't. She's got to be still alive." She was. When we neared we could tell she was barely alive. Her breathing was shallow and she was very weak, but still alive. A full 16 hours after being arrowed this pregnant doe was still alive. The shot was exactly where I thought – straight through the paunch about a foot and a half back of a perfect pocket hit. I pulled my bowie knife from the sheath, reached in and opened her lungs and she was dead in less than a minute. She flinched and rolled over, but there was no fight left in her.
Case and Hunter stood reverently by…Case finally said, "…it's kind of sad…but good. She's not suffering any more. She'll make some fine roasts and steaks." Hunter took to dressing the doe and found she was pregnant. We deduced the doe was about 6 weeks since primary rut for this region was on or about 15 November and the fetus was a good 5 inches long with discernable hooves starting complete with dew claws.
After loading the doe in the truck we set out to retrieve all my arrows. I told the boys to make sure the buck did not leave a blood trail. To my surprise there was a massive and I mean MASSIVE blood trail! We followed the garden-hosed trail to the bed under the tree where he was "chewing his cud" and found the ground saturated in blood. We continued following about another 150 yards into a power line cut-through and Hunter reached out to stop us, "There he is" he said pointing to the near by hill side thicket. Sure enough, our eyes focused and saw the figure of the 9-point buck laid hidden, rack and head erect and he was looking straight at us. Alive! After nearly 18 hours, this buck was still alive.
We decided he was indeed alive and we needed to try to put him down. The local rules do not allow weapons afield when season is closed so all we had were knives. The boys fanned out to come up from behind while I held the buck's attention. Unfortunately, when we were still a good 40 yards out the buck sprang to his feet and bolted. I could see the arrow underneath him and it fell to the ground after a few jumps – he was bleeding profusely out the left rear ham.
As we sprinted over the hill top trying to keep the buck in view I couldn't understand how that buck was still alive if I'd clipped the femoral artery – that's usually fatal within a minute or so. This buck is still alive after 18 hours? How much blood does this animal have?
When we topped the hill the buck was no where to be seen. I set the boys to tracking again and went ahead to see if he stopped and was in the open. He was not, so I joined them in the track. These two young men grew up chasing whitetails and turkeys in the southern Indiana woodlands and are now seasoned trackers. I let them work and watched with pride as my own son and my neighbor's son – brother from another mother – tracked and talked about what to do next. Mostly I stepped back and let them reason through it. They both reached the same conclusion as I, but I let them do it them selves – we needed to push this buck so he would bleed out. The hit was obviously not fatal unless we keep him bleeding. And so we did.
In a short while we found him again. Again he was positioned to watch his back trail and was bedded to rest. Again I approached from the front and Hunter and Case circled around to approach from the rear. This time Hunter and Case were within striking distance when he jumped and bolted – they were about two seconds too late, and the chase was on again.
Again they took up the trail, I flanked from a higher position trying to see him first, but they beat me to it. They found him again, motioned for me to approach from the front again while they circled around. This time he was too weak and did not bolt. Case and Hunter used hand signals and eye movements to time their attack with precision. Their knives landed squarely in the vitals. The buck lurched on impact of the cold steel blades and Case grabbed his rack with right hand while thrusting the blade in again with his left – making sure only the buck was impaled, not the hunters.
The buck expired, and my young men jumped to their feet and exchanged high fives for a job well done. The past two hours was an absolute joy for all three of us. I couldn't be prouder of my son and his best friend. They've truly grown into their own – they are woodsmen and hunters. I jokingly called them children of the corn from the 1984 cult-following movie where children take over a town and kill all the adults with long knives. We had a good laugh and Case suggested we name the buck Malachi, "You know, that creepy kid in the movie that kept saying, 'He wants you too, Malachi! He wants you too!'"
We shared a laugh, hugs and high fives. The boys set in on dressing and dragging the deer while I got a fix on our position, laid in a course for the truck and brought it as close as I could. We covered at least three quarters of a mile, but there was a power line opening within a hundred yards of the expired buck. The boys dragged him, loaded him and we were off for the house. The day started with hopes of recovering a doe, but ended with an incredible adventure, a doe and a buck, and a snapshot of hunting's future. Our lifestyle is in good hands folks.
Posted 07 January 2010 - 08:03 PM
Lurking in McDonalds near you!
Confidence makes the hunter, PSE makes the bow.
Posted 07 January 2010 - 08:32 PM
Awesome JJ! Congrats!
Congrats Mark! Quite an adventure and quite a pair of young men ! KUDOS!!!
Posted 24 January 2010 - 09:00 PM
Remember the Ark was built by amateurs, the titanic by professionals.
Posted 26 January 2010 - 07:03 AM
I paid the boys back a little Sunday by grilling deer backstrap kabobs in the rain:
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