This story starts off simple like any other…. I grunted, he stopped. I had just ranged him at 44 yards, and in the two steps he had taken before stopping I knew he was closer to 46 or so yards. As my sight pins came up on his side I remember telling myself be calm; settle the pin. I counted aloud in my head twenty, thirty, forty, as my pins went past the point I intended contact. Pulling my finger around the trigger the shot was off. The familiar thwack as my arrow struck his side, but wait; did I just hit him where I thought I did?
I recall a very heavy feeling to my bow as I raised and counted the pins. I did not get much space between my forty and fifty pin to compensate the now 46 yard shot. He raced off and jumped the fence. Great, now I have to call my neighbor and explain that I just shot a mature buck and yes he jumped the fence and no I did not intend for that to happen. I watched as he ran to a walk and walked to a stop and bedded within 60 yards of where the shot went off. Oh well I thought, sure I hit a little low but it was a Grim Reaper 125 after all.
I walked back to the house to get my family for a fun retrieval. My wife did not believe that I just shot a deer because it was time for lunch, not time for a hunting excursion. We ate with me twitching and blabbering because all I could concentrate on was getting this deer captured. We all struck out in a string, our two and a half year old with his favorite scoped rifle (plastic) and our seven month old in a pack on mom’s back. As we walked and talked the air was light as I showed them where I shot from and where the arrow was still in the snow and the blood was good.
I glassed over to where I had last seen him and to the right of where he had bedded we see a very similar buck stand, turn around, and lay back down. Instantly I was scared. Oh no, I really did hit as low as I thought? I quickly retreated as a two and a half year old does not recognize the importance of quiet when hunting and especially not when the animal is alive and in front of you. I was a mess. I hate these situations and I wished I wasn’t in one again. My mind racing reviewing the shot in my mind, I phoned a good friend of mine, Brian Barney. “Hey what’s up?” the familiar voice said. I explained the situation that I faced, the humiliation of the deer being on the neighbor’s side of the fence now, and my apparently ground tied bow that was tethered so that the bow would not rise beyond a forty yard pin. “I’ll be over in an hour and we’ll go get him,” was the quick response Brian gave. Man did I feel better; not because he was coming over but because hunter to hunter his words of encouragement put my mind to rest and helped me believe what I already knew I needed to do.
We waited another hour after he arrived then set out. With a light fresh snow that morning the tracking was easy. Pretty quick we came to his first bed. Surprised he wasn’t in it we searched on. After a few beds we realized this was going to get long. We agreed that he was sick or he wouldn’t bed so much. Encouraged we moved on. Blood now got thin and I started to dread the loss of this deer. His tracks mixed among all the other deer tracks made things a little trickier. We tracked on at a snail’s pace going blood to blood and track to track. Every time the brush thickened we felt for sure he would be in there. This went on for another hundred yards. As we crawled through the brush not ten yards away, there was the buck, lying flat, head down like a cat sneaking through the grass after its prey.
I looked at his ears, and as I determined that he had not expired. Brian said, “He’s breathing”. I quickly knocked another arrow. I side stepped until I had enough of a shot to take. My arrow struck its mark and the buck was up and away. With that we both agreed this was it he would not be far. We tracked him down less than fifty yards from the second shot and there he lay. A great feeling of relief came over me.
I chose to write this because no one I know wants to live this scenario or admit that they have had to live it themselves. All I can say is it is so much easier to deal with, with the right support and help. My conscience would have eaten me alive to know that I hadn’t given it my all. Thanks Brian for your help and willingness to stick it out with me and take the lead when I needed it.
Oh and by the way if that first shot would have been a mere one to two inches higher I would not have had such a long story to tell.