So there I am, standing with my Mathews Creed in hand, desperately hoping the big Wyoming buck doesn’t “make” me in the tree stand.
He already heard me mess up. In my excitement to stand up, turn around and try to shoot the buck while he was peeling his velvet, I knocked my Thermacell to the ground, temporarily spooking him.
The big buck snorted once and took two big bounds up the wooded hillside. I thought I had blown my opportunity. Lucky for me, the buck was so focused on stripping the remaining pieces of velvet from his rack that he didn’t know exactly what the sound was, or where it came from.
Blood from the newly peeled velvet streamed down his forehead and dripped into his eyes. Bugs were flying all around his head. I could tell he was completely annoyed. I stood motionless with my bow out in the air. Within a few moments, he flicked his tail — a sign that he was again content with his surroundings — and walked back down the hill to the bush where he was stripping his velvet.
The buck resumed working the bush. He snapped branches and pushed his weight into the shrub. He ate the strips of velvet from the brush as they came off of his antlers.
The scene seemed to take forever, but it was mere minutes. Then, seemingly satisfied with his work, he again flicked his tail and started walking west, which would bring him right alongside my tree stand perch.
I was a nervous wreck by now. I waited for him to pass by a lone crab apple tree before drawing the plastic-fletched Carbon Express arrow to my lips. I bleated with my mouth at the precise moment the buck stepped into a little opening. He stopped, swung his head to the north, and looked up at me.
I slowly touched the trigger on my Tru-Fire release.
The arrow traveled the 27 yards so quickly that it barely registered in my mind. However, even today as I write this, I can see the arrow hit its mark — purposefully low behind the buck’s right arm pit. I wanted that Rage to hit the “heart” zone. It did, as evidenced in an immediate red gash and flowing blood as the buck wheeled and sprinted up the side of the pine-dotted hillside.
I knew I got him, and I knew he wasn’t going far.
These are the kinds of shot opportunities we all dream about. It’s that moment when the deer steps out and you do everything right. Many times, we see the deer go down within bow range. Other times, like this one, we are just left with that awesome shiver down our spines. We know there is fresh venison at the end of the blood trail. It’s just a matter of calming down enough so we can climb safely back to earth.
That’s what I had to do right now.
First, I hit “record” on my iPod to forever capture the feeling I was feeling at the moment. This buck was #98 of my bowhunting “career,” but he felt like #1. Same feeling that I had when I collected my first archery buck 19 years ago this month. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I sat 20 feet up an aspen that day, shivering with the excitement of a 12-year-old boy.
I never, ever want this feeling to escape me. I want to be this excited when I’m 80 years old (if the good Lord keeps me around here that long) and chasing whitetails with my bow and arrow.
Excitement recorded. Now it’s time to tell my friend and hunting guide Mark Allen that he can drive his truck down into the valley and pick me up.
Mark is not only an excellent person, he is a great hunting guide for Ralph and Lenora Dampman’s Trophy Ridge Outfitters. He takes nothing for granted. Even before we went hunting that morning, he told me that his #1 rule after a shot is not to leave the stand until someone can help with marking the exact spot where the deer was standing.
I respectfully obeyed his orders and waited for him to drive up. Once he was there, I pointed him to the exact spot where the buck had been standing when I released my arrow. Not that it was really necessary this time around, but as you can see from this next video clip, it certainly helped get us on the trail.
The Rage X-treme broadhead did such an incredible job with the entry and exit wounds, that it literally left an easy-to-follow blood trail after just one yard. But big white-tailed bucks die hard, as they say. Amazingly, my buck ran almost 80 yards up that hill before collapsing. I know in hindsight that he was “dead on his feet,” and that he traveled that distance in mere seconds. However, it just goes to show that a good broadhead is paramount when bowhunting big-bodied deer.
After finding the buck, Mark and I exchanged many handshakes and high-fives. I think he was just excited as I was, and for good reason. This was a success for both of us. He just had a feeling that day that a good buck would be cruising this chunk of woods. And he was hoping for the exact encounter that I experienced.
I’ve hunted Wyoming twice now — once in November with a rifle, and once now with a bow and arrow — and must say I’ve never seen as many deer while hunting than I have at Trophy Ridge Outfitters. That is saying something, considering the fact that I have now hunted whitetails in 19 different states over the years. Many other states have their high points, no doubt. However, the totality of the experience, including the landscape and amount of varied game (elk, antelope, mule deer, whitetails, turkeys, mountain lions, prairie dogs, etc, etc) make this corner of the United States one of the most incredible places a bowhunter can visit.
If you have a bucket list of hunts you would like to do, I would highly recommend adding Wyoming whitetails to that list. It is something every hunter should experience at least once in their lifetime.
Editor’s note: Dan Schmidt’s Wyoming bowhunting blog will run in five installments this week. This is the last installment of the series. Also read:
DAN’S GEAR PICK OF THE DAY:
No more guessing – see exactly where your shot hit!
Seasoned deer hunters know it is imperative to know where their arrow or bullet struck before taking up the trail of any whitetail. For the first time ever, D&DH’s Shot Simulator allows you to take as many “do overs” as needed to get that information! In this state-of-the-art animated program, you can position the deer exactly as it was when you were hunting, “take the shot,” and then learn exactly which organs were hit. Position yourself from tree-stand height or ground-blind level and position the deer at any angle. After the shot, click on the navigation bars to peel away the hide, skin and bones to see which organs were hit. Then, use our instant trailing guide to help you decide what your next move should be. Wait 30 minutes … or wait 10 hours? We will provide you the best course of action!