First Deer, Please Advise

Bowhunting experiences, the best way to tune a bow -- share your knowledge here!
Posts: 2
Joined: Mon Jan 03, 2011 5:28 am

First Deer, Please Advise

Postby Adrianne » Mon Jan 03, 2011 6:39 am

This is my first year hunting. The general season ended yesterday (we're into extended antlerless now), and is the only day I actually drew on and shot at a deer. I've spent all season terrified to take a shot because I was terrified something would go wrong. My blind isn't in a bad area. The land I hunt on was stripped of its older evergreens, and whomever did it left the tops and side branches lying in piles. I found an area where the landowner had a feeder pen (filled with tops and branches) that lies in the middle of well-spaced oak trees. When I found the spot, the ground was literally covered in acorns and deer sign, so it seemed like a dream. I cleared the pen, set up a feeder, shoved my blind as far back into a brush pile as it would go, and drug brush around the front of it, set up a trail camera and left. After about two days, the deer started having parties in the pen. I spent all season watching deer walk past me, from 10-40 yards away, as I said, terrified.

Now, as my buddies pointed out, if I never take a shot, I'll never get a deer. So, I took one.

I've had my bow for a little over a year, and have practiced at least once a week, generally two or three times a week, like an exercise routine, trying to work up my draw weight. I got a Diamond Razor Edge because the draw was listed as 30-60#, I'm a petite female, and I could barely shoot 6 shots at 30# when I started. My bow is now at 45#, and I can draw 55, but at around 50#, I can't draw smoothly, so it's very awkward. I don't think I'm an awful shot; I can consistently group three arrows within four inches out to 30 yards, and within six to 35-40 yards. At 40+ yards, I'll admit I'm lost, as I don't have 40+ yards to shoot/practice in at home, and so my last pin is set to 35, and the only shooting I've done past that range was on the lease, shooting at a cardboard box stuffed with an old pillow. Because someone always seems to ask, I am shooting 100 grain Atom heads, as they were repeatedly recommended to me for low draw weights.

I'm also not new to hunting. I've been the camp bitch on and off since I was 16 (I'm 30 now), so I've learned how to gut, skin, and butcher things ranging from rabbits to moose. I love the outdoors and have also spent a lot of time stalking/tracking animals with a camera in hand, just for the thrill of starting out at the edge of a landscape with no animals in sight and using my brain and inherent OCD-ness to go find something to snap a picture of. I've tracked other peoples' animals for them before, when they wanted a new set of eyes, and have yet to lose one. I once tracked a doe through about two miles of forest (the day after a rain, thank heavens) only to find her bedded down midday with an arrow stuck in her tail.

Apologies for the ramble to say that I have familiarity, but lack experience.

I'm sitting in my blind, and it's the last day of the season. The entire morning is windy and the neighboring goats are bedded down from before sunrise until 3pm, so I spend most of my time screwing around on the internet on my phone, knowing it's highly unlikely I'll even see anything, how poetic I get pep-talked into "You can do it!" and the day goes sour. Around 4pm, the wind stops abruptly, and it's dead still for about an hour. I'm internally giving up on seeing anything this weekend when the P* Possee arrives - a group of seven does, who start picking their way through the trees toward the feeder, eating acorns. I watch them approach and work on ensuring I'm remaining calm and rational (I was so excited on the FIRST day of archery season that I almost vibrated myself off my stool and out of my blind from adrenaline).

At this point, I'm still not sure I actually want to shoot at anything, but the lead doe is basically beelining my blind, closer and closer, and when she reaches the brush, she walks around it, straight toward the feeder pen, and stops RIGHT on top of a huge rock I'd placed as "10 yards" in lieu of trees. And she doesn't move. She turns a little bit so that she's about halfway between quartering and broadside to me and has a pee. And she still doesn't move. She's just standing there, flicking her tail, staring at the feeder pen. And she's posed exactly like our 3D target, dead still, so I think "Hell yes, I can do this!" and get ready to draw. I'm watching her as I draw, and she puts her head down low and starts turning her head back toward me, and when I look, there's another doe coming around the opposite side of my blind. So, I turn my head back, and I'm thinking she'll spook, she'll see me move, she'll smell me, she'll something, but she doesn't. So I take my sweet time lining up the shot, take and release a deep breath, and pull my release.

Two things: I should have practiced shooting in my jacket. Learning to shoot from sitting on the ground to standing doesn't mean diddle when you're not paying attention to your clothing possibly getting in the way of your string. And, she startled while I was pulling the release, in that sudden legs out fashion. When my bowstring hit my sleeve with a loud "pop", she started blew, tossed her head, and took off running by herself.

And that's just the start of where it all went wrong. I shoot, the string hits my sleeve, and I watch my arrow veer off to the left, and sink about halfway into the base of her skull. When she tosses her head, I can see it move, rigidly in line with her head. Then, she takes off running down the path she'd approached from. Right before she jumps the fence and I lose sight of her, I can see her tossing her head around wildly, with my arrow jutting out from an odd angle, neon green fletchings flashing in the air. At this point, everything I've feared seems to have come true, and it comes crashing down on me with guilt over having made a really awful shot, mixes with my mostly-empty stomach, and instead of spending the next 30 minutes sitting quietly panicking in my blind, I start getting nauseous. After about 5 minutes, I see her jump the fence again, arrow still in the side of her head at that odd angle, and head toward me again, but I completely lose it and manage to vomit all over the inside of my blind.

Well, vomiting spooks the doe closest to me, who starts blowing like mad and the entire group takes off over the fence. I sit out the nausea and shame for about 45 minutes, finally go get my husband out of his blind, and resolve to find this doe, dead or alive.

My biggest regret this season is that I never scouted the area around the property we're hunting on. The property line runs from under the crest of a large hill down the hill, and I'm vaguely aware that there's a "neighborhood" on the other side of the hill, and had even driven down in that direction to check it out and saw *what I expected to see in the area*, which was a rural "neighborhood" - houses and trailers on 3-10 acre lots regularly on either side of the road.

There's a clear, very clear path that the deer took in her first run at the fenceline, from where she dug in to take off to where she dug in the second time when I spooked all the does. And there's a very clear path for about 10 yards on the opposite side of the fence, and then, I don't even know how to describe it... there's about 40 yards of solid rock instead of ground, with dirt piled in places with 2.5' tall wispy grass growing on top of it, but that's it. The rock gets reabsorbed by the ground several yards away, but it's more of the same grass, and mostly rocky with little dirt. I've never tracked anything through anything even remotely similar to that bit of terrain, and it goes off like that away from the fence for a good 150 yards - hard ground devoid of tracks, with grass that only shows where things have laid and not where they've walked.

And then, there's the neighborhood. I went back down the road, past the 3-10 acre lots and actually went to find our fenceline from that side. The neighborhood that's actually there is... shocking.

First off, the two houses we could see from our side of the "mountain" aren't houses. One's a guest house, and the other is a garage with some sort of living space in it. The actual houses themselves are giant sprawling mansions, with impossibly well-manicured lawns, sculpted bushes, and impeccable flowerbeds. Our side of the mountain looks like the "neighborhood" I'd seen and erroneously accepted as "what was on the other side".

And, I really really wish I was making this part up, but there are deer everywhere. The most we'd seen at one time on our side were six does and three bucks crowded together in my feeder pen. Now, we're driving around this unbelievably fancy neighborhood, dressed in camo, haven't showered in four days, etc, etc, stopping every 10 yards to check deer for arrows in the head. I've never seen so many deer in one place in my life. I counted 21 does and 8 bucks before I really started freaking out. They were just wandering these people's lawns, nibbling on their sculpted bushes and lounging, for lack of a better word. It's like they found a place where it wasn't legal to shoot them (lots less than 10 acres, etc), word spread, and they gathered from miles around.

So, now I don't know what to do. I feel like a complete ass and a failure. I've spent all this time here and had no clue what was on the other side of the mountain. All of the houses are newer than the Google maps satellite photos I'd looked at, and what was on the photos was what I expected to see, as I said.

I don't know how fatal an arrow in the base of the skull is. I didn't find any blood anywhere, which, while difficult under the oak trees with the leaves, etc, on the ground, should have been absurdly easy to see on the gigantic stretch of white rock she ran across, and even walking a three foot search grid (long, straight lines three feet away from the last place I walked, I mean) and going OCD on the ground didn't reveal anything.

This site houses the only story I've seen that resulted in an archery head shot deer recovery. The rest of the references I find when Googling are along the lines of "I found a broadhead embedded in my deer's head". I feel awful. All my "experienced" buddies are telling me to give up, chalk it down as a lesson learned, and go home.

Am I supposed to report an attempted shot to the game warden? Should I go door to door? Will she live? Will she die? Ugh.

Posts: 86
Joined: Thu Dec 30, 2010 3:06 pm

RE: First Deer, Please Advise

Postby Huntingdad » Mon Jan 03, 2011 1:50 pm

One heck of a story for sure. Sounds like a lesson well learned for sure. That point is the most important thing to take away from this event. Bad shots are part of hunting. Look how many stories from prohunters you see telling about the limb branch or twig they never saw that deflected their arrow or even bullet.

You took a great shot that went bad. You spent more time practicing then most people do. You waited for the right angle to shoot. So your sting hit your jacket that happens to everyone at least 3 or 4 times!! lol. Try shooting with a arm guard slleve to hold your jacket in next time. You spent hours and hours it seems looking for and trying to recover your deer. I do not think you did anything wrong and you are on track to become a great hunter.

If you want you can go from door to door. You might make a friend with a deer problem you can help them with. She may live may die. Just like she may die at any time in nature.

Posts: 2
Joined: Mon Jan 03, 2011 5:28 am

RE: First Deer, Please Advise

Postby Adrianne » Tue Jan 04, 2011 11:35 am

Thank you so much for your reply, Huntingdad. I walked the neighborhood again, talking to the few people who were out and about. One of them was a kid, maybe 12 or 13... not only did he produce my arrow, but he showed me where my doe had gone down behind his house. She was off a bit into where the manicured lawn meets the forest, and tore up pretty badly by scavengers, so I drug her back out of sight of the houses a good 50 yards or so into the trees, gave her an apology and left her to the woods.

Seems this is a bad year for us. I've been tracking my husband's buck all over the property, and it was shot Sunday around 4pm. Monday I was off looking for my doe, and my husband didn't find a trail or anything, then Monday around noon I found a tuft of brown and white hair stuck to a quarter inch round bit of skin and nothing else about 15 yards from his original shot, then about two hours after that, he'd gone back to camp and found his arrow some 300 yards away from the original shot, at the fenceline, then about an hour after that, I went to pack up everything I'd left in my blind and stumbled across bloodsign, tracked it back to a different fence & huge splash then down a trail to where it dried up, and now this morning I come to check my corn level and get this past weekend's pics off the camera, and I found yet another trail... so now I've got three trails, ranging from about 50 yds to 100 yds in length, marked out up here, and some sort of super impervious buck to find while my husband goes back home (three hours away) to work, and I sit here unshowered an extra five days. And, its still the most fun "vacation" I've had in a decade!

Posts: 86
Joined: Thu Dec 30, 2010 3:06 pm

RE: First Deer, Please Advise

Postby Huntingdad » Wed Jan 05, 2011 8:13 am

Even in bad condition glad you found your deer. I hope you made some friends looking for it. Glad you had a good time as well and remember it is the challenge that keeps us coming back for more!!!!

User avatar
Posts: 767
Joined: Wed Oct 01, 2008 9:26 am

RE: First Deer, Please Advise

Postby 69Viking » Wed Jan 05, 2011 11:37 am

Great story Adrianne, great that you found your deer but bummer you couldn't salvage any of her meat. Hunting is definitely and adventure with a different adventure every time you go hunting. So where abouts in the country is this?

Posts: 3
Joined: Tue Jan 11, 2011 8:54 am

RE: First Deer, Please Advise

Postby ronmc1954 » Wed Jan 12, 2011 8:45 am

Love the story Adrianne!! Try not to feel to bad I am sure every hunter has had a bad shot, especially first deer bow shot. I know mine was! But i did have lady luck on my side, a doe came walking by my stand and I choked and the arrow severed her spine, she dropped right there. THATS NOT WHERE I WAS AIMING.
Reading your passion in your story I feel confident you will do better next time.
Good luck

Posts: 2377
Joined: Wed Jun 04, 2008 3:59 am

RE: First Deer, Please Advise

Postby msbadger » Wed Jan 12, 2011 12:42 pm

What a story...honest and impelling...We've all been there and it's a tough road to walk but you walked it well ...sorry there wasn't any food recovery but you got your peace of mind important...believe me...good luck in future hunts

User avatar
Posts: 1593
Joined: Fri Apr 25, 2008 10:00 am

RE: First Deer, Please Advise

Postby Patriot » Wed Jan 12, 2011 5:13 pm

I admire your passion and tracking ability!  Your husband sounds like a lucky man.
Don't let this experience get you down for too long.  Obviously, you'll want to practice shooting with all your gear on...just like a real hunting scenario.
Shoot while kneeling on both knees, one knee, etc.  It will pay off.
When it's very cold and i have all my layers on, my shot is off 4 inches.  I just need to be aware of that and adjust accordingly.
Best of luck to you.  I expect to hear good things from you in the future!! 
Don't be a stranger to the forum!
Paul K. "aim small, miss small"

User avatar
Posts: 1031
Joined: Fri Aug 27, 2010 8:25 am
Location: Illinois

RE: First Deer, Please Advise

Postby Deebz » Fri Jan 14, 2011 2:39 pm

You asked for advice in your subject, but I don't think there's really any advice anyone could give you on handling the situation.  Sounds like you did an excellent job waiting for a perfect shot, and then following up as much as you possible could have when it didn't turn out as well as expected. 
The only other piece of advice I would give you is to make sure you get back out and try again as soon as possible! The best part of this experience is that you have learned a LOT!!! Use this knowledge to better yourself as a huntress and continue to enjoy this wonderful sport.

User avatar
Cut N Run
Posts: 540
Joined: Mon Jun 15, 2009 10:21 am

RE: First Deer, Please Advise

Postby Cut N Run » Wed Feb 02, 2011 10:11 am


You asked for advice in your subject, but I don't think there's really any advice anyone could give you on handling the situation.  Sounds like you did an excellent job waiting for a perfect shot, and then following up as much as you possible could have when it didn't turn out as well as expected. 

The only other piece of advice I would give you is to make sure you get back out and try again as soon as possible! The best part of this experience is that you have learned a LOT!!! Use this knowledge to better yourself as a huntress and continue to enjoy this wonderful sport.

Great advice^. Learning from experience can be the best way. It's unfortunate that your first archery experience was a bad one. That's a tough way to learn. I'd be willing to bet you will always make sure your string has clearance from here on though.

I admire your dedication and hunting ethic. The best thing you can do is keep practicing from the same position you hunt from. Remember that all deer do not approach the same way and you may sometimes have to turn at a different angle than normal, so practice shooting that way too.

It is awful to lose any deer, especially the first one you shot with a bow. All you can do is become the best shot possible and keep that one in your memory so you are as careful as possible next time. An arrow to the base of the skull usually takes a deer out quickly. Perhaps the lighter poundage bow may have prevented the arrow from doing more damage. At 10 yards though, it ought to go through most parts of a deer. Good luck your next time out.

Luck Counts, good or bad


Return to Archery and Bowhunting

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests