Well it has been an interesting past couple of years – I do not believe I even got around to posting on the D&DH website last deer season. Funny how life gets in the way of things and really makes evident what is truly important.
Just to update, 2010 was fairly uneventful from a deer killing perspective. Shot a doe with my bow opening morning in September, then another later in the year. Let an average size 8 point buck walk on the opening day of gun season, then let a couple more bucks walk during the middle of the week. I was glassing one buck when some road hunters spooked him away; never did get a point count. The other one walked along parallel to me for about 75 yards as I moved through a pasture down to a stand. We just kind of strolled together 25 yards apart heading in the same direction. He had lost all the tines off his main beams. Nice main beams, but all the tines had been broken down. No problems with letting those deer walk; I knew we had much bigger on the property, as I had taken one the previous year. Unfortunately none of them showed up this year so ate my gun season tags.
Finished the 2010 bow season with a miss on a good size 10 pointer. My arrow clipped a small oak I had left in place when trimming shooting lanes, figuring I would like having that oak there in 10 to 15 years when it started really producing nuts.
2011 Bow Season is pretty much one and done this year. I purchased a 70 acre farm in Kansas about 25 minutes from where I live so Missouri does not have the hold on me it used to. This is just as well given how poorly non-resident land owners are treated there.
I felt very good going into this bow season. I had moved a stand around on our Hilltop plot to give me a better perspective and easier shooting. And for some reason, despite practicing very little this year, I was very confident that I would be drilling whatever I shot at with my bow.
All looked great, and then I opened my bow case about 10 p.m. the night before opening day and could not find my release. I went into my pack, my clothes, my truck, no release. After several minutes of frantic searching I did the only thing a guy could do, I went to my truck and opened up the compartment between my seats that my wife lovingly calls my crap box, and pulled out my old release from several years ago. I figured it was better than finger shooting, and I know from when I setup my new release that my draw length would not be changed. It just functions a little differently. Plus I was not too worried, I never see shooter bucks this early in the season, and I was not hunting does this trip.
The week of September 15th turned out to be exceptional given the heat we had this past summer. I was out dark and early Thursday morning. Rather than go to my old reliable Hilltop stand like I do every year on opening day, I decided to do our Double stand over the Hidden Plot.
Four hours in the stand earned me 0 deer sightings, but then that is why it is called hunting right. Being up in the trees with a purpose was reward enough. I did see a doe and two fawns on one of our ponds as I drove the ATV back to our trailer. Yes, one of the projects completed this year was to put in place a 72X16 foot trailer with running water and electricity. No more living in a barn for us!
I got a late start for the evening hunt, heading out for the Hilltop plot a little after 4 p.m. But since I was not expecting much this early in the season I was not too concerned. I knew I would see some does, but shooter bucks have been non-existent on bow season opening day and usually do not start to show up until mid-October. Around 5:30 p.m. deer started funneling through – first up was a doe with two fawns still with spots. They stuck around in the plot for about half an hour, eating clover and hitting the mineral lick we put in place several years back. I could tell one was a male, maybe he would grow up in a few years to be something to shoot. They all presented easy shots, but I was not of a mind to shoot any does until the weather got a bit colder. Around 6:30 a doe with a single fawn came through. Again, they both present good shots and spent quite a while in the plot. They finally headed out when I banged my bow against the tree stand. Just gave a little jump and then trotted off.
The sun was beginning to set and light was starting to fade in the woods when I decided to stand back up around 7 p.m. for the last 30 minutes of the hunt that evening. About 7:20 p.m. I was turning in my stand when I spotted a small 6 point buck that had slipped in behind me and was at the mineral lick. He did not stick around long, but I liked the fact he left the plot using a trail I had cut through the brush with our mower just a few weeks earlier. Hopefully he would be back next year with a legal rack. I waited a few minutes for him to disappear then gave a few grunts on my grunt tube to see if I could call him back. No luck.
As I turned in the stand to get ready to start loading up my pack I looked up at the west entrance to the Hilltop plot and spotted a possible shooter strolling down a path not 20 yards away. He had enough tines, but they looked pretty thin despite some good height – so I figured I would pass. Then he started down the trail to my stand and gave me a front on view – the antlers were well outside his ears, and that suddenly made him a possible. He made a few steps toward my stand and looked right at me. But I was not worried about being seen, I have never had a deer spook on me so long as I do not move, and I was not moving now. He took a couple more steps then made a turn to my right and I could see he had a nice round belly as he headed along the brush line that separated me from the Hilltop Plot. As he started walking toward the mineral lick I said a silent thanks that I had cut the brush back to about 6 foot high just three weeks earlier and trimmed out a bunch of scrub. I counted three tines up which told me he was at least a 10 pointer, and thin or not, with the spread he had I decided to shoot him.
I tried to hook my release to the bow string loop, but the jaws would not close. Unlike most times though I remained calm, took my eyes off the deer, looked at the release and realized I had pushed the string too far into the release jaws and it was trying to close on the string loop, not around it. I took a deep breath, fixed the hookup and checked the deer to make sure it was still there. With the release connected, I drew the bow as he grazed along the brush line and settled my pins on his side; thinking first that I could easily slip an arrow through the grass and into his lungs. But I decided to wait, why risk a deflection; I knew he would end up at the mineral lick, and from there give me a clear 10 yard broadside shot. 30 seconds passed and I began to think, maybe I should let down my draw and then draw again. But I decided not to, holding a 60 pound compound bow was not causing me any difficulty, and I could use the time to keep my pins focused on where they needed to be. FINALLY he was at the lick and put his head down to get his first bite of dirt. I released the string and watched the arrow drive him to his knees before he regained his footing and sprinted into the woods. I knew I had not gotten pass through with the arrow as I could see the fletching as he left the lick, but I also knew I had put the arrow right through both lungs with a very good shot. He ran what sounded like quite a ways, and I did not hear him crash, but I was confident he would be dead soon.
After finishing the shakes and lighting a cigar, I called my brother on the radio to ask him to come help with blood trailing as it was now just about dark and he is an excellent trailer. He showed up about 20 minutes later having gone to the wrong stand, and I in the excitement had turned off the radio after talking to him so did not hear his calls wanting to know my location. It was dark by now, but with rain in the forecast we decided to start looking.
Neither of us could find any blood, which did not surprise me given the arrow had not passed through. But I had a good idea the direction the deer had headed, and despite the brush being thick I knew we would find him either that night or the next day in the light. But I really wanted to find him that night; I do not like leaving deer out if I do not have too.
It took about 15 minutes, but shortly I came up on him about 50 yards from where I shot him. He was a nice 11 point buck with a good sized pot belly and he was showing some age in his face. We later weighed him field dressed at 184 pounds which is real good size for our property this time of year. Checking his teeth they were very well worn, but I would not hazard a guess as to age other than to say older than 4.5. We measured the inside spread of his antlers at 19 inches and I cannot help but wonder if the narrowness of his tines resulted from the heat and drought this summer or if from age. He might have been on the downhill side of things.
With one buck down and a Kansas farm calling me, it was off to muzzle load hunt Kansas opening day on September 19th. Missouri bow season, at least this portion was finished.