Hi all! Just wanted to update you on the latest, the last few days have been both great and bad...I'll go into that in a minute but first I wanted to reply to some of the additional comments and feedback you all have been so great!. JPH, just to clarify the Does that approached within 10 feet of my stand (and continue to do so) are yearlings, and I'd thought it best to let them be and wait for a more mature Doe to harvest...and trust me the first one that comes along is fair game.
As for the use of the Buck Bomb, noted and I have not used it since the first hunt and continue to see deer around the stand. My scent tactics seem to be working well, I have deer coming within 10 feet of my stand and are none the wiser. The wind has NOT been in my favor in some of those circumstances, but in most it has been, and the deer continue to approach so I'll keep on doing what I've been doing. When it gets closer to the rut I'll try a drag line and a Doe Estrus Bomb. I'd like to try some rattling and calling as well once we're into the rut, but would like everyones opinion on this.
Ok so now for the "Good, bad, and the ugly". since my last post I've been out on the same stand two more times. The following time was an afternoon hunt and it was warm, mid 70's, I saw those same two yearling does around 5pm and nothing else...about what I expected given the conditions. But I used the opportunity to take a practice shot on the yearlings i.e. set the shot up, draw on the deer, but not release) so when it comes time for the real deal I'll be ready. Good thing I did that because my arrow knock came off the string twice in mid draw!!! After careful inspection i had noted 1. my forefinger was on the shaft as a guide (old habit from using the old style rests) and 2. the arrow was not fully knocked. Even with my fumbling on the stand those yearlings would have been harvested had I let the arrow fly.
The following morning (last Saturday) I got into my stand early, jumped a couple does on the way in..which tells me I may need to get into my stand earlier the next time. But I get settled in and by first light my two yearlings show up (as predicted)...and by now I'm thinking ok girls this is getting predictable...go away and don't come back until you bring your momma, or better still big daddy! And then i hear some rustling deeper i the woods on my left flank. I look and its still a bit darker in the woods but no doubt I see the outline of a larger deer feeding on the acorns. I'm thinking great, momma's come along. So after watching her for a good 5 mins she starts making her way towards my stand and is headed for the shooting lane I had predicted would be where I flung my first arrow from would be. As she gets closer she picks her head up and low and behold its not a her, but a him...and its my 8 pointer to boot! So now buck fever starts creeping in, I slowly stand and wait for him to look away or get behind a tree so i can draw. Well, he's browing pretty quickly so I was not able to draw until his head was behind the right most tree in my lane which meant i needed to be quick while he stopped so I could get a good sight picture and shoot. I draw, get my sight picture quickly and just as I release he starts moving forward again. It was all a blur after that, I heard the distinct thwap, he jumped and bolted straight towards my stand flying by it and then out and across the powerline cut..and as he is in full stride I see the arrow in him...he stops at the far edge of the powerline cut almost to stick his tongue out at me and then leaps ito the woodline!
So of course I'm shaken like a leaf, i just nailed him and was all happy with myself until it dawned on me where I hit him..dead center vertically, but halfway between his front and hind quarters...not good! I came down off the stand and looked for sign where I had shot him...no blood, no fur, nothing and then I got this bad feeling that came over me and I knew I was in for a long day.
I waited 2 hours for my buddy to come over and help me track him..it took us an hour just to find the intital blood trail and it was faint. We followed it 100 yrds further into the woods and it become more pronounced so I'm thinking "good, he'll bleed out and we'll find him soon" my friend reassured me of that. The trail then took a turn left (that took us a good half hour to figure out) and into some dense laurels...so I'm thinking ok good he's about had it and he's looking for a place to lay down. We get smack dab in the thick of the laurels and not another sign of blood. We circled that area for another 2 hours going in every conceviable direction..nothing. Took a lunch break and then went back out again for another 3 hours...nothing. We called it quits for the day as it started to get dark, and I can tell you I was one sad puppy...not because I lost bragging rights to shooting a great deer, but because until I found him I would not rest easy knowing he was potentially suffering.
We have since searched that area and surrounding ones for the last 3 days and nothing. I thought for sure by now I'd see buzzards circling the area or smell his rotting carcass, but nothing and I have to be honest it pains me not knowing. A lot of good but unfortunate lessons learned on this hunt, ones I hope I will never make again. First and foremost, I probably should not have taken that shot..it was too rushed and I let myself get caught up in buck fever! Second, I should have drawn earlier so i did not have to rush the shot, and if the deer was moving like he was it would have been better to let the opportunity pass and hope he might circle back for a better opportunity to present itself. Third, thank goodness my buddy was with me because I'd of never found the blood trail to begin with..at least now I know what I'm looking for and how hard it is..especially when the ground thickets have foliage that is turning red with the colors of fall.
I will be out again today to set up my stand for tomorrows hunt..I'll probably take a quick look for any sign of him and then take all these valuable lessons and apply them for the next opportunity. I scouted a bunch of other areas and have some questions, but I'll save that for another post. Thanks all for your feedback and sound advice.