You have all heard the old saying that "sometimes it's better to be lucky than good." I like to think that I'm pretty good with a stick and string, or at least confident. My hunt Sunday morning was more luck than skill. Here's how it went.
I went to mass on Saturday evening so that I could hunt Sunday morning. My trail camera had shown much more deer movement in the mornings rather than evenings. My oldest son Austin was planning on hunting with me this morning but a last minute call from a friend to sleep over took priority so I was flying solo. Sunrise was just after 8:00 am in this part of the country on October 29th. I like to be in the stand an hour before sunrise giving 30 minutes for things to settle down before legal shooting light. I decided since Austin wasn't hunting that I'd sit in his stand since the wind was right for it and in my mind afforded me the best opportunity. I didn't really have bucks on the brain when I climbed into the stand. I was hoping for a mature doe to make a mistake. The temperature dropped to near freezing with a slight breeze from the west / northwest. The morning was still with the sound of owls preparing for their daily rest and busy woodpeckers preparing for the winter cold. I spotted my first deer movement at around 8:30. It was a pair of does about 60 yards to my north heading west towards the river. They disappeared and then around 9:30 a parade of young bucks made their way past my stand. They kept getting bigger as they went by. The first was a spike, followed by a forky, and then a small basket racked buck. I didn't have any interest in them so I just stood still and enjoyed their presence as they headed south.
At around 10:00 a 2.5 year old buck made it's way down a trail behind me. He passed downwind of me but I think that I was up high enough that he never caught my wind. By 10:30 the two does that headed west earlier were now crossing the river and about 80 yards to my southwest. The does milled around in that vicinity for a while as another 2.5 year old buck came down the same trail as the previous deer but heading in the opposite direction.
I kept an eye on the does as they started to work their way towards me. If they continued down the trail they would pass my stand at 12 yards. My fingers were tight against my tab as I mentally prepared myself for the shot. Just as I thought the two does would pass in front of me they turned and headed right for my stand! The first one went past me as the second one followed. I attempted to slowly adjust my position and prepare for a steep shot down to my left. As I was moving the second doe caught me. She stared at me for a second, snorted and stomped and then jumped back right where I wanted her. Now I know better than to shoot at a nervous deer, especially with a recurve but by now my instincts had taken over. There was no turning back! I drew, anchored, and released an arrow at the broadside doe.
At the release of the arrow the doe ducked and turned and the arrow which was on it's path to the deer's vitals hit her too high and too far back. I watched her run off with the arrow showing only about 4" of penetration. I was devastated. I had been practicing with my 58" Bobcat recurve as much as I could so that in the moment of truth I would make a quick, clean, kill. Thoughts went through my head of why am I doing this to myself! Why am I hunting with my recurve and wounding deer when I could have easily dispatched the doe with my Mathews Helim. I was sick.
Several deer continued to move including a few bucks as well as the smaller doe that was with the one that I had shot. She was confused. She couldn't find the other doe. She came back under my stand, looped around behind me and back across the trail in front of me. She eventually took the path of the doe that I had shot and crossed the river. It appeared that she stopped and looked at something, possibly the doe that I had shot. I thought that the wounded doe wouldn't go far and was possibly bedded along the river somewhere but with a shot like that she would likely survive. I didn't want to bump her so I quietly climbed down and backed out, but before doing so I took a shot with a practice arrow at a cottonwood leaf about 12 yards away. My shooting was good, but the position of the deer at the moment of impact was less than ideal.
I headed home, ate lunch, did some work at school and then headed back out around 4:00. The entire time just hoping to find my arrow. I didn't plan on a blood trail because of such a high hit with no exit. I also didn't expect to find a deer. I started out on the west side of the river and began to slowly ease my way into the area that I thought the deer might be. It didn't take 2 minutes when I stumbled upon the doe dead and stiff with my arrow sticking out of her side! Instead of the 4" of penetration that I had imagined, it had penetrated a good 16" angling into her chest cavity and evidently though the liver and at least one of the lungs. She likely died within minutes. It was an unseasonably warm 75 degrees and I was worried about spoilage. I immediately field dressed her, rinsed her out and loaded her into my pickup. I headed home, got her quartered and into a cooler on ice. There was no time for a glory picture but I did make time to say a prayer and thank God for the gift of this beautiful doe and for her not suffering because of my mistake.
I have been bowhunting for nearly 20 years and have taken over 30 deer in that time. Each one is different, special, unique. Each one is a chance to learn. My heavy arrows along with a razor sharp Magnus Stinger broadhead saved me. I feel that I did a few things wrong in this scenario, but I also was patient and gave the deer time and was able to successfully recover her. Thankfully my confidence didn't waiver for long. I'll be back in the woods with a Coyote Creek Archery recurve or longbow soon!