5. Surprisingly, although the “gun” turkey season ended on Friday, Nov. 10, a person could still hunt the birds with a bow through the 11th. Figure THAT one out!!! Too late by the time we realized our mistake to realistically climb into a tree stand, we figured we’d ride around some of Tommy’s land to see if we could catch a flock out in a field. If we did, we were going to get out and scatter the flock. Then Tommy would run me to my truck where I had my bow and I would return to hunt them sans the scattergun. Rule #1 of Murphy’s Law when doing this is that any flocks you see in a field—and you will see some nice ones—will be only on land that you cannot hunt.
6. Tommy finally took me to his home where my truck was. I had barely pulled out of his driveway when I turned and spotted a big eight pointer dashing across the soybean field behind his home. It was nearly 11 a.m. and the temperature was approaching 70. Guess it hadn’t been so unrealistic to climb into a stand as I had originally thought. Deer were definitely still on the move.
7. All was not lost. I caught up with a friend of Tommy’s, Steve Jarvis, that afternoon and together we went to a field where he had been watching several bucks for the past few weeks. I climbed into a hanging stand on the edge of a cut corn field bordered by tall grass on one edge, while Steve and his wife headed for a stand across the field. I watched eight does enter the field before me throughout the last hour and a half of daylight, several of them catching my scent, but not enough to totally freak out. One of them was worrying me to death when about 20 minutes before dark, a wide-racked buck came strolling within range. He had marched all the way across the field. Things were looking my way!
I drew, aimed and released as the buck angled past me about 20 yards out. THWAPPP!!! The arrow struck the buck like a gunshot, knocking him to the ground. I hadn’t allowed enough for the steep angle at which I was shooting and my arrow had flown high (as is common when bowhunters don’t practice shots from stands as much as they do from the ground.) It looked like I had struck just below the spine, but hit it enough to take his back legs out. The deer spun beneath the cover of limbs beneath me, but there was one hole through which I could shoot. I released a second arrow into the deer. He pushed himself into the woods where he fell silent. I was pumped.
I remained in my stand until Steve approached at dark. As he eased forward to check on the deer, the buck leapt up and drug himself deeper into the woods. We slipped back out to give him more time to die before returning. We had a great blood trail, but after following it for approximately 60 yards, we decided it would be best to wait until first light. The blood trail wasn’t as strong as it had been for the first 40 yards and night tracking can be a real challenge.
8. The only thing more difficult than tracking a wounded deer at night, is tracking one in the rain. We should have checked the weather report. Not two minutes before arriving back at the woods at first light the next morning, the rain began to pour and pour and pour. Wind gusts buffeted the forest and limbs fell from the clashing trees. Always check the weather forecast before giving up on a search. If rain is on the way, grab a big light, extra batteries and take your time looking. Sundogs (observation 2) don’t lie!!!
9. Tommy’s brother-in-law, Neil Marks, brought his deer tracking dog with Steve that morning and while the lab did jump on the buck’s scent (and I believe found the deer) we couldn’t hear his bell in the wind and the rain. He barked a few times meaning he was looking at the deer, but with the forest in a tempest around us, we didn’t find him until he came back looking for us. We never found the deer.
10. Remember whenever tracking a wounded deer at night or in stormy weather where the sun is obscured, take a compass or GPS and get a reading before plunging into the woods. Even familiar woods can get confusing in the dark and injured animals seldom follow the types of landmarks a man would when accessing the forest. The woods where we were looking were little more than a tangle of pine slash and reeds. We got turned around numerous times while looking for the deer in the rain.
With no end to the weather in sight, we finally abandoned the search. Steve, who would be hunting the rest of the week, promised to look again and with no luck, keep an eye on the buzzards so at least the rack could possibly be retrieved. After his fruitless search Monday, I haven’t heard anything, which really has me bummed. You can bet I’ve spent the past week shooting my bow more from a tall ladder than on level ground. I don’t plan on making that mistake again.