Success Doesn’t Always Mean Meat
January 4, 2013
My left arm was starting to shake.
At full draw for almost a full minute, I started to wonder if the deer would ever take that one, final, fatal step. A cedar branch stuck out from the brush pile I was using as a ground blind, and was directly in front of my broadhead… a fact I’d been lucky to notice just before I touched the release. That would have been ugly.
The arthritis in my elbow, barely noticeable when I raised and drew the bow, was now sending distress signals to my brain. My right arm was locked in, palm against my cheek, as I struggled to keep my eye on the 20 yard pin, centered on the big doe’s chest. My breathing was becoming a little ragged, as my heart pounded so hard I felt it in my ears.
I just needed the deer to move a little more into the clear, but she was happily gnoshing on something right where she was. Another deer was just to the left, quartering away, and I considered changing my focus and trying that one. But I also knew there were at least two more deer in the thicket, less than 10 yards from my stand. A large movement on my part would ruin everything. As it was, I was lucky to have come to full draw without getting busted. I had to stick it out.
The sun had just set on a cloudy evening, and shooting light was fading quickly. Already, the trees in the bottom of the little hollow I’d named “the Murder Hole” were becoming dim and shadowy. If these deer had come fifteen minutes later, I’d probably have been packing up to go. As it was, I had a good, clear picture of the doe and one other deer. Another ghostly form was moving back in the cedars. It was the unseen deer in the brush to my right that worried me.
If she’d just take one more step.
I didn’t feel the cold breeze, heralding the coming winter weather.
The forecast called for snow and sleet, and the deer had been moving hard all evening as they fed up ahead of the storm. Prior to this little group, I’d counted 12 deer just on my little parcel of ranch. Had I been rifle hunting, I could probably have filled a season’s worth of tags in the two hours I’d been on stand. But with three deer already in the freezer, I was more interested in the quiet evening on stand than in stacking up carcasses.
I stopped noticing the pain in my elbow, or the spreading ache in my lower back, and forced myself to focus on the impending shot.
I could hear the deer to my right nosing through the oak leaves. The deer down in the bottom of the “hole” was coming more clearly into view. A yearling slipped under the fence at the edge of the hollow, and ambled across the clearing. But the doe in my sights just wouldn’t move. In rising desperation, I calculated the odds that my arrow would just go right through the cedar branch without deflecting, but common sense maintained control and I kept my finger away from the release and settled myself.
Without even raising her head, the doe took a step forward and stopped as perfectly positioned as a target. I swung slowly with her, keeping the pin behind the shoulder, aiming for the exit wound. Remembering the cedar branch, I lifted my head slightly to be sure the arrow was clear. As I did, from the right edge of my vision I saw a brown form, not two yards from where I was standing. A deer had walked right up from behind, practically stepping into the blind with me. When I moved my head, it exploded in panic, blowing and crashing back through the brush… and sending all of the other deer off in a frenzy of white tails and flying dirt.
It was a cold walk back to the house, but I was warm inside.