High Adventure deer Hunt
Nerves were tingling with anticipation as I made my way through the tangle of weeds and dense undergrowth. The dim early morning light made ghostly shapes, fanning the flames of imagination, sending all the senses to full alert. A soft breeze sighed, bringing the pungent smells of sage and manure… yes you read it right… manure… so much for making this sound like a romantic, high adventure! I was in our barnyard, making my way to the end of our horse corral to sit in the weeds and wait for a deer to come by!
All spring and much of the summer we had been watching deer cross through our barnyard on their way to and from the alfalfa fields. There were several nice bucks in the bunch. At first I thought I wouldn’t want to go after a deer right in our backyard… but as the elk season was coming to a close and we still didn’t have any meat to put in the freezer, I began to look at those deer as fair game! So for the next two weeks, I began the quest to put meat on the dinner table. It seemed at first that it would be a simple staight forward hunt… but I soon found that these deer were not tame… nor were they dumb! If I sat by the gate near the Russian Olive trees in the morning, they’d show up over by the horse corral, 200 yards away. So I’d switch and sit by the horse corral… they’d show up over by the Russian Olive trees. This is the way it played out , morning and evening… until it had dwindled down to two days left in the archery season.
At this point I had given up trying to use any kind of stratgem and was just hoping for a doe to come by haphazardly. The season would end on Wednesday… on Sunday evening we were relaxing in the easy chairs when I happened to glance out the window and could just make out the shapes of deer in the fading light. They were gliding through the barnyard on their way to the thick Russian Olive trees. There were two does, two fawns, one spike, a forked horn , and a decent three point.
looking out the window we saw the deer pass through just at last light of the day.
I tossed and turned most of the night, visions of those deer dancing through my head. Gary got up at 5:00 for his morning jog. I sat munching my cold cereal, arguing with myself over the futility of trying to intercept one of those deer… finally disgusted with the argument, I put my spoon down, plucked my bow off the rack and headed out to the horse corral!
After about an hour of shivering in the cold morning, the faint light of dawn began to bring shapes into focus. I’d been staring for some time at the dark line of trees when I realized the faint outline of gray was a deer! I was so sure that the does would show up first that it took awhile to register on my brain that the deer was the nice 3 point buck! I soon made out three other deer farther back in the shadows. They were about 70 yards away, and feeding very slowly toward me. I had brought the video camera, so decided to focus on getting some footage of the deer to calm my nerves and occupy my mind while I waited for them to feed within bow range. There were two fawns in the bunch and they began to jump and play, chasing each other around the sage brush… it was a beautiful sight… Then things got a little dicey as a forked horn came up my side of the ditch, seemed to catch my movement and penned me with his eyes for what felt like an eternity! He finally decided the movement wasn’t threatening and began feeding about 17 yards away. I had hoped to get an opportunity to take the 3 point… but it looked like this little forked horn was wanting to end up on our dinner plate! I figured I’d have to take him if he kept coming, for he’d soon see me and bust everything wide open. I was waiting for him to turn broadside, when suddenly he threw up his head and stared up the hill for a few seconds. then turned and jumped across the ditch and disappeared down the other side. I eased back down from my knees and glanced up the ditch bank hoping the 3 point was still there. He was… still calmly feeding, unconcerned. Mouth dry and palms sweating I put the range finder on him… 28 yards… very doable… but he was quartering slightly toward me. Heart pounding, I watched and waited… I felt transfixed as I saw him slowly turn and present a perfect quartering away shot! All the universe seemed to go into slow motion… I drew, anchored, settled the pin, squeezed the release…thwack! Instantly everything sprang into fast forward, deer bounding away, disappearing over the side of the ditch bank… then total quiet. I sat stunned… the emotions overwhelmed me. I felt sure the shot had gone true, and I was so grateful! I finally got up on shaking legs, still flooded with emotion…
as I began to walk toward the spot I’d last seen the buck I caught movement from the trees and saw the forked horn coming back up the ditch bank towards me! It was very interesting behavior he displayed,,, he’d walk towards me staring straight at me, then turn and look back in the direction he’d come. Farther out in the field I saw one of the fawns prancing around in one spot looking intently at something on the ground. The grass was too tall to see, but I was hoping it was my buck! I didn’t want to spook the forked horn and fawn so I just stood and waited for them to lose their curiousity. They finally wandered off, and I went up the ditch bank, finding good bright red blood! I followed the blood to the edge of the tall grass and looking through a little opening in the grass spotted the yellow and green fletching of my arrow, and a gray shadow on the ground! Even though I was quite sure I’d made a good hit… the relief flooded through me…
Now the work began! I had never field dressed an animal without Gary’s help, and I wanted to know that I could take care of it if I was all by myself… so I rolled up my sleves and dug in! Two and a half hours later, tired, bloody and sweaty I had all the meat in the house ready to proccess… it was a very rewarding feeling! Very similar to the feeling you get when all the vegtables and fruits of the garden are harvested,and preserved for wonderful feasting during the long cold winter.
Fruits of the labor!
This might have been a backyard hunt…. but to me it was filled with excitement being the first deer I’ve taken with a bow… and the first one field dressed without anyone there to help me! It had all the elements of a high adventure!