When I was a teenager I grew up on one of the best deer hunting locations in Minnesota. My family was blessed to own a few hundred acres of land. Half of which was wooded and the other half tillable farm land. This combination led to a wonderful deer haven! Once in the winter my family counted over 60 deer eating winter wheat from the back window. Yet with all of these deer around I had yet to take a deer with a bow after two seasons.
I had the deer and the location but I was simply not skilled at archery hunting. Sure I had my bow tuned and could hit a target from 50 yards. But there is so much more to archery than putting an arrow on target. My archery hunts consisted of me getting off the bus after school, rushing down my quarter mile driveway, shoving some food down my throat, grabbing my archery gear, and heading out to our back fields. It was a perfect setup for an archery hunter.
When I archery hunt I ground hunt. This is not the usual way of archery hunting. Most people will climb up into a stand and stalk their prey from above. I enjoy being fairly mobile and so I would simply find a bush that would give me both cover and shooting angles and stand there for hours. Why did I not use a stand? Well honestly it came down to the fact that I had never really practiced from one and I believe you should hunt like you practice.
Being on the ground I scared quite a few deer away. This wouldn’t be a terrible thing but I was hunting every night and the deer were beginning to pattern me. They would know my favorite spots and stay far away. After noticing that the deer were extremely twitchy I decided that I would give it one more hunt and if I happened to scare more deer away I would give our land a break from hunting for some time. Besides rifle season would come soon and I didn’t want to mess things up for my families deer hunt.
I began walking out to one of my usual places which led me down a railroad track that intersected my families land and out to the eastern field. I arrived to the woods line and began my track through the woods to one of the fields in which deer constantly passed through. The day was windy, causing the oaks tops to sway heavily. As I walked I tried to be as quiet as I could but without fail I suddenly saw a flash of white and the stomping of a deer running away followed by another two. I had scared a doe and her two fawns away. I was so mad. I thought to myself. I’m busted! I am going back, these deer know I am here and I have scared them too many times.
Mumbling and grumbling I returned down the railroad tracks from where I came. Ready to hang up my bow for another season I was simply angry with myself that I failed to be smarter than the deer.
As I walked down the railroad tracks I could see into another field. There were about five deer in this field simply grazing and enjoying the windy day. I had rarely hunted this field because it was only about 200 yards behind my house.
The field was on the south side of the tracks and the wind was blowing from the South to the North directly away from the deer. I had this crazy idea that with the wind blowing my scent away and the wind also blowing the trees around so much I might just be able to sneak up on these deer. I would give it one last try.
I began to walk in ever so slowly to the 100 yards of woods through a deer trail that I would need to pass to get close to the deer. The wind would blow moving the trees and I would move. Finally I made it to the edge of the woods as close to the deer as I could get which was still 35 to 40 yards away. They were with in shooting distance but I had no clear shot. Brush was almost everywhere except to my left which was a deer trail which opened up into the field. I sat there with no shot thinking well this was a waste of time and that I would probably scare these deer away as well.
In the field there were a doe and a fawn and one six point buck. As I sat there looking the six point 40 yards away lifted his head from the winter wheat he was eating and began walking towards me. He moved to within about 25 yards which was definitely within shooting distance but again I had no shot because of the brush. He sat there another few minutes grazing and once again lifted his head and began walking toward me. I couldn’t believe it, if he continued to walk toward the path I might actually get a shot at him.
He continued to walk, in just a few seconds he would pass into my one shooting lane. I pulled my bow back, but I was so nervous that I pulled it clear across my chest. I thought no way he didn’t see that but the deer continued to walk. My heart was pounding I thought that would give me away. He moved into the shooting window and I tried to whistle to make him stop but I was still so nervous I couldn’t purse my lips to make the noise. Another few steps and he would be out of my shooting lane. I just couldn’t whistle So I improvised, I grunted hard! The deer looked straight at me ten yards away wide eyed and now alert. I picked my spot with my sights and let the arrow fly. The deer jumped in the air and turned to run directly away from me into the field. I though yes I must have hit him!
The small six point ran about 90 yards away from me and just stared at my position. About 20 seconds passed, he didn’t move, and I thought “Could I have really missed him at 10 yards?” Another 15 seconds passed and I was beginning to get angry with myself. How could I have missed from 10 yards! The six point stared at me and I at him. Suddenly, I saw him shake and his back end dropped to the ground and finally his front dropped as well.
I hadn’t missed. I walked to where he was when I shot and found my arrow, covered in red. I walked to the deer 90 yards away and discovered that I had made a perfect shot. Lung, heart, lung. The entire ordeal had perhaps taken a minute from when I shot to when he fell but if felt like an eternity.
I learned a lot of lessons from this hunt. The most being that one can really over hunt an area and spook a lot of deer. This can truly ruin a hunt for you or the others who are hunting it. Be sure to give it a rest from time to time.
Another is that cover is so very crucial. The reason I was able to sneak up on this deer was because of the thick brush and the wind was in my favor. Many times we trade cover for one or two more shooting lanes. Shooting lanes are great but if your ground hunting you need cover. Maybe only one.
I had finally taken my first deer with a bow. I miss the days of being able to walk in my back yard and hunt. It was so easy. I have also learned after many years that there is a finite number of days that we have to be out on the hunt. Be sure to cherish every one.