It was a nice sunny Sunday afternoon. I had been to church, then had a good, filling lunch. After lounging around the house for a couple of hours I decided it would be a great afternoon to take my longbow and head out to my buddy’s place (Earl Steffan) just to relax in the woods. His was a great place to enjoy a wonderful fall evening sitting where I could watch the sun go down.
I knew the exact spot I wanted to sit. It was on a hillside covered with big white oaks and had a couple of major trails coming up toward a pond located on top of the hill. Another thing I liked about this spot was that it allowed me to see for a long ways down the creek bottom and all of the woods on the other hillside.
I slipped in as quietly as possible with the freshly fallen leaves underfoot. I made my way to a monster of an old oak. It was more than big enough to provide the back drop I liked when hunting from the ground. I used my back pack as my cushion as I leaned back against that comfortable old oak tree. I remember thinking “This is as comfortable as my Lazyboy,” as I settled in with the anticipation that is always present when the rut is starting up.
I hadn’t been there much longer than an hour when I heard the rustle of leaves way down the way on the opposite side of the hill across the way. Even though the squirrels had been busy all afternoon shuffling around through the leaves I knew that the sounds I heard weren’t being made by any squirrel. It was not the usual sound I expect to hear when it’s a deer coming either. Turkeys? Maybe? I doubted that, it was moving faster than I would have expected a turkey or even a bunch of turkeys to move while making that much noise in the leaves.
I was alert but hadn’t moved a muscle other than those that kept my eyes checking every angle, clear spot and break in the timber on that far hillside. There! Wait…whatever it was it was turning down hill but on an angle. I finally caught sight of a beautiful, full grown, big bodied doe. She was trotting at a pretty good clip and moving steadily down the hillside on another well worn deer trail.
As I kept a keen eye on her, my attention was drawn away from her by the distinct grunt of a mature buck. It was that sound that says he’s chasing, and he was! What a magnificent example of the male whitetail, his ivory rack shining like a spotlight as the moved through the splotches of sunlight that got through the tree tops of the thickly wooded hillside. He was on a mission and everyone knew it, especially the doe.
It was amazing to me how calm I was. I mean, I could see them both, I somehow knew or at least thought I knew the exact path they were going to be taking. If it all played out as I had it pictured, they would cross through the bottom, then over the creek and up the hill–the very hill I was sitting on–and they’d be on the trail that would take them within 5-7 yards away from me.
I was prepared, as prepared as I had ever been. Wow! It was happening just like I saw it in my mind’s eye. Here they come! They hit the trail not 50 yards down from me. The wind was perfect! I could feel the breeze across my face; I could feel my heart starting to accelerate. I’m feeling alive, I mean really alive! The moment of truth is coming, and this surreal calm comes over me. It’s like everything just went into slow motion. I can still see the terror, or what looked to me like terror, in the does eyes as she went by me. Never saw me, never had a clue I was anywhere nearby, she just wanted to get away from that big bad boy that was coming fast on her tail.
Everything still felt just right; I mean, it was going to be perfect. I starting telling myself, “Stay calm, pick a spot.” The “legend” was resting easy in my left hand while my right hand was keeping tension on the string. That helped my Bear tipped POC with 3 white turkey fletchings (to make it fly true) ready for that perfect moment.
She went by my pick off spot. Then, not far behind, he was on his way. The timing had to be perfect. I’d never shot at a moving deer before so leading him just a little would be important. I went into what I’d guess could be called auto-pilot about then. I remember coming up to one knee just before he stepped into my lane. All the while the “legend” was being brought to full draw. It was all just like one smooth motion. It was all connected, not any steps involved at all. I still have a copy of that vision deeply burned into my brain and memory.
My arrow entered just behind his right front leg about one quarter to a third of the way up his body. That’s the last place I saw those beautiful white feathers disappear into the brown of his side.
He never missed a step. It’s as if he didn’t have a clue that an arrow had just passed through his body. His actions and lack of reaction made me blink, did that really just happen? Why isn’t he doing something differently?
He is so intent on catching up to the doe was the only logical explanation. They both continued up the hill then made an abrupt left turn. That’s ok! I know the trail they took, it lead straight to the pond. I sat back still watching the spot I last saw them and began to replay the whole event over in my head. It was at that time I heard a loud crashing sound. My thoughts were interrupted to say the least.
As I got up to retrieve my arrow I noticed another arrow on my string, Hmm, I don’t remember doing that? I guess I really was on auto-pilot. I covered the distance to my arrow, which laid on top of the leaves, in about three long steps.
Yep, just as I thought, the once white feathers were now bright red. In fact, the entire shaft and tip were covered with good blood. Now I’m starting to get overly excited as I put two and two together, knowing for sure that the sound I had heard had to have been him going down. I start up the hill on the trail they had taken when I remembered my back pack. Been there before so I knew I’d better back up and get it now because it could get lost in all that I was sure I’d find up the hill.
I made a conscious choice to follow the exact path they had taken instead of cutting across to where I had heard the sound coming from. I wanted to savor every moment of the final stage of my hunt. I was positive the work of this outing would begin soon enough. I walked up the hill and had been seeing blood all the way that began almost immediately past the point the arrow had gone through. As I turn onto the trail heading north, I couldn’t resist a look way out in front of me when I caught a flash of belly white hair that told me I had been right. I was serious about making myself follow through kinda by the numbers, if you will.
I made myself look back down at the trail I was walking on and blocked out the excited thoughts that were trying to take over every part of my being. Focus! I managed to slow myself down and concentrate on the task at hand. Just follow the blood trail. What a blood trail it was turning into…wow! Stevie Wonder could follow this one! I was truly savoring this one.
I got to within five yards of my treasure, the gold at the end of my rainbow, and I broke. I saw him clearly for the first time. My God! What a wonderful buck! By now I’m kneeling over him admiring what God had provided for me. I was overwhelmed. I wanted to tell God how very grateful I was so I closed my eyes, giving Him all the glory and thanks for such a beautiful animal, a terrific afternoon of His perfection that all came together as the result of His timing, all for me!! “Thank you Lord, I so appreciate all the blessing you bestow upon me. I am so very blessed, in so very many ways!”
Now I opened my eyes again and let the view flood in all over again. I reached out and took the buck’s antlers in my hands and lifted up his head. Amazing! What mass, look at all the points, eight of them, perfect!
“Hey!! Are you ready to eat? Suppers ready! It’s time to wash up; we’re going to eat soon…” What the heck? It’s the voice of my wife and she’s telling me it’s time to eat? That’s when I realized I had been asleep in my usual Sunday afternoon football snoozing spot…my Lazyboy.
This is the tale of one of my most favorite hunts…all the fun, and none of the work!