With the morning hunt over and the images of deer and turkey fresh on my mind I contacted Dean and Mark to share my experience. The story got Dean fired up. So much so that he joined me for the afternoon hunt.
We left the house around 1:30 pm and got settled into the hunt around 2:50 pm or so. The afternoon hunt was different than the morning hunt in that I transitioned from bow to rifle. Another change was a transition from tree to ground. With a good idea of where the deer were bedding we sat patiently. Extreme detail was paid to the surroundings. The ground level view revealed rubs on cedars that I completely missed while perched in my climber. Sitting on the ground provided a contrasting perspective. Squirrels that normally scamper around freely gathering acorns, only to lose them later, were shocked to see me as they approached the base of my tree.
As the sun slowly fell from the sky I picked up on what I thought were deer moving from the right of my position. I locked on the area but did not see any movement. I glanced back at Dean, who was leaning against his backpack scanning the area with binoculars. He did not seem to see any activity either. As time passed the sun fell lower and lower. I started to wonder if the deer would show up. In anticipation I repositioned myself and recorded a few cutaway shots just in case.
Around 3:30 I heard more movement in the same vicinity as previously mentioned. Again I locked on the area. This time I saw the body of a deer walking atop the ridge leading to the main trail. I turned on the camera, framed the shot and hit record. I motioned to Dean and he instantly put glass on the area. As the deer cleared a mature oak tree it was apparent she was a healthy doe. I flipped the scope covers and got a good look at her. She was a shooter but the distance between us was approximately 120 to 130 yards. Not to mention the thick branches and undergrowth that blocked the lane. In an effort to get a shot I got off my turkey seat and knelt on the ground. I managed to find a lane that was clearer than the previous one but by the time I made my mind up to take a shot she bedded down. Of course she bedded down. Why would this hunt be any different than any other one? Something always happens right? I leaned over to stop recording but decided against it. Earlier in the morning I watched a deer bed down only to get up less than two minutes later.
Still in my kneeling position I sat motionless as the doe checked her 9, 12 and 3 O’clock positions. While watching her I noticed additional movement from the left. Deer number two was slowly working its way into the shooting lane. After a minute or so the deer was standing in front of bedded doe. While smaller in size the doe triggered the green light and I put the scope on her. BOOM! Nothing! Neither deer moved much. That was not quite the reaction I expected. While the two stayed relatively still I did notice another nice doe that had snuck into the area turn and sprint down the ridge.
Realizing I would be able to pull off another shot I cleared the chamber, loaded another round, took a deep breath, slowly exhaled, placed the crosshairs on the front shoulder of the doe and slowly squeezed the trigger. BOOM! The doe jumped, hunched its back and tap danced down the side of the ridge before falling down less than 15 yards away from the point of impact. I immediately turned to catch Dean’s reaction. He was standing with binoculars aimed in the direction of the action. I noticed other deer working their way into the area and flagged for him to kneel down. The decision to take another doe crossed my mind but not certain on the previous shot placement I ruled against it. Instead I called Mark to share the news and recorded a closing sequence before recovering the deer.
On the walk to recover the deer I couldn’t help but think the shot wasn’t true. Sure the deer expired in sight but as a hunter you strive to make textbook shots. Step after step resulted in me replaying shot execution and the body language of the deer. The verdict was known well before being formally read by the foreman of the jury.
As we approached the point of impact the first thing I did was look at our gear which was still sitting at the base of the tree 120 to 130 yards away. Sure enough the lane was blocked by the naked arms of both small saplings and larger trees alike. Thankfully there was no need to track the deer. We knew exactly where she lay. The thick blood trail leading to her further confirmed the shot was not true. Final confirmation came when she was in eyesight. There was no celebratory high fiving or fist pumping followed by the annoying “I smoked her”. The reality was I had mixed emotions. I was glad to have the chance to harvest her but was disappointed in the quality of the shot.
After dragging the deer closer to our gear I field dressed her. Afterwards we drug her out the woods, loaded her on the ATV and began the ride down the mountain. During the ride down I could not help but notice the emotional contrast between this hunt and the hunt a year ago in which I took my first antlered buck. Last year when I took my first buck the ride down the mountain was exciting. It was a proud moment, one filled with the sense of accomplishment. This ride was different, it was a bittersweet one.
With the ATVs loaded the drive home commenced. The real work soon followed and by 10:30 pm the deer had been skinned, quartered, cleaned, deboned, and vacuum sealed for future consumption.
With this hunt over the first order of business is to shoot my rifle more to ensure she’s dialed in. You can bet your bottom dollar I’ll run several rounds through the chamber this weekend.