This is why you still hunt on the “bad” days…
The hunting forecast for Saturday was pretty bad: a high of 84° and shifty winds, which were supposed to stabilize later in the afternoon out of the S/SE. It was one of those days when I really questioned the value of getting out at all. Nevertheless, by 3:30 in the afternoon I pulled into the drive of a new spot. This would be the very first time I put boots to the ground on this property. I did some “virtual” scouting, as well as a brief bit of glassing on previous evenings. There was a great water source on this property, but it was secluded and a bit tough to access. Unsure of the best route to sneak in there, I decided to hang back and try and find the staging area that the deer were using before they came out into a cut hay field at dark to feed.
I slipped into the woods along the field’s edge and found some great sign and trail crossings. I knew this spot would prove to be active, but would the wind allow me to be successful in this heat? By 4:00 I was 20′ up in my climber and sweating a fair amount. I was relying on two things to help keep my scent down, SEEMZ spray and merino base layers. Both items proved to be effective and I quickly cooled down with no noticeable odor. Still, I was praying the wind would hold steady in my favor.
It wasn’t long before I had 3 hens come in. They gave me a great shot opportunity, but I decided to let ’em pass. It was too early to give up on this setup for the evening. About 5:30 I had two stunning gobblers make their way down a ridge right towards me. Easily weighing in at 20+ lbs, with 8″ beards, I would have been happy to send an arrow their way. Luckily for them they took a right and headed away just as they were about to enter my range.
It was now after 6:00 pm and entering “prime time”. From what I knew of the area, and what I hoped would be the case for the evening, the deer (typically about 6-10) would move towards the fields right at dark. I was hoping to intercept them in this staging area with just enough light left for a good shot opportunity. The minutes where flying by and light began to fade, I had pretty much given up hope on having them come through with enough light. Just then I heard them start to make their way down a ridge off to my right. They were coming, but they were taking their time and feeding on acorns along the way. They got to 40 yards but I didn’t have a shot through the thick cover. I had just minutes of shooting light left and I needed them to make a move. The lead doe finally came into range, and as she moved behind a tree I began to draw my bow. The doe decided to hang up with her vitals behind the tree. I could see her head and her rear, but I didn’t have a shot.
Just as I set my bow down and talked myself into letting these deer pass due to the fading light, a doe stepped out, broadside at 20 yards. I began to wrestle with taking a shot. The light was dim, and the heat was high. If I were to shoot I would have to make it count and make a quick recovery. I drew my bow back, settled my pin, and still wrestled in my mind about taking this shot. I was ready to let down and let her walk, but at the same time I just knew that I could pull this off – my confidence was high, the shot was clear, the deer were unaware. I squeezed the release and made a perfect shot. The doe high-kicked and tailed off back up the ridge, bringing all of the others with her.
I quickly and quietly gathered my things and began the climb down. I recovered my arrow and found a good amount of bright blood, however as I began to slowly trail her, the blood wasn’t what I thought it would be. The trail was light but consistent. I took my time not wanting to push her. I got about 30 yards up the hill and lost the trail. It was now pitch black. I was on my hands and knees, searching the leaves for any sign of blood with my headlamp. I continued up the path but couldn’t find any more sign. I circled back to the last evidence of blood and reassessed. Where did she go? In this moment I began to question my attempt at making this harvest. It was dark and hot, and I couldn’t find any more sign. What was I thinking taking that shot? I knew it was good, but should I have passed considering the conditions?
The battle kept on in my mind as I continued to search for the next sign of blood. It wasn’t long before I picked it up just to the right. Now the sign was getting intense. I knew I was on her. After another 10-15 yards I found her. It was now 7:40, and still in the upper 70s. I had to get to work fast.
After the recovery and meat care (more on that in the next post), the night finished with this tweet…
Meat is on ice! It feels great to have one down. The shot was perfect. God, I love hunting!!!