Part One: Saturday
Our hunting excursion this past weekend began on Saturday afternoon. I had been planning this weekend for weeks now as it was the last weekend archery was open before muzzle loader opened in the area that holds the Frontier Wildlife Association's clubhouse. I found out that a friend of ours, Tom, who is also a member of the club, was planning to go out that weekend as well, so we arranged a carpool. Tom had a few things to do in the city on Saturday morning but by one O'clock, we had his truck and trailer loaded to their brims and we were ready to go. Tom's friend Glen, who was coming out for an evening hunt followed us out in his van. Due to our late start and our consequently late arrival, we decided to drive straight into the bush to set up our tree stands. Glen and Tom had both brought basic hang on's and regular ladders to use so they were nice and quick to set up. I, on the other hand, brought an ancient ladder stand that had been given to Tim and I recently that we had never set up or used before. We figured we had enough ratchet straps with us that we could make it work. Unfortunately, ratchet straps do not prevent rusty metal from breaking and poor Glen was the unlucky one to be two thirds of the way up the ladder when it gave out. There was a brief moment of chaotic panic as we all realized everything was falling, including Glen, and that there was nothing we could do to stop it from happening. Luckily there were no trees too terribly close and the top of the stand did not completely detach from the ladder. Glen pulled off a stunt man roll and bounced up like nothing had happened. I felt terrible that he had fallen and not me since it was my stand (though I doubt I could have pulled off the roll like he did), but he said he was fine and thankfully walked away uninjured. Tom graciously elected to go sit in one of the permanent stands that he knew of in the bush and offered me the use of his stand. It was not the greatest start to the weekend!
I should take a moment to describe a bit of the land on which we hunt out there. The Frontier Wildlife Association does not actually own land in this area on which to hunt but is situated very close to an eight by six mile section of wooded Crown land (public land) that borders a wildlife management area. Hunting is not permitted in this particular wildlife management area but the Crown land is fair game for anyone. There is only one unmaintained dirt road that provides vehicles access to this bush and borders the east side of the Crown land. East of the road is mainly farmland. Our tree stands were only about fifty yards into the bush west of this road. In the evenings the deer make their way through the woods, across the road, and into the farmland to eat.
Fast forward a bit and Tom has just dropped me off on the dirt road in front of the deer trail that leads to my/his stand. Glen has been in his stand since we finished hanging them up. Tom is heading down the road to his stand. They both have communicators, I have my cell phone which rarely functions up there. I walked to my stand, unable to be too stealthy due to the unavoidable crunching of leaves that are now everywhere on the ground. I climbed the aluminum ladder, which I was unsure of as I normally use screw in tree steps to avoid being seen by deer, and began strapping my harness to the tree. Just as I sat down I immediately heard steps crunching their way towards me. I knew it was a deer and stood up. There was a doe approaching on a trail about fourty yards behind my stand. I waited until she was just behind me and drew my bow, thinking I would already be getting a shot off. I waited, looking through my peep sight, but only saw a spruce branch. She had gone directly behind it and once past it, was in thick willows. I let down my draw but continued to watch her, allowing my heart to stop racing. She was almost at the road when a vehicle went by and scared her back into the bush. I hoped she might come my way but she took the same trail back into the woods and was gone. I sat back down and began scanning the area around me, pleased that I had seen a deer so soon into my hunt. I caught a glimpse of another gray back passing in the bush about sixty yards to my left but that was all I saw of that second deer. I could hear another vehicle coming up the road. From my stand I could see that it was Tom's truck coming back out of the woods. I wondered if Glen had shot a deer. This was only about half an hour into our hunt. I continued to sit. Not long after Tom passed, I heard more crunching steps approaching, this time directly in front of me coming from behind a spruce tree. I stood up and turned my body to the right in case I had a chance to shoot. I saw the body of a deer through the spruce tree just in time to draw my bow before he stepped out of his cover, which was really my only cover from him as well. I stood at full draw for a moment as he paused behind a tree trunk. My heart wasn't going as crazy this time as it was all happening very quickly and I had already had my heart going with that first doe. The little button buck took three steps from out behind the tree trunk and I realized if I waited much longer he would probably see me because his trail went right in front of my stand and I would have to turn my body even more if I waited for the perfect broadside shot. He was quartering towards me and I placed my pin a little high behind his shoulder, not wanting to shoot him in the brisket like my last one. I released my arrow. It hit exactly where I had placed my pin and, due to the acute angle of the shot and his close range, came out low on the other side of his belly. He turned and trotted right under my stand and slowed to a walk over to my left. I kept thinking, "Go down, go down, please go down". Just as I thought he was going to walk out of my sight, he laid down. He looked around for a few moments then laid his head down, sprawled his legs flat out, and did not move again. Elation and relief flooded my body. Elation that I had finally shot and killed a deer with my bow and relief that he had died peacefully and had not been left wounded in the woods. Wow! What a feeling..
I continued to sit as I still had another tag and it was not yet dark and I wanted to give the little buck some time just in case he was not quite gone. About half an hour before the end of legal shooting time I stood up to undo my harness. There was another nice doe walking along the trail behind my stand. I knew I could not shoot her there so I watched as she made her way to the road and crossed silently. As I reached for the buckle to undo the tree strap I heard loud blowing and snorting very close to me. It sounded like it might be a buck, a bigger one perhaps. I chuckled to myself. It figures that he would be right there the moment I chose to get up and leave. I didn't really care at that point. He could go. I was going to get my deer. I knew exactly where he was laying as I had looked over there about a hundred times since I shot him to make sure he was real and still lying there. He was definitely still there and he was definitely real. I gave him a little tap with my boot just to make sure he was dead, which he was. I bent down and gave him a little pat on the neck. I told him I was sorry and thanked him for giving me his life. Yeah I know this is probably weird but it was just something I did. I used my tree strap to drag him the short distance out to the road. I could see Tom's truck and Glen's van to the South and I could see the light from Tim on the Big Red approaching from the North. When Tim got to where I was waiting and saw my deer he was so happy and proud of me and congratulated me several times. We hugged and laughed and I told him what had happened. I was and still am pretty proud of myself too. We loaded the little guy on the back of the trike and drove down to where Tom and Glen were parked. We could see lights in the trees so I knew that Glen had shot something and they were still looking. Tim went in to help while I stayed on the road with the vehicles and my little trophy deer. After a short wait I heard the scraping sound of the plastic sled Tom uses to haul deer, coming out of the woods. Glen had shot a nice spiker buck with a nice big body. I congratulated him, he congratulated me, we were all happy for everyone and everything that evening. And what a beautiful evening it was, we didn't even get frost that night.
As we were all standing there basking in the moment, our endlessly helpful friends Marcel and his wife Terry pulled up and offered the use of their shop for skinning our deer. They live about a hundred yards from the clubhouse where we were staying so it was an offer hard to refuse. We made sure all our tags were in place, loaded up our deer, made a brief stop back at the club to change out of our camo, and headed to their place. Marcel helped me with my deer and we had him all done in about twenty minutes. It turned out my arrow had passed through the bottom of his heart. I was glad I was able to perform a quick and humane kill and was elated all over again. I even remembered to take a proper picture before we skinned him.
After such an exciting and fulfilling day, how could I possibly imagine that this was only the beginning...