Saturday morning's hunt rolled around and Tim and I were up early and ready to go. Well, early enough. I got off work late on Friday and we got out to the cottage really late. Three hours of sleep was all we had until that alarm clock was blaring us awake and we were dragging our butts out of bed into the freezing cold cottage, no time to bother with a fire the night before. Quick coffees and some disgruntled conversation I don't remember and we were off.
We headed to a spot we hadn't hunted yet this year to try something different. Tim was going to do some rattling and calling for me and I was supposed to do the shooting. We parked the truck and headed into our 'spot' which we hadn't really picked yet. We had been in the area before and knew there was fairly open country spotted with clumps of low brush throughout. No place for a tree stand so we opted for a ground blind set up for the both of us. We got onto a heavy deer trail that led to another trail at a sort of open cross road. Tim asked what I thought of one spot where we would only have bush behind us and on our right side. We almost set up there but I decided at the last minute I wanted to be on the other side of the right hand bush, which would give me shots at both the cross road trails. The spot I picked had bush behind us and on both sides. We put the ground blind across the front of the mini clearing where there was no bush. I could stand and easily shoot over it. So there we sat on our little stools waiting a while before Tim started his calls.
We were not using an actual 'call' as Tim is pretty good at doing voice calls, but we cut an old rack of Tim's to rattle with. He did some grunts and some doe bleats followed by some rattling and more grunts. Minutes after and out of nowhere we both heard and then immediately saw an animal approaching to our right. My first thought was that it was a small deer but it didn't look right for a deer. I examined it the best I could through the thick bush where it was traveling, angling behind us. It was something I had never seen before, a cat of some kind. I had seen cat tracks around earlier this year but I wasn't sure if they were bobcat or lynx or even cougar as there had been rumored sightings of one in the area. Tim told me it was a bobcat. It was a pretty neat thing to see. Shut the squirrels up for a few minutes too, which was a nice treat.
Tim and I were whispering back and forth about the bobcat for a little while and talking about the wind and 'I think I heard something over there' and 'It was just a squirrel', while we both continued to scan for animals. I was looking somewhere way off to the right almost behind us when Tim suddenly whispered 'Here comes one, big buck, BIG BUCK!' I whipped my head around and there in front of us, a little to the right of our blind, in trotted the biggest buck I could ever dream of seeing in my life. I couldn't make out his whole rack but the main beams were incredibly thick. This boy was about fourty yards in front of us but not on the trail we had expected to see deer on. He was behind the trail in a scraggly clump of brush. He was no fool. He slowed to a walk within the clump making his way broadside in front of us from right to left, always behind branches and bush. I, having picked the three sided spot, was peering through my side of the bush, when he stopped in what would have been an opening if I wasn't behind a bush myself. He stared directly at our blind for what seemed like an eternity to my half crouched legs and quivering body. Arrow knocked and release clipped to the string I was waiting, just hoping for any kind of shot opportunity to present itself. As he stood staring at us I realized this buck had the body of a bloody cow. He was enormous in every sense and I wish I had a picture to prove I am not exaggerating. We were downwind and he eventually decided that there was nothing worth looking at and continued to walk. I was still looking at him through that cursed bush I was so sure I wanted to be behind earlier. Tim let out another grunt that stopped the buck in his tracks. I was now staring at a perfect thirty to thirty five yard broadside shot between two saplings a foot in front of me. The only problem was that there were several branches crossing horizontally between the saplings. Questions flooded my brain. Could I shoot through the branches? How soon would my arrow begin to arc? What happens if I hit a branch right in front of my face? Will my arrow ricochet back at me? Can I shoot from the half crouch/kneel I would have to be in to be at the right height? My arm was in spasms as I, over and over, went to tug my string back then changed my mind. Time ran out and the buck walked on. Tim tried a doe bleat which surprisingly turned the buck right around! Right around back onto the same bushy trail he had entered on. He did not stop again and walked straight out of our sight leaving us in awe of what had just happened. I was looking around like an idiot repeatedly whisper-asking Tim 'What should I do now? Should I go after him? Can you call him back?' He told me I could try going after him, which I wasn't sure if I should do or not since we had avoided spooking him thus far. Excitement and curiosity got the better of me and I snuck out of our blind up towards where he had just gone only seconds before. I made it about thirty yards from our blind when I briefly saw him walking through thick bush. As quickly as I had caught sight of him, he was gone, like a ghost. Just gone. I never saw him again even though I continued to sneak in the direction he had gone. I still don't think I spooked him. I found a scrape and a rub a little ways farther up the bit of ridge I had walked up. I was checking those out a bit and thought I had made enough noise that I didn't need to bother being so sneaky going back down. I walked right back down onto another deer at the crossroad which I could only identify by it's big white butt springing away from me. Man oh man! Tim had heard me coming and watched that whole stunt happen, armed with nothing but rattling horns. Shit.
He informed me that it was a nice three by three buck. I just threw my arms up in disbelief and laughed. We sat a little while longer with no further sightings, packed up and left. We had a few more sightings the rest of the weekend but ultimately had to come home Sunday empty handed. I couldn't think of anything but that buck for the rest of the weekend and continue to think about it now. What an amazing thing to see even though I didn't bring him home. Tim is sure he shot at the same buck last year in the same area. He had used his 7mm rifle and hit a tiny twig in front of the deer, ricocheting his bullet into a fallen, dead tree behind the buck.
As much as I have analyzed and re-analyzed this scenario over and over and over in my head I realize it would have been extremely lucky for a second year bow hunter like myself to have brought this deer home. When I think about it now, I think I could have made the shot through the branches. In fact, I know I could have. I thought of the chronograph I have shot through at the range and the opening I shot through on that was much smaller than the opening between the branches. But I didn't make the shot. As much as I am still kicking myself, I realize that this is all part of the learning curve. I feel good that I didn't just shoot when I was unsure at the time. This is how mistakes happen. If you have read my previous posts you know that I have shot and lost deer and that I do not want to do this again. I will not make a shot again that I am unsure of. I give this buck complete credit in outsmarting me. They don't make it that far in their lives by being stupid.
You win buck. Until we meet again. And branches, you suck.