Summit Treestands
Bowhunting Kansas Live - 2002

DAY 4

11/16/02

11/17/02

11/18/02

11/19/02

11/20/02

11/21/02

11/22/02



SEE LAST YEAR'S LIVE HUNT AT CIMARRON

Not every bowhunt has a happy ending. And so it goes with my Day 4 hunt.

I went back to the stand I sat in on the first, and third mornings. Right at dawn two does approached and fed by my stand. I could clearly hear a 3rd deer, a buck, rubbing his antlers in the brush behind me, but I dared not move. With the two does feeding in front of my stand, I slowly reached for my bow - just in case the buck was a big one. A minute late dark form of a deer appeared in my peripheral vision. When he showed in front of me I recognized him immediately as the buck from day 1 (The 10:15 AM buck).

It was too dark to videotape the shot, and the does were becoming nervous.  Luckily, I wasn’t – yet.  I positioned my body to get the shot and waited for the perfect angle and distance.  The heavy-beamed buck moved and presented a good, slightly quartering shot at 8 yards.  It was a steep angle but a good position nonetheless.  I picked a spot behind his front shoulder, drew and anchored.  The buck was unaware of my presence but the does were looking at me.  Once I was sure of the shot picture I released and the arrow passed completely through the buck – right were I was looking.  “Perfect shot” - I thought.

My buck

 

Here are two pictures which were taken off the video camera. My shot can clearly be seen on these frames. Our only guess? The deer must have twisted the positioned of his body at the moment I released - this split second reaction resulted in my arrow passing inside of his shoulder but not penetrating to the chest cavity. My arrow was positioned perfectly for a slightly quartering shot - there is no other explanation.

 

The three deer busted out and the buck stopped 80 yards away.  I flipped on my camera to film him tipping over.  But he didn’t tip over; in fact he stood there confused for several minutes before walking away healthy.  I watched him cross a field and disappear into a Tamarack thicket 200 yards away.  I could see the Tamarack thicket clearly and never saw him exit, so I assumed he just bedded there.  I ran the video tape back and later found that my arrow had entered perfectly – right where it should have been.  What on earth happened?

His reaction was as if he was unscathed, or a superficial hit.  I was confident that my shot was good and looking back, I don’t think I could have done anything differently.  But I was puzzled.  I waited for some light and then climbed out of my stand to look for the arrow and any trace of blood.  I found both.  The arrow was coated with blood and the bloodtrail started within 10 yards.  The trail was pretty consistent, but not heavy. Steady drips that were easily seen on the Cottonwood leaves.  Ok, I knew I had a pass-through, and a good blood trail. 

I got back in my stand and sat there till my scheduled pickup time of 11:30 AM.  During that time I had a nice 8-point shooter show up and I could have killed him 20x over - had I not had a wounded deer out there somewhere.  I enjoyed filming him until he walked away.  At 11:45 AM, Kent and his partner Kent Woolfolk showed up and I explained what happened.  We were encouraged by the blood trail but confused by his reaction after the shot.  I considered a low liver hit but had ruled out heart or lungs.  It was possible that the buck reacted to the shot and spun – undetected.  I wished I had a video replay since my mind saw only a perfect arrow entering right where it should have been. 

 

This fawn was chewing a cow bone behind my treestand. I had heard of this behavior before but never actually witnessed it, until now.

Buck 2 - 9:30 AM

This exceptional 8-pt. appeared under my stand at 9:30 AM. He gave me several perfect shot positions like the one above at 8 yards. But I had a wounded deer out there somewhere and was no longer hunting.

 

The blood trail was good for 100 yards, but then began petering out.  We suspected the worse.  That would be the start of one of the most relentless pursuits of a wounded animal in my 21 years of bowhunting.

 

Chronology of the blood trail

12:15, ground zero

Kent Jarnagin, Kent Woolfolk, and myself start following the bloodtrail from within 10 yards of the shot, to the field where I watched the buck disappear.

12:30 PM, 300 yards

We do grid patterns to find more blood sign, I search the Tamarack thicket while Kent walks a nearby fence line.  Kent Woolfolk leaves to pick up the other bowhunter who is hunting another area.

12:55 PM, 300 yards

Kent Jarnagin and I decide to go back to last blood and look harder.  We need to know the direction the deer headed out of the Tamaracks.  Luckily we find the trail and follow it to the fence. There is blood on the fence and now we know that the buck was strong enough to jump a 4 foot fence and headed out into the miles of sagebrush and sandhills.

1:45 PM, 500 yards

Kent and Reed show up and help us look. Reed heads out into the sandhills to scour the plumb thickets, while we continue searching for blood sign.  Reed jumps the 8pt buck that came into my stand and that buck races off, picking up my wounded buck along the way.  Kent Jarnagin spots him and marks his last location.  We discuss options and I suggest we dog him and see what he does.  Kent agrees, and we leave Kent and Reed and head off after the buck.

2:30 PM, 1000 yards

We jump the big buck and watch him race off through the sand hills.  He appears to be very healthy.  We run to keep him in sight and Kent notices that he’s bleeding well again.  Despite a feeling that the hit is superficial, we decide to keep after him so long as we have visibility and a blood trail. 

3:00 PM, 1 mile

We followed the blood trail for a long ways, and then the buck jumps up again.  He is still healthy looking.  Kent and I discuss options, one of which is to abandon the trail and not stress the deer any further, or keep dogging him.  I leaned towards the no-stress option and Kent agrees.  But we both decide to circle the sand hills one last time before heading back.  When we did that, our buck jumps up again but this time he quickly goes to a walk. Now there is no question that he is getting weak, and we decide to keep after him.

3:30 PM, 2 miles

We move in the direction that the buck headed, just beneath a small cottonwood tree in a thick drainage.  Kent and I get there and split up, Kent bumps the deer again and we watch him run to the next drainage, nearly a half-mile away.  We run to keep up with him and watched him disappear.  Once there, we split up and cover both downwind banks of the drainage.  While I moved to the south, I looked below me and there was my buck, bedded, and watching me.  I was only 30 yards away but had no shot through the trees.  I waited until his head turned and then tried to ease over the backside of my sandhill.  The buck spooked, and took off running.  He turned and headed off into the prairie.

4:00 PM, 2.75 miles

Kent and I had lost the deer almost immediately and decided to split up and cover separate areas.  I moved a half-mile east of him and noticed the tops of some small trees ( which looked like a good place to start ).  I was ¾ of a mile from where we last jumped the buck and finding him in these thigh-high sagebrush hills; with plumb thicket draws and the occasional Tamarack groves would be like finding a needle in a haystack.  But we persisted and kept moving.  I walked for hundreds of yards from one high hill to the next before dropping down into a draw which led to some trees.  As I turned the corner, I froze; my buck was bedded in the open, twenty yards in front of me.  I already had an arrow nocked and had to make a quick decision.  The deer was obviously stressed and was letting me get ridiculously close.  My options were few, the buck was bedded with this hind-quarters facing me.  This was not an ideal shot.  But given that he was hurting already, another arrow would likely put more blood on the ground and may just stress him to the point that he either dies or lets us walk up to him and finish him off.  I decided to shoot him in his hindquarters while he lay.  The shot hits him square in the butt and he crashes off.  I walked back and got Kent, he was amazed that I had found him and got a 2nd shot into him.  We were both pretty confident that the deer would be found quickly.  But as we got to the spot where I had shot, there was very little blood, we were back to square one. 

4:40 PM, 3.5 miles

We scoured the area, both for blood or the deer.  As the sun was setting Kent found blood.  We followed the trail for 100 yards and just at sundown, the buck stood up in front of me, 100 yards away, then he slipped away.   We ran to where we had last seen him and he had just vanished.  We couldn’t believe the deer was still alive, and still healthy.  He headed toward Kent’s fence line, which happens to separate Kansas from Oklahoma.  At this point it was nearly dark.  We think we found his track where he had crossed the fence into Oklahoma. Kent and I decided to abandon the search at this point; we had been tracking this deer for hours and had made a tremendous effort at recovery.  I will never understand exactly where my first shot hit, or why my hind-quarter shot netted us nothing.  My fear is that his deer will die in the sage but Kent thinks there may be a good chance he could recover.  When we last saw him, he was healthy.


It was a long walk back in the dark. Kent and I discussed the events, starting with my early morning shot.  I can honestly say that I would not have done anything different, starting with my shot. I waited for a perfect shot, picked a spot, and shot with perfect form.  Something happened along the way - maybe the buck spun in a split second presenting a poor angle which I could not detect.  Whatever happened, Kent and I have no regrets about our relentless pursuit of this deer, we made every attempt to retrieve the buck and I feel good about that.  Sometimes, things just don’t work out like you hope.  This was the first deer I’ve lost in two years, and during that time I’ve shot 10 deer.  It’s obvious that both shots were flesh wounds, still, any bowhunter with a conscience knows what I’m feeling. 

Note on the live Hunt

Our apologies for missing the Day 4 update on time.  After today’s ordeal I didn’t have it in me to write the update, mentally or physically.  So I made a decision to get some rest and update you on Day 5.  I’m sure you understand.

 

 

Next - Day 5

Our Kansas bowhunt takes place in Southwest Kansas with Kent Jarnagin of Cimarron River Outfitters.

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