With howling winds, lightning and thunderstorms all night long were waiting to see what the morning hunt would bring. Forecasts called for a cold North wind and and blustery conditions. They were spot on. Temps dropped 40 degrees overnight. Where I was hunting with just a Sitka hoodie, I now had on their Fanatic Bibs and Jacket over my hoodie and additional layer of Sitka long underwear. We figured the morning would be good and we were not disappointed. Jake went to Ken's tree, and Ron went to a ground blind at Larry's Creek. I went to the Oval Office which has been a good stand for me since Kent and I hung it three years ago (remember the decoy with the Barack Obama mask on it)?
But the day did not start well.
Like I've done countless times, while setting up my camera arm in the pre-dawn darkness I inadvertently knocked my daypack off the seat and heard it - and my $5k Panasonic professional video camera crash 22 feet below me. I pointed my flashlight at the base of my tree and there was camera pieces strewn all over the ground. Not good. I climbed down and collected the chunks. Losing the camera was painful, but not as painful as not having a camera for this hunt. To my amazement it still worked. I was able to cut a piece of haul string and tie my mic on. Everything else functioned as usual even though the viewfinder, mic holder and audio dials were smashed beyond repair. With my hobbled together camera I waited for sunrise and listened to coyotes.
It was slow for the first part of the morning. A few does came by and that was it. After the sun was high up in the sky the bucks showed up and they were chasing several does around the woods. It was on! Like a switch was flung bucks were chasing, making scrapes and raking trees. I saw a buck that looked exactly like the buck I drew on last and never released in time before he winded me. at 10:30 AM I spotted a really nice 10 point running around chasing does. He was raking trees and making a racket. Through my Minox binoculars I could tell he was a good buck. A classic 10 with curved points and a spectacular curved main beams. I told myself if he came in I would shoot him.
Note the shadow...
He did. But as he approached I started thinking again and that is often a bad thing. I didn't like the busted G2 and I wondered if he was mature enough. As he fed under me I realize that I do this to myself all the time. I talk myself out of too many bucks. Not necessarily a bad thing unless I regret it later - like what happened last year. So I decided to take him. With the video camera rolling I pulled back and as I was at full draw
I totally messed up and failed to pick the right spot. It was such a simple shot too, I just blew it - hitting this great buck far back.
My hit was too far back. I knew it immediately.
To my surprise he dropped dead 50 yards away.
To say I was surprised would be an understatement. You can clearly see this on video too. The shot placement and his after-shot reaction were totally inconsistent. It looked to me like a gut shot, at best a liver hit. But his reaction was that of a double lung hit. I was amazed. I texted Kent and told him I just killed a buck. Rather than running up to him I decided to play it safe and watch him for a while. That was a smart move. The buck was not dead. After 20 minutes his head popped up and 10 minutes beyond that he stood up and walked 20 more yards before bedding again. I sat and watched him for two more hours. He got up three more times but only went ten yards each time. He was mortally wounded no doubt. Kent was waiting for my call. I told him I could sneak out and we should come back in the afternoon. That's what I did. Once on the ground I glassed one last time and he was still there, head on the ground nearly dead.
Back at the house we watched the video and we were all pretty sure that it was a stomach and liver hit. Neither hit would explain him crashing so quickly after the shot though. We were all confident he'd be dead in that bed.
When we came back I climbed the stand and he was gone. No trace. Not good.
We regrouped and weighed our options. The safe option was to come back in the morning. But Kent had been down that road before. The coyotes move in and push the deer out into the CRP where it's almost impossible to find him. And if we did he'd likely be tore up by the dogs. Of course, pushing him isn't a great option either. It was my call and I decided to look for him - knowing full well there was a great chance we could push him and make things worse. It was over 6 hours at this point since he was shot. I hoped we'd find him dead somewhere. That's not what happened.
Kent saw him first. The deer stood up then walked North. I watched him for a while and was lucky enough to see him bed down. Kent and Ron swung North to get upwind leaving me in his downwind exit. It didn't work. The buck got up and headed into a pasture. I watched him for 300 yards before he vanished behind a small hill. Kent and Ron came back. They never saw the buck. I did, and explained where he went. Kent and I worked up a plan - him circling wide to get between the buck and me, then hopefully nudge him back where I was waiting. It didn't work. The buck got up and started walking quickly to the woods far out of my effective range.
I rarely shoot long distance, in fact I suck at it. I never shoot my first arrow more than 30 yards at a deer. But wounded deer are different. All bets are off. Getting any arrow into a wounded deer is acceptable - at any range. So when the buck spotted me out in the open he stopped and I ranged him. I held my 40 (and longest pin) way high and released. To my disbelief I hit him. Both Ron and Kent were amazed. My shot was almost 100 yards. I hit him low behind the shoulder. Skill? No way. pure luck, nothing else.
The buck ran into the trees but went down fast. A final, follow up arrow through the lungs put him down for good. Not the way I wanted it to happen but I'll take a difficult recovery any way I can get it. We were thrilled, and pretty astonished that we pulled that off. It was a risky play and it could have easily gone the other way.
I figured I'd passed enough bucks this year. He was too pretty to let go.
He is a beautiful buck with a classic antler configuration. He's not the booner I'd hoped for but I'll take him. He'll have a proud spot on my wall and a story to go with it.
Also, Ron Baxley (Tater on Bowsite) shot a great eight-point this morning as well. His shot was far better than mine....
Ron Baxley shot this tall eight on Larry's creek from a ground blind
Don't tune out yet. Jake is still hunting until Wednesday evening. Follow his hunt on our Big Game Forums.
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Our deer hunt takes place in Southwest Kansas with Cimarron River Outfitters