Last Saturday was the Texas opener for bow season. I am a life long outdoorsman, but I only took up bow hunting last year…and I fell hard for it. I blew a shot on my first buck my rookie year; a nice 9 point that I still see in my dreams. I had shots at does several times, but I held off trying to take one until the last day of the season. Of course the does that came in that day never presented a shot.
I share a lease with three buddies, all but one of us bow hunts. The guys who use bows prefer them, and we hunt exclusively with stick and string, unless we are trying to take out a few feral hogs…a story for another post.
I was 30 minutes early at our rendezvous that morning. and the drive into the hill country of Texas slid by in a blur. I crept to my tree stand with over an hour before first light. As I walked my headlamp caught the reflection of two eyes about 30 yards from my stand. They did not move, but I thought for sure whatever it was would spook as I climbed into the tree.
As I settled in on the platform, I noticed that is was a rare windless morning. Most of the time I feel like I need spurs and a saddle to stay with this tree as we sway in the wind. But this day was calm, and just cool enough for a light fleece jacket. The early morning air was not silent, but rather full of sounds as the ranch land residents shook off slumber.
Thirty minutes before the eastern sky began to brighten, I heard the hogs making their was to my setup. But it was too dark to make out much other than 10 or so black grunting wraiths. There would be no pork for my freezer this day, and I was concerned that the hogs might push any deer out of the area. It turned out my fears were unfounded.
Just at daylight, I caught the movement of a deer from the corner of my eye. Within moments it stepped into range…followed by a second whitetail, then another. It was still to dark to make out any antlers, so I had to wait, unable to will the sun to rise any faster.
Slowly I was finally able to make out headgear on all three bucks; all three were 8 pointers, and all shooters. There was one slightly larger than the other two, and I decided to wait for a shot on that one. Naturally this meant that the other two deer offered numerous shot opportunities at 15 – 20 yards, while my buck hung back out of range or behind trees.
The two smaller bucks engaged in a little sparring, though not very enthusiastically. The rut in this area is normally still a couple months away, so this was little more than a gentle locking of antlers.
Finally after watching this group for thirty minutes, they acted like they were about to leave, beginning to walk slowly away. The big buck still offered no shot, but the middling buck did. It was a tight 34 yard shot through a little window in the tree branches no larger than a volleyball. I came to full draw, settled the sight pin just behind the buck’s shoulder and touched the release.
The arrow struck exactly where I held the pin, and I heard a solid hit, The buck spun and ran off with the arrow attached. I drew a deep breath, and noted the time. I smiled to myself at having taken my first opening day buck. I drank some water and ate a Cliff bar to quiet the growling in my mid-section and after thirty minutes I climbed down to begin tracking the buck.
I noted the little cedar shrub the buck stood by when I loosed the arrow, so I would know where to begin searching for the blood trail. To my surprise, I found no blood. I began slowly walking looking for any spec of blood, and found none after about 5 yards; then 10, then 30. In fact I never found any blood, nor did I find the buck, even after searching for four hours, the last hour with my two hunting buddies.
I keep replaying the shot in my mind, and the last time I saw the buck. It makes me sick that I couldn’t recover him. One of my buddies said “if you have never lost a deer, you haven;t hunted them very much”.
I suppose he is right, but it still doesn’t sit well. I have lost an occasional dove, but losing an 8-point is just something I was not prepared for.
One of my buddies went back out to the lease today, but there was still no sign of the buck. I have no idea what happened, but I know the shot was accurate. I cranked up the poundage on my bow tonight and got in some backyard practice with the new draw weight. I hope it will equate to better arrow penetration next time.