(disclaimer: there will be gory hunting descriptions in this story:)
It was a beautiful day in Lebanon County Pennsylvania! My son Dan had bagged a huge 8 point Whitetail deer the night before. I helped him in the field dressing and trip back to his truck dragging “Tiny” (as he called the deer which he had been viewing on his trailcam for weeks, see below picture). He bagged the buck at 6:15 pm which was just 21 minutes before shooting hours closed for the day! The deer only ran about 50 yards before it collapsed as his crossbow arrow had pierced the deers lungs and exited out the other side.
He encouraged me to hunt the next day out of his ladder stand. My enthusiasm wasn’t very high as my bow hunting record was a pretty failed one so far, as I had missed a buck my first year, wounded another one my second year and even missed one earlier this year! Mostly chalking it up to hurried shots and buck fever!
But my wife JoJo insisted that I go out since it was a beautiful day and having me out from under her feet was a sure motivation! So 2pm came around finding me perched in Dan’s bench seat two-man “cadillac” ladder stand. I took my range finder and mentally noted the distances to a number of potential shots within my shooting range and settled back for a comfy and relaxing afternoon!
God must have sprinkled chipmunk and squirrel dust all over this particular section of woods because they were in abundance and making a huge racket which distracted me time and time again thinking a deer was approaching only to find the little rascals running races all over the woods!
Nothing was happening so I pulled out my William Johnstone paperback story of how the frontier was won and read a few chapters, when a flash of gray and white caught my eye off to my right about 70 yards out which was WAY out of bow range but nevertheless it could be a buck, so I dropped the book and reached for my range finder. It would have to do, since I left my binoculars back in my truck!
I was able to make out a deer between patches of trees and brush but not able to see the head at any time and then the deer moseyed off to my right. So much for that, maybe it would return. Back to my frontier book. Thirty minutes later my eyes started to droop and while the warm temps encouraged me to nap, I looked at my pillowy backpack and my brain said, “You could just rest your head on that for a little while!” I shrugged it off when I saw another glimpse of brown, and sure enough that deer had returned! I got a better look at it and it was clearly a momma. O well, where momma deer are in mating season the poppa’s aren’t that far away!
Hours passed and the sun was low on my right just above the horizon and the time was approaching 6 pm. All the while that doe was messing around in front of me. I thought to myself, “Dan shot his buck at 6:15 and there’s still plenty of light”. So I kept watching that doe and she had moved in to around 50 yards away. Then it struck me, “Wait, there’s another deer hanging around her, and I can easily see horns!” It was definitely a legal buck with antlers up above the ears showing a row of points sticking up on each side.
So the race for time was on! The buck wasn’t too interested in the doe and she actually came slowly down the mountain and walked by right in front of my stand never seeing or smelling me. The buck, on the other hand, was just staying out at about the same spot. So I took out my grunt call and gave it a few blasts. That got his attention and he moved my way but he still wasn’t in a big hurry. The buck I missed earlier in the season had responded to my grunt call but I missjudged the distance when he came in range and my arrow just shaved a few hairs off his underbelly!
I looked at my watch and the time was 6:25 and I had just eleven minutes to closing! Then the buck finally started moving down the mountain but ever so slowly. He was coming closer and crossed through a couple of openings but was still pretty far out. As he came closer he was approaching 35 yards away, but earlier in the week, I had been putting my arrows right in the bullseye at that distance in my backyard, so I knew if he would only give me an opening I could take the shot! There was very little light but when I put the crossbow to my shoulder and looked through the scope I could clearly see my crosshairs. I shifted to my right and saw him in my scope coming steadily through narrow gaps in the trees, then I shifted back to my left just beyond a big tree where I figured he would emerge into a larger opening.
Sure enough he stepped into view and then paused! My crosshairs hovered nervously over his shoulder and I pulled the trigger! My arrow had a lighted nock so I saw the flash of red light pierce the dim light and find it’s destination right into the deer’s shoulder area! He took off running to my left and the red lighted arrow bounced along his side as he ran. He crashed through the brush and I could hear him running and then silence. I looked at my watch…. it was 6:34! Just TWO minutes to spare until closing time. Wow!
I knew it was crazy to push him right away so I sat in my stand and called my son Dan, my wife JoJo and my other son Eric who is also an avid bow hunter. My sons agreed enthusiastically to come and help me track the deer in the darkness that had now engulfed the woods. I stayed in my stand for 30 minutes and then descended to try and see any evidence of a blood trail. The woods looked a LOT different on the ground level in the dark and I was very fortunate to find the spot where I had hit the deer and there was a clear blood trail. I figured I’d just follow it for a short distance on the chance the buck may have collapsed nearby, like my son’s deer did the night before.
I came to a little rise following a lot of blood and saw my shining arrow nock in the distance. There he lays I thought! But no, it was just my arrow, but only half of it as the deer had evidently brushed up against a tree to dislodge it from it’s body. I only followed it a short distance and decided to stop until more help arrived, sticking my arrow in the ground, with the red beacon shining, where I left the trail.
My sons and my grandson Braden arrived and we easily picked up the trail finding big puddles of blood along the way. But then there was less, and less, and less blood until we were just finding drips and then after an hour nothing! I kept questioning my shot. If I had hit him in a vital area that deer would have been down by now! Did I pull the shot to the left or was it too high? All kinds of questions rolled through my mind and I literally gave up hope that we would ever find the deer. Just another incident to add to my failed bow hunting record I thought!
My son Dan on the other hand kept encouraging me, “That was a good shot Dad, he’s gotta be in here somewhere!” he said, again and again. But darkness had settled in and with no trail to follow we were resigned to the fact the next day would be a better time to continue the search.
The next morning came and Dan joined me in the search. I was that convinced we wouldn’t find the deer that I told him, how about I just go and sit in his stand while HE searches for my deer! But he would have none of it, and insisted that we join up in the search. Incredibly within 30 minutes Dan found a spot of blood in the hollow where we had left off the search the night before. I still wasn’t convinced and was headed in another direction when he cried out, “Deer, I see your deer!”
I couldn’t believe it! I worked my way over to where he was and he had dragged the buck out of some thick weeds where it had collapsed and it seemed as hard as a rock. This deer was dead a long time and I began thinking it might not be my deer! It was hit behind the left shoulder and the arrow had angled back through the diaphram and into the deer’s belly and entrails were hanging out low on the opposite side. I dutifully filled out my game tag and tagged the deer all the while still thinking this might NOT be my deer.
But in the process of gutting the animal (which was still warm inside) low and behold…. I found the other half of my arrow lodged in the intestines! That’s MY deer I proclaimed! If it wasn’t for the steadfast support and conviction of my son Dan that deer would have been coyotee food! But now it will be bologna for the WolfePack in the coming long cold winter months! Don’t give up! Don’t ever give up!
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