Sun, 23 November 2008
Last weekend was one dedicated to our friend the white-tail deer. With an amazing buck adventure already behind me this season, I was really looking forward to helping my Dad bag a deer, and Uncle Terry get some action. He flew up from Florida to the frozen tundra to enjoy the changing of the seasons – archery to gun season that is.
Terry came into town on Thursday, so he’d already had an entire day in the woods by the time I got to Conesus Lake, where we hunt. That night he told stories of watching a buck in the woods mill around all day long just outside of bow range. The only shot he took was this nice photo.
With visions of bucks dancing in our heads we all turned in awaiting our first day.
Friday’s Balmy Bow Weather
I took Friday, the last day of archery season off from work. We were in the woods at sun up in what turned out to be a 60 degree November day. The deer agreed with us that it was a better day to sit out in the sun in shirt sleeves than to be walking around the woods. By 10am we had seen nothing, so we called it a morning. For the rest of the afternoon we played with guns – always a manly activity. We went down to my Dad’s barn and sighted in our shotguns for Regular season. I was the only guy to hit the paper plates consistently at 50 paces. While I thought that was a good omen, it actually was not a predictor of what was to come. In a critical strategy move, we also threw up a small ladder stand right where we’ve been seeing deer come in and out of the woods all season. THAT ended up being our best decision of the weekend.
Our Friday night hunt came soon enough as the days don’t last too long this time of year. For the 4th straight session, Dad didn’t see anything in his stand. We were all shocked at how his stand went cold after we kept seeing SO many deer there earlier in the season. At 5pm on the dot I scooted off to a volleyball game at Hot Shots. Terry was conspicuously silent on the radio when I told the guys I was leaving. When I came back to the lake later on, I got the scoop on a miss that caused Terry a sleepless night. At 4:45pm, before the radio call, a doe had meandered toward the ladder stand VERY slowly. It took until 5:05pm for it to get close enough for a perfect shot. As Terry recounted it, the shot was completely dialed in to the heart. Our resident master of the perfect shot was getting pretty cute with his technique, no doubt wanting to show us how an arrow can be put into the size of a silver dollar from 25 yards. When he let the arrow fly it went straight and true directly…into the ground. As Terry put it, the hunting target he uses is flat and a deer’s underbelly is round. It likely took off a couple hairs from that round part of the real deer, and that was all. That little incident has Terry thinking about larger target areas for next season.
Freezing Cold and Driving Rain. It Must Be Opening Day!
The opening of Regular Season was upon us Saturday morning and I knew the weather was going to be awful. Unlike most opening days, we saw no deer activity, and heard very few shots. By 9am my blaze orange cotton jumpsuit was soaked and bloated like the Michelin man, and Dad was wringing out his gloves.
We headed in to dry off, and Terry-of-many-gadgets stayed out in the woods underneath his umbrella. At about 3pm Dad and I returned toasty and rested. The rain stopped, and you could hear a pin drop for most of the afternoon. Then, right about 5pm BOOOOMMM! Terry’s 20 gauge rang out from the lower stand and then a second shot. I quickly flipped on the radio. Terry said “Look out in the bean field, the doe’s coming your way!”. I didn’t see it, didn’t see it, then I saw it…a deer came out of the woods into the field. I radioed “I see it, what do you want me to do?”. Terry said, “Is it down?”. In that time I had lifted the gun and put the sight on the deer. I squeezed the trigger and KABLOOM my 12 gauge rang out. The deer dropped in its tracks. I observed for another few seconds, then got on the radio and said, “NOW it’s down!”.
After no action for 3 straight days that was quite a flurry of excitement. I was happy to be Uncle Terry’s wingman and put in the finishing shot. We had to do NO tracking. THAT would have been a great result of the day that was yet to come. We field dressed the doe then took it back to the house where we hung it on my Dad’s car hoist.
There, I gave lessons to the guys who taught me to hunt on how to undress and quarter a deer. We had it in the fridge by 8pm. I finished off the night be frying up some walleye from our 2008 Cabonga Trip.
Gale Force Sunday and a 5 Hour Odyssey
Sunday, we were all somewhat pessimistic on our prospects. 40 MPH gale force winds and 25 degrees rounded out our weekend of weird weather. I went out to the ladder stand before sun up with Uncle Terry in the high stand 100 yards away. At ten to seven with the light just getting bright enough, and a stiff wind in my face, I saw 2 deer crossing the bean field behind me at what must have been 60-70 yards. With my knees knocking I braced myself in the tree and took aim. The deer which I thought was a doe inched closer and came into the opening that I considered to be in good range. I squeezed the trigger and the cold morning air was split open with the crack of my 12 gauge. The deer moved a few more feet and I took a hurried second shot which apparently missed, and the deer scooted off into the woods.
The best part of the shot was that it came right after Terry had radioed me that it was OK to shoot into the woods (the other hunters around us had not shown up for the day). It seemed to him that I was waiting for his permission to shoot, and BOOOMMM I wasted no time.
I was hoping that Terry would come down out of his tree in time to get a shot at the second deer which was still hanging around 5 minutes later. Unfortunately he and his Fall Guy had a fight in the whipping wind causing him to get stuck in his tree. By the time he arrived on the scene, the trailing doe was gone.
It didn’t take us too long to pick up a heavy blood trail into the woods. We radioed my dad on our progress after we followed the doe an initial 100 yards. He stayed in his tree until 9am after we already tracked the tenacious doe through thick brush, pines and a meadow. The blood trail went from large pools of blood to pin-head spots and back again. We thought for sure I had gotten a really good shot because of the ease with which we could follow the trail at certain points. After 2 hours we kicked up the deer in a heavy golden rod field, and for the first time found out it was a spike buck. We saw the antlers and a pronounced hobble in the deer, but it managed to scurry away. Getting increasingly frustrated from what was already 2.5 hours of tracking, we asked my dad to make the long journey from his stand to where we were in the field. We thought for sure we would stalk the deer for only a few more feet and would find it. Not so much!
Thank Goodness for Dad’s Fresh Set of Eyes
When Dad arrived, we trailed the deer another 300 yards across another meadow, into new woods, and down into a gully to a stream. The last blood was right before the stream so we thought for sure it had crossed and went straight up the other side. No blood. We searched 3 fresh trails near the river’s edge. No blood. We back-tracked the trail, no blood. For 1 hour we looked for any sign of blood, ultimately ending with a grid search. What was a steady trail suddenly vanished. Tired and inexperienced on these long trailing expeditions I had pretty much given up. Not my dad. Some 50 yards down the stream bank, suddenly he yelled “BLOOD!”. The deer had walked downstream and exited the water there. No sooner did we follow the trail another 30 yards, and we scared up the deer again. This time Uncle Terry trailed the deer aggressively, trying to tire it out. Finally, he got on the radio and said he could see it and get a shot. I told him to take the finisher just like I had done for him the night before. BOOM! At noon the tracking was over in a reedy bog, deep in the woods. We were probably a mile or more from my first shot.
When we examined the deer we found 2 unusual things. The first was what a crummy shot I had taken. I got the deer in the back leg which caused plenty of bleeding, but is not a vital hit. The second was the fact that the deer was missing one of its antlers after I had seen 2 earlier. Apparently the world’s most fluky finishing shot had sawed off the second antler.
Dad went down the road to get the truck and in the meantime, Terry and I field-dressed the deer – only my second buck ever. We had to get permission from a farm well down the road from our hunting grounds to allow us to drag it out. I’m not proud of the poor shot I took. I am however very proud and grateful to my Dad and Uncle Terry for helping me fulfill the promise of being good sportsmen in the field.
The first few days of the week I spent processing the results of our productive weekend. My father-in-law was great to help me out with that task which I’ve now begun to enjoy. We already have our sausage back in time for the Thanksgiving holiday. I’m bummed my Dad didn’t get one this year because he certainly put in his time. It was a great hunt nonetheless, showing how great team work leads to a memorable experience no matter who takes the first shot. I’m looking forward to next season already.