Snow packed and out of luck

On this snowy November day, I felt the crisp air shock my lungs with my first breath when I stepped out of my truck. It was a cold and frosty morning and the snow that covered the ground was about 8” deep.  I looked up and paused to admire the dark night sky and the stars above me that sparkled like polished jewels. It was a wonderful morning and I looked forward to my day’s hunt. I had little time to waste, as I had about a mile walk ahead of me to get to my tree stand. I took my backpack out of the truck and quickly tossed it over my shoulders. Then I put my shooting release on my hand and grabbed my Browning compound bow.  I wanted to be prepared before I reached my destination for any opportunity that may arise for a shot at a deer.

I set off to cross a large open pasture to so I could access my stand from the back side due to the wind direction that morning which was blowing from the north. I did not want my scent to be detected, so the only way I could hunt this prime stand was to take the long way around.  It was about a 45 minute walk, which required crossing 2 fences and 2 creeks in the snow. It took longer to walk through the pasture than I had planned on, due to the amount of snow on the ground slowing things down. After some time I began to approach the crest of a hill, on which a tree line hide the last fence row I needed to cross over. Between the trees and the fence was a distinct deer trail that ran parallel to the fence. On previous occasions I had walked up and spooked up deer in this area, so I slowly and cautiously approached. By now the first light was in the sky and morning was quickly coming on.

I made it to the trees undetected and carefully pulled tree branches back to allow me to pass by quietly. My senses were sharply aware of every thing around me, as I looked about for fresh sign and any movement near by, but I saw nothing. Slowly I crept through the area and finally came to the fence that I needed to cross. For partial cover I crouched down next to a tree that grew on the fence line and took off my backpack and placed it over the loose barbed wire fence. As I did this,  I sensed movement in the trees on ahead of me to the south, on the other side of the fence. By now it was light enough to make out most everything around me and I had not made it to my stand before light as I had planned, though I only had about  200 yards left to get there. I heard a slight snap of a branch and froze. I strained my eyes to distinguish what was there.

Soon the sounds came closer and what I was able to finally see was a doe and buck working their way straight toward me. I realized this was going to turn into an easy 5- 10 yard shot, while kneeling to take it. I gripped my bow, pulled an arrow and nocked it. As I put my hand up to the string to clip it on for a quick shot, my heart sank. This is when I realized my release that I had been wearing had become snow packed. So much so that I could not clip it on the bow string to pull back the arrow. I had heavy gloves on my other hand and could not quickly remove the snow. I tried to tap it against the tree trunk that I was crouched next to but the stuff was too hardened and would not come out. So I tried to spit on it and tap it but still no luck. I was out of luck at this point and all I could do now was try to remain still and hope the deer did not see me, in hopes that I could work out the problem some how. I would have to get out my knife and dig the snow out of the release. But before I would do that, within a few seconds the doe jumped the fence within 8 yards of me. She did not notice me and I could tell the buck that was tending her was getting ready to jump too. He was a really cool looking 8 point that had a rack build like a moose with a scooped sort of antler growth between the G2 & G3 tines and then tapered out from there to the G4. I could not believe how close the deer were to me. That itself was an amazing experience.

Well, he decided to stay secluded in the tree line and chose to walk through the trees and brush to follow her. They began to walk away from me parallel to each other, the doe on the trail and the buck in the brush. So I pulled my pack over to me and got my knife out and began to dig the snow out. It turned out to be very difficult, but it finally came out .

By now I was not sure what course of action to take. My tree stand was not far away and who knows where the buck and doe were by now. I had to make a decision so I decided to go to the tree stand in hopes of another opportunity coming up for that morning. As it turned out nothing else came by and I did not see any sign of the buck or doe. I mentally wrestled with this scenario for years wondering if there was something else I could have done differently to have improved the outcome.

At that time I was definitely a green horn in the area of hunting skills, but since then have realized that an optional plan of action would have been to try to quickly circle farther south on the trail that they were headed down, since they were taking their time about moving through the area. I would have needed to find a bit of brush to crouch next to and then quietly wait to see if they came within range on the trail. Grunting or bleating would have only made them feel threatened by the possible presence of another deer, so keeping quiet was the right thing to do. It is likely that they would have hung out in that area for some time, since they did not sense any danger.

You will find as you read my various articles that I write a lot about circumstances that do not always lead to a successful kill, but often have a valuable lesson. I feel those situations are important learning tools. We all have a lot to gain from others’ experiences as well as successes. I hope this lesson will benefit you as a hunter as well.

Synthia Wilson

Pro-Staff WomenHunters
Pro-Staff Kansas Buckmasters