The Wave of Descent

This is a story of a hunt that happened the day after Christmas, December 26th, 2005. I had been praying I would take a doe instead of a buck this particular year. I had been doing all I could to try to understand the deer’s patterns, however, so far this season had been stumped. I was hunting on a friend’s property in Kansas, about 20 minutes from where I live. On the morning of my hunt there was still a slight amount of snow on the ground in shaded areas, which had not completely melted from a snow earlier that week. It was a cool morning with temperatures in the mid 20’s and high expected to be about 35 to 40 degrees. This was my favorite weather to hunt in, as the white snow covering helps me to be able to detect the movement of deer, which may otherwise sneak past in dense cover. I had planned on a morning hunt in a stand that was set at the midway point between the top and base of one hill which had a stream running around the base of it. There was also a hill that butted into this one from the south, with the stream winding between the two. This is significant to understand as I later describe the events of this morning.

I arrived slightly later than I wanted to and though it was still dark, I normally hoped to be in my tree stand while darkness was still full in the sky, but the colored bands of pink light began to show at the crest of the horizon line as I hooked my back pack on my back and took my bow out of the truck. I realized I had no time to waste. I had previously tried out a theory that had worked well for me in the past: when I needed to get to my stand quickly. I had learned from experience that creeping along like a predator often alerted any deer in the area more so than just busting it, which is a common sound in the woods. So I worked my way toward my stand at a joggers pace with success and did not get one snort nor hear any leaves rustle from anything running away. I arrived near my stand with first light ready to come up. As I approached my stand, I stepped off yardage from some key natural markers. I did not have the luxury of owning a range finder in those days so this was how I marked my distance. I safely got myself up the tree and pulled up my bow. I kept 2 practice arrows in my quiver and used these to make 2 quick shots to verify my yardage estimations. I shot right on and was satisfied. Ideally these shots would have already been taken from a previous hunt from this stand, but of course I did not have that advantage this time. As the morning light began to brighten, the fuchsia pink & purple arrow fletching showed up and gave me a distinct sign of my yardage. 

Now that I was comfortable with everything, I began to enjoy the morning as I listened to the sounds of the birds as they sang happily and announcing the new day to the creatures around them. I listened and watched the movement of the squirrels as they chased each other through the leaves and searched about for things. I turned my ear to every small movement and sound I detected, as I sipped on my warm coffee thermos now and then. It was a beautiful morning and it provided me with some much needed respite. No phones, housework, cooking, laundry or other such life-stealers to deal with. I let myself melt into the woods around me, not focusing on anything but the life that was before me and hopefully the deer I would see. I was enjoying the morning but when I checked my watch I saw it was now 9:20 and I began to think maybe this was not the right spot for this particular morning. I sat my coffee thermos down into my backpack and grasped my bow again trying to remain determined and ready. I suddenly detected some type of movement over my shoulder and looked to my left, from the hill next to me. What I saw was a wonder of sight and motion, yet so unbelievable that my conscious could not initially comprehend what my eyes were seeing. It was as if I was looking at a waterfall running down the hillside, but wait, it was not water that was running it was deer! A large band of more than 24 does came running down the hillside next to me and as their brown bodies moved quickly across the snow it created an effect that the ground itself was moving. They crossed the stream at the bottom and came up toward me along the side of the hill, in a slow wave. My focus immediately became trying to detect the first mature doe that would come into my shooting lane. About 60 seconds later, a nice doe walked out from behind some brush right behind my practice arrow at 20 yards (just a fluke). I was ready and took the shot. It was a perfect broadside double lung shot. She circled around my tree and ran back toward the hill which she had come from. To my amazement, the rest of the band of does barely even reacted to the event when she dashed off, other than to look her direction in brief confusion. Then one curious doe came in to investigate. For a moment I actually thought I may bring out 2 does that morning. She, however, stayed just behind good cover at 70 yards, which was too far to shot with my bow. I hoped still that another doe would join her, but this did not happen, as the rest of them just wandered on around the hill and then were gone. The curious doe finally gave up her investigation and went on as well.

Once they were out of sight, I gave things about 15 more minutes to make sure the downed doe had expired. Then I got down from my tree stand and started blood trailing, even though I knew the direction she had gone, I still wanted to be thorough and look at my arrow to verify the type of shot I thought I had. It had passed through and stuck in the ground. What I found on the arrow was frothy, so that confirmed a double lung shot, as well the amount of blood found along the trail was extensive. When I got to her it had been about a distance of 40 yards from where she was hit, before she had dropped down. She was a nice doe weighing between 140 – 150 pounds I would guess. After field dressing her I began to drag her out. I was thankful for the cool weather as this was very strenuous work pulling her and I had already put my coat in my backpack and was dressed as light as possible. I did not make the full distance when my asthma started to bother me, but had managed to go about 1/3 of the way of the quarter mile to where I could get her to my truck. I realized I would need to try to call for some help. My husband, Ken, was at home with our 5-year-old daughter that morning, so I knew it would be difficult for him to help. I decided to see if I could reach the land owner, Robert Hawkins. Luckily, he and his best friend were in the woods that morning, too. They both finished getting my doe out of the woods and into the bed of my truck for me. I felt this was a lot to ask, but they did so with no complaints and a lot of appreciation on my part. Since it was the day after Christmas, of course every meat locker was closed. So I contacted a friend, Grant White, who only lived about 8 miles away. He let me take the doe to his house to keep. Then he showed me how to do the meat processing, of which he knew a lot about since his father had been a butcher.

I appreciate the time he took with me on this and that is how I learned to process a deer.

This was a great hunt; a beautiful phenomenon to experience. The meat was the best acorn-fed doe meat I had tasted. It also meant a lot to me to have been blessed with friends who helped me when I needed it most.


© April 2008