Day of Redemption

After three and a half weeks of recuperating at home from a twelve day stint in the hospital for a back surgery gone wrong, I was so ready to go sit amongst the trees and hunt for deer. After all, it was the beginning of the rut and I would have a better chance to shoot a deer out in the woods than from in my living room.

I had been drawn for a special metro bowhunt a couple months previous to my surgery and wanted to take part in it to bring me out of the doldrums. Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to hunt from a tree stand this season after having temporary nerve damage that resulted in weak legs and foot, and having doctors' orders not to bend, twist or lift anything heavier than 10 pounds, a call was placed to one of the hunt coordinators for help with finding a spot for me to hunt, bringing my gear out and setting up my ground blind. All were graciously supplied.

This particular hunt would take place at a park in a suburb of the Twin Cities and would be the last hunt of the season there for all bowhunters involved. This would be my only chance to bag a deer so close to home. I prayed that everything would work out as planned. The last day of the hunt went like this…


Sunday, Nov. 9, 2003

As is with all morning hunts, I got into my Double Bull ground blind an hour before first light. It was a very cold morning, well below freezing and in the single digits. I had plenty of those dry chemical heat packs plastered all over my body to stay warm. I was wearing several layers of clothing, both inner and outer wear including 2 jackets and quilted bib overalls. Even so, I could feel the chilly wind nipping at my body from sitting still for so long in those temperatures. I had a face mask on but with every inhalation I took, I could feel the coldness in my mouth and throat. I dropped my chin to my chest, pulled my turtleneck up over my mouth to feel my own warm breath, and soon found myself with my eyes closed. I must have slept for about fifteen minutes when all of a sudden I opened my eyes and just felt a "presence".

I looked out the right corner portal of the ground blind and noticed a deer less than ten yards away, looking at the blind. Thankfully, she didn't notice me in it. She started up the hill in front of me as I grabbed my bow off the bow holder. She was now at the crest of the hill, eighteen yards away, for earlier I had range found it, knowing that a deer trail intersected up there. She was standing broadside to me. Unfortunately, there were branches covering her vitals and only her vitals. Can’t shoot!

I noticed her looking back behind my blind, down towards the swamp. I swung around to see what it was, hoping it was that big 16-pointer that some of the hunters have seen running around. It was seen just the morning before, in the vicinity of where my ground blind stood. As I looked out the big screen that was facing the swamp, five yards away was a deer looking at me through the window. I figured it was the does’ fawn. This one was so close, it either caught my movement or heard me move. It turned and ran back down the slope to the dry swamp below. I immediately thought to myself, "You had two deer right here, and now they’re gone. 'Ya snooze, ya lose!'" I truly hoped that would not be the case.

I looked back to the first deer and it was still standing at the crest of the hill watching the yearling. I could hear one big wheeze from the swamp so I turned to try to locate that second deer again, but couldn’t find it in all the thick brush. I once again looked back up at the doe and she started to come back down the hill towards me. I figured, the yearling was just too chicken to come back up the trail with the ground blind right there, so the doe was going back down to her.

As long as I had my bow in my hands, I whispered, "Maybe I can redeem myself. Don’t blow your chance!" I drew back, stuck the tip of the arrow out the corner portal and waited for her to enter that spot. It was redemption day, as she stopped broadside, still standing on the asphalt hiking trail, just 12 yards away from me. If she would have taken just another step or two before stopping, I wouldn’t have had a shot, as a big tree stood right there, and just beyond that, lots of thick brush.

I put the pin behind her shoulder and let the arrow fly. I tried to locate the point of impact on the deer so I would know how good a shot it was. I remembered seeing a tiny red spot on her, and then watching intently where she ran off to. Down to the dry swamp and then she disappeared behind some real heavy brush. I couldn’t hear any more crashing sounds after that, so hoped that she dropped right there.

I decided I’d wait half an hour before I’d go look for my arrow.

Ten minutes later, I walked to the spot where I had hit the deer. There on the ground were two different blood trails. This I had not seen before. One was going in the direction that the doe ran off to and the other was the direction my arrow took. I chose to follow the latter first, wanting to inspect the arrow for type of blood, before I’d go off looking for the deer.

The arrows blood-sprayed path went 12 yards before it stopped, just on the side of the pavement.

By the looks of the arrow, I knew it was a good shot. My once black arrow with white and purple cresting and fletching was now completely bright red… from Muzzy tip to nock end. There was deer hair stuck all over the shaft also. I gingerly picked up the arrow (ewww) and brought it back to the ground blind.

I then went back to the point of impact and started following the other blood trail, down the slope and onto the flat bottom of the dry swamp. The deer had fallen right where I last seen and heard it, just 20 yards from where she was shot. I looked down the swamp bed, and discovered my deer cart, where Bob the other hunt coordinator, unbeknownst to me, had ditched it. What a perfect spot! Right next to the deer!

I took one picture, as that’s all my camera would take. Seems as though camera batteries won’t hold their charge long in freezing temperatures, and it had drained down to nothing. I’d have more taken later back at home.

I then pulled out my knife and started to field dress the deer. I looked at her chest for teats and didn’t find any. I thought that was kind of odd, as she had been with a fawn.

I was only able to slit her belly and let the majority of "stuff" hang out the opening, still attached, just so it would cool down a little, when then my back really started to hurt from bending over the deer. I knew I shouldn’t over-do it so I decided to leave the deer there as it was, and deal with it later. The cold November temperature would keep the meat just fine. I decided to head back to my ground blind. After all, it was only 10 AM and there could be more deer crossing my path.

As I got half way up the hill, I heard noises up on the pavement. It was Dave, he was heading to his truck for an early lunch. He could see the deer laying down below and asked, "So you shot "the big buck"?" I told him no, I shot a doe. He said that just under an hour earlier, he watched the big buck walk towards my direction. I told him he never made it to me, as he must have taken a different intersecting trail.

Dave proceeded down the hill, pulled out his knife and completed the field dressing process for me.

"This ain’t a doe. You shot a button buck!"

"Really??"

He spread the hind legs to show off the deer’s penis and I said "Ohhhhhh, it is!!" (I felt so stupid.) Don’t know why I hadn’t noticed that before. I didn’t notice the little nubbins on its head either. Probably because they were less than an inch high and covered completely with hair yet.

It then occurred to me that these two deer that were together earlier, were twin fawns, not mama doe and offspring like I had assumed. My doe was actually a buck! It wasn’t the biggest deer in the woods, but just maybe it was the tastiest!

After he congratulated me once again, I smacked him on the back, and thanked him for everything… For picking out that ground blind spot and helping with my gear and deer.

"I couldn’t have done it with out your help". And really I couldn’t have. Without knowing ahead of time that there would be someone there to help me out, I never could have gone out on this hunt. I was truly grateful.

While he headed to his truck for lunch, I headed back to my ground blind. We left the deer lie there on an incline to help drain the blood out, before he would load it onto the cart after sundown.

I never did see or hear another deer that day, but that was ok, as I knew I’d be out the following weekend (with help) to hunt some more. And after being laid up for so long, it was nice to get back out into the woods. I was happy today to know that I would still be going home with some venison.