Traditions Remembered

It was a cool November evening, I was walking down an old dirt road through the Oklahoma pines. There wasn’t anything special about this Tuesday evening, no cold front was coming, and it was in the middle of rifle season. “Why even bother go hunting?”, I thought to myself, but little did I know I was on what would be the most exciting hunt of my life.

Twenty sits in a stand, no shooters in range all year. Well I’ve seen a few, but there’s something you should know about me, I’m weird, yeah, real weird. I’m one of those guys that shoots a longbow, and wood arrows. I’m stubborn too, so rifle season didn’t stop me from taking my favorite stick to the woods. It’s not just any bow though, it was handcrafted in Montana by Trent Wengerd and shipped to me, one of a kind made just for me. I promised him it was going to win some buckles and kill some deer, and I wasn’t going to let him down. So, after all these sits in various stands over acorns, I decided to try something dangerous, something risky. I was going to hunt the bedding area, yes, I said the bedding area.

 

I knew if I wasn’t careful I could pressure the deer off my family’s eighty-acre plot. So, I hunted the mouth of the bedding area on a trail going to some oak thickets (the major food source I had been hunting). This area of the property burned down in a major forest fire a few years earlier. There were a lot of young pines and oak scrubs, with pockets of head high grass scattered throughout. Because all the trees were young and short, a tree-stand wasn’t an option, so I put my ghillie suit on and squeezed between a cluster of pines. I was only about ten yards from a fresh rub, which was on a heavily used trail. I trimmed some branches for a shooting lane, and had just begun to set my camera up on the tripod when I heard “CRUNCH CRUNCH”.

I looked up and I saw a buck about twenty yards away, walking straight towards me. I turned on my camera on and grabbed my bow, no time to focus the camera, he kept coming. Fifteen yards now, there was no shot, he was quartering towards me too hard. As he was about ten yards away he reached a small pine, and I knew he was going to have to walk around it, forcing him to turn more broadside. By the time he got around the tree he was only about eight yards away (no range finder, I walked this off after the shot.) and he was still quartering towards me, making this a tough shot, but one I was confident I could make. I quickly started my shot process, drew back, hit anchor, picked a spot, let go, and said a prayer (this last step is by far the most important of all when shooting trad). I watched the arrow connect two inches forward of where I aimed, and I heard the solid crack of the shoulder. My arrow snapped in half and the deer jumped skyward running in the air. Not only am I using a longbow, but its only forty-two pounds at my draw length. Yeah, this isn’t good I thought.

I listened as the deer crashed through the forest full speed, till I couldn’t hear him anymore. After almost a minute of listening I realized I hadn’t been breathing I was so nervous. There was blood everywhere, I grabbed my arrow and backed out. The buck had snapped the arrow about 4 inches from the tip. After an hour I went back to start trailing the blood. I knew based off the angle, the arrow either got through to the lungs and he was dead by now, or it wasn’t a fatal hit, which gave me a little comfort. The deer had run through tall grass and it had already soaked up most of the blood, thirty yards later I was out of blood.

Fortunately, I knew of great a tracking team a few miles down the road. I gave my friend a call and he brought his dog (all state tracking laws were followed). The dog started at the beginning of the blood trail and followed the trail a good way with no blood. Then, she found new blood and yanked us through a couple brush piles, I was on my hands and knees thinking she found a rabbit trail. Then I saw him, my buck was piled up under some brush and tall grass. After looking at my GPS I saw he only went 120 yards. I know for a fact however I would have never found this deer if it wasn’t for the help of this smart pup, and if I can’t find a deer I will always call her, as I feel it is my duty to make every effort to recover any animal I’ve shot. When I got closer, I saw I had blown through the shoulder and hit the front of the lungs. I credit this to my efficient arrow setup and nothing else. I’ve heard of compound shooters with 70 pound bows not get through the shoulder. But luckily for me I was shooting a 617 grain arrow, which was tipped with 225 grain single bevel vandieman broadheads, made of solid steel.

After thanking the tracker and cleaning the deer, I was driving home. And I was reflecting on my hunt. The deer wouldn’t score close to my best mounts, and it didn’t have any special features about it. However, it will go down as my favorite hunt so far. You see, I chased a buck all last year with my longbow, and one day I decided to bring my rifle instead. The monster buck walked right under my longbow stand and I took him with a rifle. The whole year since I regretted not getting him with my bow. After this, I learned success to me wasn’t measured in the inches of antler on the buck (although that sure doesn’t hurt), but it’s measured in the hunt, and the effort I put into the hunt, as well as the experience as a whole.

Shooting a deer from the ground that close, with a weapon that requires dedication and skill, rewards a hunter with feeling of accomplishment like no other.  I can’t help but grin when I think about using two sticks to kill a deer, and better yet, getting to honor some of the traditions of bow hunting.

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