Saturday, December 17, 2016

I Shot an Arrow Into the Air...

After my failed elk hunt of 2013, I would have to wait for nine years to apply for a Black Hills Firearms elk tag. In an effort to get another chance in the Black Hills a bit sooner, I wanted to try archery again. I had owned a bow back in the early nineties but really never spend enough time with it to become proficient.

I bought a PSE bow on eBay in the summer of 2015. I started practicing in September of 2015. I did hunt a bit in 2015 but had a busy schedule during the deer rut and did not get out enough to really see the traffic patterns. I was not very confident with my shot either - maybe 30-35 yards.

This year, I made a commitment to practice as much as possible in September. I spent a half hour each evening that I could and fired 20-25 shots. I was confident up to 45 and would take a shot up to 50 yards.

I got out to watch the deer a bit in September and early October. I knew where they were moving and what was out there.

As the calendar moved into late October, I was getting out for an hour each evening. I saw deer and was getting close to does. I had does within 20 yards. But I did not see any bucks.

Finally, I saw a nice whitetail buck one evening. I saw him several times over the next week and got to within 70 yards of him. But I could not get within a reasonable range.

I started to panic a bit because we had a trip to Spain-Portugal planned for November 3-13 and that was supposed to be peak rut. I'd only have a couple days left to hunt when we returned before the rifle season started and then the rut would be over and the bow hunting would become much more difficult.

I did not get close to anything before our trip. We returned on a Sunday and I was exhausted on that Monday. On Tuesday, I went to Omaha for the Creighton-Wisconsin basketball game and returned home about 2:30 AM.

I had three days left. I had to go to my stores in Winner and Mission on Wednesday and teach religious education that evening. And now the forecasters were predicting a winter storm for Thursday/Friday. My window of opportunity was quickly closing - and fast!

I decided not to return to the store when I got back from Mission. Instead, I headed home and sought to get out for the final hour before sunset.

I didn't even put on my hunting pants. I walked south on the property with a north wind directly at my back. I pretty much broke every archery hunting  rule possible because of a lack of time.

As I got about 75 yards from the boundary of our property, I saw a mule doe break over the hill. I ducked and watched as a beautiful buck followed with his nose to the ground. Shortly thereafter, another nice buck followed them with his nose on the scent trail.

Using the topography and wind to my advantage, I circled around to the east of where I thought they were headed. I stealthily entered the draw they were in, taking one slow, quiet step after another.
Suddenly, I saw the doe looking directly at me from about 60 yards away. I thought I had been busted. I waited her out and eventually she went back to grazing.

I ducked down and slowly moved straight toward her using a cedar tree for cover. As I crept toward the doe, I saw the antlers of one of the bucks behind the tree next to her.

I got to within 35 yards and behind a nice tall cedar tree that gave me a good view of the tree behind which the buck was standing. I readied myself as the buck was moving from behind the tree. When I could see his head, I ducked back behind the tree and drew my bow.

As I peeked back out from behind the tree, he was just showing his vitals area. I took careful aim, putting my pin on the vitals and trying not to rush the shot, and I let it fly. I could see my lighted nock fly on the intended path and heard a slight grunt as the arrow penetrated the buck.

He lurched forward (downhill) and kicked his back legs up and almost over his body. It was obvious that I hit him, it was just a matter of where I hit him. He moved behind a cedar tree.

I sat and waited for him to come out from behind the tree. I could see the bottom of the draw some 20 yards ahead of him. But my view of the area where he went was obstructed by several cedar trees. I watched for a sign of either of the other two deer.  Nothing!

After about a minute (which seemed like 30), I saw a deer walking slowly toward the bottom of the draw. It was getting dark and I needed binoculars to get a better view. A peek through the glass revealed that this was one of the bucks. But was it the one I shot at?

Soon it was obvious that this buck was hit. I could see labored breathing and he was starting to wobble. Then he went down! I got him! I watched through the binoculars for a couple minutes as he eventually laid down, and then dropped his head. I couldn't believe it.

I turned to make the ten minute walk back to the house to get the UTV to drag him back where I could butcher him. I floated up the hill and back to the house.

Judy returned with me to be my official photographer. We took a few photos (as Snickers tried to photobomb!).

We drug him back to the house where I butchered him rather quickly in the 75 minutes I had before religious ed class. I got most of the cutting done, leaving mainly cleanup when I returned from class.

What a thrill it was to take the buck with a bow. It was as nice a deer as I had ever been lucky enough to take.

I am ready for that Black Hills elk archery tag!!!

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