Sep 10, 2015

After The Shot                           

By Marc Drewek

How many times have we thought we’ve made the perfect shot on a deer when in reality we didn’t? This has happened to all of us who have spent countless hours in pursuit of white-tailed deer. I can remember several stories from days gone by but there’s still one that haunts me to this day.

It was early November and the wind was perfect to hunt from my favorite stand. This was a stand that had produced several nice bucks over the years. It was located on a pinch point between a pond and my food plot. Directly in front of me at about 200 yards was a doe bedding area. The does would travel from that bedding area south past me into the food plot, which was located 37 yards behind me. It’s just at my comfortable range with a bow. The bucks would travel through this pinch point during the rut in an attempt to wind any does that were bedded down in the alder thicket. If the wind was steady from any northerly direction, the bucks would pass by that stand no farther than 35 yards and as close as five yards. The only risk was if the wind changed my hunt would be over. If the does caught my wind they would vacate that area. This happened to me more than once, but if the conditions were ideal the chance of seeing multiple bucks was high.

On this particular morning, the wind was coming heavy out of the northwest. I had seen several does milling around the outside of that bedding area. The first buck that came by was a small six point with his tongue hanging out. He looked like he had been running for days. I don’t remember the exact time but it was early morning when I heard some grunting and what sounded like a freight train running through the woods. My heart started pumping and my cold feet were now on fire. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was about 15 minutes, here he came following a doe. The doe passed directly underneath my stand and continued east. The buck hesitated as though he knew I was there. The buck was a beautiful eight point with bone white antlers; not a monster by any means, but a nice deer.

At full draw I waited for him to clear the timber and reach my shooting lane. The pin was put right behind the shoulder and I released. The shot looked good. The deer ran about 50 yards and stopped. I could see his white tail flicker and he looked like he was going to fall. I picked up my binoculars, looked in that direction and saw no deer. In an instant he was gone.  He was headed to a huge thicket. My heart sank as I played that shot over and over in my head.

After waiting for an hour, I made my way down from the stand. Initially, there was no blood, which made my heart sink even deeper. After about 30 yards I picked up the blood trail; it was dark and only coming out of one side. It looked to me to be a little far back and not a complete pass through. I continued to follow the trail before deciding to back out. My mistake was that I should have backed out sooner than I did. With a potential liver shot I gave the deer another six hours. In retrospect, I should have given him more time.

When I resumed the search, I discovered the deer had bedded down just 30 yards from where I had stopped trailing him. I believe to this day that although I didn’t see that deer move, I spooked him out of that bed. In that bed laid the arrow and two separate large blood spots. After several more hours and a zigzag of blood spots, the trail dried up. As darkness approached, my hopes of finding this deer were diminishing. After a sleepless night, I resumed the search, fortunately for me I laid out a path of trail markers.

I never did recover that deer even after a whole day of searching and half of another. I did learn some valuable lessons but none of them compensated for losing that deer. I would like to share those mistakes in hopes that it will help if you find yourself in a situation like this.

First, if you have any doubt about your shot placement and don’t see your deer, fall back out and give them some time. Second, if you can, call a friend to help with trailing the deer. Third, make sure you leave a well-marked trail from your stand. You never know where the deer is going to lead you. I carry a roll of string, orange and white toilet paper, reflective twist ties, reflective thumbtacks and never go without a good flashlight and extra batteries.

If you spend enough time in the deer woods, a situation like this will likely arise. Try to make every effort to retrieve your animal.  You owe them that. In today’s hunting world there are options for deer retrieval with the aid of bloodhounds. If I knew of this option at the time, I would have surely taken advantage of it.

Remember to share your passion for the outdoors with someone, it will make you a better person.

Hunt Safe, Hunt Hard and Respect the Outdoors