Each year a bunch of great guys gather in a little valley in Eastern Ohio for a deer hunt. It’s not the deer that brings us there but the comradere and campfires that have bonded us together for this hunt. It is always held the last week of October and has yielded some exceptional specimens. This is the story of one.
It is midweek and I have been seeing deer everyday but they are all too far off or giving bad angles to shoot. Getting one doesn’t matter and I come here every year wanting to nail a bruiser and many we have seen while hunting this state. The landowner requests that we all try to harvest a doe or two as that is his only way to control the herd. The leaves are now falling fast and each day exposes more of the forest as well as the hunter above.
I find hunting here so different than my home state of PA where mountain hardwood ridges of oaks and beeches offer an abundant food supply of years of fruit. Here in Ohio I hunt reclaimed strip mine country with small trees just getting their start in life and tons of Rosa multiflora, that imported weed that offers extreme cover and protection to wildlife. It also offers a unique hunting situation.
It is Wednesday, about half way through our hunt and I am on tunnel ridge, so called because a railway tunnel passes right through it. I am on one of the benches just off the top and within a few minutes after daylight I see deer moving but on the bench below me. All are does but I will take shots as opportunity presents itself for I feel all deer harvested my way fulfill my want to take a deer with archery tackle. The forest has now come to full light. The morning melting off of frost sounded like a rain storm on the forest floor.
Suddenly, out in front of me approaches a band of does and button bucks. It appears that they too will pass below me out of range. Suddenly one of the does breaks away and comes up on my bench and appears to be on a collision course with destiny. Soon she is to my left and about 20 yards out. I already have my arrow nocked and my fingers on the string and have been shadowing her movements with my bow. She will pass within fifteen yards offering a full broadside shot at a slight quartering away angle. This is the way I visualized it happening.
She approaches the window I want and I start my pre aim sequence. She is not stopping but slowly moving along. I follow the movement gluing my eyes to that fold behind the front shoulder and about mid body as I am up in a tree and want to shoot through the lung area into the offside front leg. She enters the window and my string is on its way toward its anchor. At the slight touch of the cock feather on my nose that oft repeated sequence of a release happens and the arrow is on its way. The deer seems to pick up speed for an instant as I watch the arrow enter farther back then anticipated and disappear into the hair on the animal. Pass through I think to myself. There is nothing quite like watching an arrow totally disappears into the side of a deer. You literally watch that hair close right around that arrow and it is gone. I had a pass through just a bit farther back than I thought. Liver Lord, please I prayed knowing it could be a gut shot.
I glanced down at my watch. 7:45. OK, now we wait at least an hour before getting down I say to myself. The deer showed little sign of being hit. She jumped a few yards, stopped and jogged off into the brush. No loud crashing. Nothing. I would wait at least an hour before I got down and if the arrow I could cleanly see in the ground told me it was gut shot then I had a long day ahead of me.
Suddenly behind me there were footsteps. I looked and here comes a six-point buck passing under my tree. I watched him for a while and then the wind currents or my trail in made him suspicious of someone being in his domain. He reversed his travel and started back the way he had come. As I watched him through the binoculars I spied another buck was right behind him and this one was a shooter.
I watched both bucks for quite sometime. The smaller one finally went up over the ridge and as I looked back the bigger one was gone also. A look at my watch told me it was time to check things out. My plan was to check the arrow for odor and material, go to the last spot where I saw my deer and look for blood sign and from the information I gathered decide to go on the trail now or to let it go for a while and follow up later in the day.
The arrow was easily removed from the ground and it was covered completely with matter. I rubbed some off on my fingers and smelled it and new immediately I had taken it through gut. I also looked at the body hair for sign. Then I slowly proceeded to the last place I saw the deer. Sure enough on the leaves was the start of a blood trail but the blood was dark. A few more steps and I saw a deer jump up in front of me. “Darn”, I said as I mounted my binoculars. It was the larger buck I had thought left the area and he quickly was over the ridge top and safe. I scanned ahead with the binoculars and spotted some white. There she lay stone dead. She didn’t even know she was hit. She had moved over there and stood undisturbed and bled to death facing in my direction. I would learn as I dressed the deer that I had gotten the liver and just nicked the far lung. The buck had bedded by her. He probably did that just as I watched the smaller one walk over the hill. As always I admired my kill and thanked the Man upstairs for giving me this day. I communed somehow with the spirit of the deer and gave thanks for the kill and the meat that will nourish my family. An exceptional book doe had met its match. There is no book that records antlerless deer you say. The book I keep does and it will be recorded in my book forever.