Tuesday, November 18, 2014

1st-half report and beyond

By Mac Arnold
ROA Editor

While dipping Oreos into a hot cup of joe with the glow of the artificial fireplace radiating off my side, I bring you the yearly first-half deer season report.

Unfortunately, it looks like it will be another buckless season for this graybearded deer hunter.

What was supposed to be a celebration of 20 years of deer hunting with Mac Arnold over various media outlets, will instead likely be an occasion of embracing gratitude for taking a big doe Oct. 23 and possibly another doe later in the season. Just like last year.

I don't know how many times I've learned over the years that I get two or three opportunities on bucks, usually in October and into November, and how I do with those determines the season.

Strike three. All three came from the spot behind the house in Monroe County.

The first chance came in early October as a buck came in under the stand in the waning light of dusk and I couldn't quite make out the size of the antlers beyond a wide four-point, so I passed.

As November turned, on the seventh, I got to confirm he was a bigger buck in the daylight. While I was walking out after a morning sit on the stand, there he was staring at me 20 yards away in the fallow field's dry brown wavy grass. I backed into low brush on the woods' edge, took off my stand and pack, got the release and tried to grunt him into the one shooting lane I had. After a few nerve-wracking moments, he bolted.

So when 15 minutes had gone by and I was sure he moved on, I mounted up and headed out.

But there he was. This time on the other side of me along the woodline but 30 to 35 yards out. Once more I slipped back into the cover and grunted at him. This time he was coming and right where I needed him. It was a longer shot than I like with the compound bow but it was too good of a chance to pass up. I let the arrow fly and I'm not sure if the tall feathery grass ate it up or it zinged over his back. He didn't flinch. It was the proverbial deer-in-hunter's eyes look. A clear miss one way or the other.

He took off toward the woods and I nocked another arrow for what would be a shot I like at 15 yards if he took the trail in front of me but he went in farther and there was a fallen tree that obstructed the shot.

The third time was not the charm the next day even though I did hit him but with a bolt from the Parker crossbow. All the drawing back on the compound the day before from the ground injured my surgically repaired left shoulder.

With 50 minutes in the bag, I got down out of the tree stand and found good blood along with half the bolt broken off. After 200 yards, there still was no deer. I backed out to resume the search the next day.

Another nearly two-hour search along the blood trail on Nov. 9 for 200 yards, proved futile as well.

RTO Photo by Mac Arnold
This had all the makings of
being deer No. 49 but alas it
wasn't to be. 
I found some comfort in a question and answer from a bow hunting quiz in the October edition of the American Hunter, which said: "You struck a deer with your arrow and it bounded off. You think it was a good hit but aren't sure. You waited two hours then blood-trailed the deer for 300 yards on steady drops. It never bedded down. Which of the following is most likely true?

The answer was A. "You made a flesh wound or a non-vital hit above the lungs. ... While exceptions always exists, if a deer goes more than 300 yards without bedding, the chances the hit was fatal greatly decrease. Continue the search anyway, and hope for the best."

Bingo. This was totally my situation. It never bedded.

I considered calling in a dog tracker but after showing him the picture of the blood, he said, "That looks like the same blood we've been on for a mile and a half tonight and we never did find the deer."

So as far as me snapping a three-year buck drought, it could be the shooting match as they say.

Of course, who knows what the late season holds. Anything is possible.