Bow Season Progress

     I hunted New York’s opening weekend, which did not result in a deer on the ground, but many deer sighted. I got a stand hung on a Vermont property, albeit after the season had started. This, combined with unexpected personal affairs, delayed my hunting until early the week of the 19th. Not surprisingly, these outings were pretty quite; due to time constraints I had not had much opportunity to scout things out, and ended up settling on the first spot I found that contained deer sign and an adequate place to hang a stand.
     I was hunting New York the weekend of the 25th and shot a large doe right at sunrise. She came in quickly with three other deer. In my excitement and with two other deer standing in close proximity to her only 17 yards away, I rushed the shot. As I watched the arrow disappear into her side, I knew I hit further back than I would have liked. The four deer ran a short distance and went back to feeding under some apple trees, their forms mostly hidden by limbs and brush, save for a few brief glimpses. It was 7:35. I decided to wait until 8 to climb down.
     I could see my arrow lying on the ground, obviously covered in something dark. As I thought on this, a deer ran from the brush, behind my stand and to the left. It certainly could have been one of the deer I had seen earlier, maybe even the one I shot. When I climbed down, I was particularly careful to not make a sound. If my deer had bedded down under the apple trees I wanted to keep it that way. Once on the ground, my bow slipped as I unhooked it from the rope I used to lower it from my stand. It made an audible impact and a deer ran from under the apple trees. I waited a moment, then walked straight away from the stand.
     I went to our hunting shack and took a moment to regroup. I stripped off my safety harness and shed some extra layers and non-essential gear. After a quiet walk back through the woods, I was at the stand at 9. The first order of business was to check my arrow. It was covered with the particulate matter and dull grime indicating a paunch shot. I was disheartened, but after a moment of thought and several minutes of searching I found a blood trail. My enthusiasm was short-lived, however. After less than 15 yards of tracking the trail stopped.
     I backtracked, thinking I had took up the trail in the wrong direction, but quickly ended up very close to the spot where the deer was shot. I checked out all the runs through the brush and other possible travel routes looking for blood or any other clues that might point toward my deer, but to no avail. A change in methodology was in order. I started searching the brush in organized sections, completely clearing one before moving on to the next. My focus was now on looking for a deer rather than blood. From the point where I last found blood I moved toward the property line. I wanted to rule that section out first so I could focus my attention on other areas I thought more likely. I made a wide arc through a stand of beech where the woods was open and I could  move quickly, scanning broad sections as I went. I was nearing a field, coming to the end of my sweep, my eyes aimed down at my feet as I mulled things over. It was quite a surprise when I nearly crossed a blood trail. I turned my head to the right, following it away from the direction of my stand. There she was, stone dead. I couldn’t believe it. She must have been the deer I saw run when I got down from my stand. Sure enough, my arrow had hit the back of the rib cage, missing most of the lungs.
     Upon dressing her out I noticed the tell-tale cut pattern of my Muzzy three-blade broadhead through the center of the liver. I was certainly glad I resisted the urge to quickly get to tracking, but if I hadn’t spooked her after the shot she probably would have bedded down and never gotten up. I hope I never make a shot like that again, but if I do, I think I’ll stay on stand a full hour after the fact. And make certain to not make a sound when I climb down.

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