Bow Season, 2015

     I spent October 2-4 hunting central New York with my brother. Conditions were fairly unpleasant with a strong wind blowing the entire time. The only time it let up was on our last day, Sunday, and even then there was still a noticeable breeze. It just wasn’t miserable because the sun finally came out. But from Friday morning through Saturday night it was overcast with a cold wind swaying our tree stands so much we thought we were going to get seasick. We both managed to shoot deer, with each of us tagging average-size does. I am sorry to report neither of us made good shots. My brother spine-shot his deer at 36 yards, with a second arrow finishing it off. Regrettably, my shot was by far the worst I have ever made.
     After a few hours on stand with no deer activity a doe came in fast, by herself. She was well within range, broadside, so I let fly. I could immediately tell I hit very far back and a little high. This happened at a mere 10 yards. In retrospect, I think I made the classic mistake of simply coming to full draw, lining up and shooting. I didn’t take the time make a proper draw and bend at the waist. Luckily, the deer did not spook and only ran 20 yards or so before stopping. It was obvious that she had taken a significant hit in spite of the bad placement. As I watched her topple over backwards and struggled to adjust to a bedded down position my suspicion was a liver shot. She stayed bedded, just out of range and slightly behind a tree. I could see her, but there is no way I could have shot, and subsequently spent the next two hours watching and waiting. It was awful. I kept trying to convince myself that she was on the verge of dying, but then she would shift and I would see her holding her head up, ears erect and alert. Finally, when I was satisfied that she was not in any condition to go far, if at all, I climbed down, my bow in one hand with arrow knocked while I hung on for dear life with the other as I inched my way down the ladder, making a conscious effort to be silent.
     A second arrow should have ended this terrible situation, but she shifted just as I shot and the arrow passed up through the sternum. For the first, and God willing, last, time in my hunting career I had to finish an animal off with my knife. A valuable lesson was learned at the expense of an animal’s suffering and intend to never repeat the experience. I have never been so grateful to have gotten a deer.
     For better and worse, my Vermont hunting was far less exciting. Several sits produce no deer, not even deer sightings. I endured a few mornings with temperatures hovering around 30 degrees and had to put up with some wind, but otherwise conditions were mostly good. New England in the fall is always a beautiful sight, and I got to spend several minutes watching a barred owl that perched 20 yards away. As the aphorism goes, “A bad day hunting is still better than a good day at work.”

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