First Bow-Buck… 7 Yards OTG
Hunter's Journal: GON readers share their favorite hunt stories.
By Kevin Worley
This happened to me on Nov. 1 after more than 20 years of bowhunting. Now I say 20 years, which is true. I bought my bow back in ’98 or ’99, I believe, and I still hunt with it today. However, I didn’t exactly bowhunt a great deal because I never enjoyed hunting in the hot early season. I would go a handful of times each bow season and then switch over to a gun.
I’ve only tried to get serious with bowhunting the last couple of years, going nearly bow-only all deer season. Anyway, this deer was not only my first bow-kill, but it was my personal best buck to date.
It happened from the ground while I was scouting a creek bottom in the middle of the day after a morning hunt. I assume the buck came out of a nearby cutover thicket to investigate a bunch of deer commotion that I had just witnessed. Apparently I just happened to be in the right place at the right time (as most deer hunting goes). What I witnessed was a coyote bump three does from their beds near the creek. One big doe (mama I guess) came running toward me, but the coyote chased after the two smaller ones that went in a totally different direction next to a thick, grown-up cutover. The big doe slowly worked away from me and disappeared, while the other two just kept running due to the coyote behind them. I lost sight of them pretty quickly.
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that when you have a lot of sudden action like that in the deer woods that is loud and that may have even startled you, just be still. Just stand there and don’t move if you can. Let the woods settle down while you intently look and listen. I’ve shot several bucks from the ground by doing this after seeing or experiencing some unexpected deer activity. I’m a firm believer that you just have to let the hunt come to you sometimes.
So that is what I did. After I slowly nocked an arrow, I stayed motionless for what seemed like 15 minutes or more as I just scanned and listened. Then I saw movement in the direction where the two fawns disappeared, and I was thinking maybe it was the mama doe circling back around to find her fawns. Instead, a moment later at 70 yards I saw a head turn with a big rack (or at least a big rack to me). Instantly, I realized what a big mistake it probably was to be holding a bow in my hand during gun season. All I kept thinking was that the buck would be dead if I had my gun.
However, I tried to gather myself and make the most of it.
I had a clear line of sight with the buck and was concerned that he would see me, as well, so I instinctively made three or four quick steps to get to a poplar tree with a large trunk that I could try and hide behind. I thought I got to the tree without making much noise, so I started making peeks to see what the buck was doing, but I couldn’t see it anymore. It was a lost opportunity, I was beginning to think. But again, with that thick bedding nearby, and it being the pre-rut and knowing anything could happen, I didn’t want to give up.
I have never been big on calling or rattling, but I figured now was as good a time as any to try. I gave a few grunts, pounded the ground with my boot and then did a loud snort-wheeze the best I could with my mouth and hand. Amazingly, not two minutes later, that same buck came right back out of that thick stuff from the cutover, coming right for me. I’d like to think that the calling worked, but how do you really ever know?
The wind was perfect, so I didn’t have to worry about that, but there was one little patch of thick stuff in between myself and the buck that I thought would probably decide whether or not I would get a shot off. If he went to his left around the thick stuff, then the buck would come in behind me, and I probably wouldn’t have time to spin around or he would see me doing it and bust me. But if he went to his right side of the thick patch, then he would travel right in front of me, broadside within 10 yards. I really didn’t have time to think much about it. He was coming fast with his nose to the ground, so I just came to full draw and aimed right in front of me hoping for the best.
The release of my first arrow toward a deer almost sounded like a toy compared to the shock and awe delivered by the .30/06 that I’m used to. However, the end result, this time at least, was just as immediate if not quicker than some of the gun kills I’ve had. The buck did a quick jump-kick, trotted off about 25 yards, flicked its tail, took two ore three more steps, laid down and rolled over and died. After watching that unfold and standing there in the same spot where I had shot, I walked over to the point of impact—counting my steps as I went. It was a distance of 7 yards.
I’m not much of a talker, and I’m definitely not a good storyteller, but I wanted to write this to possibly encourage others, particularly those maybe new to deer hunting or just thinking about getting into taking up archery. I now wish I had taken it up more seriously earlier in my hunting career. It’s just different and better in a lot of ways. Get out there and find out for yourself.
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