It was Monday morning and I hopped out of bed with a little enthusiasm.
OK, it was 4:20 am, so hopped may be a stretch. Needless to say, I was anxious to hit the woods.
It’s Nov. 7 and my trail cameras are showing some daytime movement for the last week. My wife and I are hunting a pair of stands 200 yards apart on this 27 degree morning, and the rut is in full swing.
As she climbs into her stand I wish her good luck and start my trek downhill to my position. I’m dragging Code Blue estrous in the hopes that may attract a giant.
I make it to my tree and climb just like I have 10 times before, but this day is going to be different. As it starts to get light I can’t help but notice how still the air is. It’s dead quiet. You know those days.
I quietly take my bottle of Buck Bomb and give a quick blast.
I text my wife that I’m safely up the tree and the wait starts. My good buddy Jason sends me a text: ‘Don’t miss,’ it reads.
Within 30 seconds I can hear him, a buck I call High Flier lets out a grunt that sounds like a cross between a bull and a bear growl. I slowly reach for my bow and as I focus on the area of the grunt all I see are antlers.
For the second time this year I’ve seen High Flier on the hoof.
I see where he’s walking, and range an opening at 45 yards. It’s a long shot but I can make it. He hits the spot, and I let out a grunt to stop him and release the arrow.
The sound of the arrow hitting the deer has my heart pounding as he runs for 30 yards and then walks off.
I’m shaking like a 15-year-old dancing with the prom queen.
After 30 minutes I check my arrow and my heart sinks – white hair and fat. I decide to back out and wait 4 hours.
When I return I find blood, really good blood at first, but then it slows. After following 400 yards I’m forced to call it a day as the blood is tougher to find as I go.
I call in reinforcements the next day and return to the last spot of blood. We’re able to find more and before we know it, we’ve tracked nearly a mile from where the buck was hit.
He’s gone up and down hills, bedded once, but he’s moving.
After hours of searching, the trail finally stops. There’s no more sign. We circle out again, each taking a different direction, but the trail has gone cold.
My heart sinks. Not only have I lost the buck I wanted most, I’ve injured him.
This is a part of hunting no hunter likes. It makes us sick. It makes us struggle to find a way to get back to the woods and do it again.
In the worst of times I’ve heard the expression, the sun will rise again tomorrow. It will, and I’ll hope to make a better shot if I get the chance.