This is based off a true story that happened on November 30th, 2007.
I got out to the lease around 3:30, got the 4-wheeler unloaded and drove a little over 1/4 mile to an old logging road. I parked the 4wheeler on the logging road and walked 100+ yards to the stand. I walked because I can move quieter by walking then I can on the 4-wheeler.
On the way to the stand I saw some coyote tracks. It looks like a rabbit track was mixed in them them. I got in the stand around 4:00 pm, took some scenery pictures and read my bible for a little while.
By 5:00 pm there were 3 does under and around the feeder. A little after 5 pm a spike and 6 point came out. The 6 point was too small to shoot. All three of my last deer have been 8 points, so there is no use in going backwards.
Just after 5:15 a nice size deer walks out and starts grazing on the grass on the logging road. I looked at him through my scope and thought it was an 8 point. Later I found out it was a 9 point.
This is where the myths and reality of deer hunting comes in. The myth, every deer you shoot will fall down dead in its tracks. The reality – sometimes the deer will run and you have to go find them. The “reality of deer hunting” is what happened when I shot. I knew I hit the deer by the way he jumped. If you shoot a deer and he jumps and runs off, watch the way he jumps. This is very important. The deer will jump like he is going to kick something with his/her hind legs. Its a type of reflex action, kinda like a horse when someone slaps its rear end – it might kick.
This is also where the “myth” of the follow up shot comes in. Depending on where you are hunting (the “hunting location” part is very important), chances are there will not be enough time for a successful second round. This deer, just like all of the other ones I have had to track, was in the brush in less then 1 second. So unless the shooter can recover from the recoil, acquire a moving target, lead the target that is also jumping while running, the chances of getting a shot that will hit the vitals is about “0”. Enough ranting and back to the story.
Time is short, its going to be dark in about 15 – 20 minutes. So I get out of the stand and walk over to where the deer was standing when I shot it. Another deer, wondering what was going on, was just standing there looking at me. This other deer finally ran off – can we say stupid?
I could brag about how the deer only ran 20 feet and fell dead, or how I was able to track the deer with no problems, and how I never lost its blood trail – but that is not what happened.
The sun quickly disappeared and I found myself in the middle of the woods without even some moon light to help. The deers blood trail at first was very clear. I must have followed it for almost 100 feet from where I shot it, so this was about 60 feet into the brush. Lets take a second to set the situation. This is new growth timber. The pine trees are only about 8 – 10 feet tall, planted in rows about 10 feet apart, and each tree is spaced about 2 – 4 feet apart on the row. Grass has grown up to 4 – 5 feet tall. In some spots I could not even see the ground, and in some areas I could not see but about 4 feet ahead.
After tracking the deer for a little bit, his trail just disappeared. I squat down, turn off my LED flashlight and think about what I should do. The sky and the stars where beautiful, and it was so peaceful out there. I often wonder if this is how our ancestors felt when they tracks deer or other food?
My decision, I had two LED flashlights, one has a strobe setting. I took the LED flashlight that has the strobe, hung it from a tree branch at the location where I last saw the blood. Now I have a flashing beacon where the last blood speck was found at. The deer is running along a wildlife trail, but several trails cross each other, so which way did he go? At one spot, the deer trail split 3 ways. So I hung the my “beacon” on a tree limb and walked down each trail until I found some blood. I then went back, got my LED flashing beacon and moved it forward to where I found the new blood speck. In some spots I was able to take up the trail again so I just brought my “beacon” along with me. The strobe LED flashlight was only deployed if I lost the trail.
Finally the blood trail gets bigger and bigger, I knew it was only a matter of time before I found the deer. Anything bleeding this bad could not go far. I knew where the deer was going – it was heading towards a creek bottom and dense woods. Just a few feet from the tree line I found the deer.
From the time I shot the deer, until I found it was about an 1 hour and 10 minutes. The time on the camera is 6:34 – it looks like 8:34, but the time is 6:34. The deer was shot at @5:20, and found at @6:30. Distance from where the deer was shot to where I found it – @ 100+ yards (@300+ feet).
This is where I paid my respects. I apologized for not giving the deer a quick death like it deserved. I thanked this wonderful example of a deer for its flesh and the food my family will receive from it. It is my firm belief that a real hunter should pay some type of respect to the animal that was just killed.
Did I fail to mention that the deer was shot on top of a hill and the whole time it was running – it was running down hill. Oh crap, I just realized how close to the creek bottom I really was. There was an out crop of tall pine trees I could see against the night sky. I could use these trees for some kind of direction, plus I knew I just had to go uphill.
So I slung my rifle over my shoulder, grabbed this deer up and proceeded to drag this thing up hill. Usually I could only go for @ 20 feet before stopping. Dragging dead weight up hill sounds easier then it sounds. I keep going, dragging, resting, dragging, resting – and so on. The brush and terrain was too rough for the 4-wheeler. Finally, I can see a big oak tree on the sky line. I know this big oak tree is on the edge of the logging road, so my hopes and energy get a little boost. Ok, its time to get the 4-wheeler even though I am still 100 feet inside the thicket. I need a break from dragging this deer anyway.
My trusty “beacon” LED flashlight is hung from a pine tree limb, I walk up to the logging road then to the 100 yards down the logging road to the 4-wheeler. Crank the ATV up and drive back to where the deer is at. When I turn off the road and into the brush, the grass and trees are so dense I can not see the strobe light, even when standing on the the seat of the 4-wheeler. Finally I see the strobe and drive the 4-wheeler to the deer. I have more energy left then I thought, I grab this deer up and drag it onto the rear rack of the 4wheeler. I n my fanny pack, I just happen to have some cord. This is 200 feet of duck decoy line, its not real strong but its better then nothing. The deer is tied to the rack and I am ready to go.
This is where I felt like giving up. I got no further then 10 feet, the left front tire of the 4wheeler hit a dirt mound, plus the weight of the deer on top of the rack caused the 4wheeler to turn over on the right hand side. I was able to jump off the 4wheeler as it turned over. The air was filled with gas fumes as gas started leaking out of the gas cap vent hole. I tried to stand the 4wheeler back up right, but the deer was off and rack and on the ground. Out came the pocket knife, the cord was cut and the deer fell free. With the weight of the deer off the ATV I was able to stand it back upright.
Usually I do not curse, at all. But this is when I felt like losing it. The freaking logging road was RIGHT THERE!!!! I really felt like giving up and just walking away. The freaking coyotes and buzzards have to eat to, so let them enjoy the deer. But that would not be fair to the deer or my family. And I since I tagged the deer as I loaded it on the 4wheeler, I did not want to waste a tag.
Out of just shear anger and frustration, I get on the ATV and drive to the logging road. I walk back to get the deer and finish dragging it out, and I can not find the freaking deer AGAIN. Now I have to hunt the deer yet again – (insert foul language here). Finally, after about 15 minutes I find the deer and get it drug to the road. Finally, time check – its 8:00. I just spent an hour and a half dragging this deer up hill, through a thicket and out to the road.
Now its time for a big decision – the deer will not stay on the ATV to make the 1/4 mile trip back to the truck, so what do I do? I feel dehydrated so I get the bottle of water bottle out of my fanny pack and chug it down.
My decision is, to drive the ATV back to the truck, park it in the woods, drive my truck back to the deer, load it up and drive back to the deer camp to weigh it in. Everything from there goes good. The guys at the deer camp help me weigh the deer – and it weighs in around 125 pounds.
At this point I am past the point of exhaustion. Being tired is no longer an option. The deer was dropped off at the butcher. The following morning I went back to the deer lease and picked up the 4wheeler.
And thus is the reality of deer hunting.