December 11, 2012

Archery Success!

While I still stand behind my argument that hunting success can be defined as going hunting, having a great time, and coming home with exciting stories, this time success took the form of my arrow resulting in freezer fodder.  Yes, after two years of semi-dedicated hunting, I killed my first big-game animal!

For the late archery season, I was inspired by Kris's success hunting blacktail on Whidbey Island on Ann and Ron's property.  Luckily, Ann and Ron were still excited about culling the deer population around their home, so I had no problems obtaining an invite.  I ended up traveling out there on the last day of November with Pat (Ann's brother). Evan, who had never really been exposed to hunting and wanted to see what it was all about, joined us the following morning.

On December 1st, I was up in the second story of their barn shortly after first light.  My plan was to use the elevated vantage point to locate deer, and then figure out how to hunt said deer based on their exact location.  If things went perfectly, the deer would walk within shooting distance of one of the windows and I wouldn't even have to stalk it.  The barn was my glorified tree stand.

After a few hours of seeing no deer, Evan showed up.  We proceeded to spend the rest of the morning playing cribbage in the barn, waiting for a deer to walk by.  The deer continued to elude us for the rest of the morning, at which point we decided to try Ron's idea to hunt some of the property he owned about a mile away.  With me stationed along a fence line, Ron, Pat, Even, and 'T' (Ron's grandson) tried to jump deer and push them toward me.  In doing this, Ron and 'T' jumped two deer, but I never saw them.

I made sure to be back in the barn for the couple hours before dark as I thought this the most likely time for deer to be up and about in the yard.  Several hands of cribbage later, Pat came out to the barn to join Evan and me.  Pat would periodically check out one window while I played cribbage with Evan from a location where I could see out the other.  About a half hour before dark, Pat walked over to the window he was diligently checking and calmly announced there was a deer outside.  In a much calmer manner than I felt internally, I replied, "Really?  That's great.  We've been looking for one of those."  I grabbed my bow and hurried over to the window.

Sure enough, there was a deer standing in the yard, which I ranged at 24 yards.  It was quartered toward me, effectively blocking any shot at it's vitals.  As I was meat hunting and this was a reasonably good-sized deer, I decided to shoot as soon it presented a shot.  For what seemed like an eternity but Evan confirmed was actually about 6 minutes, the deer continued to feed while quartered to me, it's front shoulder safely guarding it's vitals.  During that time, I was able to study the deer and convince myself I was calmer than I was.  I noticed what appeared to be two light colored markings on it's fur right above it's eyes.

After about 6 minutes, the deer finally took a step and rotated into more of a broadside position.  With what seemed like pure instinct, I drew my bow, sighted my 20-yard pin about an inch higher than I wanted my arrow to land, and slowly squeezed the trigger on my release.  The next thing I knew, the deer had dropped right where it stood, kicking around on the ground.  I instinctively knocked another arrow and shot a second time.  With two arrows though both lungs, the deer expired quickly.

After walking up to the deer, I noticed that the two light patches I had mistaken for off-colored fur were tiny spike antlers, about 1.5 and 3 inches long.  Turns out I shot a young buck!  In the waning light, Evan and Pat took pictures while I posed with my first archery kill.  After about 35 days of bow hunting over the last two years, I finally turned an arrow into something more calorically valuable.  Thanks to Evan, Pat, Ann, Ron, and 'T' for helping make this happen!  Additional thanks to Evan and Pat for helping me process the deer, and thanks to Ava for supporting me in my hunting endeavors.

While hunting in a rural area with a severe deer overpopulation did not present the same challenge as the more wilderness-oriented elk hunts I've been on, it served as a great stepping stone in building my confidence in shooting at wild game, which is vastly different than a target.  I now have a renewed excitement and confidence leading into next year's September hunting season, but for now, it's ski season!

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