Last weekend I returned to Whidbey Island for the second year in a row to capitalize on the deer overpopulation problem during Washington's late archery season. Thanks to the hospitality of Ann and Ron and the hunting, tracking, and processing support of Kris, Evan, and Pat, I was able to come home with about 65 lbs of meat. Here's the story . . .
During an intense and grueling two day hunt, I valiantly sat my post in the semi-heated barn. With temperatures reaching a high of about 29 degrees, this was no easy task. All day Saturday, nothing walked into the yard until about 10 minutes after it was too dark to shoot.
Sunday morning was uneventful as well. At 10:00, with no action in the yard, I decided to walk down the street to scope the neighborhood and adjacent properties that we had permission to hunt on. On this walk I found two does that happened to be flirting with a property line: one side I had permission to hunt on, the other I did not. Although I was within 10 yards of one of them at one point, the opportunity to arrow it just wasn't right. Still trying to get a safe shot at the doe, I hear Evan running down the street calling my name and saying "3-point". I run back to the barn to find that I missed what would likely have been an easy 20 yard shot at a 3-point buck that passed through the yard.
I was disheartened with my bad luck, but more determined than ever to not miss the next opportunity. I spent the rest of the day in the barn, even after the Seahawks-49ers game started and my support crew vacated to warmer climes with a television set. At 4:20 pm in GMU 420, a two-point buck ventured into the yard for the last time. At about 40 yards, the buck was facing me and wouldn't present a shot. After taking a couple steps closer, he turned mostly broadside, quartering to me just a little. I drew and released, determined not to make the same mistake I made earlier in the year with my elk. I made what I thought was a good shot and heard a solid thump that sounded like a good hit, but I couldn't see where my arrow struck. The deer walked away a few yards, at which point I took a follow up shot. I guessed it was at 50 yards at that point, but was probably more like 45 based on the fact that my second arrow missed high. The buck continued to slowly walk off. At this point I decided to let it walk into the woods, lie down, and die.
After a half hour (and after dark), Kris, Evan, Pat, and I went in search of my deer. I found my first arrow buried solidly into the frozen ground a few yards beyond where the deer stood during my first shot, the shaft and fletching covered in blood. We went to the point where I last saw the deer and found more blood, then the trail became very difficult to follow. A combination of random searching and failed attempts to follow the blood trail made the search seem futile. Pat eventually found more blood about 40 yards from the last sign. Evan was able to continue following the sparse trail where there was typically one drop of blood every 6 to 10 feet. Eventually Kris and I returned from our search where we attempted to follow the most likely path an injured deer would take (downhill on well-traveled trails) and we all worked to find and follow the blood trial. The slow and tedious process got us about 200 yards by 8:30, at which point Kris and Evan needed to abandon the search and return to Seattle for work on Monday. Pat and I opted to stay and continue the search on Monday morning.
At first light, Pat and I were again on the trail where we had flagged it the previous night. The next blood sign would not reveal itself. I told Pat to keep looking in the vicinity of the last blood spot while I went ahead and searched in the most likely direction of travel. I followed a game trail into a small drainage. About 100 yards from where we were searching, and just uphill from the bottom of the drainage, I noticed a couple of fir trees that looked like they should have deer beds under them. I went over and found a good spot of blood in one of the beds. I knew my deer had spent some time here and excitedly went to get Pat and tell him to move up to where I was and continue tracking. As I returned, I noticed the deer about 10 yards past the bed I had found. It had apparently been dead most of the night and signs of an overnight scavenger were apparent. Thanks to the scavenger (raccoon?) going for the belly cavity and the very cold temperatures, all the meat was in fine shape. The autopsy revealed that my arrow missed its mark by about an inch and a half, most likely enough on a quartering toward shot to result in a single lung hit. Even so, the deer only traveled about 300 yards and likely died within 30 minutes.
In conclusion, I feel real good about the shot I made. Each time I make an archery kill, I feel increasingly calm. Calm is perhaps not the right word, but less uncontrollably excited at any rate. At this stage in my hunting career, I maintain that any buck taken with a bow is a good buck! As my first legitimate archery buck, Lil' Bucky's antlers are going on the wall. Thanks to Lil' Bucky for my nearly overflowing freezer.