on deer hunting
… I think my favorite wild creatures are deer. No; I am sure of it. Both the Whitetailed Deer common here, and the Mule Deer of the West. Or maybe the North American Elk. Anyway, this is about deer, and deer hunting. I love deer. I also hunt deer. I don’t hunt to kill; I hunt to hunt, and I kill to eat. If I didn’t eat deer, I wouldn’t kill them. I also hunt with camera. Over the years we have learned to care for our deer kills such that the venison table fare is extraordinary. I would put our venison up against any other red meat that you could put before me, including beef. I love their beauty, grace, innocence, and incredible abilities to `not get killed’.
Here goes …
(c) Jeff Filler, 2022
I knew there was a problem with this deer stand … what if a deer shows up right underneath me? How will I get my bow up and over the rail without being seen, to take a shot.
I decided to try the far stand. I figured the 7-point buck had me figured out at the Deer Den (ground blind) … the other day, when he could sense something was wrong, and wouldn’t give me a shot … but maybe he’d show in a new place, and I could get him. Besides, I had a hunch that the deer checked the corn at the far stand first, or on their way to, the corn a the shooting lane in front of the Den.
Deer hunting in the South takes gargantuan amounts of time, and likewise patience. Typically, one must find a place where deer might happen by, and wait. And be quiet. And be still. Sitting still comes either natural, or is learned; it didn’t come natural to me, and I’m still learning.
I got up in the far stand and got ready. I didn’t get any deer from the stand last year; let’s see what happens this. I got impatient. I checked my phone. Oh, a text from Ricky – I’ll read it. So, yeah, now I’m distracted texting. I look down. OH! … a beautiful buck is right underneath me. He is only ten yards away, nibbling on some corn I set on a rock. He’s facing me. I cannot move.
I put my phone in my pocket, as quietly as possible, and made the smallest of noises, but the buck heard it. He looked up … not at me, but scanned the forest right underneath me. My fear had come true … how can I raise my bow, get it over the rail to the stand, and get off a shot, without him noticing me??? I cannot. If I had a pistol, I could perhaps unholster it and get the deer, … he’s right underneath me … but I was not carrying a pistol, nor is it firearm season.
The buck lowers his head, pretending to eat, but now he’s watching … attention at 100 percent. I don’t move. I don’t make a sound. My heart is beating … I am sure he can hear it … I sure can. Now he looks up right at me. I don’t think I’ve ever been this close to a very-much-alive Whitetail deer. We’re staring each other face-to-face, eye-to-eye. I don’t even blink. I am in camo head to toe, and have camo-painted my face and ears. He can’t tell what I am, but he knows it’s not right. He bolts. I raise up to shoot. Now he’s behind a tree. He bolts again, and is gone. He then gets downwind, finds my scent, and `blows’.
How could I be so close to this magnificent buck, and not get him? I am both mad at myself, and at peace, having seen, so up close, how marvelous these creatures are. This is the second time this 7-point has busted me. He may not give me many more chances.
I climbed down from the stand and went home. I told Linda of the incident, and how this deer had now got away twice. She said, “That’s how he became a 7-point.”
(c) Jeff Filler, 2022
The night before, while texting Ricky, a beautiful seven-point slipped in, and was right at my feet before I noticed him. I could not get my bow up without spooking him. He got away.
I was at the far stand again … yeah, I was doing some texting, but also paying more attention. There he is! … a nice spike buck, moving without a sound toward me. I was unnoticed. Not about to make the same mistake as last night. I would wait, let him move on past, and then get a shot while he’d be facing the other way. He’s so close … he’ll hear any sound, and may see any motion.
The `far stand’ is a typical tree stand, a ladder up to a foot platform and single seat, with arm rest/rail. Stands are typically fifteen or so tall (to base or seat), above a deer’s typical attention arena. While they pay incredible attention to what’s going on along the ground, mysteriously almost, they don’t look up, unless something gives them cause to.
Slowly I got my hand around the grip of the crossbow. It’s the little things. Surprisingly, the arrow in the quiver closest to the safety was blocking my fingers. I had to, slowly, get my left hand also into the action, to take off the safety. Slowly, slowly, I began to raise the crossbow. The buck was now basically at my feet, nibbling on a few kernels of `spilled’ corn. The problem with the situation, as the night before, is that it’s impossible to get the bow up to shoot, over the arm rest, without a huge amount of motion.
Oh no! … he’s turned around. He won’t go past me. I need to somehow get my bow up for a shot before the deer disappears into the jungle just feet away.
Someone is texting me wildly; I must ignore. Somewhere in my subconscious I suppose it to be Linda; our cow Libby finally giving birth to a long awaited calf.
Now the deer is moving away from me, facing the opposite direction. I must make my move. Quietly, and as smoothly but quickly as possible, I raise the bow for a shot. It’s now darker, and, to my surprise, the `pins’ on the scope of my crossbow are hardly visible. I look hard. The deer is ten yards away. My first pin is twenty. I’ll use the twenty-yard pin. The deer is moving straight away but a bit to the right. The arrow (bolt) will pass behind the right shoulder at the top of his back and come out in front of the right shoulder lower on the other side.
At the release of the arrow the deer does a front flip. I see his the white of his underside and the insides of his hind legs, then nothing. The deer has disappeared into the darkness. A second of silence, and then crashing thirty yards away in the jungle beyond.
I dismount the tree stand. It’s dark. For the first time in the season I did not bring a flashlight. I look at my text messages.
Linda: Libby has a baby
It’s like 5 min old and on its feet
Me: I just shot a deer
Linda: Already sucking
Is it down?
By now I have the flashlight app on my phone on. I find the arrow (bolt), and it has plenty of blood on it. Deep red. But the light from the app is insufficient to follow a blood trail.
Me to Anthony: Shot a Spike. May need help
Anthony: Ok let me know
Me to Linda: It’s bleeding. Can’t find it yet. I need to come back for flashlight.
Linda: I’ll go with you
Anthony: It might be about 10 more minutes but I’m coming
Me: Linda is helping too. Meet at …
It gets dark fast in the woods of the South; I was urgent to get as much help as possible as soon as possible; I did NOT want to lose another deer. (I lost a doe earlier in the Season.)
Linda and I met Anthony in `The Meadow’ and proceeded to the stand. I showed them the arrow, and the blood I found. I would follow the blood, drop by drop; Linda and Anthony fanned out ahead, Linda to the right, and Anthony left.
A few minutes later Anthony proclaimed, `here’s your deer!’. I wanted to hear it again, … “What?’’… “Here’s your deer!” … a beautiful, nice size (fat) buck, piled up and almost out of sight in kind of a hole. We drug (dragged?) him out the `bottom’ and up to the far end of the Meadow. I went back for my bow; Anthony brought down his quad for final extraction. We loaded him up, and all headed to the Shop. Anthony headed home; Linda inside to the house; and I began to skin and start cutting the deer up.
I serve a generous God. Thank you Jesus!
They Split Up
It is in the first ten minutes after sunset, or ten to twenty, that if things are going to happen, they do. I was ready. Getting to the stand at least twenty minutes prior, and sending any last minute texts, I now raised my bow and leaned more forward in the tree stand. If an animal showed, I would have to move less to get a shot. I had in my mind the gray body of a deer coming into sight, like the two bucks that had come in, right at my feet, earlier in the season. Sixty yards out, coming down one of the trails, … a deer. Difficult to make out … now during that ten to twenty minutes after. I didn’t have binos, and didn’t want to raise my scope, as the deer appeared to be looking my way. Would it come down the hill, and eventually pass by my stand? But there was other movement. Not gray, but the color of the ground, orange-brown. It had to be a deer, another deer, in that mystical display of adaptive camo … more the non-visibility of the ground, than a deer. A doe, slowly making her way toward me. Forty yards.
The deer moved so seemingly slow, cautiously. She started to turn around, perhaps to join the other deer, that had loitered on, further down the trail, away. I wanted her to pass right in front, offering a broadside shot, but I was not confident she would. At any minute she might turn around, and join the other. Though I was barely moving, just enough to adjust the line of fire of the bow toward the deer, I felt very visible. I’d like an easy shot, but I might have to take a tougher one. I’d like a broadside shot, but I might have to take otherwise.
I had been practicing at thirty yards. The deer was now at thirty, quartering toward me, and a bit `down’, since I was elevated in a tree stand. At twenty-five yards I had a good sight picture. I would drive the arrow (bolt) just behind the shoulder facing me, aft of bone, so as to not hang it up in the shoulder blade; the arrow would go through internal organs and out the other side, midway back, and lower. I would likely miss the heart and lungs, and hit stomach, but also enough vitals to bring a rather quick death.
At the release I watched the red nock of the lighted arrow disappear as it reached the deer. The deer quickly turned around, ran fifteen yards along the path on which it had come, turned hard right, and disappeared into the jungle beyond.
I waited. The other deer that had loitered on east either heard the commotion, or got downwind of me, and raced back up the hill from where they had both come.
Giving some time for `things to settle’, I went to check my arrow. I was not one hundred percent sure of a hit, but the disappearance of the arrow at the deer, and the return sound of impact, were promising, along with the good sight picture at release, and the practice at that range. The arrow had good blood (deep red, and plenty). I texted Linda and Anthony … and that I would go back to the house for good flashlights.
Linda had finished taking care of the animals, and came with me, to get on the trail of the deer. I prayed that we would find the deer, easily. Earlier in the Season we lost one. I did not want a repeat. It was now getting pretty dark.
At the arrow there was good blood, but no more. Along the first fifteen yards of the deer’s retreat, there was no blood. But once she took the hard right and was heading up through the jungle, blood started to appear. I did not want to lose this deer! I hoped it was close. Linda, pointing the flashlight forward, exclaimed, “There’s your deer.” Taking advantage of my poor hearing, I asked, “What?” “There’s your deer!” Sure enough. Thank you, Jesus, for helping us find our deer.”
The deer turned out to be a young buck, but big … big-bodied, but with the tiniest of horns.
As with a lot of other game through the years, I pulled my belt, and used it to help extract the deer – we both dragged it down the `bottom’, and up to the `Meadow’, to which I was able to get our car, with which to bring the deer on home.
One Last Deer To Kill
(c) Jeff Filler, 2021
Season now almost over, and essentially having `filled Linda’s order for venison for the next year’, I headed out to the far stand at day’s end. I could still justify that she needed another deer, because one of the deer in the freezer, from a neighbor, wasn’t a full deer. A small buck had been showing up recently on the game cam. I suspected he would come out early, daylight hours, spoiled by the ease of fresh corn on the ground. And I would look `deeper’ into the woods … paying sharper attention to movement in the woods. He would break off from the smarter does, adept at keeping themselves and their babies safe by not showing up until way after dark. The young buck’s independence would be his doom. Tonight was going to be the night.
There he is. (not pictured)
I noticed the buck `deeper’, farther out, giving me more time to get set up. Dead deer coming. He’s coming my way. Closer. Do I take the safety off now? No, no hurry. Closer. Will he hear it (the safety)? No matter. The deer has now entered my world … in which I have total control. I decide, this night, whether this deer lives or dies. Forty yards. Now broadside. I put the crosshairs behind the shoulder for a double-lung shot, surely to kill the deer, but to deliver minimal trauma, and ruining a minimum of prime meat. The deer is unaware. Safety off. Dead deer standing.
At the impact of the bullet the deer kicked rearward, and sped forward, running through the brush and turning toward me. Aside from the initial kick, he ran as though untouched. He ran behind and under me in the tree stand. Huh? I turned to watch. Will you die, or what? Wait; that’s right; a double-lung shot does little damage, except bleed the deer out, running. The deer will run until he `falls asleep’. Dead deer running.
Another fifteen yards, he stopped, and stood. Dead deer standing. The deer wobbled and collapsed.
Text to Brock (my grandson): 5:40 PM: Can you help me drag a deer out?
5:41 PM (Brock): Yeah on my way.
I almost didn’t set my alarm, wanting a day of `rest’ (from hunting). But set it anyway. When it went off, I turned it off, and stuffed it under my pillow. Suddenly it was thirty minutes later. I decided to get up. If I do go hunting, at least I won’t have to wait as long for daylight.
6:22 AM: To Anthony: In woods … late, but in woods.
6:23 AM: From Anthony: I’m almost there.
I got situated. I had the big gun (30-06, with 180-grain bullets). I had lost a tiny bit of confidence with the 260, per the `cold miss’ yesterday. Getting ready. Black camo paint below my eyes across my face. Black balaclava. Movement, gray, in my peripheral, on the left, coming up the trail. Do I pull up the binos? No, not enough time, … will possibly compromise the opportunity to then pull up the rifle, if for a shot. I wanted to think doe, but form was bigger, and grayer. I’ll let a doe, or a smaller buck pass. The deer moved magically, almost as animated. At first I counted three … a six-point. But looked closer, at least one more horn on one side, the earguard. A seven-point, or eight-point. I decided to take the deer.
The buck stopped. He was feeding, and looking. Forty-five yards, broadside, but the trunk of a tree between us perfectly blocked the kill zone on the deer. I could shoot aft, but it would make a mess, and I could even kill, but lose the deer. I could wait until he steps further. But he probably won’t just step and stop – he’ll step and keep going. Safety off. I waited. I couldn’t brace hard against the deer blind – for some reason it was tipping over (wtf). The crosshairs would not stay still as I waited, and wanted. Is this buck fever? Or the cold temperature … (I’m shivering a bit).
The buck was not moving. Now he was looking at me. But the black face paint and balaclava paid off. However, this would not last forever. I could begin to see placing the bullet about an inch and a half right of the tree trunk and into the front inch, or inch and a half, of the front shoulder of the deer.
BANG! (I took the shot.)
The buck reeled around and went to the ground. (Happy!) I exited the blind.
But then he got up and stumbled down toward the creek about ten or fifteen yards, and collapsed again. I went back for my rifle. But I knew he was down, for good.
6:38 AM: From Anthony: Damn that was quick
6:39 AM: (pic of buck, on ground, back to Anthony)
… later, telling Miles about the shot, he asked if I curved the bullet around the tree. We both knew he was referring to the movie Wanted.
Seek Ye First
I have been hunting hard this Season … hardest ever … maybe even too hard. I have tried everything, to get `one more deer’ … trying to get that `seven point’ that I messed up on earlier, or a big deer; after all, Crystal got one. Or at least one more `eater’. I have tried everything … old tactics, and new. And praying more and harder, and reading my Bible more consistently, and even asking Ricky (my Pastor) to pray (for my success). After all, `seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you!’ … things, of course, being deer.
I had been meaning to post several `messages’ (devotional messages/potential sermons). I posted one, but had several more. One thing or another had crowded posting them out. So today I put them first, pushed through, and got them posted! Yummmy stuff. Then I went to the far hunting blind to hunt.
Surely after doing all this `Kingdom’ stuff first, God would bless me with a deer.
Then I realized that all this effort, including `putting the Kingdom first’, still had some element of `deer’ actually being first. And, further, while the sermons are good stuff, Kingdom stuff, was their posting, or my present motive, really putting Him, and His Kingdom first?
“This is totally out of my control. God … if God brings a deer tonight … if I get a deer, I will know that putting the Kingdom first DOES activate blessing. If I do not get a deer, I will still assume it to be true, but without personal present proof. So, God, it’s up to you, to do, show … your part.”
“But, what if I’m still avoiding what God has for … ME! … Preaching is good … but maybe I’m still avoiding what God has uniquely called, equipped, and `talented’ me to do? Then all my good works don’t count. All my being good doesn’t count … not even being spiritual. … I need to go deeper … push in … get answers, get traction. … it’s all rags if it’s not what God actually has for me.”
There he is … a deer, a buck, moving along the ledges, on the left. I need to move my rifle left, it gets momentarily stuck, the deer is on a mission, but notices the commotion, and stops. I manage the gun into position; the deer is moving again. In a few steps he will be behind trees, and gone, `forever’. I don’t like shooting at moving deer, but it’s all I have. I put the crosshairs on the front shoulder and shoot. I’m sure of a good hit, but the deer runs. He gets up to the trail on top of the ledges, … after 30 or so yards, staggers, and is down!
Whoa, day after day of deerless hunting is broken. God came down. He showed up.
I sent Ricky a pic; he texted back: I prayed for you to get a bucket, and I knew in my spirit that it was going to happen. ( … buck, of course, not bucket; dang phones)
I met Linda with the red cart in the Meadow. The deer had expired on the trail heading down the ledges to the creek crossing (Thank you!). I had dragged it to the creek; now we crossed the creek with the wagon to get the deer. The previous deer fit nicely into the wagon; this one not so much. One the second or so try, heaving the deer into it, the wagon side broke. We managed to get it mostly back together, crossed the creek, down the `Bamboo Trail’, and up to the Meadow.
Linda was pushing hard, probably harder than I was pulling … it was wiping her out; she seemed in a panic, either for the effort, or the postponed need to take care of her farm animals. We paused. “We’re too old for this s…!” And continued.
I hope she’s not right.
PRAISE THE LORD!
I have made a lot of mistakes this hunting season, and they have cost me `deer’-ly. But I am learning. The nice thing about Alabama is that you can make a lifetime of mistakes all in one season! This year the deer movements have been different. At the Far Stand, instead of coming down the hidden valley and ending up at the kill zone forty yards on the left, they have been coming in from the right, into my kill zone in front of the stand, only ten yards away. Some of the deer have caught me very much by surprise. But in any case, ten yards is too close! Too many things can go wrong. The slightest sound, the slightest movement, the slightest wind eddy … and I’m busted! Dang! That buck got away! Can’t count on him making that mistake again!
So, I cleared brush and moved the kill zone in front of the stand out ten yards, to twenty or so. On several occasions, the spooked deer ran just ten or twenty yards and stopped for a last look, before bounding off out of sight. While they didn’t give me time to put rifle crosshairs on them, I could perhaps have got off a shotgun blast. So I decided to try the Far Stand with a shotgun, specifically, my 12 Ga. Benelli SBE, with 3-½ 00 Buckshot loads. I also brought a padded seat, so that I could rest the gun more in line with the kill zone. I got up into the stand and waited for the `customary’ time … the `golden hour’ … the first ten minutes after sunset, when, if the deer are going to show up, that’s when.
Here one comes!
My gun was pointed the wrong direction, but I was able to carefully get it around, aligned with the deer’s anticipated path, as he slipped through the trees, toward the trail between the two kill zones. He was coming in from the left. I had not patterned the gun and load recently; I didn’t know for sure that I would take a shot at forty, the far zone; hopefully my debut with the shotgun would be at a deer closer. He came onto the trail at thirty. I took off the safety, waiting for him to quarter toward me, and pulled the trigger, quite frankly not knowing what would happen.
This Ends Tonight!
I had been playing cat-and-mouse with a small buck at the far stand. If I went out late, he’d already be there, and would run off. If I went out early, I’d wait and wait and he wouldn’t show. Finally, one evening, he came in from the right, … ten yards … but he sensed something when I pulled up my rifle, and fled, not giving me a shot. I knew I’d eventually get him.
I got out to the stand not too early, not too late. Or maybe it was too late … a deer went running by sixty yards left. But I surmised it not to be the buck, but another deer, that a neighbor spooked a tiny bit early target practicing in his back yard. I would still hope the buck I was working with would show.
TEXTING (to Anthony): Tonight has a good feel.
I paid attention, scanning as best I could through the trees and brush and vines, in some places out to a hundred yards or so. If I can see the deer before he gets close, I can get set up for the kill. A deer, thirty yards left. Somehow he’d got in pretty close, undetected, slipping through the trees and brush. I only had a glimpse, but knew it to be a buck. As it got behind some trees I pulled up the rifle, waiting for him to emerge on the other side. But he didn’t. I waited. Nothing. I waited more. Nothing. Could he have seen me? Quite maybe. I waited more, nothing … no deer busting for cover, no deer reversing in retreat. Nothing. And then the mind games start. Did he somehow slip off through the brush without me seeing? I thought I would have seen him. Still nothing. Maybe I’m just imagining I saw a deer. No! … I know I saw one.
I have found it really hard to out-wait a deer if he has a mind to stand still and wait. It looked like there was a tiny bit of gray among the gray tree trunks. I pulled up the scope. Aha! An eye, looking straight at me, one antler, the deer’s mouth, still chewing something from earlier, and the upper end of his neck. That’s all I could see in the five-inch gap between the tree trunks.
I have a good rest. “This ends tonight!” I know I am dialed in with the gun; it is zeroed for forty yards. At this range the bullet will fly one-quarter inch low of the crosshairs. I put the crosshairs high on the neck near the base of his head and `mid-way’ between the tree trunks on either side; `an inch off’ in any direction … and I still have him. I pull the trigger. The boom of the 30-06 fills the forest; I do not see a deer running off … he’s on the ground.
TEXTING TO ANTHONY: I got him.