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!
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.
Hmmmm … how to successfully hunt Whitetailed Deer? … especially older bucks, and does? First, eliminate all the things, inasmuch as possible, that can possibly go wrong. Get smooth, good, with your actions, methods. Work them to perfection. Don’t leave anything for chance. Make sure your equipment works.
Second, avoid making mistakes.
Third, trust your instincts, intentions; don’t make rash tactic changes.
If you do make a mistake, hopefully you’ll learn from it. I assure you the deer will. In a way it’s a race to learn the deer faster than the deer learn you. They’ll figure you out!
Whitetailed deer grow old by letting (maybe even making) other deer make mistakes.