Archery hunt provides a perfect father-son moment
As the deer turned to its right and stood broadside, I whispered “OK to shoot.”
Less than a second later, the loud release of the crossbow filled the blind. I couldn’t see the deer when the bolt flew, so I looked out the side window to my left. I saw the deer stop running at 20 yards and drop its tail; it almost looked like it staggered before it disappeared into the thick leaf-covered underbrush. I could hear a lot of brush breaking.
This started less than three minutes earlier as I looked to my left for just a second or two and looked back to the front to see an antlerless deer of nice size standing less than 20 yards from the blind. I signaled Josh, as he couldn’t see the deer yet. He had his crossbow in his hands during the last half hour of shooting light.
I moved the shooting rest over and he quietly placed the stock frame into the rest and took aim. The deer heard something while we were doing this, as it walked closer. It stood at 10 yards facing us, peering intently into the blind. Josh whispered that he didn’t have a shot and I replied, “Just wait and stay quiet.”
After a minute or two, the deer finally turned mostly broadside, but from my angle it looked broadside and I told him, “OK to shoot.”
We packed up and crawled out of the blind. I reached into my pack for the tracking light and found out it wasn’t there — forgotten on this first archery foray of the year. I tried looking for blood in the waning light with a cell phone flashlight but that was useless. And we had just disturbed a deer. Whether it was the deer he shot at or another I didn’t know. I didn’t even know if he hit the deer yet, but he said he saw the arrow hit the deer, and he shoots the bow well.
We backed out and went out to my buddy’s house, whose land we were hunting on. We borrowed a spotlight and decided to head out and at least look for blood to see what kind of arrow placement we had. I found blood quickly, it was dark blood. I like to see bright blood with lots of bubbles and sprayed on trees. But we did have a lot of blood. By the third spot of blood, it was clear this deer would not survive just based on blood loss. We found it 10 yards away, expired. A quick, clean kill that produces venison for the table always feels good. It’s very much part of the draw of archery hunting. The close shot, the intimacy of tracking the blood trail, and the excitement upon first seeing the dead deer. Those and all the other intangibles — like the fall colors, the smell of the freshly fallen leaves, the call of geese, the crispness of the fall air — create the allure of archery hunting. Watching all the other animals and deer adds even more to the draw. We had done a lot of that earlier in the day. First were the blue jays and then a squirrel or two. Then a big male ruffed grouse that strutted into our kill zone and jumped up on a log, putting on a display we caught on video. Something to the west caught his eye and he froze for several minutes, eventually flushing off to the east.
Right after he left, Josh said, “I see a deer out there kind of walking by us. It’s a buck!”
It did walk by within 20 yards through thick brush and cleared that standing just over 25 yards away. It was a fork horn and we were ready, but then it moved to 30 yards and was close to the property line. Josh decided to pass on the shot, and we took a few pictures of the buck before it continued on, obviously cruising for does.
We shared all this together, despite the fact that doubling up in a blind means twice the human scent and twice the sound and movement. But together we experienced the hunt, from the beginning with some target practice to the actual butchering of the deer. The excitement in his voice as he wondered if he hit it, and the joy when he saw it dead, will be lifelong memories for both of us.