An unfortunate buck hunting experience

My parents live on the bottom side of a mountain. My father and I have used that mountain to hunt deer for years. This past rifle season was no different. Monday morning, the first day of rifle season, was like any other morning. I met my dad at their house at 6:00am. You hear about hunters getting up really early so they can get to their tree stands before daylight breaks. My dad and I really don’t have to do that. We never hunted using tree stands and it takes about 15-20 minutes to get to the normal hunting spots. We aren’t really into the bells and whistles other hunters are into. We have our basic gear and that’s it. I feel hunting is 80% dumb luck and 20% hunting knowledge. It’s mostly being at the right spot at the right time.

I decided I would hunt close to him since he had just recently had hip surgery. It was about 40 degrees and cloudy, a somewhat warm morning for hunting. The leaves were somewhat wet due to the snow we had the previous week that melted off. We wished each other luck and got to our spots on top of the mountain at about 6:45am. It’s about the time you are able to see a few yards in front of you. We are in management unit 4C, so we could only hunt buck the first week. By about 7:45am, my cell phone vibrated and I saw it was my dad. If I got a call from him that early meant he saw something. I was correct. He said he had seen 4 deer about 125 yards away. He couldn’t locate and antlers so there was no need to draw his rifle.

Around 8:00am for some reason or another, I decided to move up the trail a little further. I changed locations because I could see more off into the distance in either direction. At 8:20am, I heard a very close shot on the south side of the mountain. All of my focus was on that ridge at the near top of the mountain. About a minute after the shot, I heard the ruffling of leaves. Sure enough a buck crested the top of the mountain. The buck was running so I really didn’t have much time to react. I thought about yelling to try and coax him to stop, but thought he would’ve ran faster. I raised my 30-30 rifle, got him in the cross hairs, and took the shot. I knew I hit him. He jumped up in the air and scurried off the north side of the mountain and down the other side. I lost sight of him in a matter of 5 seconds.

I went over to where I shot at him and I did, in fact, hit him. A nice amount of blood was in the area. I also took notice that he had not been hit by the other hunter who shot at him a few minutes prior. So I knew this was my buck for the taking. I decided to follow the blood trail due to me losing sight of him so fast. About 100 yards off the top of the mountain, I saw the buck had crossed the road dad and I drove up not 2 hours prior. I also noticed the buck was losing a nice amount of blood. I continued to follow the trail, anxiously awaiting the sight of my buck. It was a nice buck, too. It was at least a six-point, but the body looked big. At one point, it seemed like the deer had laid down. It was also around this time I approached another hunter. This was about halfway down the mountain. Once I got to him, he explained that he saw the buck a far distance away, and noticed it was moving primarily on his front two legs. He also mentioned that I could be tracking him for a while.

Unfortunately, the hunter gave me all bad news. It wasn’t a clean shot on my end, the deer was suffering, and I may be tracking him for hours. As I continued following the trail, I couldn’t help but think how far could this deer go? With all the blood lost, it had to be only a matter of time for me to come across him. It got to be about 9:30am, and came across a familiar location. It was a past years’ hunting location. At that point I realized I just tracked this deer the entire north end of this mountain, from top to bottom. Tracking it also got tougher, there was less blood to see. Eventually I got to a very thick section of brush. I also had a tough time locating blood, so I decided to call my dad and let him know what took place. He told me not to go any further and that he’d be there in about 20 minutes. By 10:00am, we were both looking for the buck. Dad couldn’t really do much though, with his recent surgery. I was also at a standstill. It was almost like the deer just disappeared. No sign of blood anywhere and there were multiple directions the deer could have gone. I must have searched every foot of a 300 yard radius from where I saw the blood last….absolutely nothing! I sure did wish that snow would not have melted. It would have been a lot easier to track the blood in the white snow. There was a possibility that another hunter saw the deer and took care of it and left with it. There was a dirt road in close proximity to the area. By around 11:00am, my dad decided to leave the area. He wasn’t able to search the area like I was.

By 12:30pm, I had also had enough. I was growing tired, hungry, frustrated, and sore. Yes, sore. Read A watchless marathon? for more details. The marathon was the Saturday before…. It certainly wasn’t good for the achilles, stomping around the woods in hunting boots two days after that marathon.

I’m disappointed that I couldn’t find the deer. I wish I could have gotten a better shot on him, but with him running, it was somewhat difficult. I really hope another hunter was able to then locate him and take care of him. There are a few other “what if’s”, including what if I would have stayed up on top of the mountain and wouldn’t have tracked it right away? Was I actually “chasing” it by tracking it, without knowing it. A good hunter waits a while before tracking it’s deer for that sole reason.

I’ll remember this years’ hunt for all the wrong reasons. There is always next year, though!

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