By Derrick S. Schreiber
Finally, after 81 hours in the stand, I arrowed a buck I’d named Clubber Nine on Dec. 3, 2011. I’d seen him on my trail camera since October. He was distinctive with an impressive body and a right rear foot that apparently had been broken at some time.
I have the good fortune of having sole access to the ground I hunt, which made it possible to pick out a particular buck and go after him.
When I left work that Saturday at 2:30 p.m., I thought I’d get some time in the stand to relax. I didn’t expect to see much, but I thought I might be able to take a doe. It was late when I got to my stand at 4:21, a chilly 44 degrees and overcast with the wind from the west, which made me think of my dad saying “when the wind’s from the west, the fishing is best.” I wondered if that applied to hunting, too.
Around 5, two yearling does came out of the timber. I used binoculars to make sure they were does and not button bucks. This late in the year, yearling bucks are pretty big, close to the size of small adult does. They hung around the south stand while I was in my climber in the north.
They came in, both broadside, side by side, preventing a shot. They browsed and fed that way for some time, but when they both quickly looked to the north, their behavior got my attention. I relaxed when they went back to feeding.
The next time they looked up, they both were tense and stepped back. Cool, I thought. Maybe it’s a buck.
I couldn’t see what had them frozen, looking north until a buck slowly walked into view, directly toward the yearlings. As he got closer, I saw the limp and realized Clubber Nine had arrived!
About 30 yards from the yearlings, he increased his speed, perhaps to intimidate the smaller deer. When he got within 10 yards, they scrambled away. Clubber stopped directly in front of me, broadside, at 20 yards.
I wasn’t nervous or shaky with an adrenaline rush. I drew, settled my 20 yard pin and loosed the arrow. It appeared to be a good left-side lung shot. As the buck ran off I saw the last third of the arrow sticking out. I watched him run clear to the timber on the far side of the meadow.
It had happened all so simply. I had been ready for the shot, and I wasn’t shaking, even afterward. Did I hit the opposite shoulder? A rib? I was trying to figure out why I didn’t get a complete pass-through as I got down from my stand.
I called my wife to tell her I was going to be late, got my tag, flashlights and tracking gear and set out to find the buck. I began exactly where he entered the timber and quickly followed his exit path through the tall grass.
With the amount of blood in the grass, there was no need to go slowly. I hoped to find him before it was too dark, but instead I tracked him until nearly 8 p.m. The blood trail grew faint in a few areas, but he’d kept going.
I had two flashlights and left a small headlight to mark where I found the last drop of blood. After about 75 yards, in I found a quarter-sized chunk of lung that confirmed my hunch. Unfortunately, I also figured I missed the right lung. In another 10 yards, I found my arrow. It was intact, covered two-thirds the way up the shaft with foamy blood.
At this point I made the mistake of going forward without blood and searching in 180 degree arcs with flashlights. When I didn’t find him, I’d return to the headlight and start looking again. This was a bad mistake; I became disoriented and even felt lost at one point.
I’d called my friend Lonny, who told me to stop tracking. I stuck the arrow in the last leaf where I’d found blood, shut off the flashlights, leaned against a tree and closed my eyes. After regaining my compusure, I used the compass app on my phone and made my way out of the timber.
I wasn’t as far in as I thought, but while I headed to my truck I felt like I had just dropped the game-winning catch. In 10 years of bowhunting, I never had a deer travel more than 100 yards, or left one overnight.
I hoped it hadn’t gone much farther and that it hadn’t made it to the river, and that the coyotes wouldn’t get it. I didn’t sleep well that night.
It was 28 degrees the next morning when I returned to the woods at 7:30. I walked directly to where I’d left the arrow poked into the ground. While I stood there, I noticed several splotches of blood. What in the world? I started looking at where I’d stopped. I had been very disoriented.
I had to have been tracking backward. I’d hit the buck on the left, and the blood was on the right of where I’d tracked. Wow. It was a good lesson on how not to track at night. I marked the stopping point on the GPS and followed the blood trail, putting down three squares of toilet paper every so often. About 30 yards later, the trail turned north.
Within 75 yards, the blood trail grew faint again. About that time, my friend Ted called to say he’d arrived, so I went to meet him. As we walked back, I explained and showed him where I’d stopped. Ted quickly found the buck had veered to the left, and we picked up the trail. Blood sign increased as we went north.
Thirty yards later, Ted said, “I smell deer.”
I thought he was a little crazy, but I believed him, and I sure hoped he was right. We back-trailed, took a few more steps and there it was, just another 30 yards up. Coyotes hadn’t found him, and I was all but certain he expired before I ever started looking for him the night before.
Clubber Nine was 123 yards from where I’d stopped looking for him. A few camera phone photos later, Ted and I looked at each other. The trail camera photos had us guessing he’d push 300 pounds. As we started to drag him out, I believe that estimate was correct. We had to stop six or seven times to catch our breath. All totaled, he traveled 464 yards. Ugh!
We cleaned him up and took some pictures, and I was extremely grateful for Ted’s help. We tried to weigh him, but he was too long for the hoist, and the scale wouldn’t read true with part of him on the ground. I’m certain he was over 300 pounds.
My deer isn’t a giant-antlered buck, but he’s every bit a trophy to me.
This is the third buck I’ve singled out or have chosen to take after getting numerous trail camera pictures. This is also the third time I’ve been successful. Choosing to take a particular deer is something not many people have the opportunity to do, and I’m very grateful to be so blessed.
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