Buckmasters Magazine

Expletives Deleted

Expletives Deleted

By Mike Handley

Here’s why leaving your bow in the clouds is not a good idea.

Clutching only an arrow in my right hand, my inner predator mulled over the possibility of spearing the panting 11-pointer just 10 yards from me. In some other corner of my addled brain, a soprano voice was pleading for the buck to turn around and go away, preferably back into the cedars from whence it had emerged.

I didn’t want to spook that buck, but it was bound to happen because I was squatting directly in its path. The deer’s mouth was agape; it had childbirth lips and 14 eyelashes. I could even see the staccato rhythm of its bellows.

All that was pretty cool, I’ll admit, but it is not fun to be the butt of the deer gods’ jokes.


Venison finally came knocking on the last day of my 2011 Nebraska bowhunt, after four and a half days of sitting in the same stand (my favorite there). I’d been hoping to let the air out of a doe all week. So at 7:20 a.m., when one stopped in a clear lane at 27 yards, I took the shot.

I thought I’d missed her, since she left with blue flames jetting out below a high and flared tail. Plus, I realized that I’d forgotten to compensate for the 7 yards beyond my 20-yard pin.

I couldn’t see my arrow afterward, even through binoculars, so I chose to wait 45 minutes before dutifully searching for it. After staring hard at the terrain, I eased down the ladder and tiptoed to where she had been standing.

I was greeted by a circle of white hair, which confirmed my hunch that I’d shot low. The arrow was lying in a nearby scrape.

Although the sign indicated a non-lethal hit, I got down low anyway, trying to find a single drop of blood.

I might’ve taken two steps when I happened to glance back at my stand and saw a white rack pass underneath it. It belonged to a fine 8-pointer, led by a doe — the first slam-dunk opportunity at a shooter all week, and I was 30 yards away with an arrow in my hand and bile in my throat!

“This can’t be happening,” I whispered. “Please tell me this isn’t happening!”

That they stayed and ran around in circles right in front of me, dodging little orange Tink’s bottles like cars in some sort of performance test, was the salt in my wound. All I could do was watch and feel sorry for myself.

But, believe me, my little pityfest got a whole lot worse when, just before the doe led the 8-pointer out of sight, a huge 11-pointer walked out of the brush about 20 yards from me to bid them farewell. I watched the back of that buck’s head for another five minutes, watched it chase the others away and then walk through every shooting lane to my stand. It sniffed a couple of scrapes I hadn’t even known were there before it cut back into the cedars 30 yards downwind of the blubbering idiot holding an arrow and trying not to collapse into a fetal position.

Expletives DeletedI’m pleading — begging — for it to go away, so maybe it’ll come back later. But nooooooooo. It turned straight toward me and began walking closer. Of course it saw the big orange-clad escapee from a mental institution in its path. (My hunt overlapped the state’s rifle opener, so I had to wear orange the last couple of days.)

When that deer’s big brown eyes settled on my Rodney Dangerfield-ish orbs, it took off for parts unknown, and I fell off my heels.

That’s when I began inventing words. I ran out of all the expletives known to Webster’s and tiptoed back to my stand to write this tale of woe with shaking hands. About halfway through, by the way, a small 8-pointer eased out of the cedars and watched pumpkin man hunched over the journal in his lap.

“What do YOU want?” I snarled.

That day was the only time I left the woods while the sun was shining, and I read this story to the other guys who went back to outfitter Tim Puhalla’s farmhouse for lunch. One member of my captive audience was Bill Black, a retired oil executive from Tulsa, Okla. He and his son, Brad, were there to take advantage of rifle season.

Thanks to Bill’s marksmanship, I got a real close look at that 150-inch 11-pointer later that evening.

He and I were hunting the same side of Deer Camp.

I thought I’d sent that buck into the adjoining county, but it came right back to that stretch of cedars the same afternoon, only on Bill’s end. When he squeezed the trigger, I was the one who flinched.

“Bill, you might be the first person ever to read or hear the story of your buck before you even shot it,” I told him while shaking his hand.

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This article was published in the September 2012 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Subscribe today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.

Copyright 2021 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd