Losing a Big Buck

Rod Meyers

Deer Decoy

After passing on many small bucks during the bow season, I finally had a righteous chance at a beauty just recently and as luck would have it....things just didn't pan out. Every bowhunter has been there....you make what you thought was a good shot and you do not recover the animal.

Everything was right. The weather was perfect and the wind was light as I was on stand just last week near Onamia, Minnesota. It was one of those nights where I had that feeling that the wildlife would be moving. I had my doe decoy placed just 10 yards from my stand and was equipped with both rattling antlers and a grunt tube. Around 4:30 I noticed movement coming from the gigantic slough to my west and I saw the shiny backside of what looked like a very large deer. This deer was meandering thru the cattails and mingling with the tag alders and looked to be about l00 yards away. I started with a rattling sequence just to get the deer's attention and sure enough the deer raised it's head and I saw the nice, wide-spaced rack....he was a shooter ! He slowly walked towards my direction looking very much worn out from the rutting process. These dog-tired bucks during late November really seem to labor in their walking probably exahusted from the previous few weeks of chasing and fighting with other bucks.

He stopped a good 70 yards and I gave him a few short bursts on my grunt tube. He looked interested but not red hot. He slowly made his way and noticed my decoy for the first time. Once again, he wasn't revved up but inquisitive enough to close the distance towards my stand. He stopped at 25 yards and was trying to circle behind the decoy. If he did that he would catch my wind so I made the shot at 25 yards while I had the chance. I saw the arrow hit just behind the shoulder and the arrow protruded out as the broadhead stuck in the other shoulder with no pass thru. I had confidence the shot was not" dead on " but decent enough to make the kill. He took off thru the timber and crashed into the adjoining swamp to my north. Because this shot was not perfect I allowed the deer to bed down and I gave it an hour to lay. A buddy and I started the tracking well after dark and we spent a good 2 hours combing the swamp looking for blood. I am assuming because there was not a pass thru, the blood would be minimal. It wasn't minimal it was nonexistant. After an exhausting tow hours we left and made plans to resume the search the next morning. Gathering 4 extra buddies we once again hit the swamp at first light the next morning and re-worked the swamp in all directions. Once again, not a drop of blood was found as we covered at least l5 acres in unison.

In bowhunting, there is nothing worse. It is hard to describe the feeling of loss and failure and to this bowhunter it is really a personal thing. There is a certain amount of grieving involved with the whole process and it takes literally days and days to overcome the event. Bowhunting is such an inexact science that losses are part of the culture and framework. In my early days of bowhunting, lost deer as a result of shots that were ifffy and dumb are a whole different process. As you get wiser, you try and wait for the best shot possible and if you make the decent shot and try like heck to recover that animal, you have done your best. Every bowhunter who has experienced an unrecovered Whitetale knows that "knot in your stomach" feeling and most of us have to go thru the complete process of foregiving ourselves and moving on.

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