It was Saturday November 19, 2011 the forecast was for a cool sunny morning with winds increasing from 15 generic cialis km/h to 30 km/h by mid- afternoon. I have never had much success in the wind but with the rut in full swing my buddy Pierre and I decided to give it a go. The rest of the guys were reluctantly working this weekend so it was going to be just Pierre and me. After a slow start to the season we had been successful the last two weekends, my son harvested a nice 7 pt buck on November 5 and I had harvested a nice Doe on November 11 so the pressure was off to put some meat in the freezer.
We arrived at our hunting spot around 5:45 am and after a quick discussion about which tree stands were best with the wind direction we had we headed into the stands. As I approached my stand I was greeted to the sound of several turkeys roosted in the nearby trees. I tried to walk in quietly as possible but they flushed and the racket they made leaving their roost echoed throughout the bush. In fact they were so loud that they could have easily been mistaken for a jumped deer if you didn’t know better. The morning turned out to be uneventful as far as deer hunting went but the numbers of turkeys we saw was beyond belief. At one time Pierre counted over 75 birds out in the plowed field north of his stand. Being novice turkey hunters we both commented that this would be a good chance to learn a little something about turkey calling as we had the opportunity to listen to the birds conversing with one another for over an hour.
Around noon we headed out of the stands for some lunch at the truck. We both commented on the unusual lack of deer sign in the bush and surrounding fields. We both felt that on this particular day the high winds certainly weren’t helping us either. After lunch we decided to catch a few winks in the truck before heading back into the stands. Obviously we were both more tired than we thought because we didn’t wake up until 2:30. By now the skies had darkened and the morning breeze had turned into a strong west wind. As we walked into the stands I remember thinking that maybe the ensuing stormy weather would have the deer up and moving.
Around 3:00 pm I heard another group of turkeys moving north through the bush about 120 yards to my east. I contacted Pierre and let him know that they were coming back. Minutes later I spotted some movement in the bush. At first I thought it was a coyote making a stalk on the turkeys but several minutes later I made it out to be a nice sized Doe moving ahead of the turkeys. I joked with Pierre because she was walking in the direction of the stand he usual sits in, “go figure” was the response. The Doe however never made it over that far, it just walked around and was feeding here and there along the trail we use to walk into the stands we have on that side of the bush. Around 4:00 pm she walked out of view back the way she came so I called Pierre and told him what happened. He suggested trying to call her and I said that I had been calling but I was going to get real aggressive on the estrus can for the next hour until dark. For the next 20 minutes I proceeded to call twice about every 20 seconds, aggressive calling but this same technique had resulted in me pulling a nice Doe in and taking her the week before. At 4:20 pm I had just about given up hope when I heard a snap behind me.
I turned to face the noise and spotted a deer coming through the bush with its head down at about 50 yards directly behind me. I thought it was the Doe so I decided to give two more calls and up came the deer’s head, that’s when I realized it was a huge bodied buck with an equally as impressive rack. Upon hearing the call the buck grunted back twice and started to come right to me. He covered 20 yards very quickly, stopped and grunted twice more, then he came marching grunted twice more along the way. Unfortunately he was walking in straight on to me and was getting very close, almost catching me off guard. At 15 yards he finally turned and started to walk broadside to me. It was then that I realized that from a standing position I had a lot of slash between me and the Buck.
I decided the only way to get a good clear shot was to crouch and wait for him to clear the slash which he did. I am not sure how many hunters use a scope on their crossbow but those that do can tell you that at 15 yards all you can see is brown in the crosshairs and its difficult to pinpoint a precise spot to shoot at. Twice I looked over the scope and back down before settling on a light patch on the Bucks side that looked like the hair had been removed. I steadied my bow, took a deep breath and released.
Instantly there was a loud “smack” and the deer ran with its tall down for about 15 yards stopping on the crest of a hill. He stood there looking back towards me for about 10 seconds then started to walk down the runway he was on. After about 5 steps he bolted down the runway and started crashing through a heavy thicket. He ran out of sight but I could hear him running up a very steep hill in the bush behind me. I listened closely for him to fall, all the while replaying everything that had just happened over in my head. Looking at the slash in front of me I started having some doubts about the shot.
I called Pierre and he was excited because he had heard the shot. I told him I think I just shot a huge buck but he ran off. I told Pierre I couldn’t see the arrow and when I climbed down there was no blood to be found where the deer was standing. We decided to go back to the truck and wait an hour until attempting a recovery. We left our bows and picked up the flashlights and started back to the stand. We searched again for the arrow but nothing. We walked to the top of the rise where the Buck had stopped and we had tracks in the leaves but no blood.
We started down the runway and after taking about 15 steps I spotted a small drop of blood on a leaf. It was at this point we realized we that we were in fact, on a recovery mission. We were discussing whether or not to give him more time when it started to rain so we made a decision to start looking right away because we did not want to lose the sign we had. We had walked about 30 yards and we couldn’t find any more blood. The runway came out onto an ATV trail so we decided to follow it for a piece. About 10 yards up the trail we found several small drops of blood. We assumed that he had continued along the trail but after walking about 15 yards and finding no blood I came back to Pierre who was standing at the last blood sign. We started looking around when I spotted another deer runway heading up the steep hill. Pierre stayed with the last blood sign and I started up the runway. About 20 yards up it I found more blood so up the hill we headed. The farther up the hill we got the more blood we found as the Buck appeared to be suffering as much as we were from the climb. After about 75 yards we crested the hill but no more blood was to be found. Past experience told me that usually when this happens it’s an indication the deer has decided to leave the runway and lie down. We stood there for about 10 minutes scanning the forest floor with our lights and listening for movement but there was none. I asked Pierre to stay where he was while I checked farther up the runway which now was heading down the steep incline. I had walked about 10 yards when I came to a fallen log and it was there that I found a good sized patch of blood on the log and on the other side. The leaves were also brushed aside where he had obviously stumbled going over the log and fallen. Finding this our optimism of recovering the Buck went way up. Pierre handed me the 2 million candle power light that we had been saving for this exact moment. As anyone who has one of these lights knows, or should, they are excellent except that they only last for about 20 minutes. I turned on the light and starting walking slowly down the runway scanning the bush on either side for the Buck.
As I passed the light across the trail I spotted an elongated strip of white on the ground about 30 yards further down the hill from the fallen log. The Buck had expired right next to the runway and upon seeing him, we both let out a couple of deafening hoots and howls but the real celebration began when we were finally standing over him. As we approached our mouths dropped in unison as we gazed at the magnificent beast sporting a very heavy 9 pt rack. The body mass was even more amazing and as we patted each other on the back we suddenly came to realize that our work had just begun. We had been so focused on the tracking that we failed to realize just how far through the bush we had traveled in the dark. To make matters worse, I am waiting on a hip replacement scheduled for late January and Pierre’s back isn’t what it should be. We considered gutting and leaving him in a tree to pick up the next morning when we had some help but with the rain falling and the temperature rising we quickly ruled that out. We made a few phone calls to our hunting buddies that couldn’t make the hunt and were advised that the fastest that any of them could get there was 2 hrs out. Like most of Southern Ontario these days our area has a thriving coyote population so the decision was made to gut him and try to get him out ourselves. Not an easy chore when you’re not exactly in good physical shape and the truck is about a mile away and no way to get it close to the bush. The biggest obstacle was obviously going to be the hill in the middle of the bush but at least it was right at the start of the drag. I’ll spare you the agonizing details of the drag but it took us two hours to haul this estimated 270 pounder out of the bush to the field. Luckily our buddy Rolly showed up for the last 500 yards because we were totally exhausted.
Many thanks go out to my hunting partner that evening Pierre and to Rolly for his last minute assistance with the drag. I also would like to thank my buddy Herb who not only managed to get his four wheel drive truck down the edge of the field and help three very tired and drained souls haul out the deer, but missed the hunt that morning leaving his tree stand for me to use!
When we got back to town we got the Buck hung up and the real celebration began. It went well into the night as family and friends either showed up or called to congratulate us. Even though he’s not a “perfect 10”, the buck should score well and will be entered into Week 7 of the Ontario Monster Whitetails Big Buck Contest.
He’s the second largest buck I have ever shot as I was fortunate enough to take a huge 16 pt bruiser back in the 2009 season that was featured in OMW magazine. At that time, the buck was scored as the second largest whitetail ever taken with a crossbow according to the FROW scoring records.
I am not sure what this Buck will score but the tracking and recovery storey makes this one every bit as special and another great storey to share with my grandkids some day!
By: Greg Mather