Opening day arrived and although I couldn’t make the morning hunt I was able to pull away from work for an afternoon hunt with the Caledon Hunt Blog staff. When I arrived on the scene the boys had just broke for lunch and were excited to tell me about seeing 5 Does that morning and tell of a near miss. Anyway it was definitely a good start to the season and we were all looking forward to the afternoon hunt. The afternoon hunt produced one more sighting of a very large Doe around 4:30 in the afternoon but nothing else.
Before leaving I made plans for a short evening hunt the next day with fellow Hunt Blog staff member Pierre at another location closer to home base. The second day of the hunt presented us with very warm temperatures and as we drove out to the bush we both commented that our expectations of seeing anything weren’t too high in these weather conditions. We arrived at the farm and since we only had a couple of hours to hunt, our plan was to drive right back to the bush and hunt the two closest stands. If nothing else we would get a chance to check out our trail camera that had been out in this location for a couple of weeks prior to the opener.
We arrived at the bush and I pulled the truck up close to the trail we would walk in on. Having come straight from work I had to change into my hunting clothes which amounted to a short sleeved tee shirt a pair of light pants and a 3D leaf coat. As I dressed we carried on a conversation about the plan for the evening but mostly we were interested about what we might find on the trail camera. Within 5 minutes of arriving we started into the bush. I have hunted this spot for years but Pierre was relatively new to it so as we walked in I explained to him that in the afternoon the deer liked to bed down in the north end of the bush just west of where we were entering so it would be wise to limit our conversation and walk in very slowly. He nodded and as we took our first two steps down the bush trail I stopped and showed him a set of what looked to be, very fresh tracks. Pierre gave me the thumbs up sign and we had just taken two more steps when we heard a noise to our right. Much to our astonishment a nice 8 point had been bedded in the long grass just outside the bush and was trying to sneak past us down the fence line. Knowing where there was a small window through the thicket I quickly loaded a bolt into my Excalibur and quietly took about 8 steps down the path. Pierre crouched down and motioned to me that the buck had stopped and was looking right at me. Unfortunately he didn’t look like he was going to wait for me to get where I wanted to be so I tried to find a spot through heavy cover to get my crosshairs on him. He was only 20 yds from me but there were a lot of branches between us. He had picked me up in his sights and was pawing at the ground.
Quickly I adjusted my scope to try to find a hole in the brush to thread a shot through. It was going to be tough because when I focused on him all I could see was a blur of branches. I decided to turn up the power on the scope so I could see through the tangled mess and try to find a spot to get the bolt through to him. In my mind it seemed like he stood there for quite a while but in reality this all happened in seconds. I found a hole and settled on his vitals and let the bolt fly. The bolt appeared to find its mark as both Pierre and I heard the thud. The buck bolted and tried twice to jump the fence but he couldn’t make it over. He then threw caution into the wind and ran done the fence row passing not more than 5 yds from the front of my parked truck.
I remember yelling to Pierre to keep his eyes on him because I couldn’t see a thing. Pierre watched as the buck ran through some long grass heading north away from the bush. I walked over to Pierre and our mouths both dropped as we both couldn’t believe what had just happened. I think Pierre said the words ….“Are you kidding me”… five times in the next ten seconds. We high fived each other and I was shaking profusely with adrenaline caused by the excitement of what had just transpired. We quickly pulled our emotions together and went to look for the bolt. As we approached the spot where the deer was standing we couldn’t help but notice the pungent smell the buck had covered the entire area in. We looked for about three or four minutes for the bolt but we didn’t come up with it so we turned our attention to find some blood. When we got to where he had tried to jump the fence we were presented with a decent bright red blood trail. This was a good sign because we figured we had about 2 hours of day light and we needed the buck to lay down. We followed it for a short distance and marked the spot where he exited the long grass. Unfortunately, he had jumped the fence where it had been knocked down by a fallen tree and escaped into a 100 acre corn field. Anyone who has tracked a deer in a corn field before will tell you this usually turns out bad and I am no exception as several years ago a friend and I lost a nice buck in a similar situation. Pierre and I both agreed that we needed to wait for a couple of hours and let the buck lie down and that is exactly what we did.
To kill the time we walked into the bush and checked our trail camera out. Our hopes were that it would contain pictures of the buck we had just shot so we could get an idea of what size of rack he had. We knew he wasn’t a big antlered deer but he was a good bodied deer. Unfortunately all that was on the camera was 27 pictures of squirrels and turkeys but no deer. So the mystery continued for the time being until we had our hands on him, or so we hoped!
Just as the sun was starting to set we decided it would be wise to find where the buck had headed into the corn. We were pleased to find an excellent blood trail as he had moved along the outside row between the fence and the first row of corn. Even so, we decided it was best to wait until just before dark to track him which was about two and a half hours after we shot him.
At first the tracking was pretty easy made even better by the PRIMOS Blood Light we had purchased at the end of last season. But as we moved along the field edge a curve was thrown our way. The Buck was now moving in and out of the rows zig sagging through the corn. At first I thought this was a good sign that he was hit hard and staggering, but half an hour into the tracking my thoughts changed as the blood started to fade away to just specks on the ground.
At this point I asked Pierre to go to the north end of the field and wait in case I pushed the buck out the other end. If that happened at least we would have some idea where to continue with our search. I continued to track the Buck in the corn field but as I came to the end of the field the trail had pretty much disappeared except for two tiny spots of blood on the hard ground. Hope of finding him started to vanish as I searched up and down the end rows to see if he had left the field but no sign could be found. At this point I returned to the last spot of blood on the ground to have another look around. My only thoughts were that he may have doubled back and was now heading south through the corn. After searching 20 yards up and down approximately 10 rows of corn my suspicions were confirmed, he had doubled back. Most likely because he had heard me in pursuit. I radioed Pierre and told him what I had found and asked him to now walk to the south end of the field to watch for the buck and he proceeded to do so. Once again I started on the blood trail when I came across a good amount of blood so I radioed Pierre and told him I was stopping and waiting right where I was for another hour because I was sure I was pushing him. At this point we changed over to text messaging in order to keep the noise level to a minimum when suddenly I heard a loud thrashing noise not 15 yards away from me and three rows deeper into the corn. I informed Pierre what was happening and then waited motionless in the field for another hour. Once more during that period I thought I heard the deer moving but as anyone who has stood in a corn field can attest too, no matter how light a breeze is blowing, it can be very noisy in there not to mention a bit eerie at times. An hour seemed like eternity but it turned out to be the best thing I could have done. Not wanting to spook him I reached for a couple of cobs of corn and tossed them one at a time in his general direction and listened. Nothing stirred so I moved in for the recovery. Three more rows in I found a beautiful 8 pt expired on the ground. I sighed in relief and immediately informed Pierre that our long and tiring tracking efforts had finally come to a happy ending. Pierre was extremely happy and informed me that our fellow hunting buddy Herb had also arrived now to help take up the cause. What we had initially thought was going to be the easiest hunt of our lives turned out to be a gut wrenching affair. From the time we shot him until the time we recovered him, four and a half hours had elapsed but the patience we showed and the wait were well worth it.
If I had to do it all again I would say that we should have waited longer before taking up our search but my fear was that we might lose him to the very healthy coyote population we have in that area. The entire time I was waiting in the field I was remembering a terrifying experience two years earlier near the same area that had me fending off a taunting attack from three coyotes when they came across me and a Doe I had shot and was proceeding to gut in the dark. They were fearless and determined in their efforts to steal my deer. They were a mere 15 yards from attacking me with only a gutting knife and a flashlight in hand when once again Pierre and my other hunting partner Herb arrived on the scene to assist. Their timing was perfect as I was just about to back off from my kill and let the coyotes do what they do best.
In closing the title of this story …. “Luck or Good Preparation” is certainly debatable. My thoughts on this are…. “you need to be prepared for anything when you enter the bush including a little luck being thrown your way when you least expect it!”