What a difference!
The arrow seemed to literally streak off the riser toward the buck as it stood munching an apple.
Even before it sank between the ribs of the animal, I could tell that a whole new world of bowhunting had been opened to me.
I had just shot my very first deer with a compound bow.
Prior to this I had been using a Bear recurve that I had bought many years before. It had a draw weight of 45 pounds.
I had been shooting a bow since I was a kid and was a pretty good shot, shooting instinctively, using no sights.
Originally I had used cedar shafts that had been hand-made by my dad, but had switched to fiberglass, having been told that they were superior. They may have had some advantages in the toughness department, but I believe they were also heavier, only adding to my recurring dilemma.
I say ‘recurring’ because I had been having a difficult time connecting with deer for the simple reason that my bow was too slow compared to the reaction time of the deer. In other words, they were “jumping the string”.
It had first happened with a half-racked buck.
I was positioned in a tree stand (primitive by today’s standards) when this deer came into my shooting lane, crossing from right to left. From the side it appeared to be a 6 or 8 point, but when it turned to walk toward me I quickly saw that it had one antler missing.
Not being a trophy hunter, that didn’t really matter to me, so I readied for the shot should it present itself.
About 25 yards out, the buck stopped and turned back the way it came.
It began rubbing its antler on a small bush, offering a perfect broadside shot.
I drew back the string, aiming just behind the shoulder and released.
The arrow was on its way, arching right toward the vitals.
But at the sound of the string, that buck bunched up and swapped ends so fast that by the time the arrow reached it, it had completely reversed itself and was looking to bound into the nearby cover.
As if in slow motion, I watched in amazement as the arrow glanced off the bridge of the deer’s nose and sailed away into the tall grass beyond.
The deer was gone in two jumps and I was left standing there with my mouth hanging open.
A survey of the scene of the “hit” revealed some very short hair and two drops of blood. I guess you could say that I gave that deer a bloody nose – on the outside!
That was the first time it had happened.
The second time I had this same problem was with a doe.
I was up in a huge Maple tree that was positioned in a large alfalfa field. I guess the tree had simply been left there when the farmer decided to plant a crop in it since it was such a big, beautiful tree. Or it may have just been too much trouble to remove.
At any rate, it made a great place for a bow stand since I had often observed deer browsing on alfalfa in the late afternoon and early evening hours in the back part of the field near the tree.
I had placed a rough-sawn 1”x12” Elm board across two branches in the big Maple. By tying a rope around the first large limb, I could haul myself up to where I could then climb the rest of the way to my board platform. It was probably about 15 feet off the ground.
To attract the deer closer to my tree I had scattered some apples in a couple different spots where I had a good shot through the branches of this wide-spreading tree.
The doe had come out just before dark one evening and stopped about 30 yards away, standing broadside.
She didn’t look like she was going to take notice of the apples, and would quickly be far out of my range if she continued the way she was going.
I had a good clear view of her, so I drew back, took aim and let fly with one of my yellow fiberglass arrows.
Once again I watched in amazement as the doe quickly switched direction and began to bolt toward the woods from where she came.
It sounded like the arrow hit, but in the blur of motion I wasn’t sure.
After waiting a few minutes, I quietly got down and made my way to the spot she had been standing. From the light of my flashlight, I found the unmistakable signs of a hit: medium grayish-brown hair from the side of the deer and a few drops of blood.
I began following the sign in the direction of her travel, but soon lost it – even before I reached the edge of the field.
At that time I had never heard the saying, “When in doubt, back out”, but that’s what I did, planning on coming back the following morning to try to pick up the trail.
Unfortunately, it rained during the night, wiping out all traces of any trail that might have been left behind.
I began a thorough search of the woods, and after about an hour of looking, found her lying half in and half out of a creek that meandered through the area.
A quick inspection of the deer revealed that the arrow had struck her on the opposite side I was aiming at with no exit wound. It was too far back, but apparently had done its job as the deer had only traveled about 100 yards.
Now, it was the following year.
I was standing in that same large Maple tree, my feet planted on that same board that I had left there after the previous season.
I had another deer below me; it was the buck munching on an apple – but this time I had a marvel of modern technology in my hands – a compound bow!
It had been given to me by a friend as a gift.
We were sitting around talking about hunting. One story led to another, and I told Frank the story of the two deer that had jumped the string on me and the results of both.
“One of these days, I’m going to get one of those compounds”, I said. “They’re supposed to be a whole lot faster; maybe I won’t have that problem any more”.
“Well, you’re in luck”, he said, “I’ve got one and can’t hit a thing with it. I had a deer under my stand last year and shot all my arrows at it and never even touched it! I finally had to shout at it to make it go away. You can have the bow and all my arrows if you want them.”
So here I was, “cocked, locked and ready to rock” with my newly-acquired compound bow, shooting aluminum arrows that seemed almost weightless compared to my old fiberglass ones.
The young buck was totally oblivious to my presence in the tree above him.
The three-bladed broadhead zipped through both lungs of the deer and stuck in the ground so fast I could scarcely believe it.
He ran across the back of the field and into the woods, where I thought I heard him crash. A short blood trail through the yellow Maple leaves led me to the expired animal lying on the ground.
What a difference!
Thank you for that gift, Frank. I shot quite a few deer with that bow!