Frisky Fawns, Mega Monster and a 5 Pointer
What an evening!
I was reminded of the sports adage, “The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat”.
I experienced them both - more than once - during that evening at the farm where I was hunting.
A couple in our church had purchased the 40 acres, planning on building a house and settling in for the last few years of work before retirement.
An apple orchard with three varieties of apples covered approximately 30 acres.
Another 5 acres was an old asparagus patch that was no longer commercially profitable, but still yielded more of the spring crop than any 10 families could eat.
The remaining space was where the house was to be built, with a long driveway leading from the road to the future garage.
But then there was a job change - an opportunity to relocate to a better position out of state – and the couple moved away, leasing the property to me (for one dollar) to use however I saw fit until he retired, returned and built the house.
I saw fit to have my four children help us harvest the asparagus that spring so they could earn some spending money for a trip to the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone that summer after school was out.
I also saw fit to pick bushels and bushels of apples that fall to have made into the best cider I have ever tasted.
And I also saw fit to erect a ladder stand in a cedar tree that bordered the orchard and the neighbor’s hardwoods on the south side of the property.
About 14 feet high, it nestled back into the fragrant cedar, making the hunter almost invisible between the many branches that had been left for cover.
It was positioned right in line with one of the several “roads” – really just wide spots where a row of trees had not been planted to allow a tractor or truck to navigate through the orchard for maintenance and harvesting purposes.
So as I sat in the stand that evening with my bow resting across my lap, I was looking straight down the length of a road with rows and rows of apple trees extending both right and left.
The woods were at my back.
THE FRISKY FAWNS
As the sun was just going down behind the trees, I caught a glimpse of movement off to my left. A doe was walking slowly through the trees, pausing to nibble at an apple from time to time.
Suddenly, something went racing past me, appearing so quickly that I was momentarily startled. It was a fawn, still sporting some spots.
Hot on its heels was another one, looking like a carbon copy of the first.
For the next 15 minutes or so those two fawns chased each other back and forth in front of me like a pair of playful puppies. They would run so hard, dodging in and out among the apple trees, that every couple of minutes they would stop and just stand there panting from the exertion. Then, off they would go again.
It was really comical!
Pretty soon the doe flicked her tail and headed off in another direction, taking the fawns with her – still running around in circles, chasing each other.
THE MEGA MONSTER
I had hardly stopped chuckling to myself about the entertainment that the fawns had provided when I saw something that made my heart jump into my throat. A huge set of antlers was moving above the trees toward the road in front of me!
“Above the trees”?
I must explain that these were semi-dwarf apple trees. They had been kept to a height of about 7 feet to make the annual pruning and picking easier and more efficient.
From my elevated position, the deer’s antlers appeared to be above the trees as it moved between two rows.
The deer’s body was partially obscured by the branches, but the antlers were absolutely huge!
I had heard about a very large white-antlered buck that had been seen many times in this township. Every deer hunter in the area knew that a mega-monster lived out this way, but only a few had ever laid eyes on it.
I was about to become one of the few.
The buck reached the road in front of me and turned abruptly to his left;he was now walking directly toward me, about 50 yards away.
His body was also huge!
From the angle I was viewing this beautiful animal, his heavy antlers spread out well past his rump; he was really wide!
At that time I had no knowledge of how to age a buck, so I won’t even guess its age.
I also didn’t even try to count the points.
I just know that it was a really big-bodied deer with a really big rack!
He continued walking toward me, headed for the pile of carrots that I had placed near the base of an apple tree 20 yards out – right on the edge of the road in front of me. They were positioned so that a deer that started eating them would naturally turn broadside, giving me a perfect shot.
As the deer neared the carrot pile, I slowly drew back the string, expecting to get that perfect shot within just a few short seconds.
But it wasn’t to be.
When the deer’s nose was a full 3 feet from the carrots, he jumped back as if he had contacted an electric fence!
I hadn’t touched those carrots in several days, but the only thing I could think of was that there may still have been some human scent on them.
Whatever the reason, the big buck wheeled and bounded back the direction he had come from, this time between the trees, offering no shot at all.
I let down the string, shaking all over.
I had just almost got to arrow what would have been “the talk of the township”.
But just as I was beginning to feel that let down of coming so close, the buck turned and again stepped out into the roadway and stood broadside at 40 yards.
I had only shot at a deer at that range once before, and my arrow fell miserably short. Not wanting to repeat that, I came to full draw and held the sight pin just above the deer’s back – and released.
As the arrow sped on its way, I could see that it was perfectly in line with the rib cage – right where I wanted it.
But it passed harmlessly just under the deer’s massive chest!
Do I need to say that the big guy didn’t hang around to let me try again?
No – I don’t need to say it; he took off and I never saw him again.
(As a side note – the deer was reported to have been seen several times after that, but locals at the coffee shop said that it was poached the night before firearm season opened a few weeks after my encounter with him).
Well, that deer had no sooner passed from my view than I heard the unmistakable sound of antlers raking a tree off to my right.
Looking over that way, I could see movement through the tree tops, but couldn’t really make anything out clearly.
“Maybe the monster has a twin brother!”, I thought – knowing that the odds against that would be impossible.
“But, it’s a buck, for sure – does don’t do that to trees”. So I stood again, and readied myself for the possibility of getting another chance this evening.
Within a minute, I could see a deer moving from right to left, only about three rows out, heading right for the roadway, and the carrot pile.
It was another buck – much smaller than the one I had just had in front of me, but it stepped right up to the carrots and started to munch on them.
If there was any human scent there, it sure didn’t bother him!
I drew back and put the sight pin in the “sweet spot” and released, sending the 3-bladed broadhead into the buck’s rib cage just behind the shoulder.
He took off on a dead run back the way he came.
I listened to the hoof beats as they entered the hardwoods, making much more noise on the fallen leaves than out in the orchard,
After only three or four more bounds, I heard him crash.
Two kicks and all was silent.
Knowing that the deer was down for good, I climbed down from the stand and followed the relatively short blood trail, using my flashlight, since it was now just dark enough that I couldn’t see it with the naked eye.
I found him only 20 yards into the woods; a nice, fat 5-pointer that provided some excellent table fare for my family that winter.
That evening was certainly filled with highs and lows; thrills and agonies.
I guess that’s what makes bow hunting so much fun. Eh?