The 2000 bow season opened as it usually did for me, with our annual trip to Michigan’s upper peninsula. Our bow camp consists of nearly 20 people and is always a good time regardless of how the hunting goes. The weather always seems to cooperate and the hunting is usually pretty good. The 2000 trip was no exception and I had a great time despite not harvesting a deer. Thankfully my season was far from over, the excitement was just beginning.
My Grandparents farm is in mid-Michigan and is where the majority of my bowhunting occurred during that time in my hunting career. The 40 acres is split between woods and farm field and is surrounded by farm fields. If you have ever hunted farmland areas you know the excitement that an island-woodlot like that can provide during the early stages of the rut.
These woods are always full of rubs and scrapes and this particular year was no exception. There were seemingly endless rubs and enough scrapes to prove that more than one or two bucks were visiting the woods. I had found rubs on some good sized trees and knowing that none of us had taken bucks from here last year, I suspected there was a nice buck in the area.
I chose a stand location near a nice trail coming out of a thick area and heading towards the corn field. Along with the deer run there was also a walking path, which the deer used heavily, running parallel to the corn about 30 yards into the woods. Where the two intersected was a nice scrape and rub. I hung my stand about 15 yards from the intersection and felt very confident about my chances.
This picture with my late grandfather is one of my all time favorite hunting pictures.
The first chance I had to hunt my new spot was on a Saturday and when I got to the farm I noticed that the farmer to the north had begun cutting his corn but wasn’t currently in the field. After eating lunch and watching some college football I decided to head out. As I stepped outside I could hear the combine running in the field and knew the farmer was back to work. I wasn’t sure how that would play into my hunt, but I did know that the noise would help cover my entrance into the woods. As luck would have it the combine was close to the woods as I entered and it made more than enough noise to cover my footsteps.
Nearly two hours passed as I watched the woods for movement and listened to the hum of the tractor. At one point I suddenly realized that the hum of the tractor had been replaced by the silence of the woods. The farmer had gone to the house for some reason and had turned the combine off. It was no more than 5 minutes after that when I spotted 8 brown legs working through some brush. The deer had likely been pushed out of the corn in the morning and were now heading back to what was left of the corn field. As the two does neared the field edge the farmer returned to the tractor and started it again. The deer paused for a moment and then turned and walked back into the brush, disappearing as fast as they had originally appeared.
There was no more deer movement for an hour or so as the farmer went about his business and I scanned the woods. I kept looking to see if he was going to take another break, hoping that the deer would be up and moving when he did. About an hour before dark he stopped the tractor and the deer wasted no time getting moving. I watched as a leg here, a body there and a head over here worked their way through the thick stuff and towards the field. Unfortunately for me, they were moving about 30yds behind me and then reappearing about 40yds to my right. Thankfully the farmer helped me out again and started the tractor one last time, driving the deer back in to hiding.
During the actual encounter I did a good job of not focusing on the rack and didn't get too nervous. Later, when I walked up on the buck I couldn't belive what I'd done. My first bow buck was definitely worth the wait.
When the combine stopped again a short time later the deer that were in the thicket directly behind me began to head towards the field once again. This time I was in the right place at the right time and they began to appear all around me. The majority of them were following the trail heading to the corn that I had set up on, but others were just appearing out of the thickets all around me.
I was suddenly looking down on 12 to 15 deer, several of which were within 20yds of me, and could still hear what sounded like 2 more coming. As I looked to my left I saw one more doe appear and could hear one more deer approaching slowly behind her. As I rotated my head around I could see another body but the deer’s front half was hidden by a tree. I shifted my eyes away and when I looked back to the mystery deer it had lifted its head and I could suddenly see antlers on both sides of the tree.
I don’t know if my heart actually stopped for a minute or just skipped a few beats, but it quickly began playing catch-up and was beating faster than ever before.
Up to this point the hunt had been a deer hunters dream but if I wasn’t careful it could quickly turn into a nightmare. I was now battling over a dozen deer at once and had to make sure I didn’t get busted by a single one. Add a nice buck and fading daylight into the mix and you can understand my concern.
The buck began to enter the open woods and, much to my surprise, began trotting around all over the place. He was checking every one of the does that were out in front of me. He would trot few steps and check a doe, trot a few more and grunt at another doe. Besides being entertaining this offered me a chance to get set up for a shot since he was causing quite a commotion.
This buck's mount hangs in my living room and still brings back the excitement and emotions of that evening back in 2000.
As I got into position to draw I kept thinking “over here, little more, not that way, yeah back this way” until finally he stepped into a shooting lane and froze with his nose in the air. I drew and, after finding my peep and pin in the dying light, released an arrow at a spot just behind his front leg. He responded by spinning 180 degrees and bolting off taking some of the does with him. I tried to keep him in sight but as they all criss-crossed I lost him. I had seen him double back for the thick stuff before losing track of him amongst the scattering does.
As the remaining deer disappeared into the corn I gathered up my gear and climbed down. I went to the spot where the buck was standing when I shot and looked for any sign of a hit. I found 4 scuffs where he had pushed off to turn and run, but didn’t see any hair or blood. My dull flashlight was not the ideal tool so I headed up to the house for the 4 wheeler and the hand held spotlight to help illuminate my mission.
I was hunting alone and took it upon myself to find this deer. That wouldn’t normal be a big deal but I'm partially color blind can have trouble seeing the blood amongst the forest floor. I first tried to locate the spot where the deer had doubled back, since I had a good idea where that was. I found the area and also found some hair and blood and could see some kicked up leaves leading a path towards where he had gone. I did my best with the blood trail but got to a point where I could no longer find sign. The fading batteries in the spotlight told me that I would have to sleep on this one and come back in the morning.
After a restless night with little sleep I downed a quick bowl of cereal and was back in the woods the next morning. I was now able to see some more sign and could see where he headed into the thick stuff. I went into the thicket and began walking the trails looking for sign. I came to a point where the trail split and thought “should I go this way or that way”? As I turned my head “that way” I saw my deer laying in up against a rock in the trail.
I ran through the thicket and dropped to my knees next to the buck. I could hardly believe what I had done. This was my first buck with a bow and only my second ever bow kill. After dragging the buck out of the thickets I went up to the house to get the ATV and tell my Grandpa the good news. With his assistance I field dressed the deer and got him onto the ATV for the ride back to the barn. The arrow had pierced both lungs and the deer had only traveled about 70yds total after the shot.
My buck weighed just under 180#s dressed and had a beautifully symmetrical 8 point rack. The rack was 16 inch's wide and had 8 inch G2s. It net scored 103 inches which qualified it for the Commemorative Bucks of Michigan record books for archery kills. It was a great buck to take as my first archery buck and an even better way to kick off the new millennium.
Take care, and thanks for reading!!