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A 2015 Bow Buck

by Jon Mitzel

Deer bow hunting is near the top of my list of favorite hunting activities. I enjoy sitting even when temps reach single digits. On average, I usually sit in the deer blind more than 20 nights a season. That’s what it usually takes for me to harvest a buck.

Last season was an odd year. Frustrating at times. I began to have problems with my trail cameras. They captured photos but wouldn’t save them to the SD card. It was frustrating. So frustrating that I didn’t hunt very often. I think I sat a total of five times and didn’t start hunting until after deer gun season.


The late season

It was on the sixth day when I had a good buck appear in the woods to my left. He had his head down, looking for scent. His trail put him just north of my stand, about 30 yards. I wasn’t totally sure of the yardage, but I’ll get to that shortly.

I watched the buck for several minutes. A large, branchy tree stood between us, which hindered any shot. So I patiently watched.

After a while he continued on the trail which lead him out to a bean field. At this point he was walking away and I had just one opportunity to get a shot off.

The buck appeared again out of my right window. I had to shift my entire body to the right in order to draw back.

The buck was now walking away, yet still broadside, walking toward the southeast. Moving my body to the right created some noise, and the buck stopped and stood still looking up at me. He was, I estimated, about 45 yards. I don’t use a ranger finder much unless I’m antelope hunting.

I wasn’t positioned well for an ideal shot. My knees faced directly toward the buck, but my body remained turned too far to the left. I really had to stretch to draw back and release the arrow.


A bad shot

I released and connected with the buck. However, with my positioning too far to the left, my arrow flew left also. The arrow struck the deer far back, and I reluctantly admitted I’d gut-shot the animal.

After impact, the buck ran a large circle, fell and broke his left front leg. My arrow broke off inside him, and I found the remaining 20 inches of the arrow nearby.

The buck stood still about 100 yards away in the bean field. After several minutes he began walking back directly toward my stand. I quickly and shakingly began to nock another arrow. I kept shaking, tending to get rather rattled with buck fever, especially right before and after a shot.

The buck continued toward me. I couldn’t believe it. This buck was limping straight back toward my stand, and I was still attempting to nock that arrow. I was running out of time as he had appeared in my shooting lane, offering me a quartering shot. With mounting frustration, I just wasn’t ready. I knew I needed to get an arrow off without further delay.

The buck eventually limped into my shooting lane and offered me a tough quartering shot. I released and my arrow missed just beneath him. I couldn’t believe it! He offered me a second killing shot and I messed it up!

The buck limped some 100 yards into the woods and laid down. I watched him until I couldn’t see him any more. Darkness was settling in and daylight was gone. I sneaked down from the stand and quietly walked out of the woods toward the pickup. My hands were still shaking.


Waiting for morning

I didn’t sleep much that night. I begged for morning to come so I would have a chance at tracking and finding that deer.

About 10 a.m., with abundant light, I headed for the woods and found the spot where the buck laid down. However, all that remained was a large pool of blood and a trail leading deeper into the woods.

Snow was patchy. Small, light areas of snow remained on the ground, which worried me. Luckily, snow on the deer trails was compacted enough to hold. In fact, I was able to follow a blood trail, off and on, through the snow.

I had something positive going for me. Were it not for snow, tracking would have been nearly impossible. I’ve been in that situation before.

I followed the deer trail, spotting a drop of blood here and a few splatters there. The trail led me to an open area, snow becoming less plentiful. I was able to track areas with compacted snow, but it was getting tougher.

Eventually, I got to a point where the snow ended. The blood trail wasn’t visible. I was at a stand-still.

Just then, I got a whiff of something. I’ve sampled that same smell before -- the smell of a gut-shot deer. I began circling upwind, and after several minutes finally stumbled onto my buck -- a nice 6-point with a 4x4 main frame and double brow tines. It was a buck that would be going on the wall.

This was the first time I’d ever gut-shot a deer. I didn’t like it at all. It left me with a shattered feeling, something that said I didn’t do a good job. It made me uncomfortable.

It recalled a time years earlier when I was hunting with a two good friends, one accidentally gut-shooting a doe. It was well after dark when we began to track. There was snow on the ground, but we found his doe by the smell, not by sight. It was a smell you don’t forget.