My son Scotty, who loves to hunt deer, is a tanker pilot for the Maine Air National Guard. He is deployed to the Middle East for the month of November, his favorite month in Maine. He was a little bummed about missing his deer hunt but hearing that I had bagged my first Maine deer with a bow, after too many years of trying, he sent me a note.” Dad, please tell me about your deer. I need a good deer story.”

Scotty, a bow hunter too, is a sharing kind of guy. I know that he won’t mind if I let you in on part of my letter to him:

Dear Scotty:

 

As I told you before you deployed, Jim helped me get permission to hunt that old farm we talked about. There are some apple trees directly behind the barn, about 30 yards from the paved highway. Jim suggested, jokingly, that I stand my vigil in the outhouse behind the barn. (As it turned out, his idea was better than even he thought). Anyway, not wanting to be too near the road, I set my tree stand up on a busy game trail just into the woods on the far side of the field. I sat there for about four nights with no action, but most nights I would jump a couple of deer in the dark on the way out. They were under the apple trees near the barn. Next day I moved my stand to a game trail in the woods that led out to the apple trees. Still no action. Coming out in the dark, I noticed that the deer were outfoxing me by coming to the apple trees from a wooded area across the paved highway.

 

Since there was no suitable tree for a tree stand near the apple trees, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought a new Magnum ground blind. It’s a beauty and has 360 degrees of shooting windows complete with shoot-through mesh screening. I set up the blind right in the open next to a fallow apple tree, but only 20 yards from the “active tree.” At 3 p.m on a damp overcast day, I climbed into the blind. I felt that I finally had my act together. I had a new relatively spacious blind in which I could pull my bow back freely. I put new LED batteries in my bow sight light, and I was posted at ground zero. About 10 minutes before last legal light, I saw a car stop in the middle of the road. Because of a hill between me and the lower road, I could not see what the stopped car saw, but I surmised that the occupants were watching deer. The car drove off. Minutes later three deer came bounding down my way right next to the old barn.

 

I draw back the bow and hold beneath the shooting window so my intended will not see my blue sight light through the mesh screening. The biggest deer, the doe, freezes and looks my way. With the wind in my favor, I know she is bothered, not by my smell, but by the setup. (the blind must look out of place to her.) She bolts and bounds back into the woods behind me. The two smaller deer hover about and begin feeding just out of range. I let off on the bow and watch them. Both are small deer of the same size, but shooters nonetheless. One moves a tad closer. I pull back the bow again and hold on it. It is about 25 yards. I decide to be patient, thinking maybe that the big doe will relax and come back in. By now, light is fading fast. One comes closer to me,but the shot is head on. No broadside shot. I draw the bow yet again. The deer steps out of view behind the fallow apple tree beside my blind. Both deer are about 15 yards and frozen in their tracks. With the bow still back, I stretch for a peek around the tree. I see one looking straight at the blind. I think they’ve made me, but are still not showing signs of bolting. They seem curious. One takes a step into view. I am looking at him over my left shoulder from the seat. The bow is still cocked and ready. I slide slowly off the seat, get on one knee and raise the cocked bow. Deer is now broadside. As I raise the bow I think he sees the blue sight light through the mesh. I can tell. A second before he bolts, I put the yellow pin on him and release. Whoosh goes the arrow and he is gone. I know by the sound that my arrow probably hit him in the vitals. He crashes into the swamp. Silence. I wait 5 minutes, but dark is coming on. I decide to check it out. At first, I can’t find my arrow in the field nor can I find any blood. I walk down to where the deer entered the woods and find some blood. Soon there is a clear blood trail and it takes me to my expired deer about 30 yards into the woods.

 

“Small deer, but a fat one,” I say to myself. “Easy drag for an old man, too. And what the heck, it’s a bow deer, right? A trophy in my mind.” On the drag out I feel a tad melancholy about tagging out before the November firearms season. But I’m still thankful for meat in the freezer.

 

Some afterthoughts: I have discovered that there is a pronounced learning curve when it comes to bow hunting deer, a lot more so than with guns. Looking back at my checkered bow hunting career, I think that I blew so many other bow chances at deer, maybe, for two key reasons 1) lack of composure 2) lack of experience.

 

Unlike gun hunting, an ethical bow hunter has no choice, he MUST wait for the shot even at the risk of losing the shot opportunity. Seeing so many deer from my stand in Maryland, I gained fast-track experience with all of this. It was enormously helpful. With my old bow and its marginal let-off characteristics, I don’t think that I could have held the draw for so long and gotten this last deer. The decision on when to pull that bow string back is key, and being able to hold it back is as well. These new bows have exceptional let-off capabilities, which can make all the difference in waiting out the deer for the optimal shot.

 

An aside. As I said, Scotty, this new ground blind has mesh screening in the windows that is designed for shooting through with fixed broadheads. Though skeptical, I decided to go with it. Right after the shot at the button horn buck, I inspected the mesh screening. I saw no broadhead hole.”Hmm,” I thought,”must be New Age elastic or something, perhaps designed to stretch with the broadhead and return to original size. Nifty.” A few days later, while your mother and I were sitting in this same blind on her hunt, she found a star-shaped hole, not in the screening, but in the fabric of the blind beside the shooting window. It gets better. En route to the deer, my Slick Trick broadhead also split the zipper and the reinforcement cloth around the window! Craig asked me if my arrow made a complete “pass through.”

 

“Yes, it did, Craig,” I said. “It made two pass-throughs: once through the ground blind and once through the deer.”

 

Hope you enjoy my story. Only wish you could be with us at deer camp this November. We’ll miss you. Fly safe and hurry home.

 

Love,

 

Dad

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected] and his new book is “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook.”


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