Following is an excerpt from my journal following my first days of bowhunting for deer:
“Got an earlier start than yesterday and parked at north eastern side of the state natural area. This allows access to plenty of forested areas without river and wetland crossings.
Transitioning from wetter soils to sandy, drier ones, I flushed five to seven grouse by accidentally stepping on a dry stick. CRACK! Followed covey the best I could and managed to flush another but did so before spotting it. Became infatuated with the grouse hunt, and decided to get back to looking for deer.
Searched for any signs of deer where I was and soon found some markings and trail. Heading the same way the grouse flew. Moved cautiously with the wind as to not make a large disturbance. Also trusted my eyes, ears, nose, and ultimately gut with where my next step should be and when. Stopped in one spot for a bit, thinking I heard and felt the faint whoosh of grouse wings. Waited 10 more minutes and a deer slowly entered the picture. Spotted it about 50+ yards out but heading my way and browsing. Swapped out grouse arrow for a broadhead and tried to calm my heart. Deer was 35 yards and still creeping towards me. Been minutes and I have not moved an inch. Feeling exposed standing next to decaying stump and mature tree, but should be undetectable if quiet and still.
Deer beginning to turn and I followed it with my peripheral vision as my hearted thumped. Breathed deeply and softly, starting to calm. About 30 yards and quartering now. Just passed behind a larger tree so I can afford to draw back an arrow and take aim. An opening and at least a six point buck! Before I could think any further, I went through the motions and heard my arrow hit.
He stamped off and I waited to not bump it further, but as I repositioned, off he went. Did best to gauge where he was headed, yet it was getting tough with all the foliage. Shouldn’t he want to lie down by now? Tried following with no luck and could see no signs of a blood trail…not comforting. Decided to start marking where I was, where I have been, and the spot from which I shot the arrow to not get lost or confused. Went looking for the arrow thinking of how terrible it would be to injure the poor deer and to not catch up with it. I was getting truly afraid.
Soon made my way to the spot I thought the deer was standing when I shot, and began searching for any signs and my arrow. No blood but low and behold found the arrow! It was in a decaying log, also no blood…inspected it further and and began laughing aloud earnestly, I undershot and missed the deer entirely! Either that or a twig between us deflected the arrow downward, but the fault is mine. I was assured my marksmanship was dialed in from 10 to 30 yards, but I suppose the sudden sight of antlers excited my heart more than I knew.
Oh my goodness how funny was this morning! Lots of thoughts, but relieved the deer was unharmed. Second day afield with limited scouting, saw plenty of grouse, stalked a deer on foot on public land, and was presented with a beautiful opportunity, but came up short, literally. Humbling and educating. This is the type of lesson that I will never forget and will only make me more thoughtful and resilient.”