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November 7, 2010

Messes to Miracles

With the whitetail rut bordering on high gear status in central and eastern Virginia, I took the day off this past Wednesday to spend the day seeking after a bruiser buck with a preoccupied mind. And with the determination to harvest a mature buck during the rut with my bow, I decided to keep toting my Hoyt Alpha Max and leave my Knight muzzleloader in the truck. I hiked in well before daylight to my ladder stand, which I can safely say is in one of the most remote areas of an undisclosed county and has been seen by very few humans. I needed to go in extremely early because to get from the truck to the stand in a silent manner past several bedding areas takes a legitimate 45 minutes. I was feeling good about things as I settled into my stand, having been able to get to the area and apply estrous scents around the stand without spooking any nearby deer. Besides several flocks of woodies and one group of circling geese, though, all was quiet for the first hour of the hunt.
At a few minutes after 8 o'clock, I heard a violent deliberate scratching sound about 60 yards out through some holly bushes, and it took me just a few seconds to deduct that it was a mature buck was making a scrape. After a few moments, he appeared, angling away from my stand location and walking stiff legged with the hair raised on his back. I quickly made a bleat and followed it with several grunts. Seconds later, he was on the way back in my direction, and stopped in the open to violently make another scrape at about 50 yards. After completing the scrape, he continued to close the distance, quartering towards me. I came to full draw on him at about 30 yards and he continued to get closer, finally stopping directly behind a tree at about 21 yards on the trail in which I had pulled a scent drag through before daylight. He looked around, looked around, made another scrape, and looked around some more, but never moved from behind that tree. I eventually had to lower my draw after what seemed like three or four minutes. After several more minutes, he appeared to be getting leery of the situation, maybe because he could not locate the 'deer' which he had heard vocalize only moments before. I drew on him again as he turned into the open again, quartering away slightly at about 22 yards. I buried the pin behind his front shoulder and released, the buck instantly kicking, whirling, barreling back through the thicket from which he had come, and vanishing from my view. After a few minutes, I quietly climbed down and checked the scene. Finding good blood and the fletching end of a broken arrow, I concluded that I had driven the arrow into his opposite shoulder, which would cause the arrow to stop penetrating, but still pass through the boiler room. With my buddy Justin hunting a different block of woods that morning, and not having his cell phone with him, I knew that I was alone until he came out of the woods around 11 o'clock. I decided to give the buck that entire time to expire, rather than push him too quickly.

Well, I had had all the waiting I could stand by about 10:30, and after returning from a trip to my truck, began to track my buck. Though there was good blood at the point of contact, I spent the next 75 yards on my hands and knees searching for specks of inconsistent blood. I concluded that this was due to part of the arrow still being in the deer, blocking the hole from bleeding out. At about 75 yards, I fortunately began finding bigger and more consistent drops of blood, and shortly thereafter, began finding large pools. Looking up, I spotted the deer, dead, laying up ahead of me, having only traveled about 100 yards from the shot. He was a nice 7 point buck with decent mass, and about a 16 inch spread - a great deer to harvest with the bow, but quite honestly, not exactly what I thought I was shooting based on his actions and demeanor prior to the shot.

I quickly noticed upon nearing the buck that he had a hole not behind the front shoulder, but rather in his right hindquarter, and checking his opposite side, I discovered no exit hole. Strange, but the only thing that I can figure is that, rather than actually making an ideal quartering away shot, this buck must have turned almost directly away from me upon hearing the bow string being released. The blessing in this story is this - the broadhead severed the femoral artery upon entry, and then proceeded to cut nearly every vital organ as it travelled forward. The moral of the story is this - God can and is most capable of making miracles out of our messes. Thank you Lord for the sights, sounds, and experiences of my Wednesday morning hunt, and for reminding me that You are more than capable in my weaknesses and shortcomings. - GE

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV).

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