First Deer

I took Tuesday off from work to go hunting, I went out in the morning on my property with no success, around the middle of the day I went into public land near my home and in the afternoon I went to a friend’s property where I have a blind setup on a field.

I had setup the blind almost a month prior, enough time for the deer to get used to a new object in their environment and brushed it in to help it blend and so it wouldn’t stick out.

I got into the blind around two o’clock, the interior of the blind is black so I wore black so as to camouflage with the inside. I had gotten reports from the property owner of deer crossing the field, I had seen deer standing next to the blind when I’d intended to go hunting but gotten there late. I also had trailcam pictures of these deer, so I was feeling confident about my chances at seeing them that day. I had drawn a doe tag in the anydeer lottery which was good as I’d only spotted does out there and on the trail camera.

I had talked to other hunters about this field situation and what they would recommend for setting up there. An experienced hunter advised to not hunt the area in the morning because it is adjacent to bedding areas and often the deer will bed on the field itself, sounded like good advice so I had reserved this spot for the afternoon.

I sat on an upside down five gallon bucket and felt tired. It had been an early morning and I found myself with the bow on my lap and my head on top of the bow, not quite sleeping but in a trancelike state. That restored my energy enough that I was able to sit up with my senses on high alert, listening for footfalls. I also took the time to take a few pictures from the inside of the blind using the panorama feature on my son’s camera. See below:

View from the blind.

At around 3:30 I heard them. Pretty loud on the field grass, more than one and coming fast. The adrenalin kicked in and my heart started pounding like it was going to come out of my chest.

They came into sight quickly from the right, paused a second dead ahead at 20 yards, I didn’t have my bow up and I didn’t dare raise it as I was sure they were looking at me. They moved further left and I had the obstruction of one of the diagonal supports on the blind. I took the opportunity to raise the bow, draw and aim, except that the arrow exits the bow lower than the line of sight and I was afraid I’d hit the  window crossbar, they moved further left 30 plus yards, then everything happened as if I had been switched into auto-instinctive mode, I had a correction to make because the single pin sight was set at 25 yards and now they were further, the mind never entered into it, I just automatically raised the bow to the correct height and loosed the arrow at the largest doe. A hit! The three deer took off across the field into a strip of woods with a small ravine and I lost sight of them.

When using archery gear an animal very rarely just falls over after a shot, what typically happens is they take off and you patiently wait then track them to recover your quarry, so I waited, then walked across the field where they had  disappeared. I saw plenty of sign that the doe had gone through there, I climbed up the shallow ravine and exited into another field. It was twilight then but as I looked left I thought I could see a shape, I walked closer and sure enough it was the doe. She had gone a total of about 100 yards.

I felt elated and thankful. I called my wife Laurel to tell her, then set up a towing harness to drag the deer off the field. I had never field dressed a deer before and although I’d watched the YouTube videos I thought some guidance would help. I called my neighbor, Aaron, who is a longtime hunter and we agreed that I’d go tag the deer then meet at my house after he’d had a chance to vote.

This proved to be a good decision as  nothing really compares to someone showing you the ins and outs first hand. Thank you Aaron!

Once we were done, Laurel took the tenderloins and fried them with onions and we all had a beer to celebrate.

The day was over, I was grateful and thrilled at my first deer.

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Turkey talk..

Today was a good day.

There is an Ice Cube song called “It was a good day” and although the lyrics vary widely from this blogpost the feeling is the same. That everything went right.

I was up at 4:30 this morning, had coffee, caught up with my computer stuff and then went for a hunt.  I’ve never hunted for a thing until this week so it is all new. I have been practicing like a madman though.

It is turkey season and so on my commute to work and back I talk turkey. There are many turkey talking devices out there and like many I jumped right into a mouth call as it frees your hands. I’ve put hours and hours into this call and all I can say is you either have to be gifted or southern because these calls take a lot, a lot of time to get. I happily switched gears to a slate call and found myself yelping and driving in no time. It’s a good thing I commute early in the morning as I’m usually steering with one knee while clucking along to a turkey CD.

I did learn how to do clucks and purrs with this mouthcall, but had a hard time with yelping, getting the hang of these takes plenty of practice.

I’ve also put a lot of practice time with my compound bow, making 40 yards my standard practice distance, which makes shooting smaller distances somehow feel easier.

My commute to the hunting grounds was just a walk out of my door and into the darkness about 150 yards where I had a ground blind setup in the woods, one of the benefits of living in Maine. I had nothing fancy as I have not accumulated much gear; I had an old LL Bean canvas tote bag with calls, a bottle of water, gloves and not much else. I don’t have special clothes but I was careful to wear black as the inside of the blind is black and it makes one hard to see.

I set a hen decoy 8 yards from the blind and tucked myself in. It was a foggy Maine morning and as the sun came up the outlines of the woods softened by the fog. The next half hour or so were exceptional. I saw deer running through the fog, the crows were cawing, the world was waking up and I was really relishing being in nature. Just beautiful out, so special, I would guess that many hunters do this just to experience that.

I started calling using all my CD, YouTube knowledge. I began with just yelping (common turkey talk) every 20 minutes and after an hour I got a gobble back. I responded but didn’t call a lot which was my friend Steve’s advice and just let him find me. He stopped coming in at about 30 yards and I switched to cutting (excited hen language) with a small amount of yelping and although it was slow that brought him in.

Inside a blind, just my backyard not my top secret turkey spot.

I only had one large window in the blind open and had a small clearing dead ahead of me. This tom was coming in behind me and these guys are wicked stealthy when they want to be, I couldn’t see him but could hear his movements. I caught a glimpse of him as he came in to my window view through the wood underbrush towards the clearing, eventually coming in dead ahead of me at 18 yards ( I had measured the area) he was looking right at me, fluctuating between puffing up and looking skitterish. I didn’t realize it at the time but this was probably as good as it gets. My YouTube education would have had him in come closer yet and head for the decoy, but I should have caught on that he was a bit nervous and taken a chance and drawn the bow, so instead of staying he walked right out of my field of view. We then had a 4 hour conversation in turkey. At different distances and although I managed to bring him in again he was behind me where I didn’t have a shot. At 11:30 I gave it up, legal time ends at noon in Maine. I was exhausted not so much from talking turkey but from the adrenalin rush when he’d come in close and my heart was pounding and senses heightened, then back down and up and down again. I missed an opportunity but had a great hunt while gaining some experience and a great memory.

Fiddleheads

I came home still in time to make it to Dakota’s baseball game and then ice cream on the way home to celebrate the win, the sun was out after a drizzly week, making everyone happy to be outside in t-shirts for a change. Laurel found fiddleheads in some secret spot in the woods to sauté with dinner, a springtime treat, I sent some arrows into the target, read a book and later we watched Kung Fu Panda II with the kids, nothing dazzling just a good day.