Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Of Firsts and Memories

  Everyone has them. Firsts. No matter what you do there was a first time. A hunt, a ski trip, that first date when you are shaking like a leaf, when Grampa let you drive the tractor or old farm truck, whatever it was it left a memory that will always be with you. I was talking with my friend Kari when a memory popped into my head about my first buck with a bow. Not a monster, since I have never taken a monster, in fact, a buck many would pass up but he was a good buck for me and my first with a bow. 

  I had a 90 acre farm to hunt about 5 minutes from my house near Murfreesboro, TN, which had about 5 acres that you could hunt and expect to see something. It is bordered by a large Wildlife Management Area that I could hunt by stepping over a fence. I scouted to find a few spots where I could set up depending on wind. These included a couple of trees that were near good trails along with a couple of spots to ground hunt. I started in late September with our archery season but didn’t get an early deer but did manage to shave hair off a doe. Later I scared some turkeys when one arrow hit a fence then skipped along the ground through the flock and the next hit a tree limb before flying harmlessly over another one’s back.

  I hunted through 6 weeks of archery seeing some deer but nothing else close enough for a shot. Muzzleloader started and was my first chance to give this a try. I headed out opening day and managed to take a doe with a 115 yard shot. I was standing by a fence row where I had watched deer crossing the corner of the field. After taking the doe I built a small blind so I could cover that spot. As muzzleloader went along I hunted my little spot of woods and one cold morning with frost turning everything white, as I sat in my climber, I saw a buck headed to me obviously trailing does. Try as I might I couldn’t get him close enough for a shot. He came down to that same corner and then took a hard left into the WMA. He was the best buck I had seen in this spot and my heart rate got up a bit hoping. The rest of muzzleloader passed without another chance or sighting.

  Muzzleloader ended and a short 5 day bow season began so I grabbed my Golden Eagle to give it a go before gun season. I went out on Tuesday morning to see what was coming through. Instead of taking my climber I just walked in and went to the spot I had taken the doe. When I got to my spot I hung my bow on a cedar tree as I stood by the fence watching the field. After a couple of minutes I saw a movement to my right. Turning my head there at 17 yards is the buck from muzzleloader. Now things happen fast. As he heads past me I slip my left hand into my bow strap, clip the release on, turn to my right and draw all in one motion. The deer circles me to get to his trail then stops, looking my way at 30 yards, perfectly broadside. I complete my turn, find my anchor, pick a pin and release, all in one motion.

  I watch and hear the arrow hit knowing it wasn’t what I wanted. It hit high and back. In my excitement I had picked the brightest pin on my sights. It was my forty yard pin not the thirty. Damn it!! Calm down, breathe, think. I had seen blood as the deer wheeled to his left and ran hadn‘t I? I heard him cross the fence not far away so I eased over to where he had been standing and found a good blood trail. He continued leaving a good trail so I eased along finding where he had gone through the fence. I crossed over but then the trail disappeared. I was sick. Thinking about it I called my brother telling him what was going on and asking for some backup. He says hang tight he is on the way. That was the longest hour and a half ever. When he gets there another friend had come along to help. This was good because my brother was color blind and couldn’t see the red against the green of the low growth. As we start to fan out to find the trail things are not looking up. It is as if he had run out of blood. I finally found a drop 60 yards away going in a wide left circle of where I had shot. I began placing bits of toilet paper on the drips to keep track and get an idea of the path he was taking. This continued for a couple of hundred yards. Drop here, two drops there. Slow going taking tiny steps looking at every leaf.

  My brother tells me he needs to sit down for a minute so we take a break to grab a drink and think. As we sit talking we hear a big commotion and jump thinking we have been busted. Instead a flock of robins come screaming out of the cedars headed straight at us with a sharp shinned hawk in pursuit. Just as the flock separates to go around the tree my brother is leaning against the hawk slams a robin into the tree eight feet over his head. We cheer the hawk as feathers drift down on top of us. A great part of the memory of that day. We get up to start tracking again and within yards find what we had been hoping for. Not the deer yet but a huge spot of blood where he had fallen. The trail gets easier then even better. I find a massive spray along with my arrow leaning against a tree as if it had been placed there. I tell them the deer is within 80 yards of us. It is clear now it was a liver hit and the deer is headed along a creek for water. I look and see blood in the water. I decide to follow the rest of the track myself so tell them to hang back. I got into the creek and followed drops of blood drifting in the water. Just as the creek starts to deepen I look ahead and there in the deepest part is my buck floating just about 80 yards from where I found my arrow.

  I can’t tell you the feeling but if you have had it happen to you, I don’t need to. I yelled that I had him then waded into the deeper water to pull him out. I can still see the crawfish that was sitting on his nose as I reached for his rack. The water running into the tops of my boots didn’t matter at all, I had my first buck with a bow. I had accidentally made a good shot, worked hard to find him, managed a hard tracking job then recovered my deer only 125 yards from where I had started the morning. The buck, you see, had made a huge circle. After running when I shot he continued to turn left headed to the creek and the bedding area near there. We had tracked him for hours along a path nearly ¾ of a mile long to find him just down the hill from my blind. I pulled him to the edge of the creek so we could get a few pictures and celebrate. We got him up the hill and loaded then headed to the house. To this day an 8x10 of that deer hangs on the wall along side a picture of my first archery hog and my largest archery hog.

  He isn’t my biggest deer or my first deer but the day spent tracking my first archery buck with my brother, who is gone now, is one of my best memories. We would take many more deer and spend many more hours tracking but most pale compared to that day. Think back on your firsts, they will always be there. Maybe take time to put them into words. Even if you don’t think you are a writer others will. Share and preserve those moments that only you had so they aren’t lost. Memories are great, memories shared, best.


texwisgirl said...

Okay, I have to admit. Being a non-hunter, I couldn't get in to the tracking the blood-trail and all that. But then you got me with your last paragraph. Sorry your brother is no longer here to hunt with you, but I'm sure he's proud that you're still thinking and writing about him. Shared memories, indeed. :)

Gary Hanson said...

Enjoyed this one Tommy, memories of gold I say.

DeanO said...

Great story and good memories shared

swgahunter aka gary said...

Great story tommy! I enjoyed reading it and sharing in your memories!

Rogue Huntress said...

Tommy I believe you mentioned this post to me a while back and I'm sorry to say I only just read it now. Firsts are life changing events, which is why I think they become the fondest memories. Thanks for sharing your first archery buck. I'm still waiting for mine :)

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

About Me

My photo
Born and raised in middle Tennessee.I'm a working wildlife and landscape artist specializing in watercolors. Now making cedar lures and custom turkey calls.



Follow by Email

Powered by Blogger.