Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Slinging in the Rain

With all the talk going back and forth about the Deer Tour I have almost stopped thinking of fishing. Deer season will be along before we know it, Sept 24th here, and I still have things to do before then. With a heat index of way over 100 about all I am doing is thinking about cutting shooting lanes or checking properties. What I can do is tell you how I started last year. Not a long story but shows that after almost nine months of waiting to hit the deer woods we will put up with a lot of rough conditions to chase a deer.

I had spent some time getting stands checked, cutting shooting lanes and keeping mineral licks going. I’m lucky, except for trimming trees or a lane through head high weeds I don’t have much to do to get ready for opening day. September was creeping by like it does for all hunters as I shot everyday to be ready. The last few days before our opener I did my ritual of checking and rechecking my gear, making sure things were where I could find them in the dark. Like all folks headed outside I was watching the weather and wasn’t really happy about what they were saying, rain, not showers but rain for the weekend with heavier expected where I planned to hunt. I added rain gear to my pack the night before then headed to bed hoping the forecast was just wrong enough but had that feeling it wasn’t going to be pretty when I got up.

It is an hour and fifteen minute drive to the mountain so I was up at 4 to head out. As soon as I woke up I could hear the water coming from the downspouts, rain was hitting the bedroom window but at least there was no wind. With barely open eyes I fumbled around trying to focus as I got dressed, a cup of coffee then out the door. Rain is coming straight down, looks like I’m in for a long miserable day. I am not a fan of bow hunting in the rain, we need that blood trail most times which isn’t going to last with this kind of weather. But I rarely miss opening day even if the smartest thing I could do is get more sleep and wait till tomorrow.

This is the view I was hoping for but didn't get. Doe stopped right where my limb and riser meet.

I drove through rain that got heavier as I went up in elevation along with a fog/mist making things hard to see even on the road. I could just imagine how bad it was going to be in the stand. I pulled up to the house, geared up and walked back to my ladder stand. Rain gear isn’t the coolest stuff to wear in 100% humidity with temps already in the upper 70s, I was happy my walk in was fairly short but I was still sweating when I got to my tree. After getting things up the ladder I brushed wet leaves from the seat, sat down and nocked an arrow with my head hung down as rain ran off my hood. Daylight was still a few minutes away so I sat in the dark listening to rain on leaves trying to stay awake with the best sleeping sounds playing around me.

Finally daylight began to work through the mist but the rain was coming down steadily without letting up plus the mist was getting heavier by the minute. I swear it is getting darker not lighter as shooting time finally arrives. I pushed my hood back enough to see, checking the woods for movement, watching the trails coming off the hill from the property to my right and the good one over my left shoulder. I scanned the woods then hid under my hood for a couple of minutes then repeated. About 15 minutes after shooting time I looked to my right to see a deer butt going behind a big oak tree just on the other side of a tiny creek that marks the property line. I can shoot across to the other property but it was headed my way so I eased my hand into my wrist sling, clipped on the release, stood to face the deer and waited.

A drier days' view of where the deer cross the creek.

Turns out it is a good doe, she steps over the creek walks a few more steps then stops to scratch an itch just 20 yards from me. It couldn’t be better, she is broadside with nothing between us but air and rain. She turns her head so she can scratch her ear with a back foot never looking in my direction. While she is moving I get drawn, settle into position and look through my peep to find the 20 yard pin. Ummm, where is my peep? Why can’t I see my pin? It is so dim under the canopy and with the mist/rain I can’t find my peep, my glasses being half fogged up isn‘t helping. I start moving the string around but can’t get a sight picture, finally I had to take the string away from my face to find the back sight. I was still at full draw as I eased the string straight back to my eye so I could keep lined up and finally had my pin in view.

Doe critter is still standing there doing a great imitation of a backyard target as I settle the pin behind her shoulder. I touch the trigger as I see the spot I want hearing the arrow hit home. She drops her knees, takes off angling uphill to my left, crossing the old stagecoach road to disappear into the laurels. As soon as she is out of sight I hear her go down, I think, between noise from rain along with wet ground I hope that is what I heard. Now I have to decide, wait 20-30 minutes like we are told or go look now. I go for option B, climbing down to find my arrow to be sure of my shot since it is raining so hard.

It only takes a minute to recover the arrow, it is covered in good blood so I know it isn’t a bad shot. I find where she was standing and look for blood, nothing. I walk a little way uphill following where her feet dug in, no blood. I keep going, just walking her trail of thrown up leaves with no blood for another 30 yards then hear something scuffling on the ground. Getting lower to see under the last bit of laurels I see brown and white, only about 40 yards from where she had been standing when I shot. I know that getting down this fast isn’t smart, in fact, she isn’t dead yet, so I just sit down to wait rather than take a chance of jumping her. After a couple of minutes it is over so I can go up to check her out and tell her thanks.

Here she is. That is the exit. A nice average doe for these parts.

She is a good doe for here, probably a 3 year old in great shape. The shot had been a double lung with a Grim Reaper which had done a good job of putting her down fast. I went back to my stand and decided to stay for awhile longer since I hadn’t made much noise and the rain made sure sound didn’t travel far. I sat in the stand for another 30 minutes or so but the rain just got worse so I packed up, walked out and brought my truck back to get her loaded. What a great start to a season.

That spot has given up about 8-9 deer so far. No huge bucks like everyone else seems to take but plenty of venison for the freezer. I only took two deer last year both came from that stand with my bow. The 20 yard shot opening day and an 18 yard shot a week later on the other side of the stand. Both deer were recovered in less than 50 yards of where they were shot, at least #2 was on a dry day and fell less than 10 yards from a logging road for ease of pick up.

Opening day is coming, it will be here before we know it and I hope everyone has a great one. Rain or shine you can bet, barring sickness or accident, I will be sitting in that same spot doing the same thing hoping luck is on my side again.

Sorry for the bad pics, these are all cell phone shots.


Alex said...

Nice read and great looking blog!

I've got to remember to start getting ready for the deer season down here in Florida, but it's difficult when I'm preoccupied with all the great fishing :)

Tommy Ellis said...

Thanks Alex I try. Fun to sit around and remember some of these trips. Glad somebody is getting to fish. Good luck out there and be safe.

Anonymous said...

Great post, season will be here before we know it.
Good luck with the tour and your upcoming season!
~ CarrieZ

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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.



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