It happened at 7:15 p.m. Friday in Ingham County, Mich., at my friend Walt's spot once again.
The calling technique was one adopted from watching a young buck attempt to mount a doe a mere 10 yards from me on a West Virginia ridge a few years back during its gun season.
There were grunts and bleats, but most notably, was the sound of a buck wheezing.
Now on this cool and crisp fall Michigan evening at the edge of a half-cut cornfield, I incorporated those same sounds in my calling Friday. Doing a set series that started with a few buck grunts, followed by doe bleats and then a wheeze. Afterward, I would make a bleat as if the doe was saying, "Oooooooo, hurts so good."
Well, at the witching hour -- so appropos with it being so close to Halloween -- out came a couple of does. Looking right in my direction but under my treestand, obviously wondering where or what was responsible for that racket.
I blew it. I moved just a hair behind what I thought was a decent cover -- a leafy oak branch. But the deer saw me and it was a good thing because I was going to send her one of my broadheads through her vitals had she stepped out in my shooting lane.
And away she pranced, bringing along with her the fawn that followed her out of the standing corn.
I was mystified at being caught by a deer 15-feet up in a tree. Hasn't happened in some time.
While I was sulking at committing such a rookie error, I heard more steps in the corn stubble out in front of me again. As the darkness lay in wait, over close to where the other does had been, was the big-bodied buck I'd been looking for since the season started four weeks ago.
The rack wasn't tremendous, but the ivory was well beyond his ears. Enough to send my heart pumping and legs into a quiver. But as with the doe, he was staring right at me. He didn't seem alarmed only curious so I figured once he put his head down -- I would draw and shoot when he hit the clearing I had through the leafy oak branch aforementioned.
It happened in a snap like it always does. Sometimes so fast I can hardly remember where I aimed and how I released the shot. Last thing I do remember was attempting to line up my peep sight with the orange sight pin. Nothing but black. I knew I was finished at that point but felt confident enough from making shots on rabbits in the backyard in near dark conditions without the aid of the peep that I let go a hail mary. I put the pin at the top of his back behind his neck. Whithtthttttttt!!!
I heard a thud from his back hooves and away he went along the corn, acting queerly, then making a 90-angle into the stalks after about 50 yards.
I didn't feel too confident about the shot, but I rarely do unless I can actually see the arrow sticking out the deer's side or spewing blood.
Once I told Walt over our cell phones that I had made a shot, I could hardly keep him out the area where the antlered one was standing. It seemed like forever before I got down out of the tree with my climber.
"Did it have horns?" he asked.
"Yeah," I said, "They stood up this high (I showed him with my hands a foot over my head)."
He looked at me wide-eyed. Then said, "F--- you." And turned on his heels into the direction where I told him I had seen the buck standing when I shot.
After a short search where I started "feeling it" because I couldn't find my arrow, Walt calmly called out, "There's your arrow."
In the beam from the flashlight I could see it was bone dry. Just a little dust around the broadhead. A confirmed miss. No hair, nor blood.
As I told the boys at the archery shop the next day, there went my season. Not in the sense that I'm going to quit now, but that buck would have put some water on the fire somewhat. Which actually makes me a better hunter.
Anyway, once foiled by the peep, I decided it had to go and it is done.
Now, about those BSA red dot scopes I was looking at ...