Sunday, October 29, 2006

Buck backstrap heaven

I knew sooner or later I would stick a buck with an arrow this year.

Just had a feeling.

My new Sanilac County spot was just too hot. I was seeing bucks -- yes, that's bucks as in the plural form -- every time out. And that's just what this bow slinger needs.

Opportunities. Heck, that's what every bowhunter needs, I suppose.

Around my house in St. Clair County, I just wasn't getting enough looks at deer during the last few seasons. And for some reason I was relunctant to shoot when I did see them.

But now I've worked through that phase ... I think. At least the getting off shots part.

Despite writing about making adjustments in my last article so I wouldn't make a bad shot and have to track a deer through fields and creeks, I hit this guy back again. Way back.

My thinking is is that I didn't allow for him walking and lead him enough.

This is where I'm giving myself a low mark.

However, the good marks outweigh the bad in this kill.

The patience I displayed was excellent. Not usually one of my strong parts. Especially after muffing the first shot I took at the best buck of the two that came in.

Just as can happen during the early rut, the morning of Oct. 25, this guy came cruisin' in. But he stayed outside my shooting lanes. I kept hitting my grunt call to lure him around and it was working. Finally he came to right side -- along the open field where my stand was situated on woodline. But he never cleared the branches of the tree in front of me that I used to keep my stand hidden.

I had one shot and it was single opening within these branches. He walked into it and crack! twang! Away he bounced.

I didn't allow for enough clearance. There was no confusion for me. I saw where the branch was sheared in half. The "twang" sound was the arrow then deflecting off of his antlers. He was a decent 8-pointer. The one I've seen a couple of times before and the one I wanted.

No matter how I tried, I couldn't grunt him back in. He didn't want any part of me.

He then walked into the woods north of me and waltzed right into the carrots someone so kindly dumped 25 yards from my stand. (Funny, all this time I thought I had picked a perfect funnel site. ... I guess I did in the end!)

I've read where the big boys won't walk into bait piles but that's not what I witnessed here.

Anyway, while Mr. 8 munched away, in came another decently racked deer. After a couple of minutes, Mr. 8 and his competition, an OK 6-point, stared at each other and then clashed antlers. Very cool. I'd never seen that before live in the woods. And the new guy, was the winner. Mr. 8 then sauntered off.

At this point, it was 9-ish and I was wanting to get home and get some rest before I had to go to work later in the day. So buck watching was out. I either wanted a shot or him to walk off so I could get down.

I hit the Primos bleat can. Meaaaaahhhhhhh!!!! Meaaaaaahhhhhh!!!

And just like that, he picked up his head and moved out in front of me where I could get a shot.

I knew I connected but something wasn't quite right. The arrow popped right back out.

After a short run, he walked slowly into the field to my east about 75 yards away and stopped. I could tell he was hurting. I kept waiting on him to fall. Instead he walked to the other side and then laid down in the tall grass. I was thinking, This is good.

But no, he gets up again and then slips into the cover along the outside of the field.

I didn't trust what I saw. And from my 13 years of deer hunting, I knew this was one of those cases where I just had to walk away and give him time to expire.

It was either a liver shot or a paunch shot. After looking at the arrow, I remained suspicious. So I low-crawled into the field, grabbed my other arrow from the missed shot, gathered my gear and walked along the other side of the fence row where he wouldn't see my departure.

After a long night of work and restless sleep, I returned shortly after sunrise with recurve in hand and my quad loaded in back of the truck. The night was a cool one with frost. I knew that would get him for sure.

It was all good. He was right where I last saw him. Which meant I did the right thing by waiting, another "atta boy." But the best part was yet to come.

My doe drag through the farmer's soybeans 10 days ago nearly killed me. It took me four days for my joints to recover.

Now the beans were gone. The chilly wind even felt good in my face while racing across the semi frozen field on the four-wheeler.

I slipped the straps around him and had him back behind the truck in probably five minutes. Before I could even get worried about how I was going to get him loaded into the truck bed, the fertilyzer guys came pulling into the field.

"Need a hand?" the round truck driver asked while lighting and re-lighting a cigar of some sort.

"You know it," I replied.

And away I went, tallying my 11th multiple deer kill year out of 13 seasons.

I still want something bigger. Like I said he's an OK 6-point. What's somewhat humbling is he is my second-biggest buck ever antler-wise.

Plenty of season left this year for me to accomplish the goal. Maybe it won't happen this year. Regardless, I'm grateful for what God provided and I'm confident in time I'll get the trophy buck.

Meanwhile, it's back to reading my old Whitetail Strategies mag -- the one with the article that details how to read wounded deer -- and eating more backstrap and eggs.

(For pictures of my buck, see

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Pat on the back

Another spell was broken last night. Or actually this morning.

After an arduous track on a wounded deer, I took a doe with my bow.

It had been more than three years since I tasted archery success. I realize most state DNRs place hunter success rates at roughly somewhere between 8 percent to 15 percent. So I had nothing to be ashamed of. Plus, I had been trying out traditional equipment most of those years, which greatly cuts down on an archer's range.

But Saturday, Oct. 14, all was put to rest with a not so well-placed shot. I'm not sure why, but the arrow from my archaic 1994 Mountaineer hit back between the hind leg and the rib cage. Maybe a deflection. Maybe the bow's off. Or maybe just a bad shot in waning light.

I was going to check the bow's sighting at my backyard range today but ran out of time from having to cut up the 150-pounder. In fact, I didn't even get a chance to throw together "Mac's Work-fried Steak." A recipe I'll release one of these days on my online hunting magazine but not now. Booooooooo. Yeah, I know.

Anyway, back to the wayward bow hunt we go.

I released my last arrow at 7:10 p.m. (Yes, there had been two previous shots on this night: one at a buck who surprised me by coming over my right shoulder exactly in my proposed shooting lane while I was watching another buck across the field, and another at the doe I hit fatally with the last broadhead in my quiver.)

Thanks to ScentLok and curiosity, she came back. I shot and heard a thud! "I didn't miss that time," I said under my breath.

I figured it was a good hit, so after waiting out the remaining herd who seemed enamored with the buck urine I dumped under my stand, I climbed down after 15 minutes. Usually, I wait at least a half hour.

Two hours later, still into the tracking, I returned a call to my friend Walt of Dansville, who informed me the Tigers won the pennant and encouraged me to continue.

The pep talk from my old buddy did some good. After struggling to stay on the blood trail in the tall grassy field, the drops started to jump out on me. And I'll have to say right here, what a hero my Cabela's headlamp was in this. Without it, I'd been done. And I knew this much. So every minute that passed, I was waiting for the inevitable darkness but it never came.

The trail was going right to the woods to the north. Made sense later when I finally caught up to the bionic doe laying along a drainage ditch. Ye olde "they always go to water" saying being applied.

But before this, I ran into six white reflective eyes peering attentively at me. It was then I was worried about jumping this deer, and started questioning if I should go on. I continued to look for clues.

And it was here that I will give myself good marks for a change.

For some reason, these deer were not boogieing out of here. They were attached to something, which clicked on my "Spidey" sense. The deer must be piled up in here. I proceded ahead and immediately found spraying blood. This was good. The end must be near. Little did I know ...

Suddenly, up crashed a deer, and I heard it struggle ahead beyond my light's range. I looked down and saw where it had bedded down. It would have laid right here and died had I came back tomorrow, I whispered. Damn!

I decided to chance it based on how much blood there was on the ground. The shock has got to set in at some point is what I was thinking. And I really didn't want to wait because I've lost a deer I've left overnight to coyotes and it sucks.

The trail was easy to pick up again. And another 30 yards, there she was laying on the edge of the water. Finally! But wait, she's still alive. I slowly walked up on her and tried to jam one of my arrows into the boiler room.

That turned out to be a bad mistake. Up she jumped and into the water she went. I tried waiting her out but it was taking too long. I knew my fate. I was going to have to jump into the water after missing her again at point blank range.

Well, in trying to end this endurance tale, let's just say I got wet and the deer finally expired. But the worst was yet to come. That being the 500-yard deer drag back to my truck through the narrow path in the bean field, which ended at 12:22 a.m. -- five hours after I sent the arrow to its mark.

People, I'm getting too old for this. And I'm definitely investing in one of those game carts. This will work in the interlude until the guy's beans come down and I can drive my quad out to the back 40. I'm still aching.

But the deer ended up riding in the back of my Dodge, and I plan on having a midnight backstrap snack when I get home tonight so all's well.

For pictures and more articles like this one, log on to

Monday, October 09, 2006

Conflict of interest

OK, so I admit it. Instead of watching the Detroit Tigers decimate the hated New York Yankees in the American League Divisional Series, I went bowhunting.

Really wasn't that tough of decision, actually.

Friday afternoon, Oct. 6, while driving back from the family's favorite Chinese restaurant in Wadhams, my kids were staring out the back of the truck mesmerized by the nearly full moon hugging the treeline. So was I.

I made the decision right then and there to be peering at that harvest moon from a treestand at my new spot in Sanilac County the next evening.

And that's that.

I could hear the slight contempt in my friends' voices as they called my cell phone.

"Are you watching this?" Thad Lucken asked me not believing I wasn't.

"Uh, no. What's the score?" I whispered into the receiver.

"Three to nuthin', they're killin' them," Thad reported.

I then told him I was just getting set up for the evening show overlooking a wheat field, surrounded by a cornfield, soybeans and woods. The whole time I was thinking I musta died and went to heaven to get this opportunity.

"I'll call you later," Thad said and hung up.

Later, his brother Walt called and also wanted to rave about those fanatastic boys from the Motor City.

Again, I concurred in a hush but I don't think Walt could hear me all that well and he, too, said he would call me back.

I wasn't a total smuck. I did make a special trip to Meijer to buy a transitor radio because I did want to keep tabs on the game but I was fairly confident the series was in the bag.

Derek Jeter hanging his head after taking a foul tip strike three in the 8th inning during the second game with a man on was all I needed to see. The whole Yankee team was waiting for their leader to bail them out one more time. It didn't happen.

I had so much stuff going on in the tree I almost wasn't sure if I could get the radio to work. Switching the grunt call out of one pocket, moving the dominant buck urine bottle into my pack from the other, and then slipping the bow onto the hook all the while trying to stay quiet, but somehow I managed to clip the radio on my belt and find the station with the headphones firmly clamped over my camo cap.

Once I heard the score was 7-0 in the fifth inning, I hurrily undid everything and ditched the radio and headphones. That was good enough for me. Deer it seemed were closing in, and I was getting too antsy.

In the end, I ran out of time. The deer didn't come out into the fields until dark. One buck busted me, or I think he did. He was blowing big time behind me but he never did go crashing away like they do when they get spooked. He might have been irritated at what he thought was an intruder but was really the tarsal gland I set out on a log. (This also could be wishful thinking on my part.)

But that's what happens when you've got a million things goin' on and are rushing out the door to catch the moon (and a buck), the Scent-Lok suit gets left behind in the garage.

For more articles like this one and pictures, log on to

Monday, October 02, 2006

Broken arrow

"It's the sh---- part of bowhunting," Walt Lucken assured me.

That it was.

I stared at the blood-spattered wooden shaft, snapped in two, exhausted and finally ready to give in. Seven hours after shooting the young buck, it was obvious we weren't going to find him. Not today at least.

Maybe later in the season, we'll stumble across him on the Ingham County farmland we hunt, possibly during pheasant season, or during a deer drive when gun season is in. But not on this bright blue-skied day.

The warm midafternoon autumn sun was beating down on my neck as I pondered how the whitetail could run so far with a 145-grain broadhead stuck inside of its body, along with the rest of the arrow shaft. Just couldn't be so. I just thought for sure when I first found the remnant he left broken leaning up against a sapling that I would be eating backstrap later in the evening.

Losing a deer is a taboo topic but sooner or later it happens to us all who hunt the crafty ruminants. Sometimes they defy all logic, as it was in this case.

Thankfully, I had a friend along to help save me from myself.

It just came down to Walt saying, "What more can we do?" Otherwise, I might still be out there looking. Yet, he was right. We followed the blood trail to the last spot and began circling from there, following all possible routes from where the blood stopped at a two track going toward the adjoining property. We went along the creek on the other side of the two track, then double-backed behind my stand where I thought I heard dragging sounds an hour and half after the shot. Those noises are what initially caused me to climb down and begin the search. But we never found another trace of blood or clue as to which way he went.

My final assumption is the shot only hit one lung, which allowed the deer to keep on moving down the two track out of the county.

Being it was opening day, I know there should be other opportunities. However, I'm now questioning the two-bladed broadheads I was using since the blood trail petered out so quickly. So, tonight, an order went out to 3Rivers Archery for a three-blade one.

The coyotes must of enjoyed a good meal on me last night. That's all I can say now.

(For pictures and more articles like this, see