Sometimes luck beats doing everything right

yoderjac

5 year old buck +
I have a buddy who is a great turkey hunter. Much of his hunting has been on a military base that has a prioritized checkout system. His status often made it difficult for him to get a pass in a gun area, so he took up crossbow hunting for turkey and became quite proficient at it. The archery-only areas on base generally had passes available. He recently retired and thought he might like to try crossbow hunting for deer and asked for my help to get started.

Last year, I took him out on the farm and put him in an elevated ground blind. He made a great shot on a mature doe and we had a fairly easy blood trail. I did all of the field dressing, skinning, quartering, and butchering with him watching each step and participating some in the butchering. This year, he wanted to come to the farm and do all the processing himself with me watching.

I was hunting in a another box blind where I could watch my cell phone for text messages from him. I got a message that he had shot another mature doe. He said it looked like a good 20 yard broadside shot. I texted back that he should wait in the box blind until I got there. I wanted to go through the process with him step by step since it was only his second deer. I headed back to camp first and changed out of my hunting clothes and put on coveralls for tracking. I then headed out to his box blind. I figured that regardless of the shot, this would be enough time to evaluate the shot and at least look for first blood.

When I got there, he was gone. He had taken his jeep and driven up a trail where he thought the deer was driving over potential blood trail area depending on the deer's path. He had already retrieved the arrow but had not marked the impact site. The ONE thing he did do right was that he mentally marked the tree where the deer left the field and ran into the pine, so we at least had a starting point. When we linked up by phone, he told me that he had already left before he got my text to wait for me. We finally got together. I took a look at the arrow, it was covered in paunch. I was hoping the deer had been quartering rather than broadside and he had gone through both paunch and vitals. We went to the tree and found some water blood. There was some blood trail and it was lightly drizzling. As we were following it, he told me that he saw the deer stop inside the pines and then slowly walk off. I'm now concerned we have a paunch shot deer and may be pushing it, but I figured since he had already driven there, if the deer was still alive it had already been pushed. I figured we would slowly continue until we found where it had laid down, mark it, and then go back later.

Fortunately, the deer had died before he got to it. The deer was broadside. Both entry and exit wounds were about a foot behind the vitals. By now, that was not much of a surprise, but the next thing was. It was a spike buck! Not a tiny spike, but about 8" or so an they were starting to curve. The top of one was broken off. In the low light he missed the spikes in an open field at 20 yards.

So, we were lucky and recovered the deer even breaking all the rules. I tried to make it clear just how lucky we were. It was a very long night. It took him almost 3 hours to get the deer dressed, skinned, and quartered. The shot was taken at 1845 and we did not leave the farm until 2245.

By the end of the night, he was rethinking his decision to learn to hunt deer. I assured him that once you catch on to the process and develop some skill at it, it only takes an hour or so to get a deer dressed, skinned, and quartered. He plans to try butchering this one by hand with a knife. I'm guessing he may just field dress deer in the future and take them to a processor.

When I met him for lunch today, his attitude had brightened quite a bit. He was amazed at how much work it is getting a deer to the table compared to a turkey.

By the way, he did not make a single mistake that I have not made. Mine were made one or two at a time over many years. He compressed all of his into a single compact learning experience. I think he learned a lot and left pretty happy! While he did not get a shot, he also saw lots of turkeys!

Thanks,

Jack
 

yoderjac

5 year old buck +
My buddy is an excellent shot as he has killed his share of gobblers with a crossbow. How could he miss by a foot at a much larger target at 20 yards? He understands turkey and their behavior very well, be not deer. When to release an arrow only comes from experience. My guess is that his shot placement was perfect. He simply did not factor deer demeanor into his release. I'm guessing that from the time his brain said "release" until the arrow arrived, the deer had stepped forward.

I got a bunch of texts from him tonight with questions as he butchered it with just a knife. In the end he said that next time he will take it to a butcher, but the experience of doing it once was well worth it.

I think if you have a butcher that you are satisficed with and they give you access to their cooler 24/7 (unless you have your own), and you are only dealing with one or two deer a year, it may well be worth the cost.

Here in zone 7A, it can be 80+ degrees during archery season and we have high bag limits on does and are deer are generally pretty small. It is not uncommon for me to process over 5 deer a year, and I'm a bit particular about my meet. So I invested in the processing tools necessary to make processing deer much easier and more efficient. With my own reach-in coolers, I don't have to worry about taking a deer to a butcher at 2 AM after a long blood trail. And probably the most important point for me is that my wife's dad was a butcher and he died young. She finds helping me butcher nostalgic and doesn't mind at all.

Thanks,

Jack
 
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