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Ladder Stand

Early bow season is a great time to go deer hunting.  The weather is usually pleasant and the wildlife is active.  Leaves are still on the trees and nuts are beginning to fall. Not only are the squirrels busy gathering nuts, but it is the time when deer are least fearful of people.  During such a hunt in early October, I was hunting with a crossbow  in a ladder stand overlooking a flat.  There were several deer trails crossing the flat which would make for a good broadside shot should one decide to use one of them.  The property was adjacent to Wayne National Forest in an area where there is a lot of food for wildlife and deer are plentiful.  As a result, hunting pressure can be high at times during the year, driving the big bucks deep into the woods.  However, during bow season, there are few hunters and the deer aren't afraid to roam freely to find food and does.


I was staying in a rustic cabin with a Coleman lantern for light and a wood stove for heat.  The temperature was near perfect without rain in the forecast for several days.  On the first morning, I set an alarm and got up about an hour and a half before daylight. That gave me time to get dressed and have coffee before heading out.  The walk to the stand was a bit rough as the terrain was hilly with some underbrush.  I followed an old pipe line and turned off to go around a hill to the stand in a large oak tree at the edge of the flat.  As I walked toward the stand, I heard a noise about 50 yards to my right but could not see what was making it since it was still quite dark.  The morning in the stand passed quite uneventfully with an occasional squirrel or chipmunk making noise similar to a deer walking.  I went back in the afternoon to hunt until near sunset.  Again, I did not see a deer, even though it was certainly possible that a deer could have gone by the stand without me seeing it since it was difficult to see with most of the leaves still on the trees.


The second morning was similar to the first.  I took the same route to the stand and again I heard a noise to my right that was possibly a deer walking but no other sounds identifying it as a deer.  I was able to get into the stand without making very much noise.  Around 9:00 am, I saw two deer that appeared to be does but they were too far for a bow shot.  They were on a trail and stayed on it until they went over the edge of a hill. I made a couple of grunts with my deer call and waited a few minutes to see if I'd get a response. Even though it is not a recommended practice, I usually carry an apple and some roasted peanuts with me to the hunting stand.  At around 10:00, I started eating the peanuts.  All of a sudden, something caught my attention moving through the underbrush.  About all I could see was this gigantic white rack moving through the thick bush in front of me.  It was wide with very long tines.  Needless to say my heart rate went up.  I kept thinking to myself, "I don't want to rush the shot and miss.  I've got to wait until I get a good broadside shot."


The deer was walking slowly across in front of me but stayed in thick brush.  I slowly moved my crossbow into position for a shot. The deer didn't see the movement.  The buck stopped.  I could see it clearly but there was brush between me and him.  I knew if I shot I would most likely hit some brush, so I waited. The deer laid down.  Its body was not visible any more but I could still see that large rack as it turned its head to survey the area for danger.   My closest pin on my crossbow was set for about 26 yards.  I had used a range finder and knew the distance to several trees but not exactly in that location.  I estimated that it was about 26 to 28 yards from me.  There was no way I could shoot the deer with it lying down.  My arms were getting tired so I slowly moved my crossbow down to rest it on the stand.  I waited and waited until the buck got up.  It was broadside and there was a small opening through the brush.  I thought if I continue to wait the deer may walk away through the brush and I will not get a shot.  I concluded that I could shoot through the opening and decided to take the shot.  I raised the crossbow, aimed and pulled the trigger.   The deer jumped and ran a few yards and stopped.  He looked around to see what was after him but didn't see me up in the stand.  After a few minutes, he started walking toward where he was lying down but ended up going over the edge of the hill and out of sight.  The deer didn't act like he was hit.  I couldn't believe I let him get away.  How could I have missed at that distance?  I took out my range finder and checked the distance where he was when I shot.  It was about 30 yards.  I had misjudged the distance by a few yards.   I sat there for about 15 minutes before climbing down.  I walked over to where he was lying down.  Their were a few drops of blood on the ground and a little more where he was standing after the shot.  There was not enough blood to track him.  It was obvious that I had not mortally wounded him.  I must have under shot and barely grazed him.  By staying in the thick brush, aided by my underestimating the distance, he outwitted me and most likely became a trophy for another hunter.
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