Go ahead, pick up a bow and arrow and try to kill a deer. Guaranteed, they'll make you feel foolish.
Is your ego a little big?
A bit cocky after a long summer?
Had a good year last year in the deer woods?
Here's a slice of humble pie with all the toppings.
Go ahead, pick up a bow and arrow and try to kill a deer.
Guaranteed, they'll make you feel foolish.
Make you talk to yourself.
Say nasty things.
Every year it seems, history repeats.
There are two types of deer hunters, those that are humble and those that are about to be humbled.
1. Buck comes sneaking in.
2. I see him at the last minute, in a bad position.
3. My heart starts knocking, knees begin shaking, breathing comes in little, interrupted gasps, thoughts blow around in my head like maple leaves in a strong wind.
4. Panic builds in the bones.
5. Bow is drawn.
6. Arrow "just misses" deer.
7. And I call myself worse names than I ever called a dog.
So here's another "crying towel."
It's long, and I'm tossing the one end to you while I cry on the other.
On a late afternoon down on a Pennsylvania ridge last week, a group of does and two little sub-legal bucks came out into a green meadow below this bowhunter's treestand.
Bowhunters enjoy these shows and watch the antics and behavior of whitetails.
The little bucks, both four-pointers, "forks" minus brow tines, began pushing and shoving and taking a break to occasionally scent-check the various and sundry aspects of the opposite gender nearest them.
As the whitetail show unfolded below, a subtle and different noise in the leaves from behind elevated and separated itself from the normal "background chatter" of wind, falling leaves and tiny critters of the forest floor.
It was the "crunch, crunch, crunch. ..." A steady cadence in the leaves. And with each crunch, each one, imperceptibly louder.
Now most spectators to this frustrating sport would think that we bowhunters would feel elated to know a big buck is coming in.
But on the contrary, experienced hunters know that it's showtime. And the time to be happy and excited is only when the arrow hits the mark and the deer is found and rolled over.
Eyes strained sideways and saw the white-racked eight-pointer steadily walking toward the treestand, from behind.
"Crunch, crunch," got steadily louder.
Even though the rut had just started its preliminary preludes yet, his neck was swollen.
An older deer. His gut hung down. Wasn't "tucked up" like a race horse or a younger buck.
But couldn't shoot because the tree trunk was in the way.
The buck came to a stop 10 feet from the base of the big maple.
Stood there like a statue.
White around his eyes. Long lashes.
Didn't dare breathe.
"Uhhhhhghk." A soft grunt as he watched the little bucks and the does.
Outwardly, I was like the tree.
Inside, my emotions were pounding, cascading, stopping and then roaring.
All of a sudden, the buck bounded into the field, making a show, an intended dramatic entrance.
I grunted at him to stop.
He finally did at 30 yards, the outer limits of my shooting range.
The arrow flew harmlessly an inch under his chest.
"Stupid, stupid, stupid!" And groans.
And the awful refrain, "How could I have missed?!"
"How? how? HOW?"
And the buck meanwhile, completely unconcerned and oblivious, was totally involved in his thing, (i.e. the female deer and little rival bucks). They chased each other around and were having a great time.
And just at the peak of my frustration, a noise. Well, almost a noise.
Sounds like another buck coming.
The telltale sound: "Crunch, crunch, crunch" in the leaves of a preoccupied buck.
I looked over my shoulder and saw another eight-pointer, on exactly the same trail as the other just moments before, and coming right at me.
This buck was bigger, darker, higher rack. Another eight-pointer.
Looked up at the sky.
"Thank you, Lord of Second Chances!"
And this buck stood 10 feet away, exactly where the other buck had so recently stood. I looked at him and watched his head and nose move slightly from side-to-side, watching the other deer in the field.
"Get ready. OK. And this time when he runs out, grunt loud to stop him in the field for a shot," I thought to myself.
But at that moment, as quick as a thought, - quicker, the buck bounded into the field.
"Ugggghhhh." He kept running.
"Oh, no, louder!"
"UGGGGHgh!!" He stopped, almost 30 yards out.
But with the shooter completely frazzled, shaking badly, and mentally toasted, the arrow had no chance. Too many waves of adrenaline and bad karma.
"Thhhhhunk," went the arrow into the ground like the other.
Beyond frustration is a weird place.
There were still two arrows left in my quiver.
I could use one on myself, but then I would probably miss!
But there is always more wry humor (not to be confused with the rye kind we find in a bottle) to console ourselves with on the long walk back to the truck at dusk, "They weren't the biggest bucks I've ever missed, nor the closest, so what's the big deal?"
Contact Oak Duke at email@example.com.