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2017 Indiana Doe – A Tough Recovery

The high temperatures so far this season has made it less than enjoyable to be in a tree, and makes it difficult to get setup without breaking into a sweat.  As a result, several of my early season hunts came to a sudden close due to deer catching my wind.  I knew it was time to give my small farm in Ohio a rest so my kids and I packed up and headed to my dad’s place in SE Indiana.

Our first night out was warm, just like it had been the past few weeks. It was my daughters first deer hunt, and we were excited to be out together despite the tall odds.  We hunted a new box blind overlooking a bean field that had been overtaken with weeds.  Despite the weeds taking over, Dad had still been seeing a lot of deer in the area.  We ended up having a few close calls with a doe or two towards the end of the evening, but due to the height of the weeds, I didn’t feel comfortable taking the 40 yard shot I was presented with.  We elected to just observe and take in the scenery.

The next morning the temperatures were finally starting to resemble those of fall, and I decided to hunt a stand that I knew would be great for shooting a doe.  I got settled in well before daylight and waited patiently for the sun to begin to creep up over the hillside.  The first hour was pretty slow, I saw several turkeys, a few squirrels, and a raccoon, but the deer seemed to have other plans.  Finally, at about 8:00 AM, I heard footsteps approaching my tree. I looked up through the limbs on a cedar tree between me and the sound, and I could just barely make out a deer slipping through the underbrush.  I grabbed my bow and turned on my camera just in time to see 3 more deer approaching behind the first one.  As they drew nearer, they suddenly began to act a little nervous and staring back down the hill from the direction they had just come.  A moment later, a little spike buck came trotting up the hill and began harassing the group.  It only lasted for a few seconds, but it got my blood pumping in anticipation of the rut.

After he had his fun, he began feeding about 20 yards away from me which allowed the rest of the deer to settle down.  As they continued on the direction they were going, I thought I was going to have to let them walk as I didn’t have a great shot to the right of my stand.  Thankfully, another doe had come up the hill during all the commotion, and instead of following the other deer, she broke off and began walking right into one of my shooting lanes.  I quickly got in place, and after making sure my camera was in a good position, I came to full draw waiting for the doe to walk out.  And wait is what I did. I waited more, and more, and more for what seemed like an eternity.  I finally had to let my bow down.  For a few seconds, I thought the doe was going to turn back the way she had come and follow the rest of the deer out to my right. After a brief hesitation she stepped into the opening.  For the second time, I quickly came to full draw.  I settled my pin, and released.  I saw my Firenock disappear through the deer’s midsection, and I could tell right away that I hit her a little farther back than I wanted.  However, I knew it would still be a fatal shot.

I could just barely catch glimpses of her through the trees after she ran off.  I could tell by the way she was acting that she was hurt bad, but to my amazement she doubled back and headed up the hill slowly walking off in the direction she had come from.  I kept an eye on her for as long as I could until I finally lost sight of her for good through the dense early season foliage.  I decided to review my shot on the camera and see exactly where I had hit her.  As expected, the shot was back, but it was not the first time I had hit a deer in that area, and usually they expired fairly quickly.  As a precaution, I decided to give her a few hours before taking up the search.

When I finally got down and checked my arrow, it confirmed what I had already seen on the camera footage.  Dark blood was indicative of a liver shot, and there were signs of bile on the arrow shaft.  I cautiously took up the trail, keeping an arrow knocked the whole time just in case.  The blood trail was good for about 40 yards, but then it vanished.  I ended up finding a few small drops near the spot I last saw her, but this was definitely not going to be an easy track job.  I decided to text my dad and had him come down to assist.  Despite our best efforts, after an hour of searching, we had found zero new blood, and no sign of the deer.  I was completely disgusted with myself, and a small part of me kept screaming to just give up.  I knew that deer had to be down, and I could not give up the search.  On a hunch, I decided to head down the hill in the direction she was headed right after the shot, before she turned back to my right.  There is a well-worn trail leading down in the opposite direction she was going when I last saw her.  I started down the trail, and after making it only 60 yards down the trail, I came up on her bedded down.  She was only 10 yards from me, and the fact that she did not get up and run told me that she hit hard.  I quickly put a follow-up shot on her and the search was over.

To say I was relieved was an understatement.  I had never before had this much trouble trailing a deer, and it was a great learning experience for me.  No matter how bleak things looked, I knew that I had to keep searching knowing there was no way this deer could survive the initial shot.  In the end, it turns out that the entry and exit holes had been blocked up by her intestines, which stopped the blood from exiting her body cavity.  Even though this hunt didn’t go exactly as I hoped, I was extremely thankful I was able to recover my deer and avoid having the meat go to waste.

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