So after ten years of wishing, wanting and hoping, I finally harvested a deer with archery tackle! And to boot, it was with my Yew selfbow and self arrows from this summers past workshop with RavenBeak Natureworks! This dream was a decade in the making, but this was the first deer I ever shot an arrow at, and I feel so overwhelmed with gratitude that this animal presented itself, and allowed me to use him to feed my family
I was out at the farm where I have hunted for years. Deer populations are huge around there. Being Columbia Blacktail, they are supremely weary, and it is hard to find bucks. Does are a dime a dozen, but trying to get past all those eyes, ears and noses is tough man! I have taken several deer from this place in the past with a shotgun, however I have grown tired of packing around a heavy cold "machine", for the warmth and natural feel of a stickbow. Two years ago I built myself a maple board bow, from info gleaned from various sites, and YouTube. The bow worked! I never backed it and was so happy that I was able to have something to practice with. This past spring I almost went to a wheelie bow, due to marketing of mainstream hunting media. When face to face with one, I just couldn't do it. Too heavy, cold, with no life to it. Upon this revelation I decided that I would use that coin and join RavenBeak Natureworks bow building workshop. I had a wonderful time during that four day immersion, making a bow for hunting, along with a dozen bamboo arrows. 66" American Flatbow, drawing 52# at 28", smooth to draw, crisp release and hard hitting arrows. No hand shock, lightweight and beautiful.
Hunting season was upon us. I was packing a fiberglass recurve for the first few weeks, as it was the bow I practiced most with all summer. I had some close opportunities but no shots. "Naka" was beginning to call my name. I took her out for a stumpshoot with my brother-in-law over the weekend, and I was much impressed with my ability with the weapon. I decided that "Naka" would join me on my next hunt.
I reached my stand location, hunting on the ground, in a small grove of trees. A setup less than ten yards where deer frequently enter on to the field to eat. Several hours passed with many deer on the field 60 yards and further away, no chance to stalk them. As darkness neared, I was beginning to think tonight wasn't the night. Suddenly, something made me turn around, a feeling. Low and behold, a small deer was curious of me, and began walking towards me from the rear. The wind was perfect for my set, and he kept working towards me. At first I thought it a fawn, until I saw the spikes on its head. Turning around in my stool, I readied for the shot. My heart raced. I came to half draw and he went broadside at less than 5 yards, and quickly went behind a tree, only to emerge out the other side. I saw a rib, came to anchor and released. I never saw the arrow flight, only the deer take off like a rocket, and I was left thinking "WTF just happened"?
I came out of my hole to check for blood. Nothing. Arrow? Nope. Crap, did I miss? How could I miss such a close shot. I am not the best archer, but I can hold my own inside ten yards, and I was certain I came to full anchor. I looked and looked for sign. I called my pal who was hunting on a different field to come help me. It was getting very dark now. We searched and searched, no sign at all. Disapointed and resigned to the fact I missed, the night was called off, with the plan to return in the morning to look in the light. So many emotions ran through my mind on the drive home and that evening. I dreamt about the shot, vividly seeing the deers rib, but never recalling the arrows flight. A tough sleep to be sure, and an uneasy feeling about heading back to the farm.
As I ready to leave the next morning, I said to my wife "You know he is going to be laying on the field, with the arrow still in him", and I half believed myself. Could it be? Driving back out, trying to keep my level of expectations low and realistic, my stomach was in knots. Pulling into the same field where the shot happened, I slowly drove in, checking the field for any sign at all. It had rained that evening, so chance of finding blood were pretty slim. I had gotten to about where my friend had parked the night before, and what is that in the field? My deer!!! Holy smokes! I was thrilled! I did do it. All my self doubt was instantly released, replaced with confidence and pride. I called my wife, took some pictures and sent messages to my hunting buddies, before getting to work. The arrow was in fact still in the deer. It had entered the in the front shoulder, just missing all the bone, slipping between two ribs and exited out just behind the last rib on the opposite side, just clipping the gut. He had gone about 40 yards before expiring. It was no wonder there was no blood. When I released the deer was broadside, but must have turned slightly to quarter to me. Broadside the Zwicky would have punched straight through, leaving me lots of blood to follow. The body cavity was full of coagulated blood. The deer certainly died quickly, and if I had looked the direction he ran once out of the trees, would have seen his death kicks. Field dressing a rigored deer was a challenge, got him loaded and headed for home.
The drive home was a reflection on the lessons learned from the hunt and recovery. Always ignore the self doubt is a huge one. Approach the shot follow-up like the deer is dead, not instantly thinking the shot was a miss. Not finding blood or an arrow means nothing. Also, while not wanting to pursue a wounded animal quickly, try to see where it might have gone. If this deer had left the field and went into the woods, he would have been bird food, I may never have found it. And finally, making and hunting with your own homemade equipment is so fun and rewarding. Most of my equipment was self made, including my bow, arrows, quiver and leather armguard. Out of respect for the deer I will not post any grip and grin pictures. I feel blessed to join the ancient fraternity of bowyers and hunters who do it the hard way to gather food for their families. Thank for reading!