Bow hunting for deer can become quite a complicated process.
Deer hunting from a tree stand requires long, sometimes excruciating hours of waiting. Not surprisingly bow hunters miss an embarrassing number of deer each year due to inattentiveness, reading, and even falling asleep.
I almost missed a good buck this week because of my smart phone. Just as the sun was setting - at the time everyone should be totally alert for deer movement - I was checking messages, emails, and working on my column. To my surprise, four deer silently walked straight toward me, just 20 yards away, hardly rustling the dry leaves that are usually my distant early warning system.
I quickly stuffed the phone in my pocket and sighted just behind the front shoulder of the lead deer, instinctively blurting out a grunt to stop it in its tracks and take a broadside shot. The arrow flew true, willed to do so by virtue of thousands of practice shots. The Rage broadhead sliced straight through its heart. A couple more seconds of inattentiveness, though, and I would have missed my chance entirely.
And then the work began, tracking spots of blood in the dark until we found where it fell. Deer hunting is a drag - literally - whenever you're successful. This deer ran about 80 yards downhill, dead on its feet, into the thickest brush. It would be a quarter-mile haul of 150 pounds of deadweight back to our truck. I'm fortunate my son is my hunting partner. We used our plastic ice-fishing Jet Sled to drag it out. Though it helped, a quarter-mile of deer dragging is brutal, especially over logs, boulders, stone walls, and up hills. Older deer hunters who aren't careful and can't use an ATV risk ruptured discs and heart attacks this time of year. Much unappreciated effort goes into putting delicious venison on the table.
The bucks' monomaniacal sniffing for female estrus pheromones now can be their undoing. This is the fifth consecutive November I've had luck attracting a good buck using a drag scent of fresh doe-in-estrus urine from Mrs. Doe Pee. It came refrigerated and shipped overnight. It cost more than the urine attractants stored for long periods on store shelves, but it works especially well because of its freshness. This latest buck came in hot, literally tracing with its nose the very route of the soaked scent cloth I dragged on a string behind me.
Over the years, I've had much luck with Slick Tricks, Muzzy, Spitfire and Rage broadheads. The latter recently won me over, the two-blade version opening incredible wound channels, making tracking much easier and kills much quicker.
A few archers have complained that these broadheads, which depend on a tiny O-ring for their functioning, open prematurely on occasion, flying or penetrating erratically when they do. Rage has just addressed that problem with a new, inexpensive option - shock collars that can be applied at the O-ring, giving it just a bit more resistance to opening so performance is dependable.
With the help of some local woodchucks, earlier in the season I tested Rage's new 100-grain, two-blade Chisel-Tip broadhead. Its stainless steel tip is spiral shaped for a tighter helical flight, providing superb accuracy. Its unique, slip-cam, rear-deploying blades produce huge cutting diameters, deep penetration, and accuracy similar to target arrows with field points. Little energy is lost as the blades open. This broadhead is superior to its predecessor. It was devastating on the second deer I shot this season.
The buck was noisily crashing through branches, running ahead of a second buck. It stopped 20 yards from my stand with just enough of an opening for a clear shot. The arrow hit that three-inch pocket behind the front shoulder where heart and lungs are positioned. The arrow passed straight through.
The big buck ran only 20 yards, stopped, looked around for a moment, seemingly oblivious to being hit. He wobbled briefly and went straight down. This kind of quick kill is what we always hope for - the kind that comes from taking only close shots that you know you can make 10 times out of 10.
Hail-Mary shots aren't fair to the game we so highly respect. Taking only good shots means there is neither meat-tainting adrenaline that can enter the system of a far-running, wounded deer, nor a lengthy tracking problem that can result in the discouraging loss and waste of our prey, which can wind up in the maws of coyotes rather than on the table of our family.
Cutting up a deer properly into steaks, stew meat, ground meat and sausage is time-consuming work. I always recommend a hunter do the job himself, when possible, if only to better understand his prey and more adequately appreciate every morsel of delicious nutrition the animal has provided.
Worcester bow hunter Bashar Agha prefers, like many local hunters, to processes his deer himself. To avoid back injury, he uses winches to load a deer into his truck and to hang it for dressing in his garage. Agha has even built his own one-horsepower meat-grinding machine, comparable to models being sold in Cabela's and Bass Pro Shops.
Sometime, though, dressing a deer out late at night after a long, tiring drag out of the woods or dealing with high temperatures can be a problem. At those times, Agha, like many other local hunters, delivers his deer to Ronald Jette on Northwest Road in Spencer (telephone (508) 885-5831 or firstname.lastname@example.org). Jette has been butchering deer for 39 years in a business started by his father. Everyone has only good things to say about Jette's work.
Expect to pay $75 to have a small deer dressed - more if extra time is spent removing silver fascia and grizzle, and vacuum-packing it all. It's time for us bow hunters to share our bounty - but only with those who appreciate and deserve it.
Today - Worcester County League of Sportsmen's Clubs meeting, 7-8 p.m. at the Harvard Sportsmen's Club, 250 Littleton County Road, Harvard.
Tomorrow - Leicester Rod & Gun Club sporting clays, 9 a.m. every Saturday. Info: John Martin (508) 754-9060.
Tomorrow and Sunday - NRA Basic Range Safety Officer Course, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Nauset Rod & Gun Club, sponsored by the Gun Owners Action League. Call Angela Fisher at (508) 393-533, ext. 20, for reservations.
Sunday - Turkey shoot, 1 p.m., Eight Point Sportsman's Club, 147 Beaman Road, Sterling. Info: Bob Thomas, trap committee: email@example.com.
Monday - NORCO Sportsmen's Club, trap range open, 6:30 to 9 p.m. every Monday.
Wednesday - Barre Sportsmen's Club trap shooting, 7:30 p.m. every Wednesday, 2221 Spring Hill Road, Barre. Info: (978) 355-4643.
Thursday - Trapping season ends for fisher. Pelt sealing required.
Thursday - Trap and skeet shooting, 6 to 9 p.m. every Thursday at the Nimrod League of Holden, Coal Kiln Road, Princeton. Outdoors calendar