By Ken Pekarek Sr.
I live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and have a hunting camp along the Dickinson/Iron county line. My younger brother Mike comes up from Illinois to hunt with me.
Mike had neck surgery and couldn’t get around the woods very well, so we constructed a sturdy and warm blind for him. On opening day of the 2006 firearms season, he was sitting in his blind and noticed a big deer moving through the hardwoods. He could tell it was a big deer and had a nice thick rack.
As the buck moved into an opening, he hesitated for a second Mike caught a fleeting look at the rack. It had 8 points and heavy beams. Mike had his 7mm-08 ready and shot just as the deer jumped forward. The deer hunched, but kept moving, picking up speed as he fled.
Mike called me on the walkie-talkie. He said he’d hit a pretty good deer and needed some help.
I found Mike in the hardwoods looking at a bloody deer bed. He said he made a mistake in going after the deer too soon. It had bedded only about a hundred feet from where it had been standing at the shot. Now it was up and moving, and what little snow we had was melting fast in the 40-degree air.
We discussed our options. Because of the fading snowfall, a sparse blood trail and the thick country into which the deer seemed to be heading, we decided to track it slowly.
I got on the trail while Mike eased along nearby, watching ahead for any movement. I was moving from blood drop to drop at about 10 foot intervals.
We trailed the buck into bigger timber, where I knew we’d be crossing some pretty good deer trails. Near a rise, we cut across several good runs, and it became almost impossible to pick up and follow the trail. We’d traveled almost 3/4 of a mile, and it was getting warmer and the sign more bleak.
I decided to take a major run and follow it back west. After 100 yards, I spotted another good patch of blood. A few hundred yards farther, the deer crossed a logging road and continued heading west. This country is roadless, with plenty of good places for deer to hide.
It was now close to 1:30 p.m. Mike and I agreed to stop pushing the buck so it would bed. We went home.
I was in my stand at dawn the next morning. Mike left his stand around 7:30 to pick up where we’d left off. About 45 minutes later, he called to tell me he’d found the buck. It was on a small ridge about 50 yards from where we’d quit the previous day.
It was a huge 10-pointer. We dragged it to the logging road and hauled it back to camp. The deer dressed out at 193 pounds. The processor said it was the biggest buck he’d handled that season. Mike had the buck mounted by a local taxidermist, and it hangs in camp today. It rivals some of the Canadian bucks that friends have taken from Ontario.
We were lucky to get this deer. The bullet had entered farther back than Mike initially thought, but it angled forward and passed through the offside lung. It was lethal, but not instantly so.
In retrospect, we shouldn’t have tried to recover the animal so soon. It was a hard choice to make, and decisions are always easier in afterthought. It is one more hunting lesson learned.