By Matthew Wingenbach
-- The 2008 North Dakota archery season started in my basement. As my excitement grew and my deer sausage supply dwindled, I started going over all my shooting equipment, calls, and glassing gear. I also began day dreaming about getting my first deer with a bow.
I had bowhunted for years with out harvesting a deer with archery equipment. Any deer, buck or doe, taken this way would make me wildly happy.
On Sept. 4,. I rushed from work to the Missouri river bottoms. After setting up a tree stand and getting into it, I didn’t expect to see much that first evening. At least I was out and setting my plans into action.
An hour into the hunt, I watched a small buck enter the clearing my stand overlooked. Trouble was, the deer was on the far side of a tree row, safe from my arrow. I tried to call him closer, but he never even looked in my direction.
Minutes later, a doe came into the clearing. I gave her some time, and her two fawns stepped out to join her. I watched the doe eat, and the fawns ended up right below me. One stretched its neck to get a leaf on the tree I was in. The fawn froze when it saw me looking back at it. The two fawns then nervously made their way back to mom, and the three of them left.
Another doe stepped into the clearing about 30 minutes later. I waited to see if she had any fawns with her, but she didn’t. When she turned and offered a broadside shot, I drew my bow, steadied the aim and released my arrow.
It was then that I realized one important pre-season detail that I’d missed” My arrow hit a small branch and landed right at the doe’s feet. It will be a long time before I forget to clear a shooting lane.
The next afternoon, I sat in the stand for about an hour and a half before a doe peeked into the clearing, too one look and bolted. Her reaction was as if there was a sign pointing straight at me.
Twenty minutes later, a thunderstorm moved in. Realizing that being 15 feet up in a tree isn’t the best way to avoid being struck by lightning, I decided to call it a night.
I decided to wait about a week before heading out again. I didn’t want to overhunt the spot that I’d set up. It was perfect, and I was worried about putting too much pressure on it.
When Monday Sept. 15 rolled around, I was excited. The plan was for me to run out of my 5 p.m. meeting and head out to hunt. I remember thinking, “It’s a full moon tonight. Wouldn’t it be something to see some bucks in the clearing?”
My meeting ran late, and I left work at 5:30 p.m. I raced to grab my stuff, but forgot my hat, boot socks and camera.
At 7:35 p.m., a buck walked by the stand, just out of range. He returned, though, and stood and looked at me for about 10 minutes. In the meantime, I tried to calm my nerves.
Then I heard a noise to my left. Another buck came into the clearing and stopped 22 yards from me. Slowly, I got ready to shoot. When I came to full draw, the buck looked up right at me.
I rested the pin on his vitals and squeezed my release. THWACK! My arrow passed through the rib cage.
I watched the buck jump and run into the woods. When I couldn’t see him through the trees anymore, I took a deep breath and reached to pull my face mask down. That’s when I heard the unmistakable sound of a buck crashing. I got down out of the stand and saw that there was a nice blood trail.
I called a friend to help me track the deer. The blood trail was heavy at first, but then began to taper off. I began to worry that we wouldn’t recover the buck. Plus, it was getting dark.
But soon the blood trail got heavy again. My friend turned to me with a smile, and said congratulations! We’d found the buck.
The arrow had passed through both lungs, a perfect shot, and the buck didn’t quite travel 80 yards.
I was overcome with joy. After bowhunting for years, I finally got my first deer, and it was a buck to boot. The memory of that hunt will last a lifetime.
-- Matthew Wingenbach