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Decisions, Decisions

EdwardsBy William Edwards

-- I got up at 4:00, made coffee, ate an oatmeal square and headed to where I had left my climber the night before. The forecast was for fog in the morning with clouds breaking up in the afternoon. The fog was thick, and I could only see about 10 yards. I made it to my stand, adjusted it for more comfort, and climbed up the tree. The tree sat at the back of a cove on the lake where two small valleys converged. I had a good view of both.

Around 8 o'clock the fog was letting up, and I noticed movement out front. After a while, I spotted a tom turkey with a jake. The tom had a 6-inch beard and the jake had a 4-inch one. They both passed about 30 yards to my right. All I could do was watch, having only one arrow. Then I noticed more movement out in front and could see more birds. This time they were all mature toms. With my binoculars, I could see that they where good birds. The dominate tom had huge 1 1/2-inch-plus spurs and a beard that drug the ground. If this bird came close enough, I was going to try for the dominate tom. The birds headed straight at me then slowly started to pass me on my right. Around 25 yards, I stood and waited for a shot on the big bird, but it never presented me with a clean shot.

I sat back down after they passed and watched the squirrels playing at the base of my stand. A grey squirrel climbed up the tree in front of me, and began to scold me. I waved at it, but the squirrel would not stop. Then I heard a noise coming from behind me to my right. I turned to see two fox squirrels chasing one another. I turned to my left and watched as the squirrels passed behind me along the lake. Then I turned back to watch out front.

The two squirrels behind me were sure making a lot of noise, so I turned to see what all the commotion was. Expecting to see the two squirrels chasing each other, there stood a buck. A couple thoughts ran through my head, "Is he big enough? Is this the buck I am going to use my last buck tag on?"

The buck was making a scrape about 20 yards out. It took two steps forward and began to thrash a sapling. At that point, I had no doubt about taking this buck. I could see that this was a good buck with a wide and tall rack. Slowly, I picked up my bow that was hanging between him and me and hooked my release.

The buck could go two ways: One way was a trail along the lake, my least favorite option, which left me in the open to draw; the second, it could stay straight and pass behind a 6-inch tree, giving me a chance to draw.

At first it looked like it was going to be the lake, but then the buck stopped and slowly headed straight. I drew, and the buck stopped. I waited for the deer to come out. I needed two more steps for a good shot, but the buck just stood there motionless.

I could feel the tension of the bow starting to wear on me. My mind was going crazy trying to figure this out: Do I back out of the draw or try a shot? Trying a shot was not an option where the buck stood. Limbs were in the way of making a good shot. The shot would be too far back for good vitals. If I let down, I again would have to draw on the deer in the open.

I told myself I could do this, so I force myself to calm down. Slowly, I eased back on the release and found a sweet spot.

Then the buck stepped forward one step then two. Without thinking about the shot, I watched as my white fletching zipped into its chest and disappeared. With a grunt, the animal turned and ran. I watched as the deer ran up a trail along the lake and up a hill. Then I heard a crash, no thrashing, just a crash.

I turned back around, gave thanks to God, sat back and replayed the events in my head as to what just happened. Before long, I gathered up my gear and headed down the tree. I did not want to rush the buck.

I went to the lake where I had shot at a turkey the night before and retrieved one of my arrows. I spent about 10 minutes looking, but in all that mud, the arrow was way past the fletching and never found. So I went back to get an arrow I had released at another turkey and missed that morning. When I pulled, it must have struck a root because it was stuck, and the insert pulled out, leaving me with just the arrow.

I reached the spot where I last seen the buck. The blood left the main trail and headed into thick cover. I looked up and about 20 feet ahead, I saw the buck rising up and getting to its feet. I was startled at first then I realized that it was not moving. The deer had snagged its antlers and was hanging there. The buck went down at about 30 yards from impact - a good clean shot.

I loaded my gear and headed back to camp to retrieve my deer cart. It was something I had purchased just for this trip, and I was glad I had it. The buck was down about 3/4 mile away from camp and the cart made for a fast retrieval. I took the 9-point buck into town to get it weighed. Field-dressed, it was 162 pounds. I guess it weighed around 200 on the hoof.

William Edwards
Highland, Illinois

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