By Chuck Crowe
-- My plan was to hunt Saturday evening during Michigan's muzzleloader season. The weather forecast was calling for snow by late afternoon turning to heavy snow through the night. I had high hopes the evening would be eventful. My wife, Terry, had tagged along on several occasions over the years and recently decided it was time to give hunting a try.
However, with two children and both of us working it was hard to find time that was convenient for us both to go out together. After seeing my excitement for the weather forecast, Terry mentioned that she would like to go along. Grandma volunteered to watch the children, so this was an opportunity we couldn't pass up. Little did I know that Dec. 15, 2007, would be a day of excitement, disappointment and a test of faith.
We arrived at the farm at a little after noon and, following a 30-minute walk, we nestled into a hunting shack that overlooked a secluded hayfield. The field bordered a good sized swamp, and I was confident the deer would be using it that evening. The shack was the perfect place to get Terry out of the weather to help make the hunt more enjoyable.
It was a cold 23 degrees, but once we were out of the wind it wasn't too bad. Terry was all bundled up with her several layers of clothes and toasty warm with her multiple hand warmers. She must have been comfortable as it didn't take long before she dozed off. With the snow starting to fall, I was confident the deer would move soon.
About an hour before dark, we saw our first deer, a yearling which ran onto the field with its tail up. As we were getting ready for more deer to arrive, I noticed two more coming in from the west of us. Since the wind was out of the east it didn't take momma doe long to start tossing her head in the air to catch a big whiff of human odor, and soon they were all running with their tails up back into the swamp. We were a little discouraged at the quick encounter, but figured there was still enough time that something else might show up.
Another 20 minutes or so passed before I noticed another deer coming out of the other end of the swamp. Then a second deer stepped out and then a third. They all appeared to be does, one was likely a yearling and the other two were very nice sized deer. Since Terry had an antlerless deer permit this was her opportunity to harvest her first deer.
As the deer fed to within 45 yards, we got the muzzleloader up to Terry's shoulder to prepare for a shot. She had a hard time getting the deer in her scope and at first she couldn't see a thing. Too many layers of clothes appeared to be the culprit and after some shifting of the jackets she was able to get closer to the scope to see.
Terry said she thought she could see the deer but it was all blurry. With all of the excitement she had completely fogged up the scope. After quickly wiping down the lens, she was able to get a good view of the crosshairs and the deer. I had told her to line up right above the elbow about midway and was just getting ready to tell her to squeeze the trigger when the muzzleloader erupted and a huge cloud of smoke bellowed from the gun. The deer all scattered and the one she shot at was doing the tail corkscrew. I was confident she had likely made a good hit.
We reloaded and took our time before we headed out to see if we had any blood. With the snow already on the ground, it was easy to find the blood. The blood was dark red, which indicated to me that it may have been a liver hit, but with snow coming down I felt we needed to start tracking soon. We followed the blood back into the swamp, which also happened to be a prime turkey roosting site.
After about 20 turkey flushes from the tree tops and heart attacks later, we got to a point where the next crashing we heard was the deer being jumped from its bed. At this point we decided to give it some time and headed back to the truck so we could warm up. Giving the deer time was the only thing we could do at this point - and hope that the snow would not cover the blood
We waited awhile longer before taking up the trail again and slowly beginning to track. At this point we also met up with one of the farmers, Gary. He came to help and was the burst of energy we needed at the time. We tracked the deer out of the swamp and across a plowed under cornfield. Once we got to the other side, we saw the deer bedded on the edge. In a flash, the doe bolted from her bed, and we knew we had to give her a little more time.
With the snow really starting to fall, I knew this would be a gamble. Again, this was the only thing we could do at this point. The tracking had taken its toll on Terry, and she was physically and mentally exhausted. We went back to the truck to give the deer time and to give her a rest as she was clearly discouraged.
The deer had traveled a long way by this time, so we decided to move the trucks over to the edge of this new field. After a long wait, Gary and I began tracking again, leaving Terry behind to rest. We found good blood from this point, and we went probably 200 yards before we found a spot where the deer ran into a big briar patch. However, we could not find a place where it came out.
We circled and circled but with all the deer tracks going in every different direction we could not figure out where it went. Gary's brother, Rick, arrived to help, but we were close to throwing in the towel. The new snow was making it almost impossible to distinguish between new tracks and old tracks and the blood was quickly beginning to get covered. My heart was aching with the thought of not finding Terry's first deer.
Gary, Rick and I got on a cleared path and talked for a while. Our last opportunity was to head down the path toward a small thicket in the direction of the trucks. Gary and Rick started walking way ahead of me as I frantically checked every deer track that crossed the path. I kept asking God to help me.
I said it out loud, "Lord, just one more drop of blood," as I checked the multiple tracks that crossed the path in front of me. Just then, after begging Him for help, there it was bright as day, right in Gary and Rick's boot tracks. If I had continued with them I probably would have never seen it. I quickly called them back and after some discussion we were on the trail again. We were working against time as the snow was clearly starting to cover the doe's trail.
The trail took us through some of the thickest cover and was difficult to follow but we knew to brush the snow off of the yellow looking spots to uncover the blood. As Gary and I rounded an old pond, I shined the light and my heart jumped as the sight of brush and the base of a tree quickly resembled a deer.
Again, my heart sank but I took another step and moved the light to the left about 10 feet. There was the deer. After walking what we felt was much more than a mile through some of the thickest stuff, sticking to it and not giving up, we were rewarded with finding Terry's first deer, a big doe.
We were clearly put us to the test, a test that makes us appreciate what we were given. Without the snow it would have been impossible to track as far as we did and without that 'one more drop' I would have been writing a different story.
Terry was so excited and relieved that we found her first deer. This was by far my hardest successful tracking job ever and by far the most humbling and rewarding. I am one proud husband! We have all heard of tracking jobs that didn't go so well, and I have always said it only takes "one more drop" to get you back on track.
Chuck and Terry Crowe
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