By Keith Nelson
Keith Nelson of Winona, Minn., had long given up hunting until his wife, Deanne, presented him with a new recurve bow for their 25th wedding anniversary. Since then, he's managed to take four deer with it in three seasons. Photo Courtesy of Keith Nelson
On Sept. 16, opening morning of Minnesota's archery season, Al Schmidt, Paul Appicelli, Clarence Bautch and I met long before sunrise by the old schoolhouse. We then separated and headed for our chosen positions.
It took me nearly half an hour of noisily thrashing through the forest to find my treestand. Needless to say, I did not see or hear any deer that morning. But Al and his daughter, Morgan, shot and dressed out a nice buck.
After church the next morning, we set out again. The three of us were soon aloft in trees, spread out over a heavily wooded valley between the steep bluffs of southeastern Minnesota.
After an hour of listening to the sounds of the woods and reading a new book, Steve Chapman's "A Look at Life from a Tree Stand," I was startled by the sound of deer on the move. Somewhere directly behind me was the distinct pattern of hooves meeting leaves. Acorns had been falling and squirrels rustling, but this was different. It had the all-too-familiar cadence.
I peered around the trunk to see a buck walking toward me. It was actually struggling to work its rack through the heavy brush - always a good sign! I couldn't see the entire rack, but I could make out three or four points on one side.
My heart started to race, at first. But just as suddenly, it slowed, while the deer continued along the primary trail that crossed two others about 15 yards distant.
I still had no idea how big the rack was because I was focused on picking the correct window of opportunity. How close would it come? When would I have an unobstructed tunnel through which to shoot?
As the buck passed the last big tree, I lifted my recurve bow. The animal soon passed only a few feet from the base of my tree. When it was perhaps 5 yards away, sniffing the ground, I pulled back and released my cedar-shafted arrow. The two-bladed broadhead struck just under the spine, slightly back from the shoulder and drove downward and slightly forward, clipping at least one lung.
The deer crashed away through the woods.
With darkness quickly approaching, I chose to wait in my tree for only 10 minutes. Then, cautiously, I got down and started to search for the crimson trail. There wasn't much blood, but the distinctive heavy tracks clearly marked the animal's path in the soft forest floor. One of the hoofs spread more than the others.
The author's 12-pointer is No. 2 among Semi-irregulars in the BTR's recurve bow category, falling behind the world record Texas buck by a mere 1 2/8 inches. Photo Courtesy of Keith Nelson
Twenty yards out, I stumbled across half of the wooden arrow, painted with bright red blood. The other half was 20 yards farther. The tracks tapered gently down the slope before turning sharply back up the bluff. The trail disappeared after that.
My sharp whistle brought Clarence and Paul into the search. From across the normally silent valley, they also had heard the commotion of the escaping buck. After 300 yards and an hour of trailing, we found it.
Being in the woods is great, but it is even better when you can share it with good friends.
Hunter: Keith Nelson
Official Score: 174 6/8"
Composite Score: 196 5/8"
-- Reprinted from the November 2007 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.