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Stars of the Trail Cam

Michelle Harmes

New York girl takes home Georgia backstraps

By Michelle Harmes

Although my husband, Ed, and I live in New York, my story takes place in Georgia, less than 300 yards from the Chattahoochee River which separates Georgia and Alabama.

I've lost count of how many times I've visited those woods, but some months it's almost every day, in hopes of taking my first buck.

It felt pretty much like any other morning as I headed to my treestand, except this time I left home early enough to set up my husband's trail camera near his stand. I did that by the light of my headlamp.

I made it to my stand about 7 a.m. and didn't really expect to see anything because my trail camera photos indicated the deer were coming in after dark.

But around 8:40, a trio of does came in. One was a mature doe, and the other two were her last year's fawns. I'd seen them just about every time I'd hunted, and they were the stars of my trail camera. I have many pictures of them.

I watched them a while and decided I really wanted some fresh venison. My first deer didn't have to be a buck, not when the big doe would do nicely.

When it walked behind a tree, I tilted my bow up and that caught the attention of one of the others. I froze and closed my eyes as the deer tried to figure out what the heck was in the tree.

It snorted; they all stomped and moved a little way off. Eventually, they calmed down and returned when they didn't see anything.

Again, I drew my bow when the doe was behind a tree, except this time it didn't want to step out. I knew if I tried to let my bow down, it would see me.

Michelle HarmesI held the bow back and waited for what seemed like forever until it finally moved into view. I released my arrow and saw the hit was low.

The arrow passed through the upper front legs. It took off, heading toward some standing water in a bottom to the west of my stand.

I heard a snort and saw water rippling; then, everything went quiet.

I climbed down and walked to where I'd last seen the doe, but as I neared the spot, the doe got up and took off again!

It wasn't running normally, so I went back to the stand and waited for Eddie to come home from work to help me track it.

I'd found my arrow and a good blood trail, so I was encouraged.

When my husband arrived, we followed the trail for about two and a half hours. It took a lot of teamwork, and we came to a point where the blood trail simply disappeared.

Suddenly, we came upon some other deer, and Ed stalked over to see if they were with my doe.

They spooked, but when he stopped one started back toward us. Ed knew there had to be something truly arousing their curiosity for a deer to walk back toward danger. Then Ed spotted my doe lying near the water, barely alive.

Ed motioned for me to put an arrow in my bow and walk toward him.

When I got there, I couldn't see the doe, it was so very well hidden.

My follow-up shot went through its lungs, and I heard a loud, hollow thud, indicating a solid hit.

It leapt to its feet, ran forward, made a U-turn and disappeared on the other side of the puddle.

We waited a few minutes before following it, and I found half my arrow lying on the ground near the puddle.

We split up to try to find a blood trail, but Ed quickly found my doe, not even 20 feet away.

Having to administer a follow-up shot was hard for me but, at the same time, I knew it was my responsibility and part of hunting.

We dragged my prize out without gutting it because we were exhausted. I was willing to pay the processor a fee to do it for me at that point!

I had the hide tanned as a memento, and I enjoyed fresh venison from my first deer. It was an amazing experience, and I'm already looking forward to getting another one!

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