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The Hunt For The Trail

By Ricky Thomas

-- On Oct. 2, 2006, eight days before my 8th birthday, my mother took me to our woods to bowhunt white-tailed deer. We sat and watched several does go in and out of the woods, but they were too far away to shoot with my crossbow. Finally, we left the woods around 7 p.m.

The next night, Mom rushed into the house from an appointment and asked if I wanted to try the woods again. She said that my dad was going to take a walk out around the woods, soybean field and cornfield for me. I agreed and hurried to get my camo clothes on.

We got to the hut about 6:30. We weren't there 5 minutes before we saw a big buck walk out of the beanfield and into the hayfield that sits beside our woods. Dad couldn't have gotten very far. "Get ready, maybe he'll come into us," Mom said.

I got down on one knee while she put the crossbow on my shooting stick. She kept asking me, "What is he doing?" We had to whisper.

I told her that he was in my sights. She asked, "Is he broadside?"

I said, "Yes." Then she asked me if I had a clear shot, with no branches in the way, and again I told her, "Yes."

She instructed me to go ahead and try if I had a clear shot. I took the safety off, got him back in my sights, and pulled the trigger. Mom jumped up, asked if I hit him and then looked out the other window.

Mom said I'd hit him, and the arrow was sticking out of him. I hit him in front of the back leg. I know that's not the kill zone, but he jumped as soon as I pulled the trigger. We waited and watched him walk down to an opening of the woods that went out into a cornfield.

Mom was so excited. We waited a little longer before we got out of the hut to go look for blood. We went to the opening but didn't find any blood. Mom told me to go to the top of the hayfield and yell for my dad. I ran up the hill and hollered twice for Dad, but he didn't answer. I ran back to Mom and told her that Dad didn't call back.

She reset the bow and loaded an arrow for me. She told me to sit tight and she would go up and yell for him, but if the buck came back to shoot him again. Mom left and I heard her screaming for Dad.

After what seemed to be a very long time, both my parents showed up. Dad told Mom to go back to the house and round up the troops for a good deer hunt and to get his backpack with his gutting tools.

Dad and I searched and searched for blood. We finally found three little spots. It started to get dark and Mom wasn't back yet. I was getting worried. Mom finally showed up with a couple of flashlights. Dad told us to stay put and he would look for more blood. He found a good trail, and we started to track it. We weaved around trees, up paths, down paths and then the blood trail stopped.

Dad told me to stay put while he and Mom looked around to pick it up again. All of a sudden, the deer jumped up and walked off. We went to that spot to see if there was blood. We got back on the trail again, but the blood drops were few and far between. It was getting later and later.

My sister, Jamie, and her husband, Jeremiah, showed up around 8:30. My uncle finally showed up an hour after that. Then we lost the blood trail altogether. Even though it had rained for several days off and on, the ground was too hard for any tracks. Every once in a while, we would find a slide and a chunk of meat but we couldn't get a good trail. Finally, at midnight we decided to give up the tracking. Mom and Dad said that they would call off work tomorrow and come back up to look for him. Jeremiah and Jamie said that they had the day off and would help, too.

The next day, I had to go to school, but the rest of the family went to find my buck. As mom was going up over the hill in her line she jumped the buck. He just walked about 50 yards and lay back down. She yelled for Dad and Jeremiah. Jeremiah took off up ahead of him and waited until Dad positioned himself. Needless to say, none of us had our bows with us, so there wasn't much we could do about it. We sure were glad to see him still alive because the temperature was about 65 degrees.

We all went back to the house, to get a bite to eat and grab our bows. Dad loaded his muzzleloader and took it just in case we had a mean deer. They went back to the woods where they last saw him go down again. Dad posted Jeremiah and then took Mom and Jamie with him to try and flush the buck out. As soon as Dad and Mom stepped into the thicket, the buck jumped up again and walked away. They looked and looked for blood but could only find a little where he had been.

All of them regrouped and tried to look for fresh tracks but couldn't find anything. Dad sent mom down over the hill around a pond. Grandma took the 4-wheeler and went to the other side of the woods; but saw nothing. Grandma picked Mom up and said that my dad was ready to give up. Mom said, "I'm not giving up, he's in here, and he's alive. Drop me off at the pond." Mom was going to walk way out into the Amish woods and work her way back.

She was just starting the turn when she caught the buck out of the corner of her eye. He was lying down around some trees. He jumped up, staggered about 30 feet and went down. She yelled for dad and took her time walking up to where the buck went down. Mom picked up a stick and threw it at the buck but he didn't move. She walked away in a straight line back to where she thought Dad and Jeremiah was supposed to be, yelling for them the whole way. They finally answered. She led them to the deer.

When I heard my name over the speaker in my classroom, I yelled, "They got him!" Mom was all smiles when I got to the office. They had my deer in the back of the truck packed with bags of ice. We checked him in and then went back home for picture taking. My aunt and uncle came over to see him and took even more pictures.

He is an 8-point buck that weighed around 240 pounds. His rack looks perfect to me. It has a 19-inch outside spread and the antlers are 17 inches long. The longest tine is 4 inches long.


Ricky Thomas
Butler, Ohio

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