By Ace Sommerfeld
Dawn Janousky was hunting with husband Gary when she took this - her first - bow deer. The gal from Wisconsin was still smarting over a missed opportunity at a doe when the buck appeared just a few minutes before sunset.
Sept. 24, 2003, was a hectic day for Dawn Janousky of Coleman, Wis. As afternoon shadows began to lengthen, she'd already bought a new rifle, tires and had placed a pot of pea soup on the stove. That left little time at the end of the day for her to sit in her deer stand.
"You'll have to keep an eye on the soup," she told her husband, Gary, over the phone.
Dawn is a lifelong rifle deer hunter. A couple years earlier, she wanted a bigger challenge and took up archery. The 2002 season was her first in the stand with a bow. Despite hunting hard, the tag went unfilled.
"My second season started out real hot," she said. In three trips to the stand she saw a doe and an 8-point buck with a good rack.
Acting on Gary's suggestion, Dawn placed the stand in a 5-acre woodlot close to home. The woods are surrounded by corn and alfalfa fields.
"I got in the stand and sat down," she said. "Before long, a mature doe came into a shooting lane. The doe offered several good shots, but I was still sitting and couldn't draw."
The doe eventually drifted out of range, but one of her twin buck fawns remained within 15 yards of Dawn's stand.
"I knew I'd have to stand and hope the doe worked back toward me," Dawn said. "So I slowly rose to my feet without disturbing the fawn. And the doe came in close again."
As soon as she drew her bow, the arrow made a "pling" sound, and Dawn could see the nock hanging loose out of the corner of her eye. She still managed to let down, put the bad arrow into the quiver and pull out another.
The second arrow had problems of its own. But after some fine-tuning, Dawn was able to get it nocked and drew. But the doe, by that time, had wandered off yet again. It was 6:50, and hunting time ended at 7:03.
Through the entire episode, the same fawn stayed around her stand, unaware of danger. Suddenly, however, it jumped and stared into the woods.
"I slowly turned my head and studied every inch of ground in front of me," Dawn said. "Several anxious moments later, I zeroed in on a sticker tine. The rest of the motionless buck was hidden. But then, at last, it moved toward the stand and came into full view ... really close!
"My eyes never left the buck," Dawn continued. "It finally disappeared behind a hemlock. Lucky for me, the foliage was thick enough to prevent me from getting a good look at the rack. I think I would've fallen apart if I'd known what was in front of me."
When the buck came back into view, Dawn was at full draw and sighting-in. All the earlier brushes with the doe had a calming effect on her. With the buck in full view below, Dawn's only concern was burying her broadhead in a sweet spot. The distance was 15 yards, but the sight was set at 25. It meant she'd have to aim at the heart to hit the lungs at such a severe angle.
When the buck stepped into her shooting lane, she released.
Dawn doubted her shot as the buck fled. There didn't appear to be an exit wound, and the arrow looked as if it had flown high.
"I watched and listened the best I could," she said.
After the buck went out of sight, Dawn heard a crash in the distance, but she wasn't comfortable about walking up on the buck.
"I know all about the knock-down power of a bullet," she said, "but this was new to me. I had to be sure, so I went home to get Gary's opinion and help."
"You burnt the soup!" Dawn said as she stepped into the house.
"Not really. I like it well done," Gary replied. "I've had two bowls already."
"You sure you're not trying to get rid of the evidence?" she asked.
The soup was soon forgotten as Dawn relayed the events of the previous half-hour. Gary suggested they call Mark Rost, a close friend and veteran bowhunter. Mark assured her that it was good placement, but he suggested they wait.
"Give it an hour and a half. Then we'll get the flashlights and have a look," he said.
A good blood trail greeted the trio when they returned to the stand. Fifty yards into the brush, however, it began to dry up. The blood slowly dwindled to pin drops, and the situation looked grim. Dawn stayed at the last blood while the guys fanned out on different tracks.
Mark broke the silence of the cool September evening. "Hey guys, I've got a track, here's blood ... Geeze!" He snapped the light off, and the woods were silent again.
"At first I thought the buck was still alive, but Mark yelled out a reference to my ancestry and nearly knocked me over as he rushed up and gave me a bear hug," Dawn said. Gary charged through the dark to see what the excitement was all about.
Dawn's first reaction was having the satisfaction of making her first successful bow kill. Then she began to realize she had something special as the guys talked about record books.
"I'm still amazed about the whole thing," Dawn said. "It's proof that women can take advantage of the wonderful sport of bowhunting."
Hunter: Dawn Janousky
Official Score: 170 6/8"
Composite Score: 189 2/8"
-- Reprinted from the October 2006 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine