Montana's general hunting season was quickly coming to a close and I had yet to fill my deer tag. The bigger buck I’d been after continued to stay just out of range. With the clock ticking I passed on some good bucks, however, it was beginning to feel like crunch time.
This was my third year hunting this area and I had yet to kill a buck. Deer really have the ability to humble me. I made it a point to hunt a bit harder this year in an effort to kill a mature deer. I set my stands early in the year, focusing on a few new locations, and logged as much time in the stand as I could. As the rut heated up, I made a few all day sits and with the changing weather came an increase in deer activity. The bucks were active and my biggest predicament was which stand I should sit in. I held out on several decent deer with the hope of shooting a trophy.
Just when I thought I was getting these deer figured out, they’d throw me for a loop. The deer I wanted always seemed to be just out of range or he picked the trail that went behind my stand. Treestand hunting is a patience builder, but as the end of the season approached, my patience was growing thin.
With a little over a week to go, I really wanted to put some more meat in the freezer and I still had hopes of hanging a trophy on the wall, however,I’d been hunting a lot and I was beginning to question my priorities. That morning, I snuck in extra early and I made up my mind that I needed to call it quits this year. 'One last sit and I’m hanging up the bow', I told myself. Just a little before first light, the area started to come alive. I could make out several does and I knew that a good buck was nearby. Another half an hour passed and I saw him. He was following a few does. They crossed the fence and were moving directly towards me. I got everything ready and the next thing I knew, they turned and started feeding away. As they disappeared I got a little disappointed, but there was nothing I could do about it.
At that moment I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. It was a smaller buck and it looked like he had something tangled up in his antlers. As he got closer, I realized he had an arrow sticking out of his neck. My mind raced, but my bow was ready. He was certainly not the trophy I was after, but he was hurting. Would he make it through the winter with that kind of wound? He was getting closer and as his head passed behind a big cottonwood, I drew. He kept walking, never noticing me, and I stopped him on my left side. He looked up and I’d already settled in for a 16 yard shot. He jumped and ran about 60 yards.
As I got down out of my stand, I was relieved to bring my season to an end and top off the freezer. Certainly not with a trophy whitetail, but I feel I made the ethical choice. Who knows how long he had been walking around with that arrow sticking out of his neck. Even though I’m fairly new to archery hunting, I do know shots such as this are sometimes reality.
To the former owner of that arrow – I know that wasn’t where you intended to place it, but I’ll gladly use it to shoot gophers in the spring.