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Author Topic: Fellowship, Friendship, and the Zone - By Peter K. Acker  (Read 357 times)

Offline Terry_Green

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Fellowship, Friendship, and the Zone - By Peter K. Acker
« on: April 07, 2003, 01:06:00 PM »
Fellowship, Friendship, and the Zone

By Peter K. Acker


   It was Friday, November 8th, the rut was picking up, and I was stuck nearly 3 hours away from my hunting grounds in school at the College of William and Mary in eastern Virginia.  After excitedly informing all of my non-hunting friends and housemates that I was going hunting the next day and that barring a kill I would return the subsequent night, I dozed through chemistry and worked to keep my mind on task during an encouraging Bible study.  I then headed for home, the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, prepared to hunt from dark-to-dark the following day, the last day of purely bowhunting, as muzzeloading season was set to open on Monday.  

I felt like this weekend would be it; my best chance to take a deer with my longbow.  I had never before harvested any kind of big game with any weapon, though I was well-versed in deer and deer hunting.  After a couple years hunting with a rifle and passing on deer because it never felt right, this was my third year of traditional bowhunting, and my second season of carrying my longbow exclusively, even through the muzzleloader and rifle seasons.  I had read online that the chasing phase of the rut, as well as the wondrous fall colors, would both be at full swing in my area.

Not 30 minutes after I had worked my climbing treestand on into an old favorite poplar at the convergence of two draws I looked to my right and spotted the largest deer I have ever laid eyes upon.  It was a massive ten point, with forked G2’s, and he had shown up undetected at 30 yards downwind (I had taken the precaution to bathe myself and my clothing in scent-free soap).  He worked his way behind my tree and out of my life, but not before tip-toeing to within 12 yards of me.  Because he was to my extreme right, I knew from previous experience that my tree stand harness would not allow me to draw, and I do not regret this for a second.  I felt the all-too familiar shakes from the close encounter (Previously in this same stand a six pointer busted me when my leg started shaking uncontrollably; a feeling I’m sure all of us can share), but as the next three hours unfolded my mind quickly abstained from dwelling on the mule-deer type rack.

Until the action slowed about 9:30 on that fateful Saturday morning, it seemed that every time I turned around there were more and bigger deer than I had ever seen before.  Those three hours showed me upwards of 20 deer, most of them bucks chasing after does, and when things cooled off for the morning I had identified a total of six different bucks.  Besides the ten point, a stunning eight point chased doe after doe, into and out of my field of vision for a period of about two hours.  I remember telling myself it was only a matter of time…

Following a red-tailed hawk making a grey squirrel into lunch, I descended with the intent of moving my stand 70 yards up the mountain, to a slightly thicker area that I had seen deer travel through on many occasions.  I took a quick nap in the warm sun, trying to prepare myself for the long drive back to school that night, and assumed my new position at approximately 3:30.  I soon began to envision the deer coming toward my stand, and with the afternoon sun heating up my left shoulder I ran through my mind where the deer would come from and the location of my shooting lanes.  I had a plan.

As if on queue, at precisely 5:02 a doe ran full speed directly in front of my stand.  I watched her backtrail, waiting for the buck I knew was coming.  I spotted two deer following the doe, and soon realized that one was indeed a buck: a beautifully symmetrical basket-racked eight.  He grunted at her as they made their way in my direction; the doe walked in front of my stand at ten yards, with the buck in tow.  For some reason this situation was distinctly different than all the rest of my close encounters with deer.  I was not shaking like a madman; I was calm, acute, focused.  I was in the zone.

The buck followed the doe and then turned away from me slightly, only to regain his course at a greater distance.  When he passed being perpendicular to my stand, a large white oak eclipsed his head.  Things began to happen in slow motion as my Chek-Mate longbow instinctively raised itself and my middle finger found the corner of my mouth, as it had thousands of time over the summer at the local bowhunter’s club.  No nervousness gripped me this time.  My sense of awareness was uncanny, as I noticed every ripple in the deer’s flesh, every bat of his eyes.  The buck slowly stepped past the tree at 18 yards, my eyes found a spot tight behind the shoulder, and in an instant the arrow slammed into that very spot.  With a crack, instead of disappearing into his ribs, the 585 grain Gold Tip arrow complete with 160 grain Snuffer, to my amazement and disgust, penetrated mere inches and was bounced out of the deer as he ran off.  Shoulder!  I was crestfallen as I later approached the point where I hit the deer and saw no blood.    I followed his exit path a little ways in the fading light and found the arrow, with eight  inches of bright red blood on it, and a few spots of red on the forest floor, the only blood to constitute my blood trail.  I was sure that I had hit the front shoulder, penetrated it just enough to pierce one lung, and was now looking at an exhausting tracking job.

Anguished and mystified, since it looked to be a marginal hit I stuck the arrow on the place of last blood, marked the trail with reflective tacks, and gathered my gear to head for home.  On the way out of the woods I got down on my knees and prayed that the Good Lord would help me find this deer.  Then as I trudged my way closer to my Jeep I jumped a pair of deer in the general area to which the deer had run.  I was sick with thoughts of pushing a one-lunged buck into the next county.
I caught up with my hunting buddy and told him the story.  ‘What time do you want to meet in the morning to go find your deer?’ he questioned, immediately ready to break his plans and help me out, as well as being more confident than I,  ‘That deer’s dead, you wait.  We’ll find him.’  We set up a time to meet and be back on that ridge at the crack of dawn, but I was growing less and less positive by the minute.
Back at the house, I made a few phone calls and left a terse message to cancel my commitments for the following day with my church in Williamsburg.  I began to think between prayers as I lay awake in bed the possible repercussions of not finding this deer: that I would have to tell the story of the wounded buck over and over to my friends, lowering their respect not only for my ethical standards but quite possibly for bowhunting as a whole.  In addition to these consequences were all the people that had laughed, gawked, or disapproved of my bow choice who would be proven right.  I prepared mentally for a grueling day of searching.  I HAD to find this deer.

Now Sunday morning, Matt and I began the hike up to where I shot the buck, and I relayed the scene to him.  We walked to my arrow, looked at the spots of blood on the ground, and I pointed to the direction the buck had fled.  Because there was no blood trail, we spread out and began to walk towards where I had last seen him.  Not 50 yards into the search, I heard my name. ‘Pete!’ Matt called, pointing in my direction.  I frantically began to search the dead leaves and blow-downs around me.  ‘PETE!’ he yelled again, pointing more emphatically.  My eyes scampered across the landscape, and then fell upon the most beautiful sight I had ever seen.  Ten feet in front of me was the eight pointer, MY buck!  What? How?  My mind raced with questions, but I shoved them aside and relished the moment; the leaves falling around me, peak foliage in the trees, and the stiff breeze making the scene come alive.  I shook Matt’s hand and thought out loud how I had dreamt of this moment on a nearly daily basis for the past three years.

I handled his rack and stroked his coat.  It was an absolute dream coming true.  ‘Thank you Lord’ I repeated, silently and aloud, for the next week.  Here he was, 50 yards from where I hit him, and five minutes into our search, and from the evidence I could be sure he went down quickly and without suffering.  I certainly was blessed.

It turned out that my shot had flown true; the arrow had pierced both lungs and bounced off of the opposite leg bone, creating the impression that I had hit the near-side shoulder.  I was shooting a thirty-one inch Gold Tip 75/95 arrow and with 260 grains of point weight out of my 57@30 longbow and have been thrilled with the performance of such an out of balance FOC.  The three-bladed broadhead created the massive hemorrhaging necessary to bring the deer down swiftly and I don’t know that this story would have a happy ending if the animal had made it much farther.  The buck dressed at 125 pounds; not a huge deer but I am thrilled with him.  I tell people it was the perfect first deer: big enough that I can be proud, and small enough that I can improve upon him.  His rack now reminds me of that glorious hunt every night as it looms over my bed; and his tenderloins, jerky and stew, long since eaten, are still raved about by my 7 roommates.

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