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Author Topic: ICE STORM BOWHUNT - Doug Campbell  (Read 1348 times)

Offline Terry_Green

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« on: November 04, 2003, 06:51:00 AM »
by Doug Campbell

 All right, What a way to start the new year. The doe had just run off
with my arrow buried to the feathers behind her right shoulder. She was
one of ten that had came out a few minutes ago. I would have waited to
see if there was a buck or at least a bigger doe but the button buck
that was in the lead had crossed my scent stream. When he started
getting nervous I new my chances were dwindling, so I settled for a
five yard shot at deer number two.

This was my second trip to southeast Missouri to hunt with my good
friend Tommy Masterson. I had purchased a hunt to southern Illinois
with Tommy at The United Bowhunters of Missouri’s annual banquet in
February of 1998. Tommy had donated his services for a three day tag
along hunt, to be auctioned to the highest bidder. After seeing the
trophy display Tommy brought with him of bucks he had taken over the
years I decided this could be my chance to find a big whitetail.

I had determined long ago that if you were going to kill a big buck you
had to go where the big bucks were. It stands to reason that southern
Illinois would qualify since firearms are restricted to shotguns,
unlike in Missouri where few mature bucks survive the onslaught of
hunters in our gun season. This proved to be true with the nice deer we
saw in the five days I hunted there with Tommy.

Tommy and I hit it off from the start and I feel I’ve made a good
friend I’d share a campfire with anytime and I hope he feels the same
way about me. I started trying to wean him off the wheels he carried on
his bow, and he was digging old recurves and longbows out of the closet
before I headed home from my first trip.

The first trip was in the middle of November, the weather was very
warm, and we didn’t manage to kill anything, but like I said we chased
some nice bucks and I got introduced to some exciting new territory. I
definitely intend to pester Tommy till he takes me back next year.

My second trip to Tommy’s the weather was a whole different story. I
had been planning the trip for the last weekend of the season and
wasn’t going to miss out if there was any way to avoid it. The weather
man made me very nervous when he started talking about the ice storm
that was coming. I was planning to leave after work, Thursday evening,
but with the forecast I talked my boss into letting me go early. It was
just starting to spit a little freezing rain when I left and I stayed
on the leading edge of it all the way to Sikeston. I had to stop
several times to clean the ice buildup off the windshield. Each time
the road would be a little slicker. After a five and a half hour, white
knuckled drive that should have taken four hours I finally made it to
Tommy’s house.

We discussed our plan of attack for the next day and decided that with
the ice covering everything we should stay in Missouri and chase the
does that were overrunning a friend of Tommy’s farm. The next morning
proved our plan was the only sensible thing to do. Everything was
covered with a thick layer of ice. We took our time getting around and
drove very carefully to a nearby restaurant for breakfast. After having
to practically crawl across the parking lot to the door it became
obvious we weren’t going to the woods till afternoon at the earliest.

After lunch the roads finally started breaking up a little so we headed
for the woods to look around. After scouting around for a while, and
seeing several deer and turkeys, we headed to the stands thru an icy
drizzle. Tommy took me to a stand where he had killed a doe, (with his
old Bear recurve), the week before. This spot looked great the only
problem was I had forgotten my tree steps, and most of the trees, this
one included, were straight and smooth with very few limbs. Tommy
didn’t think this was any problem, he’d just loan me his extra set of
climbing hooks like he used all the time.

Ok, here I was strapping on a set of hooks which I hadn’t worn in
fifteen years, getting ready to climb a big hackberry tree that by the
way was still covered with ice like everything around us. I looked
around for soft places to land just in case this little experiment
didn’t work out. I could tell this was a great place, at least three
trails converged within twenty yards of the tree, but I wasn’t sure if
it was worth chancing broken bones for a shot. With Tommy standing
watching it boiled down to a macho thing, I had to climb that tree or
crash trying.

Going up turned out to be a piece of cake, but as I would find out
later coming down was a different ballgame. Tommy wasn’t planning to
sit, and headed off to check out some areas he hadn’t scouted before.
He’s primarily a stand hunter and with the crunchy conditions wasn’t
expecting to see anything. I had assured him he could still hunt
effectively on the crunchy ice especially with the wind making plenty
of normal noise. Just the weekend before I had stalked within twenty
yards, (then missed), of a doe in unbelievably crunchy snow conditions.
With the woods making so much natural noise the deer didn’t seem to
associate the slow crunching foot steps with danger.

I looked around at the crystal wonderland surrounding me and wondered
if anything would be moving besides Tommy. I sat for a couple hours
watching and listening as tree limbs crashed to the ground around me.
Every few minutes I would have to scrape ice off my bow and arrow. With
the icy fog/drizzle combination it was on the verge of getting
dangerous just being in the woods, every twig and limb was three or
four times it’s normal size from the ice build up. The combination of
weight and gusting wind kept a steady stream of ice and limbs falling.
With only a couple days left in the season I was determined to stay
till the last minute of shooting light, crashing trees or not.

Thirty minutes before dark I heard the crunching steps of the herd of
deer mentioned at the beginning of this story. They came from behind me
heading for the winter wheat a hundred yards through the timber ahead
of me. At least ten head were strung out in single file behind me
cautiously working their way along the trail that would take them
almost under my tree. The big bodied button buck in the lead was far
too bold for his own good, but if he survived another year or two that
would change considerably. I expected him to bolt when he got downwind,
but he just stopped and looked around when he hit my scent stream. The
whole line stopped, so I took the best shot I had, which turned out to
be the unlucky yearling doe nearest me.

I was confident of a good hit so after fifteen minutes I decided to
climb down and look for blood. I lowered my stuff to the ground and
made a couple of false starts then decided going down with hooks was a
whole different story than going up. With the size of the tree and all
the ice I couldn’t get a grip with my hands. I finally decided the only
way to get down was to step over to a smaller tree four feet away and
slide down it to the ground. This tree was leaning slightly and when I
stepped over to it I couldn’t hold tight enough and immediately slid to
the lower side and twenty feet down very quickly. They’re right when
they say the sudden stop at the bottom is what hurts.

After determining everything still worked and gathering my gear I
started looking for blood. I began to get worried when I couldn’t find
anything. It was the half light of dusk, the time when you can’t see
very well with a light or without one, and the glistening ice sure
didn’t help. I followed for a while by tracking the crunched ice trail
left by the herd, but couldn’t find anything indicating my deer had
been with them. I finally gave up and went to meet Tommy. He was on
cloud nine when I came out of the woods, he had seen several deer and
put the sneak on a group of four does.

He had stalked and killed the biggest one of the bunch. It had been
years since he had hunted from the ground, and he was as excited as if
he had killed a big buck. I expect Tommy will be doing more ground
hunting in the future. We were both pretty pumped by our double, I knew
my deer was laying out there it was just a matter of finding her. We
went back to my tree but had both forgotten our big lights and my small
pack light was about to play out. With the combination of glistening
ice and dull flashlights we gave up and decided to try again the next
morning. I was really hoping the ice would keep the coyotes holed up
for the night.

We retrieved Tommy’s deer and headed back to town. It was a long
restless night and I was up early the next morning anxious to get after
my deer. I found the fletched end of my arrow thirty yards from the
tree but there was a light dusting of snow on the ground eliminating
any chance of finding the blood trail. We trailed along the path the
main herd had taken but found nothing. Tommy finally suggested we check
the direction his deer from the week before had gone, which was almost
the opposite way I thought mine would be.

A hundred and fifty yards from the tree Tommy saw the white belly
shining, we went up to her expecting to find nothing but hair and hide
left but she hadn’t been touched. What a relief, the shot was just
where I thought and it had been a quick, clean kill, but the arrow had
buried into the far fore leg explaining the poor blood trail.

We hunted hard the rest of the weekend including a trip to southern
Illinois the last evening and saw literally hundreds of deer between
us. We had some close calls and probably should have killed a couple
more deer but it wasn’t to be. Even though I didn’t kill a big buck I
had a great time hunting with Tommy and can’t wait till next year. The
trip turned out to be worth every penny, if you can even put a dollar
value to something as priceless as making good friends and spending
time in the woods. I want to thank The United Bowhunters of Missouri,
since becoming involved with them I’ve met many great people and had
experiences I’m sure I would have missed out on without them. I
especially want to thank Tommy for donating the hunt and showing me
such a great time.

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