It was the first Monday morning of crossbow season and the wind was coming from the south. I decided to sit in an old stand where the wind would blow my scent down away from the trail I expected the deer to use. For the first hour and a half of my sit was slow with no deer moving.
I was surprised to hear what sounded like a grunt over my left shoulder. I slowly looked and saw a spike walking across the field below me and he grunted a couple of short grunts as he made his way down the field. I waited a few minutes and decided to try using my bleat can. I flipped it over, waited a few seconds, and flipped it over again. I sat there a few minutes before I decided to look behind my stand.
As I turned my head I caught a glimpse of antlers along the northern edge of the goldenrod about 40 yards from my stand. He was trying to wind the doe that had bleated by walking down that edge. I knew immediately that I wanted to shoot this buck so I slowly stood up and took my crossbow off from the hook. I leaned into the trunk of the tree my stand is in to try to hide as the buck kept walking closer.
When he got to about 25 yards, I took the safety off. As he walked behind the last tree on the trail I shouldered my crossbow and tried to find the buck in the scope. My breathing had fogged up the eyepiece so I tried to wipe it quickly. When he stepped out, I bleated to get him to stop and put the crosshairs on him.
I shot and I watched the nock light up and hit the buck about 6” higher than where I was aiming. He took off through the brush and ran around the pond. I heard him jump the fence and take off in the goldenrod on the neighboring property.
Even though the shot was high, I thought my shot angle would have meant the far-side lung was hit so the buck should be mortally wounded. I waited about 45 minutes before climbing down and starting to look for blood around the area where he was standing when I shot.
I didn’t expect to find much since the bolt was still in the deer when he ran off, plugging up the hole making the blood trail pretty light. Since I knew what direction he headed, I slowly walked along and found blood after about 40 yards. I continued following spotty blood for another 100 yards or so before I got to the property line. The neighbor has a “no hunting but you can track deer if they cross” policy. I crossed the old fence and realized the buck was going across a huge goldenrod field. I tried to follow the trail but quickly lost it. I backed up and retraced my path and found my bolt in a honeysuckle bush on the property line.
I picked it up and noticed the front of the bolt was broken off. I grabbed another bolt from my quiver to compare it to see how much had broken off. It was only a couple of inches at the most. My heart sank immediately. That little amount of penetration meant it was a non-lethal hit as the broached did not get into any vital organs. I decided to back out and to see if I could see the shot on my Tactacam.
Once I got home and could pull up the video on my laptop I quickly realized how things went wrong. When I shot, the buck was on alert from my bleating to stop him. He started to drop to load up before running away and I watched him drop 6” before my bolt hit him right in the shoulder blade. I contacted a tracking dog handler about looking for the buck and was not surprised when they said it would be pointless based on what I had told them about the shot and the video.
That day was the lowest I’ve felt since I started deer hunting over 15 years ago. I couldn’t sleep that night as I kept replaying it in my mind and thinking about what I could have done wrong. The feeling of disgust was bad enough that I didn’t hunt for two days even though I had taken the whole week off. It took me that long to get my head clear and my mentality back to now instead of Monday.
That Saturday I shot a doe at 17 yards and watched her fall down after 40 yards. Then about 5 minutes later, I shot another doe at 20 yards that ran less than 100 yards before piling up. It was a lot of work dressing two deer and dragging them to the trail so I could come back with the UTV, but it was the result of getting back on the horse, so to speak.