The one that got away...

Last year during bow season I experienced the perfect bow shot setup on a nice buck but was unable to act on it due to a cantankerous doe that was tap dancing practically in my lap. I posted my experience about that day, in fewer words, on one of the websites that I frequent and wanted to share the story with those who were interested in what unfolded that day. This occured during the 2008 Alabama bow season.

Day One:
This season my husband, Richard, and I moved an existing ladder stand about 60 yards from its original spot to place it overlooking some white oaks. The first afternoon, Richard brought along a climber and climbed a tree in the same area so that we could see how active this stand would be. Within about an hour deer came in so we knew this stand would be a good one.

Excited about the new stand, my eyes popped wide open as the alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. and I headed out the first morning with high hopes on at least seeing deer. I got to the stand at 5:40 a.m. and heard deer moving around me in the dark. It was 42 degrees and moisture was building up between my new face mask and face.

Acorns were periodically hitting the ground and squirrels were fighting over territorial rights all around me. I did not see a deer in daylight for most of the morning. I had so many squirrels on the ground around me rustling leaves that amazingly the distinct sound of deer walking was like a 5 alarm going off in my head. As soon as I was cognitive as to which direction the sound was coming from, I immediately and slowly grabbed my bow from the hanger and stood.

Oh no!! The wind had changed and was not in my favor as to the direction the deer were approaching. As I was praying that my obsessive rituals of scent control was fool proof, I could hear my heartbeat start booming in my ears…ca-thump, ca-thump, ca-thump…louder and stronger with each beat. For a brief second, through the branches of some trees and bushes at about 50 yards to my right, I saw antlers. It’s a buck… it’s a buck, ca-thump-thump, ca-thump-thump, my heart beats were making their way up the veins in my neck. Whew, is it cold all the sudden? I am cold!

As the antlers disappeared in the thick brush there was another set that was creeping out of the brush in front of me. TWO, there are two bucks! CA-THUMP, CA-THUMP, CA-THUMP, faster now. Amazingly, I was not only cold; I now have to go to the bathroom. Now would be the perfect time to cross my legs and dance; focus, CA-THUMP, CA-THUMP. Ah man, this always happens to me….focus…CA-CA-THUMP, CA-CA-THUMP

I raise my bow before the buck is in the clearing. I hooked my release on the D-loop. My new face mask! I better pull down the portion covering my nose and corner of my mouth so I can feel my string. My heart beat in my ears was deafening as I once again hooked my release on the D-loop. The buck ducked under a low branch and was walking out in the clearing. I could tell he was an 8 point or better. No doubt, he is a shooter and definitely a nice one for my first buck bow harvest.

All I could think was, just one more step, then I will be at full draw; two more and you will be a wall hanger.

All of the sudden, like a school bell going off in the woods, the buck stuck his head to the ground, paused and then shot his head up staring right at me. One jump and he was in thick cover. Two bounding leaps and he went into stealth mode. I didn’t see or hear either of them again the rest of the morning.

It had to be my face mask. The condensation and moisture build up had to tip him off and the fact that the wind carrying it straight down the hill to him and being perfectly lined up to just raise his head and see me in the tree at the edge of the hill was, eye level is of course, Murphy’s Law.

Heading home, I was not disappointed, but overwhelmed. I know he is out there; him and his buck friend. I was looking forward to tomorrow morning’s hunt. I went home and washed all of my hunting clothes that I was planning on wearing the next day, re-activated my ScentLok carbon clothing; including that face mask. Tomorrow morning, I vowed to go above and beyond scent control.

Day Two:
The alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. and my feet hit the floor at just about the same time. It was not quite as cold today so I could at least leave off a layer of clothing. I jumped in the shower and used all of my scent destroying products. I hustled to the other end of the house and sprayed down with scent destroying spray, used scent proof deodorant—took abundance of caution and sprayed my socks in-soles of my shoes, and every piece of clothing before putting them on.

Out the door I was headed with my backpack and bow in hand. I was in the stand and settled by 5:30 a.m. I leaned back in the seat and took in the sound of a rustling creek nearby. It is amazing that once the day wakes up, you won’t hear that creek again. All the sudden I heard crunching; not leaves, but acorns. I had a deer right under me eating acorns. It was too dark to know anything more than the outline of this deer so I just sat there quietly as the deer devoured its breakfast for the next 10 minutes.

Daylight broke and I had an army of squirrels rustling around me on the ground and in the trees eating acorns and sprinkling shell on top of me. I even had one play peek-a-boo for several seconds from a tree three feet away; praying that he wouldn’t start barking and alerting the entire woods of my presence. He finally found me uninteresting and meandered off.

The wind was perfect today for anything that comes down the trail. At 7:40 a.m. I had a doe and spotless fawn come in to my left and grazed down in front of me. Just like clockwork I heard deer coming down the same trail as they had around the same time yesterday morning. Oh no!! Now I have bigger issues than the wind; I have a cantankerous doe right in front of me. She never noticed me. I even took my bow off the hanger when she was in just the perfect spot from my view.

To my right, a nice 8 point appeared rummaging for acorns. I thought to myself, he is nice, but not a shooter even with my bow. Directly behind him was a nice 7 point that I was just weighing out when a very nice 10 point appeared at the lower portion of the trail head. CA-THUMP, CA-THUMP, like a helicopter hovering in mid air above me, my heart kicked into high gear.

At that exact moment, I don’t know if it was from the whites of my eyes showing or just instinct, that cantankerous doe threw her head up and raised a leg. I knew what was coming next. She tapped her hoof on the ground, bobbed her head, and went into the craziest tap dancing ritual that does do when they are just unsure of what they are seeing. NO!! Please no, don’t blow!! Please!! Now I was beginning to sweat and I didn’t think I had a heart beat any longer.

For a mere second, everything froze. I could not move and I don’t think I was even breathing. I had my bow cam resting on my leg. I could take a sitting shot from here but I can’t move. That doe marched methodically around my stand at 15 yards just half circling it and not quite stomping, but slowly tap dancing, sniffing the air, bobbing her head; sometimes she was out of my sight but I was definitely not out of hers.

The bucks rummaged around on the ground, chomping acorns, glancing every few seconds at the doe. At a mere 18 yards that 10 point never knew I existed. So close, yet so complicated. I could not move for the fact that if I did that doe was going to let out a phlegming wheeze and all I would see was tails flagging away into the woods. I just could not take that risk. I definitely did not want to blow this stand; my new honey hole.

I guess it was the fact that I knew I wouldn’t get a chance to draw on this mac-daddy of a buck that my heart returned to beating normal: thump, thump, thump. Even during this intense moment, albeit frozen in time and the doe still tap dancing below me, as I watched those bucks meander out of site behind the brush at 27 yards I had to smile and think to myself, another day, another hunt…yes, another day–another hunt.

Just an added note….that same cantakerous doe actually had the opportunity to do this “tap dancing ritual” around me on two more ocassions, in a different stand, when she and her fawn were the only two around. We nicknamed her “the tapper” because she had pulled the same stunt on another hunter a couple mornings. Some does just learn young and walk around on high alert all the time. During rifle season, she had the audacity to pull that stunt while I was sitting in a shooting house over a green field and I debated for about 10 minutes, and the rest of the story is in the freezer.

The Tapper

The "Tapper"

© Nancy Jo Adams 2009