Deer escape on archery opener

September 18, 2017

Faith Outdoors

I felt very good about my first foray into the woods for the 2017 archery opener. Both Minnesota and Wisconsin opened the same day, Sept. 16. The weather was rainy Saturday, so I opted to sleep in and wait for Sunday.

My destination was Wisconsin, where crossbows are legal for all hunters. I wanted meat for my freezer, so I figured the crossbow would give me the best chance to harvest a deer.

Not only that, but my scouting trip Labor Day weekend revealed a white oak tree dropping lots of acorns. I saw evidence that the deer were hitting them, so I put up a stand downhill from the white oak about 25-30 yards.

All I needed was a west to northwest wind to blow my scent away from where I thought the deer would come to feed. That’s exactly the wind we got Sunday.

So, I was optimistic as I climbed into my stand about 4:30 p.m. It was about three hours before the end of legal shooting hours, but I wanted the be there nice and early so that the woods would be quiet when the deer chose to move.

It happened right around 6:30. I heard shuffling noises at the top of the hill, then saw the body of a deer. Then, a second deer came in behind the first. My heart started pounding as I cradled my crossbow in my lap. Very slowly, the two deer worked their way down hill and to my right. I was hoping they would cut left and hit my shooting lane.

But, they kept coming downhill to my right. Eventually, the fawn got to the bottom of the hill and still was to my right. It slowly started moving to the left, and I thought it might just make it into my shooting lane.

I’m not picky about what I shoot, so I would have taken the fawn if the doe stayed out of my shooting lane. For most of the time, the doe stayed out of view, and eventually popped up about 5-10 yards behind the fawn. I spotted movement as I was looking at the fawn, then turned my head toward the doe.

Big mistake. When I locked my eyes onto the doe, it had its head up and was looking right at me. It stared for a few seconds, then turned and took a few hops back up the hill. A few seconds after that, it snorted once and took off with the fawn behind it.

Game over. I had forgotten how wary mama does can be. They go through the woods always looking around for danger. I should have kept my head still and just looked out of the corner of my eye.

There’s nothing like consequences such as this to reinforce the importance of staying still. The lesson is painful, but I’m glad to learn it now while the season is still young. There will be more chances ahead. I have three more stands on the property to hunt, and I may move the one I sat in Sunday to a different spot. I think once a deer like this doe busts you in a stand, it’s time to move it.

I have one other early season spot to try. The landowner has seen them coming out of the woods and into her alfalfa field. I set up a stand overlooking an alley of tall grass that the deer go through on their way to the alfalfa. She said they were coming through almost daily during the summer.

If that pattern holds, I may get a chance there. One thing’s for sure — there are plenty of deer on the property. There are a good number of does around, and that will mean bucks before too long.

One thing I will be hoping for this fall is more cold. The last two Novembers have been ridiculously warm, with highs in the 60s and 70s, and lows in the 40s and even 50s. That’s just too warm for deer movement.

In the fall of 2014, we had a very cold November, and the deer movement was excellent. I won’t tell many people this, but I’ll be praying for a chilly November this year!

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About Dave Hrbacek

Staff photographer and writer for The Catholic Spirit. Also, avid outdoors enthusiast with a passion for hunting, fishing and photography. Married to Julie and have four children, three boys and a girl.

View all posts by Dave Hrbacek