Late October I found myself with some good friends south of the Missouri River Breaks in the southwest corner of North Dakota, hunting whitetails and mulies with our traditional bows. We hunted food plots, travel routes, ridge tops, and round bails. The rut was a few weeks away, and deer seemed to be on their natural feeding patterns with a little bit of chasing by the smaller bucks.
Definately not a shortage of deer.
The landscape was not the typical, flat, open country with scattered duck ponds; we hunted pine, cedar and juniper ridges, as well as sandstone, shale, agate draws, and river bottoms, all within a 6000 acre, free-range ranch. The territory was a great place to spend a week of hunting. Not only were there plenty of deer, but the population of coyotes, pheasant and even badgers was also very high.
North Dakota Badger trying to figure me out. I was in a homemade ground blind 5 yds away.
The hunt was action-packed yet frustrating at times. Just like when you hunt anywhere else, once you seem to get the animals figured out, they out-smart you and show up out of bow range. Little did I know my luck (or lack thereof) was about to change. On the fourth day, my hunting partner and I were doing a little spot-and-spook when we came upon a mulie doe. We split up and thought our odds would be better if one of us could get the deer’s attention and the other move in for a shot. The events that happened next will forever be etched in my mind.
As luck would have it, the doe focused its attention on my partner allowing me to close the distance. I got within about 40 yards of the doe when I noticed another doe and two bucks just over the rise. I was pinned down, but not busted. I waited it out until all eyes were on my partner. I slowly got to my knees and estimated the shot on the bigger 4 x 4 mulie at around 34 yards. Everything that happened next was a blur. Before I could take back my arrow I found it sailing toward the target. With the thud of an arrow hitting its mark, I looked up and saw the mule deer tip its head back and bound down the draw. For a brief moment I actually thought I had just shot my first mule deer. But as I looked back to where the buck had stood, I noticed the bright white fletching of my arrow stuck in a dead tree about 30 yards from where I stood. As I did the math, that was about four to five yards short of my intended target.
A gorgeous place to hunt.
As most of us who hunt have experienced this pain, frustration, confusion and embarrassment all rolled up in one, we have to try to keep our heads together . . . yeah right!!! For the rest of this trip my focus was shot. I had launched a few more arrows trying to fill my tag with some venison; however, that did not happen. But even with my lack of luck, the trip was still well worth it. In fact I’ll be back out there in the middle of November hoping to meet up with a lovesick buck; anyway, my hunting partner ended up arrowing a nice whitetail before we packed up and headed back to Wisconsin to hunt the rut and get my head back in the game. Lesson learned: it’s not always about the kill!
My hunting partner with a nice North Dakota whitetail.