By Kevin Reese
“Big doe down!” – Not typically the stuff great hunting stories are made of if you ask many of today’s outdoor celebrities, but the truth is, some of the greatest hunting stories ever told have little to do with the animal whether taken or not. Like a great book, the good stuff isn’t confined to the first or last chapter. It’s in the story as it unfolds one page at a time. It’s in the hunting memories made.
Recently, I spent some time hunting with family and good friend, Dirk Woods. I met Dirk through my younger brother, Jim, and have been thanking both of them for that friendship ever since. Dirk is as selfless as people come. During a week of you-don’t-have-tos, Dirk sacrificed his time, energy and favorite hunting ground. Truth be known, he never even picked up his bow – something I took note of each time we headed into the woods.
One such hunt found me in Doeville, dragging my gear out of his truck bed.
“You won’t need that.” Dirk smile when he said it. He knew I wouldn’t understand.
“I thought we were hunting one of your treestands.”
“We are, but you don’t need a safety harness.” He smiled but said nothing more. He simply headed through the gate and into the waist-high grass.
Boy was I ever confused. But I trusted Dirk. I grabbed my bow, pack and lifesaving ThermaCELL, then followed him in. We followed the remnant of a trail for several hundred yards, crossed over a marsh, and continued into a shallow draw. The area was open with game trails winding throughout. On our right was an outcropping of trees with a large cedar tree standing prominently in front. Dirk headed for the cedar tree while I followed and scanned high trying to pick out the stand.
When I reached the cedar tree my jaw nearly hit the ground. That treestand was nestled deep in the cedar tree and couldn’t have been more than four feet off the ground! Still confused I climbed into the stand, sat down on the expanded metal seat and took inventory of the area. What an amazing setup! Dirk had set the stand deep in the cedar tree overlooking a heavily used trail and cut out a window-sized shooting lane.
Still early in the afternoon, we noticed deer activity about 30 yards behind us. Six does played on the edge of a slough that ran off from the marsh we had crossed earlier. They weren’t supposed to be there! Kudos to Dead Down Wind because they were 30 yards downwind of us and never spooked. After a while they disappeared into the thicket and we lost ourselves in whispered conversation and laughs under our breaths.
Two hours after the does had disappeared my butt was numb and I swore my spine was beginning to break through the top of my skull. I tried to adjust.
“Stop! There’s a doe!”
I froze for a moment then slowly turned my head in her direction. A spike followed her down into the draw. They browsed the grass and fed slowly while they continued in my direction. My butt ached and now I couldn’t move at all. Slowly they closed the distance while I did my best to push past my butt’s breaking point; it was excruciating.
They stopped at 23 yards to feed in the tall grass. I lifted my bow and came to full draw. It was early in the season and I was after a good doe. As luck would have it, the buck moved up to her side and hid her vitals from view. Finally, the doe took a single step, a half body length in front of the feeding buck, and that was enough. I settled the pin in front of the buck’s head and just behind her shoulder. The buck lifted his head again and I paused. As quickly as he had raised his head he buried it again into the grass while the doe took another step forward.
Thwack! My arrow found its mark directly behind her front shoulder. I knew she was hit hard as she bounded into the treeline. As soon as she disappeared into the thicket we heard her crash. She was close, no more than 50 yards. What a hunt!
I still shake after the shot. I hope that adrenaline rush never fades. Dirk and I knuckled up then sat quietly again. The buck never knew what happened. The doe was down and he continued to walk and graze. In fact, he walked to within 15 feet before turning off and drifting into the thicket behind us.
We stepped out from the cedar tree and soaked up the remnants of a sinking sun while recalling the hunt that had just unfolded. A few minutes after the sun disappeared we headed for the crash site. With memories set in stone there was work to be done.