On the cusp of losing my first deer.

ThePreBanMan

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Amazing day in the woods, with a sad ending (to be cont....)

Yesterday was a magical time to be in the woods. The bucks are in full-blown cray cray mode running around with reckless abandon. I set up on the down wind side and edge of a super thick swamp that's flooded. I was expecting AM action in light of the very cold overnight temps here (mid 20s). I was not disappointed. At about 8:00 AM I saw a group of 4 does bed down on a pocket island of brush in the swamp about 70 yards to the west of my stand. Wind was out of the NW... Things were shaping up perfectly. My stand was over an intersection of 3 trails in/out of the swamp and that bedding area. The trail is torn up with fresh sign.

About an hour later the bucks rolled into town. The swamp was filled with noises of bucks tearing the place up and trampling through the ankle to knee-deep water. Grunting, rubbing, trampling, sparring, I was observing it all. Small trees shaking and the brush being torn up as they trampled through. At about 11:00 AM a buck busted up where the does were bedded sending them scattering. After that, he started walking the trail towards my stand... Show time!!!

I grabbed my bow, stood up, folded up the seat, placed my feet accordingly for the perfect T form shot at my shooting lane. at about 20 yards out in some thick cover, he veered off the trail and started to come directly towards my tree. I'm at full draw at this point and I hold. He walks under my stand... I hold... I don't like the shot angle... He passes the tree I'm in and begin to walk directly away. I hold, I don't like the shot. At about 8 yards he turn a bit and id now quartering away headed for another patch of thick cover. He presents a shot opportunity at about 8 yards...

...I'll pause here for a minute... As the bow hunters among us know, this shot isn't an easy one... Don't let the close range fool you. There are multiple factors here. The angle of shooting down from a tree at such close range, and a hard quartering shot. That said, there is a roughly softball-sized kill zone.. You can tuck the shot in between the shoulder and backbone, down through the back of the near side lung, through the heart, and exit the chest cavity just in front of the front leg. (Don't try this with a light arrow or a mechanical head).

My setup is built for this kind of penetration. I run an arrow north of 500 grains, 20% FoC, and cut on contact fixed blade broadheads (Magnus Black Hornets). I practice this shot on McKenzie targets at my club from an elevated position. They have a pretty sweet archery setup for bowhunters, but I digress.... But the point is I feel like I'm well-practiced with an appropriate setup. I hit the mark in this situation 10 out of 10 times in practice. I was confident... maybe too confident....

Back to the story.... My shot, appeared to hit just behind and below the mark, by a couple of inches. Not a huge miss, but big enough... So as opposed to catching the lung and heart, it looked like I may have gotten just the very rear of the near side lung. But it was hard to tell exactly, it was over in a flash. But, I did see where the arrow hit, and I was immediately feeling ill... I watched as the buck ran off in a large circle around my stand and then back into the swamp. He covered a few hundred yards before I lost sight of him. I took out the range finder, compass and GPS. Tagged my tree on the GPS and measured the direction and distance to the last sighting. I got down and backed out. Went to the truck and had lunch.

...now there are two schools of thought here on what to do next... You can give them the day and come back tomorrow. Or you can push them. It's case by case and you have to judge for yourself. If you're on small property and you don't want to push them off it, you give them time. If it's a gut shot, you give them time. But, if you think you got a good bleeder and you're on a large plot, there is a strong argument made to pushing them. You keep them moving, keep their blood pressure up, keep their pulse up, and the wound can't clot up.

I decided I would investigate the shot location, recover my arrow, investigate, then go to the last sighting and check out the blood/sign and decide from there. I recovered my arrow.. It had passed through and buried itself halfway into the mud. So nothing on the front half of the arrow. The back half didn't have much blood on the shaft, but the fletching had some good blood. Brightly colored. No foul odor and no stomach contents or dark matter indicating guts or liver. I got to the area of the last sighting and found a good blood trail. Lots of blood on the brush and on the ground. Brightly colored, no foul odor, no dark matter or color. At this point, I decided to take up the trail and push him (if he was still alive).

Right at that moment, I heard another buck come crashing through the woods. I nocked an arrow and got ready for a close-in-ground shot. He stopped about 50 yards upwind. I heard him start to trample away. So I stomped on some branches, did my best grunt impersonation (I didn't have a tube at this point), and snort wheezed. He charged in on a frozen rope. He stopped broadside at 5 yards with some brushy cover between us. I had a softball-sized lane through the cover right to the lungs. I thought about it for a few seconds but never drew back. He stood there for what seemed like forever. I said BOO!! and stomped a couple of steps towards him. He looked at me, lip curling and drooling, neck all bristled up... and did not run. I looked right into his eyes, at probably less than 5 yards now, and said REALLY!... I stomped again and said get out of here and he finally ran off... I was close enough to look right into his eyes, and even make out his eyelashes... He was a nice 8 pointer, nicer than the one I had just shot... As good as anything on my wall right now... But I felt I had an obligation to track, and honestly, my confidence was a little shaken and that softball-sized lane suddenly felt really small. I let him walk....

....boys, if you're not out in the woods RIGHT NOW, you're missing out. They're really stupid right now....

I followed the blood trail which was at first very apparent. It covered about 500 yards according to the GPS, but towards the end, what had started as a paint brush trail had become an occasional drop here and there. It was getting hard to follow.. I came to an area where he entered a flooded area that was between ankle and knee deep. My heart sank because - no blood trail. But it's so thick that they travel on defined trails, so I stuck with it and marched on. I came to an intersection and decided I would have to just walk every trail. One one of the options I eventually came to higher ground heading towards a hill. I saw disturbances in the leaves and ground that looked like he may have been dragging his feet... I found a couple of drops of blood and was happy to be back on the trail. As I approached the hill I could see the ground was greatly disturbed. It was evident he struggled to get up that hill and stumbled. The fading blood trail (bleeding out?), the dragging of the feet, the struggle to get up the hill, I expected to find a dead deer just over the hill.

I traversed the hill and was astonished that I did not find him. I followed the dragging hove tracks but there was no more blood from this point. It came to a larger area where the understory thinned out substantially. It was also torn up with fresh tracks in every direction, rubs and, scrapes... It was here, I lost the track... I grid searched from there for the next 4 or so hours, followed every trail in/out of the area, hoping to find a drop of blood, disturbances in the leaves from the dragging feet, something I could follow, but nothing... The light was fading and at about 5:30, I had to call it off....

It's muzzleloader season in RI and I was going to hit it today, but I'm going to try to pick up the track. Today I hope to find him before the coyote do. But at this point, odds are dropping like a rock. But the effort is required. Work tomorrow, and for the week, so this is the last day I have to give it. I'm finishing up b-fast as I write this and I'm off....

Other hunters I've talked to say that if you hunt long enough, this will happen. Maybe that's true, IDK. Doesn't make me feel better about it or make it suck any less.... I can't describe the feeling knowing I wounded one, it's a mix of emotions... Sadness, mourning, grief, doubt in myself....

I understand blood-tracking dogs are illegal in MA.... That's effing stupid.
 
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HorizontalHunter

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Talk about the highs and lows of deer hunting. A wild ride for sure. What an incredible encounter with that second 8 pointer. A once in a lifetime encounter that you will remember for the rest of your life.

Hitting and not recovering a deer that you know in your heart is dead is hard and also something you won’t forget. It happened to me years ago and I replayed it a zillion times in my head, as I’m sure you are now.

As an experienced hunter you took the high percentage quartering away shot at a close deer from a tree stand. Yes the closer they are the more severe the angles are but there are also many things that are out of your control can and do go wrong. My bet is the latter. You have been hunting a long time.

Some would have taken that second buck and paid lip service to the first buck. A true hunter who cares about their quarry and the traditions of fair chase and not just “filling a freezer would do what you did and make every effort to recover that downed deer.

Bob
 

Sparkey

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Good luck on the search and good on you for being a ethical hunter. I always say to myself when taking this close shots or steep angles aim for the exit wound.
 

FrankNA

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I lost one years ago in a heavy rain storm and a knee deep swamp. Jumped the hummocks as much as possible but it soon became too much as it was dark as hell (even with flashlights at 2:00 PM).

You are a man of your convictions. Good for you!
 

ThePreBanMan

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No luck. I grid searched again for a long time. At about 4:00 I finally found blood.

It was very very light but I was able to track him an additional 75 or so yards until he came out onto a human trail. The deer use the trail as well and there are fresh tracks going in both directions. I investigated directly across the trail thinking that maybe he had just crossed it. I did not find any additional blood. At this point the trail was very very light, I don't know which direction he went or where he cut back into the woods. It was getting dark at this point and I had to call it off and head out.

But you know this latest Intel had me thinking. On my way out of the woods yesterday I took the same trail as it was close to where I lost the blood trail. While walking the trail I came across a buck. He was also in the trail back facing me and in the distance. I didn't notice him until the white flag went up and he jumped into the woods. I recall thinking yesterday, there's no way in hell that's him. That deer looked perfectly fine. But now I wonder...
 

ThePreBanMan

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As he walked under your stand, spine him.

I've thought about that before but it's a narrow target. You have zero left/right forgiveness.... If you miss the mark, it's very likely a lost animal. I've spined them before, but I avoid that shot. Short track for sure if it all works out though... Try not to step on them as you climb down.... after you shoot them a 2nd time..
 

Fixxah

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I saw a bunch of dead deer today. Maybe fifty so far. All roaodkilled on 81. Some got hit so hard their heads were completely gone from the shoulders forward. Yeah, I know where they went. Lol

Look around where you lost the trail and go to the water. You may see a tine sticking out or maybe another part of him. If coyotes get him, you will have a skull anyway. Good luck.
 

Mark from MA

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Sorry you lost him......happens to everyone that hunts for any decent length of time. No one is perfect and bowhunting is far from easy.
 

Mark from MA

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Sorry you lost him......happens to everyone that hunts for any decent length of time. No one is perfect and bowhunting is far from easy.
After reading about your shot, I had the same experience once on buck that i hit like that, low, (like 1/8th up the body) and back near the last rib (lower though) The deer was on the cam eating acorns two days later with the wound noticeable in the picture. I didn't think it was possible, but it seems I had missed anything vital. Evidently there is more than one no man's land spot. And yes....Ive hit that spot as well.... (high between the lungs and spine) and never found the deer either. That's when I really started aiming low for string jumping and had pretty good results with that, usually a heart or top of heart/lung shot.
 
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What an excellent write up. I always go back and forth with mechanicals and fixed heads I shot a couple bucks 2 days apart both a bit back liver and clipped one lung, the mechanical buck went 100 yards I watched him tip the slick trick buck lived for 24 hours and found him 3/4 miles away. Last Saturday I shot liver one lung quartering away with a mechanical and he went 80 yards and I heard him crash I gave him an hour and a doe came in chip shot at 24 yards put it on the shoulder with a fixed head and had a failure. She ran off and I found the arrow about 50 yards from shot. I think there’s a time and place for both
65CF75F9-53BB-4E01-97C2-DCECDE540DB5.jpeg
 

Mark from MA

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What an excellent write up. I always go back and forth with mechanicals and fixed heads I shot a couple bucks 2 days apart both a bit back liver and clipped one lung, the mechanical buck went 100 yards I watched him tip the slick trick buck lived for 24 hours and found him 3/4 miles away. Last Saturday I shot liver one lung quartering away with a mechanical and he went 80 yards and I heard him crash I gave him an hour and a doe came in chip shot at 24 yards put it on the shoulder with a fixed head and had a failure. She ran off and I found the arrow about 50 yards from shot. I think there’s a time and place for both
View attachment 541106
Id never try to hit a deer in the shoulder with an arrow and head of any type. That's not a good idea.

There's been so much back and forth about mechanicals steep shot angles, etc. To me its all random luck of the draw type shit.

I do agree they make great exit wounds when they pass thru. When they don't I'd rather have a fixed head. There are some real crappy fixed blades out there and there are real crappy mechanicals too. If I was shooting a mechanical I'd shoot Spitfires or Swackers. For my Crossbow setup I shoot 150 grain 3" Swackers. They leave a hell of an exit hole, and with the Xbow, I know there is enough power.

But in general my 60# bow setup, I shoot real sharp small fixed heads and get good penetration and good blood trails when they hit the right place. The key is to hit in both lungs if you can. Though many people like quartering away....I prefer full broadside/both lungs.
 

HorizontalHunter

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No Swackers for me. I had one fail on a deer years ago. It failed to completely deploy and fell out of the buck after a few steps.

The only reason I know what happened is that the deer was recovered as was the arrow and broadhead. I was hunting with a friend and he had shot the buck and it was a fatal hit. The buck just went by me by chance and I chose to put another arrow in him to end his run.

If you look at the picture you can see that the ferrule of the break head collapsed in the first photo and that trapped the blade from deploying as seen in the second picture.

If I hit the shoulder blade I could understand it but it was a rib hit.

9-AAAC069-F287-4-F9-C-8392-009-FD2-C4-BE36.jpg



9-C7-C0-AC4-963-D-4-C0-C-B2-A9-ABCEF6-F5-CCEE.jpg



I’m a NAP Spitfire man through and through.
Bob
 

Mark from MA

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Bob....never used swackers in my regular setup, just once on a double lung hit with my Xbow, which requires 150 grain tips, and all I could find was 3" swackers. It left a massive exit hole. But really, that deer was dead with any good broadhead. And had I hit something solid I know those 3" blades would have been toast, and probalby shattered in short order.

I just shot a deer today, and I'm glad I had fixed heads. Deer came in right under me, and I shot and hit the side of the spine. Muzzy MX-3 broke the spine went thru part of the vertebra, into the lung. Deer dropped at the shot, and when it layed broadside, I put a second one thru both lungs and it was dead in seconds.

I guess that's why at least for my regular bow setup....I use fixed heads, I feel if something bad happens, it's better than having blades that have to deploy. I washed that MX-3 head off and its totally good, nothing wrong with it, except it will need new blades. No maybe the same thing would have happened with mechanicals.....but I know the blades would probably not be in the same condition. Again...luck of the shot.....and I really have nothing against mechs that are of good design.
 

HorizontalHunter

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Bob....never used swackers in my regular setup, just once on a double lung hit with my Xbow, which requires 150 grain tips, and all I could find was 3" swackers. It left a massive exit hole. But really, that deer was dead with any good broadhead. And had I hit something solid I know those 3" blades would have been toast, and probalby shattered in short order.

I just shot a deer today, and I'm glad I had fixed heads. Deer came in right under me, and I shot and hit the side of the spine. Muzzy MX-3 broke the spine went thru part of the vertebra, into the lung. Deer dropped at the shot, and when it layed broadside, I put a second one thru both lungs and it was dead in seconds.

I guess that's why at least for my regular bow setup....I use fixed heads, I feel if something bad happens, it's better than having blades that have to deploy. I washed that MX-3 head off and its totally good, nothing wrong with it, except it will need new blades. No maybe the same thing would have happened with mechanicals.....but I know the blades would probably not be in the same condition. Again...luck of the shot.....and I really have nothing against mechs that are of good design.

I posted my experience because it is really reare when you get a broad head failure that extreme and have the opportunity to see what really happened. It is also the first and only time I shot a deer with a broadhead with a weak aluminum ferrule. I learned a good lesson for sure.

To be clear, it wasn’t intended in any way as a criticism in any way, shape, or form. (I don’t think that you took it that way but wanted to make sure.) It is abundantly clear to me that you are a stand up guy and an ethical hunter.

Just about any broad head will do the job when it makes it to the right place. Unfortunately, Murphy loves to get involved once an arrow leaves the rest.

When a good broad head shines is when things go wrong and it still does the job; especially when it encounters bone in its travels Like your Muzzy did.

Congratulations on your harvest. It is a good thing to be adding meat to the freezer with the craziness going on at the grocery store these days.

Bob
 

Sparkey

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Took a shot at a big buck today from the ground 20 yards he came into a grunt call while I was still hunting he was facing me slightly quartering towards me.
I wish I waited or didn’t take the shot now but I thought he was going to bolt.
I believe I hit shoulder . His front end dropped down spun around and ran off. Waited a hour shot was at 10 am started track at 11am.
100 yards into track of bright red blood found where he snapped arrow off with about 12” and the nap spitfire still stuck in him. Was tracking slow he headed down hill blood was good in some spots and just drops in others went about 600 yards when couldn’t find anymore. As light was getting weird towards dusk.
Marked last blood checked the beaver pond that was right next to and hiked home in dark.
Will be out there tomorrow but wind and rain will make it tough.
Anybody have any thoughts ?
Is he still running around he never bedded in 600 yards and I wasent pushing him.
Sucks I know it is part of hunting sometimes will start grid searching tomorrow.
 

BigTimber

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Took a shot at a big buck today from the ground 20 yards he came into a grunt call while I was still hunting he was facing me slightly quartering towards me.
I wish I waited or didn’t take the shot now but I thought he was going to bolt.
I believe I hit shoulder . His front end dropped down spun around and ran off. Waited a hour shot was at 10 am started track at 11am.
100 yards into track of bright red blood found where he snapped arrow off with about 12” and the nap spitfire still stuck in him. Was tracking slow he headed down hill blood was good in some spots and just drops in others went about 600 yards when couldn’t find anymore. As light was getting weird towards dusk.
Marked last blood checked the beaver pond that was right next to and hiked home in dark.
Will be out there tomorrow but wind and rain will make it tough.
Anybody have any thoughts ?
Is he still running around he never bedded in 600 yards and I wasent pushing him.
Sucks I know it is part of hunting sometimes will start grid searching tomorrow.
Get out at first light before the rain. Good luck.
 
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