It was a gorgeous weekend in northern Wisconsin, just a couple miles south of the big lake. The plan was to finish fencing the cedar trees we had planted in the spring and then trying to reduce the number of cedar eaters in the vicinity with our archery equipment. Since I am a multi-tasker, and the Sunday forecast was for 15-20mph winds with waves building to 3-5', I had the Delphin on the roof and planned on some surfing at the mouth of the Brule where the waves against the steady current of the river would make for some interesting sport. Unfortunately the wind and waves never showed up which was actually fortunate because neither did I. We had a wounded buck to track.
The GurneyGranny shot a six point buck from her stand, Twin Towers, on Sunday morning and after waiting the prescribed hour or so we began tracking. Podman, the KingOfIronwoodIsland, GG, and Yours Truly set off at 10am following an increasingly sparse blood trail. The buck circled back and headed for the creek, a tactic we knew well but we still lost the trail a half dozen times. To find the trail again we hang a piece of ribbon in a tree and then begin circling until the trail is struck once more. We jumped the wounded deer on the other side of the creek and it was obvious the wound was mortal but we wanted to dispatch the buck and not have it elude us somehow. We trailed it up and over the ridge, down into the valley of another small creek, and then followed as it circled around back down into the small creek valley. In the interim GG managed to hit him with another arrow and on the other side of the small creek, in an area littered with fallen trees, the King managed to finally dispatch the buck. It was six hours after the initial arrow had been released, five hours after the tracking process began.
There are several things to think about here. One obvious one is that we all need to practice more with our bows. We all shoot but we don't necessarily do it from a sitting position 15 feet up in a tree. I, for one, am guilty as hell of that. We owe it to the deer to be the best we can with bow and rifle for that clean kill. However a misplaced twig, a deer that suddenly moves, or almost anything else can throw an arrow off target, its just not that easy people. The fact is that the clean kill doesn't always happen, no matter how we wish for and train for it, and that's where the other lessons come in, the ones involving perseverance, the doctrine of fair chase, and having a good hunting ethic. No one wanted to be trailing a deer through the thick brush but no one suggested we give up either. If we lost the trail once we lost it twenty times, but each time we circled and found that drop of blood on a blade of grass and kept going. Had we not found the buck most certainly others would have. The King left his stand early when a pack of coyotes headed in his direction Saturday night. While Wisconsin coyotes are not known to eat Yoopers, it's one thing to know that intellectually and quite another to have them howling on the same 40 acres with you as the sun goes down and camp is a half hour hike in the dark. We heard the wolves as well and I damn near hit a big black bear on the way home. Between the scavengers on the ground and the crows, ravens, eagles, and even fat loving chickadees that are bulking up for winter, the deer would have been appreciated and utilized by the fauna and flora in the area. But we started this thing and damn well meant to finish it.
By the time the deer was field dressed and on the wheeler for the ride back to camp we were all pretty much just happy to be done. We had forgotten to bring any lunch and water was on short rations. I even forgot to give GG the traditional manly handshake/forearm grasp (OK, OK, she gets a hug, I confess) congratulating her on harvesting some venison. But it was most definitely the right thing to do and for experienced hunters like the foursome in the woods yesterday, hunters with the skill and perseverance to track and dispatch a wounded buck, there was a certain element of pride and satisfaction about the end result. Meat in the freezer and a successful end to bow season, combined with that sense of accomplishment.That's not a bad way to spend a beautiful fall afternoon in the northwoods.
(note:Most images are from a prior bowhunt in 2008, the one above from last years gun camp.)