Wednesday, November 30, 2016
November 30: My chance at a MA Public Land Pope and Young
Today was my day, I jumped a deer halfway down the cart rd to my stand, so I picked up my pace as walking was quiet and I wanted to scoot away from him to not spook him too hard knowing it was still dark and I had a bank to hide me only 10 yards away...I heard only two bounds then silence and it was headed towards my stand. I got settled by 6:30 am and started grilling the brook crossing I expected that deer to come from at some point. At 7 am, surprise, there's a dark body moving through the young hemlocks across the brook and I stood up and grabbed my bow knowing this was all going to happen quickly. Big woods bucks are incredible, you can honestly never underestimate the strength and will power of these bastards. At 7 am I shot a minimum 130" buck (could easily be in the 140's) with my bow at 30 yards. He was at least an 8 pt but honestly I saw rack for 2 seconds before I decided he was a shooter and had to range the tree ahead of him and prep for the shot, it all happened in less than a minute between spotting him at 45 yds and shooting him at 30 yds as he was about to walk out of my last shooting lane headed to the community scrape my camera is overlooking and has been catching some serious bucks at since Nov 1st. After the shot the buck bounded twice back towards the brook, looked at his body (which I immediately registered in my head as possibly assessing his wound) and then he walked off just like he came in, sneaking away at a slow pace, definitely no signs of injury but he was in the thick stuff quick and even in my binos I only got a couple small glimpses of him sneaking away. As luck would have it the nock didn't go off, first time for my Nocturnals, so I have no clue where I hit it and didn't even know at first if I hit it other than that sound I know so well of punching the rib cage. I waited 30 minutes before getting down to find out what happened. When I got to the spot I saw the fletched half of my arrow with some blood, fat and hair all over it up to my 4" wrap. 10 ft away was the broad head half of my arrow, also covered in similar blood, fat and hair. Now I know I hit him, and I saw no blood or hair in that first 10 ft. As I carefully and quietly started tracking back to the brook where he first bounded to, my mood changed instantly. As I picked my head up looking ahead of the fresh tracks, I spotted a huge pool of blood. I jumped over to it and saw blood everywhere, an easy 12" wide blood trail heading off where he snuck away. I immediately felt a sense of relief. Despite not knowing where I hit the buck you only see blood trails like this when you heart shot or double lung a deer... Right? I walked down the blood highway with no effort for 50 yds, was satisfied I nailed him, and then decided to back out both to get some help dragging him out and to play it extra safe, he's a big buck, its early, no need to press on. I arrived with my buddy at 9:30 am, plenty of time I thought for a deer that was spilling blood like a stuck pig and that brought me confidence that we were going to walk up on him very quickly. Nope. We tracked him about .4 miles from 9:30 am to 11:00 am, losing blood about 4 times due to drops getting smaller in size, the ground being crazy saturated and barely showing tracks, never mind the fact that every drop of blood that hit the ground hit a puddle in the leaves and was immediately watered down, and low and behold, we jumped him. I can't blame the conditions really, but they didn't help at all, the ground was soaked, saturated and fresh tracks looked 3 days old and fresh blood was either pink water or a sliver of red on the outside of a small puddle of blood on a leaf. He never bedded down, only walked steadily as if he never knew he was hit, but at 11:00 am, we approached a super thick laurel patch and despite him taking the easy path the whole way, he had no choice but to dive into the laurel. Apparently he thought that was a perfect spot to watch his back trail as we got only 30 ft away from him and jumped him out of the laurel thicket. Now I knew we were in trouble. We never found a bed in the thicket, and the bound marks and fresh tracks in the mud on the other side of the thick laurel had us thinking it wasn't even him we jumped. I stayed on his tracks and found a leaf with a pink puddle of water on it, it was him, and we were still on him. We regrouped and decided we had to press this deer. Not the normal approach I'd take, I'm a patient hunter and I always back out if it looks sketchy, but we've followed him this far, he showed signs of being hit real hard, and the rain was only going to get worse today so why would we back out now? I was able to get back on his tracks, find some small wet spots of blood to assure us we were on the right path, but the blood was getting thinner, less consistent and all I could do is hope and pray inside my head for him to go down. About 100 yds after jumping him and .6 miles overall, I found 5 drops of blood where he went up a small slope following a run, continuing to take the easy path onto a small oak flat 40 yds across, and then we lost him in the sea of tracks and feed sign. I followed the main run that crossed the oak flat, we back tracked over and over following every run and every set of tracks that left that flat, but there was no more blood. If it were dry the tracks and scuffs and specs of blood would have given us a chance, but the wet landscape had us washed up. All I have left for hope is that he is headed into more open woods that narrow down between the steep hillside to the east and the swamp to the left, neither of which he attempted to venture into, taking the easy path along the landscape the whole .6 miles we tracked him. Tomorrow I venture out with my father and 2 of our friends to grid and body search the narrow corridor he was headed for which spans another 1/2 mile north to south before the road and only about 300 yards between the swamp and steep hillside. I am confident he is dead by now and I'm hoping the steady rain held him down tonight so he can die in his bed. The question will be whether he is truly mortally wounded and lies within that last 1/2 mile stretch, but I have not lost hope that we can still stumble on him tomorrow. Wish us luck. Our chances are as slim as can be but I feel like I will be rewarded for the stupid amount of time I've spent hunting this season dedicating my time to the chase that consumes my life and daily thoughts. If I don't find him tomorrow I'll dedicate Friday, and probably Saturday to searching for this buck. I owe to him, I owe it to myself, and I owe it to my family whom I've left at home (despite their constant support) for hours on end since September as I've pursued my passion for Massachusetts mature bucks.