It wasn’t a big deer but it was Bev’s deer and that is all that mattered.
A button buck, the deer came trotting out of the wood line to the left of the hunting blind; a well-built assembly of wood that more than comfortably seats two people.
Only I wasn’t hunting. Not initially, anyway.
Bev had first dibs if for no other reason than because she has fewer opportunities. A late Saturday afternoon for sure and maybe a weekday evening. Even that ceases once the clocks are inched back from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time.
And the fact that she was in some competition from the landowner’s family members only heightened her anxity. Especially since she knew that in three weeks we’d be hosting her father on an archery deer hunt and then another three weeks after that our son-in-law and Bev felt the push against the wall.
Besides, she didn’t shoot a deer last season, either by crossbow or by shotgun, though heaven knows she worked hard enough at it.
This time, Tuesday, yesterday, Bev was more than up for the task.
We settled in to the blind, Bev and me, she to jockey the Horton crossbow into a comfortable shooting position with the aid of a stabilizing mono-pod device.
As for me, I laid out my gear, spreading on a wooden sill a pair of binoculars, hard candy to keep the coughing at bay, a package of whole-wheat cheese crackers, a butane-fired bug repellent, a small bottle of water and a book about 50 species of fish an angler needs to catch before he dies. It’s an engaging book and I figured it would help me pass the time.
But I only had a little time to pluck a couple of entries; Eldorado from South America, Arctic grayling and some weird fish from Europe, if I recall properly. Can’t really be sure because the button buck didn’t give us much time.
Well, before the end of legal shooting time the deer trotted to the Moultree electronic game feeder from which I had poured a small pile of corn kernels just in case an animal came before the timer went off.
Good thing, too, as the button buck beat the timer by some 10 minutes.
Bev was careful, focusing her thoughts on the angle the arrow would take and ensuring that deer was standing perfectly broadside. With mechanical broadheads you have to wait for such a shot so that you don’t nick a bone and only wound the animal.
Bev had remembered her lessons well and her mind wheeled forward previous hunts, both good and bad.
When the deer was in position just so, Bev launched the arrow, the Horton crossbow sending the tool which entered and exited the deer in an eye blink.
The button buck didn’t travel very far, not even making it to the wood line.
Instead, the button buck died less than 75 yards from the blind, its blood pressure fatally dropping before it could vanish in the bush. That would have required a retrieval that might have demanded a hunt of its own.
All Bev had to do was tag it and drag it back to the blind. Oh, yes, she was required to perform this chore. That’s because it was my turn to see if I could arrow an animal of my own.
Exchanging locations in the press box from visitor to active duty, I eased my own Horton crossbow into the ready position, hoping for a mature doe to step up to the dinner plate.
Once more we did not have long to wait. Before we could say “venison chili,” first, one and then two and then, three deer showed up. Two were button bucks and the third was a sister of one of the boys, we assumed.
Since I was in no hurry with an entire archery season still in my future I didn’t shoot.
Neither did I when a three-point buck - with one antler shy of a fork - sashayed to the feeder.
No point in denying it, I was tempted to shoot the three-pointer. I didn’t, though, largely because my long-stated intention was to save as many deer as possible for my father-in-law and son-in-law to see and possible harvest themselves.
Problem was, however, that night was falling fast and the deer would not move any more than they paid the least whiff of attention to the now-dead button buck laying
less than 20 yards away and behind the wooden structure.
So Bev and I were stuck for the better part of 90 minutes and the deer would eat a few kernels of corn, amble away and then return for another bite or two. When the deer weren’t doing that they were investigating each other. Especially the fawn doe who took a particular interest in the three-point buck.
He was all macho. That is, until the big bruiser showed up just at the cusp of legal shooting time. Now that deer, maybe I would be a bit greedy on.
But the big bruiser - which had been seen several times on a trail camera positioned to blink on the blind when it detected motion - didn’t offer a shot.
Besides, evening had long since been swallowed up by nightfall. Which required that Bev and me had to wait until the deer had vaporized back into the woods before we could gather up our gear and move the button buck to a less busy intersection so it could be field dressed.
She looked down at her deer, commenting that, yes, it was a bit small.
You know what, though? I told her never you mind. She did an excellent job throughout and given how troubled she’s been about not connecting last year and the fear she would have few opportunities this season, why, you couldn’t ask for a finer trophy.
And a better platform from which to make tender venison roasts and steaks one could ask for.
I, for one, am as proud and pleased as all get out.
A video of the hunt - minus the actual kill shot - is available for viewing on The News-Herald's web site.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn