I was sitting in a ground blind placed along a row of bales. I was on the hunt for a doe that I had missed a 40 yard shot it with my bow a few weeks earlier. I was still working on my archery skills, I am good out to 60 or so yards on a target but I found when a deer comes into range I tended to get a bit of “buck fever” which is strange because I have shot some nice bucks in the past without so much as a tremor. For some reason, when a doe wanders with 50 yards I get my heart thumping so bad I don’t bother risking taking the shot sometimes, tracking an arrow wounded deer is a terrifying prospect that would cause me loss of sleep. This particular day I was trying two new ideas. First I was using a ground blind instead of just sitting motionless against the bales. I had found that deer would come to within about 20 yards of me but would naturally spook and flee as I tried to draw my bow to make a shot, a blind seemed a simple solution. The second tactic was that I had a decoy doe out in front of my blind. I did some quick research the night before and found that putting out a doe decoy early in the season will bring more does in and that is what I was after. The plan seemed rather fool proof since every time I sat in that area before I had a few deer within range but just nothing that would stay close enough and still enough while I drew my bow. Many hunters pride themselves on certain strengths; some are amazing shots, some have a never quit attitude, some can stalk silently, others can think like a deer. I think mine, were I to toot my own horn for a moment, would be my ability to learn. Cold hard research works for me, reading about tracking deer got me my largest deer to date and I am always on the prowl for more information. This set up I had concocted with the use of various internet resources was sure to be a hit, the decoy would lure them in and the blind would conceal my movement as I drew the bow. It was nothing revolutionary but it was two tactics I had never needed to use for rifle hunting.
As I sat waiting for the deer to start wandering out, I heard a truck come down the dead-end road that led to the corner of the field. The truck came to a stop and in the silence of the October afternoon I could vaguely hear their conversation. “Oh look! a big whitetail buck!” I immediately started looking out the windows of my blind, all I saw was my big doe decoy. Is it possible there is a big buck behind me? There was some more chatting and some shuffling in the truck before it occurred to me that they might be lining up a shot on my decoy! I was watching the truck through my binoculars but the cab itself was obstructed by some trees so I couldn’t quite see if they were leaning a rifle out the window. Suddenly I heard “wait wait, there is a ground blind by those bales!”. The truck immediately made a U-turn and vacated the premise, almost as though they were doing something they shouldn’t, somewhere they shouldn’t be. A few minutes later I heard the report of a rifle from the direction they had gone. It upset me that I wasn’t able to get a license plate number off of the truck. It got me thinking, doing things the right way is not that hard. In fact, to me it almost seems easier. All I have to do is sit in my field and wait. If they are doing what it looks like they are doing they have to drive around looking for deer, shoot one that is likely running away from the noise of their truck, then retrieve it and leave the area before the fish and game department come running to the sound of a rifle shot out of season. Then they still have to make it home without getting stopped. All at the risk of their hunting rights and ANYTHING deemed an accessory to their poaching, including the automobile in use.
Hundreds of years ago, when all big game animals were considered the property of royalty and the common men and women of the land were left to starve, poaching might have been considered noble. The story of Robin Hood has him as a poacher, technically. They had to outwit animals, and the royal guards, all at the risk of their own lives, the pay off being food for their families. In modern-day North America poachers are usually people trying to do things the easy way, and its shameful. Poaching gives us all a bad name, and believe me public opinion of hunters is not high right now, we do not need anyone making it worse. In my grumblings of people breaking the rules, I was reminded of a time when a close friend wanted me to break a law they didn’t see a use for. A friend of a friend had said she would pay $700 for a bear’s gallbladder because her grandmother wanted it for “medicine”. As coincidence would have it, I was bear hunting that spring. In Alberta, as well as in most places, it is illegal to sell any part of a hunted animal. At the time I flatly refused simply because I didn’t want to break the law, despite $700 being a considerable sum of money in my fast nearing empty bank account. My friend tried to talk me into it with the reasonable arguments of “you aren’t going to use it anyway, better to sell it instead of throw it out” I was tempted, lordy I was tempted, but I stood strong. The subject was dropped and never really came up again because I failed to fill my bear tag that year. I realize now that I made the right decision for more reasons than the law. Upon further review I think encouraging ancient traditional medicines that use parts of animals is a terrible thing for a hunter to do. Sure it was just a black bears gallbladder, but its the same ideology that is leading to poaching and extinction of rhinos. I am glad I chose not to be a part of that. Poachers, and those that encourage or enable poaching destroy what hunters try so hard to create, they also often get lumped into the same categories as hunters by people who don’t care to do any research on the subject. As hunters we need to do our best to separate ourselves from poachers, even if its something small like selling a gallbladder or shooting a deer a week before or after the rifle season, all of these little things add up and contribute to big things, big things we don’t want to be a part of.
I sat in my blind going over how I hoped those guys were just scouting and that rifle shot was someone else getting sighted in for the upcoming rifle season. Suddenly two does wandered into the edge of the field about 90 yards out, one was noticeably larger than the other. They slowly made their way toward my decoy, I was relieved to see that my plan was working, maybe… at the very least it wasn’t scaring the deer away, so I am counting it as a success. In my mind this was the doe I had missed a 40 yard shot on weeks before, lucky it was a clean miss and not a wounding shot. I was trying to range her as she approached my decoy, knew she was somewhere around 30 yards but my range finder was having trouble reading through the mesh windows on the blind. Finally it spat out a number, 25 yards. I decided my best bet was to put my 20 yard pin just high of center on the kill zone and any drop would still be where I want it to be. I slid forward onto the edge of me seat and came to a full draw, I checked the level on my sight, I was dead on and my heart was pounding. I took aim and released, the deer reacted to the sound of the bow and crouched down a few inches, the arrow flew clear over her shoulder. I had missed again, and to add insult to my injured pride, I had lost the arrow into the tangle mess of the fields stubble. The deer looked around, unsure of what happened and trotted to the edge of the field, I looked at her closely with my binoculars. Not a mark on her luckily, a clean miss is by far better than a bad hit. I think my problem is I need more practice shooting from a sitting position and I definitely get too excited when an animal walks into range. It’s nice to know the excitement of hunting hasn’t worn off on me, but it also gets a little infuriating, especially since I am actually a really good archer… when there aren’t deer around.
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