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This is long, I’m warning you, but understand this – I have never harvested a mature deer, I’ve only ever made bow kills, and I’ve made bad shots on deer and haven’t found them due to me (actually taking a bad shot) or deer doing the duck and run with my old slow and loud bow – so this was an exciting hunt for me.

Here's the story:

My grandfather and I had planned to go up to the cabin in Potter for this weekend since August. He's a senior and so we thought we'd take advantage of the rifle hunt and try and get some venison in the freezer. I had planned to carry the bow again, but on Monday a friend offered to let me use his inline for the week. I figured it'd be worth it, at least near home during the week, and then I'd decide at camp whether to carry the bow or gun... or both. So I grabbed the extra stamp needed and got comfortable with the gun at the range (shoots like a dream).

Well mid-week came and the forecast looked grim. After some advice from you all i figured I'd still give the muzzleloader a go and just put a plastic bag over the barrel.

Saturday morning came and the rain was steady to say the leasst. My grandfather always jokes about not bothering to get up if it's raining, but I've had some of my best sightings and action in steady rain so I knew I wasn't going to miss it. I didn't want to bother with two weapons since I was already going to have the extra challenge of the porta roof and rainjackets going in. I would have had too much stuff hanging from the tree and the area I was going is more known for harboring does, so I left the bow at camp.

The rain seemed like it was going to let up around 6, but by the time I was on stand I knew I was in for a soggy day. I was hoping to be up and sitting still by 6:30. I got everything set up as quickly as possible and was settled by 6:45... everything seems to take longer when you're getting rained on, but it takes longer to get light so I had about 30 minutes or so before I had enough light to shoot.

I felt I had been doing a fairly good job at watching everywhere, especially the area that I felt there deer would come from. But as often happens I was looking in one direction for a minute and I turned to find 4 deer 60 yards away… It seems like they appeared out of no where. They ended up right where I though they would, but I have no idea how. By the time I got focused on them and realized there were 4 they had started to bed down. Two on the ground looked fairly small and another medium sized doe was nosing around but the lead doe that was playing the part of sentry was obviously the biggest.

My focus turned to getting the scope covers off and removing the plastic bag from the muzzle as quietly as possible. I felt like the blaze orange was going to give me away any second. I managed to do everything and the other two deer seemed to still be calm. I got situated and lifted the gun to see that the shot wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Two small limbs covered the upper and lower part of her vitals. I still felt like it would be a very doable shot, but I wanted to see if the other was indeed smaller and if she’d give me a better shot. The 3rd laid down and what I now confirmed to be the biggest continued to look in the same direction. Well my decision had been made, take her before she lays down and the shot gets harder.

The gap appeared to be 6 inches. I figured regardless of angle from the tree stand, the shot should make it through without a problem. I took a breath and squeezed…
BOOM – stupid smoke… it took me a second before I could find her again. She was running straight for me, jumping high and twisting, almost falling, as she leapt over huge bunches of briars… she turned about 20 yards out and I saw the hit had been perfect, a large spot of blood formed just behind her shoulder. She ran another 30 yards before disappearing behind a wall of briars, the other 3 doe scattering in various directions.

To be honest I was surprised a deer hit that well with a 233 grain ballistic tip bullet didn’t drop in its tracks. I knew with the rain any blood trail wouldn’t last, so I got down as quickly as I could remove all the hooks from the tree and maneuver the climber down.

I went to where I last saw her… no blood… moved slowly forward… no blood. There! Red caught my eye, a decent sized piece of lung tissue… but no blood…. Move forward… no blood. Another chunk of lung tissue… this deer should be at my feet… where’s the blood? I finally came to a puddle that had formed in a leaf stained bright red… it tipped over and spilled and it was like it never was there.

The rain had done its work more quickly than I thought possible. I’m sure there had been plenty of blood, but it wasn’t sticking to anything. I tried to find more leaves that may have caught blood in a puddle with no luck. I was now 50 yards from where she originally stood. Time to just start looking… 75, 100, 150 yards down the trail she had been on between two walls of briars… nothing. Turn around and try another direction through the maze… nothing. Took the main path again looking for any clue… after the 3rd time I was getting worried.

Maybe the hit wasn’t as good as I thought, maybe it wasn’t lung tissue but fat… maybe there was just no blood… what now? I turned around again and started heading back to where she first stood to start making larger circles and fanning out, replaying everything in my mind. I had been through this situation before, trailing pin pricks of blood hopelessly and I had hoped I never would again. This time I had no blood to go on and I was beginning to lose hope.
Something caught my eye… I stared. Nothing registered at first… what am I even looking at?? It took me a few seconds to realize a deer was in front of me, dead, not 5 yards off the side of the main trail I knew she took… a small drop in terrain had hidden her from view. I still felt unsure about what I saw and it took another few seconds for me to snap out of a haze.

I never have felt relief like this before. Mostly because of the lost deer in the past – finding this one was important. I’ve followed hard blood trails that have led to success. But I had absolutely nothing to go on this time. No reason to believe that I had been right on how good the shot was or that the next 6 hours wouldn’t end in failure. How I had missed her before was clear, how I had not this time was only by the grace of God. She had lept over the wall of briars, landed and slid down a small bank. The only way possible to see her was to pass her and turn around to get a glimpse through a gap in the briars. Maybe I would have found her on my following sweeps, maybe not.

I literally fell to my knees and laughed (and wooped), I could not believe it.

Excuse the picture, our camera battery died and all I had was the cell phone!

We guessed her at 110 lbs. dressed before dragging, 200 lbs. after (kidding), and she turned out to be 113 by the butchers scale. Finally, a mature Potter deer, 1st with a gun and I did it in the rain with a muzzleloader.
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