Waited for a few minutes and realized that there was no need to wait. This buck would not be found alive, but would it be found?
That’s always the question. This is not TV. Bucks don’t stop and drop.
As this buck passed out of sight, he was running like a race horse. He plowed through a barbed wire fence, breaking one of the strands. And, unfortunately, he was heading down hill.
It was 3 PM and hot. I grabbed a bottle of water, my field glasses, some trail marking tape and my swing-blade knife. That was all I wanted to carry. I hoped it would end quickly.
Searching for first blood is always painful. I walked the trail – nothing obvious.
I walked about 100 yards down the most likely route. Nothing obvious. Why couldn’t he just be there, lying on his side?
Doesn’t happen that way.
Looked at my phone for the time. I was already drenched in sweat. Thought about asking for help. Rob and our friend Terry were somewhere on the ranch, working on projects. Maybe I should text them?
At 3:18 PM I sent a message: “Just shot a good one.”
Then I went back to tracking. Put on my reading glasses and found a drop of blood. Then another and another. The trail began to line out.
Amazing how much easier it was to see blood with the readers on. I moved out at a decent rate. The blood was steady, but limited.
Most of the drops were on dead leaves, rocks branches or on the wild oats.
At 4:11 PM, almost an hour after my call for assistance, my cell phone sounded. It was Rob. He replied, “Cool, pond on 26?”
I replied, “Yes, still tracking.”
Rob asked if I wanted help? I felt like saying, “Are you kidding?” but only responded “Yes.”
About 100 yards from the start of the trail, I was still on blood, but it was tough going. It was wickedly hot. Occasionally I’d walk ahead and search the area with my field glasses.
I got a break when I found a drop of blood about 50 yards down the trail. Kept thinking I’d find him on his side at any time, but he wasn’t there.
Then I found my arrow. It was covered in blood from one end to the other. It was clear that my arrow had penetrated through both sides of the buck, but it had remained in him for nearly 200 yards. This was a good sign.
At 4:34, Rob texted that he was at the pond. I told him to come straight down the hill and he’d find me. Now I was about 200-250 yards from the pond, but I couldn’t find any more blood.
Rob and Terry arrived and I was quite relieved to have help as I was hitting the dredded wall. I was reaching the point where my concentration was declining. Rob found blood where I couldn’t.
Then we got a big break. The buck had back-tracked for about 20 yards, leaving the main trail and Rob spotted his hoof print. As the buck was heading down a steep incline, his hoof marks were clear. Combining his tracks and drops of blood, the process began to speed up.
We began to notice that he was wobbling, bouncing of brush and trees.
He was off the main trail. Terry moved ahead of Rob and I. It was now about 6 PM and it was cooling off a little. I didn’t have much left, but we knew he wasn’t far away. The question was, would we find him before he spoiled?
Terry was standing on the edge of a cliff, and said matter of factly, “He hit the ground right here.”
Rob and I were about 25 yards behind Terry and abandoned the blood trail to walk to Terry’s side. That’s when Terry looked over the 20 foot high cliff and spotted the buck. He had gone over the edge and landed on a boulder about half way down.
He was surrounded by a patch of poison oak, but he was ours. I would not have recovered him by myself. I just wouldn’t have had enough stamina.
Probably would have found him the next day – after the buzzards worked over his stinky body. We arrived at the site of his demise after nearly four hours of tracking. He probably covered that same route in less than a minute.
I climbed down to the boulder and pulled him off into the poison oak. Terry and I drug him to a shady spot where I could work on him.
We took photos. I was so tired that I could barely hold my head up.
We couldn’t drive an ATV to this spot, so after the photo session, I began the process of boning while Terry and Rob climbed the hill to retrieve my pack, game bags and water.
It was all I could do to wrestle the intestines from the deer, cut off his hind quarters and remove his back straps.
Terry returned and helped bone out the hind quarters and finish the front quarters. I assisted, once again thankful for the help.
Rob returned about 7 PM and we were almost done with the meat. Next I sawed off the buck’s antlers and we loaded the pack. Climbing the hill with the meat would be my final job.
It was slow going as my legs felt like they might explode.
Finally the truck and more water. My legs were cramping, but the test was over.
From the top of the ridge I called home. It was 9:04.
PS: I’ve eaten barbecued back strap the last two nights and the meat is excellent!