Opening Day A-Zone Archery 2013

July is usually hot in the hills around Livermore and that’s how it was last Saturday. I had pledged to clean out my freezer before deer season started, so on Friday night I watched Giants baseball and worked at completing a batch of summer sausage I’d made during the week. As bedtime approached, I rifled through boxes in my garage, searching for a few of the remaining items I’d need on the hunt.

Saturday morning came and I concluded that I wasn’t going to rush around madly preparing for the hunt, especially since my mother passed away a couple weeks ago and our family is feeling the strain while preparing for her coming memorial service. Finally ready to go, I stopped by to visit dad. He was sitting in his back yard enjoying the fresh morning air and peaceful surroundings. I commented that it was almost as good as sitting in my tree stand – silent and invigorating.

On the drive to the ranch, I was cooled by air conditioning and inundated by the news on CNN – mentally far from being prepared and very out of touch with nature. I needed the outdoors to revive me and I knew it.

As I parked my truck a few hundred yards from my stand, I observed a familiar shape under a tree about 50 yards away. It was the ears and horns of a young buck. As I checked it out with my field glasses, I spotted a second spike-fork about 20 feet to the left of the first buck.

I snapped photos through the windshield and concluded that it was time to turn off the radio and begin the hunt.

2 spike-forks under tree

It was past noon and the sun was hot. The little bucks were concerned with only one thing – shade. Any other deer would be in the same boat, but sooner or later they all get thirsty.

This would be my first hunt from my relocated tree stand. It was placed in a very good spot, overlooking a pond near the northeastern portion of our ranch. The pond was so close to the boundary of our property, that the border fence crossed the spillway. It is my belief that there are no other water sources in the vicinity and that ‘s why so many deer water at the pond.

After clearing away a few branches, conducting a little blind maintenance and drawing my bow to make sure everything was in place, I pulled my camera from my pack and watched for something to photograph. Acorn woodpeckers began to fly in and out of the oak tree in front of me and I got some nice photos.

acorn woodpecker 2 cropped

Many varieties of birds were using the pond for water in the shade of the small bunch of trees where my stand was placed. The perfect wind was out of the west – the direction from which deer would likely approach.

plain titmouse cropped

A plain titmouse, passed by. They are difficult to photograph successfully.

stellar jay

Stellar jays, acorn woodpeckers, scrub jays, juncos, goldfinches, chickadees, bushtits and flickers landed near me or beside the pond as they came to drink. Tree squirrels and California ground squirrels appeared as the day wore on.

I began to make a conscious effort to stay still and calm, for a buck could appear at any time. About 2 P.M., I looked up and spotted a  sky-lined buck about 200 yards in front of me.

Unfortunately, the autofocus on my camera was aimed too close to the oak tree in the foreground, so the bucks are not in clear focus. But I can assure you that they were both large enough to make me nervous.

Unfortunately, the autofocus on my camera was aimed too close to the oak tree in the foreground, so the bucks are not in clear focus. But I can assure you that they were both large enough to make me nervous.

There was only one reason why bucks would be out at this time of day. They were thirsty! I knew what to expect. Bucks like to hang around above the pond and survey the area for danger before watering. That’s exactly what they did.

Although the two bucks’ horns were similar in size, one of the two had a huge body. He’s the one that stands out in the photo. Finally the bucks climbed through the fence and walked from right to left across the clearing. The younger buck continued to glance down towards the water, as if he was eager for a drink. As they disappeared into the oaks and laurels to my left, I figured that the next time I saw them, they’d be almost in range. I stood, bow in hand as long as I could stand it. Then, knowing that it might be a while, I sat down and prepared to shoot while sitting. Although my shooting form would not be quite as good sitting vs standing, I knew it would be easier to remain totally quiet while sitting.

Another ten or fifteen minutes passed. Then the younger buck stepped out of the laurels to my left and walked into perfect position. He was at 26 yards and standing perfectly broadside. As he focused his view across the dam of the pond, he had no idea that I was there. I chose not to wait for a look at the other buck. Waiting would create risk, and I wanted the buck in front of me.

In my preparations for hunting, I made the decision to use a retractable blade broadhead for this hunt. Never a fan of anything that could create an option for failure, I made the switch reluctantly. However, I chose the Rage three-blade broadhead because advertising works.

I drew the bow and placed the 20 yard pin behind his shoulder. I never seem to aim quite as carefully when shooting at deer  – one of the reasons I’ve not been more successful. My release was OK, but not perfect. The arrow hit slightly back, but in a lethal location. I was amazed by the effect that broadhead on the buck. I’ve never before seen blood pour from a wound as it did from this buck. He took off in a death run, crashed through the barbed wire fence, ran in a complete circle at full speed and then disappeared down the hill onto the adjoining property. The air was filled with dust.

I listened for any sound of  the buck going down, but heard none. It looked like this was going to be over quickly, but (as it almost always happens) that would not be the case.

Note: I don’t want to rush the story, so I’m taking a break and will finish soon.

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