By Mark LeFebvre
2012 was the first year that the NYS DEC tried a new thing – they opened the regular Bow Season a couple weeks earlier than the normal October 15th in order to allow for a youth firearm hunt over the 3-day Columbus weekend. So Monday, October 1st, was Opening Day of the 2012 deer season and Andrew was off to school and I was off to work. Not quite the Opening Day that we had looked forward to, but then again it was two weeks earlier than usual and the deer movement hadn’t even started to resemble anything that was ‘normal’…
So with all of our hunting stuff still in the old house over on Salt Road and a handful of stands still in place around that surrounding farmland, I picked Andrew up from school and headed out there to get changed. Since Andrew was still a ‘Junior Hunter’ for one last year, we headed to the only double ladder stand in those woods, good old Stand 3, to hang out together for the evening hours. Even if we didn’t see any deer, it was still time well spent with my son.
We were settled into the double stand by 3:30. Kenn was headed across the alfalfa field to get into Stand 2 in the hedgerow between the standing corn and the grassy field. From his perch to the south, he could see most of the alfalfa field that we could see from the woods to the north. Weather was nice – a light warm breeze, sunny with some spotty clouds – and we had 3 hours of shooting light left…time for a nap…
An hour or so into the afternoon and we received a text message from Kenn that there were some deer out in the alfalfa field a little to the east of us. We couldn’t see that far back into the field, so I just stood and watched behind us for any movement in case they wandered back into the woods. That gave Andrew the chance to lay down on the double-wide bench and continue his nap.
When he woke up, he asked what food we brought… Oops. My backpack was emptied after last season and I forgot to restock it with a Ziploc bag of goodies. I dug through my bag looking for anything I could find for him, but aside from a few crumbs from old cheese and peanut crackers, he was out of luck and settled in for another nap.
After some wiggling around on the bench and asking again for food, he finally says ‘Dad, I gotta pee’ – ugh, right at the best time of the evening when the deer are usually on the move for their dinner and we have the chance to catch one sneaking out of the woods for some fresh alfalfa, he wants to get down and crunch around on the dry leaves to relieve himself. I told him to just stand up and pee off the corner of the stand, it wasn’t worth getting all untied and making all that noise to walk away from the stand to go.
As he stood up to face the south side of the stand, I turned to the north and immediately saw movement less than 100 yards away. ‘Don’t move’ I whispered to him. He stopped and slowly looked over his shoulder. Heading right down towards us from the north is a nice little buck, completely unaware that we were 16 feet up over his head. If he continued on his path, he would pass behind us at less than 15 yards and offer Andrew a nice short quartering away shot.
Andrew quietly took his bow off the hook from the tree in front of us, clipped on his release and slowly turned to his left a bit to get into position, all the while keeping an eye on the movement of the deer quickly closing the distance behind us. As the deer walked directly behind us, Andrew asks me when he should draw his bow back. I said to wait until his head is behind the first of the two trees you see over Andrew’s shoulder in the nap-time picture above.
As the buck steps behind the tree, Andrew draws back and the deer looks right up at him from between the two trees. We both freeze. Andrew’s at full draw just waiting for the deer to take a couple more steps to get out from behind the tree. With barely a flick of his tail, he puts his head back down and takes two more steps before stopping to nibble on a leaf.
THWACK!! And I see the bright fletches of Andrew’s arrow almost bury in behind the buck’s shoulder. A quick jump forward and he turns left and runs through the thick brush to the east towards Stand 4.
I put my hand on Andrew’s shoulder and say ‘shhh…’ as we listen for commotion in the brush… not 10 seconds later we hear a loud crash and rustle in the woods and then nothing. I tell him that he’s down and start to feel him shake (or maybe that was me shaking…) and he says he needs to sit because his knees are trembling. We take a little time to settle down before we pack up our gear and climb down the ladder.
Andrew headed over to where the deer was standing when he shot it and found the tracks where he first jumped. A few yards past that, right at the edge of the brush, he finds the back 20+ inches of his arrow with a lot of blood on it. From there, we inch-worm from blood spot to blood spot and never go more than five feet without finding another good sign of blood. About 60 yards of this and Andrew spots the body of his first buck and walks up carefully behind it to poke it. It’s down for good – his first buck with his first bow shot ever!! How sweet is that?!?
Of course, with Dad nearby, we have to take pictures – lots of them – and text them out to as many people as possible. What a great looking first buck. I’m so freaking proud right now.
We headed back to the house to get changed and bring out the deer cart. And, of course, more pictures with the good camera…
When all the pictures were taken and we positioned the deer and tools to get down to the dirty work, I kept reminding Andrew that the broadhead is still in the deer – Be Careful.
Kenn had buzzed home to attend to some kid duties and then returned to help us out. He showed up out in the woods about halfway through the gutting process. At one point he started to help Andrew and kind of took over with his longer arms as I was holding the deer in place. As Kenn reached down to grab a large bulbous organ in the deer’s chest cavity, I see the end of the arrow sticking out of it and told him to Stop! We carefully removed the heart from the chest and then pulled the remaining portion of Andrew’s arrow and broadhead out of it. The shot had gone in behind the right shoulder, through the right lung, through the heart, through the left lung and started to puncture the inside of the left rib cage. While running through the woods, the arrow had backed out just enough to leave the broadhead buried inside the heart. First shot with his bow, first buck, and perfect shot through the critical vitals to create the quickest, cleanest kill possible. Can’t get much better than that, huh? Well, keep reading…
When I was getting ready to take Andrew’s deer to the butcher a good friend of mine, Clint, had asked if we were going to have the deer caped for a shoulder mount. I told him that Andrew just wanted a European style white skull mount and he said he’d wait until he got a bigger deer to have it shoulder mounted. So Clint asked if he could have the cape. I said I’ll make you a deal – I’ll pay the extra money to have the butcher cape and save the head for you if you clean the skull so we can whiten it. Deal. So the caped head was salted, rolled and put in the freezer to be handed over to Clint the next time our paths crossed.
The following weekend was the 3-day Columbus weekend. We had planned our Housewarming at the new place for Saturday evening when my girls and their friends would be home from college. Andrew was still brimming from his first buck a few days earlier so gun hunting for the Youth Weekend was a back-burner activity as we worked to prepare for the party on Saturday. Sunday’s weather wasn’t the greatest and we all wanted to sleep in, so we planned to wake up at a decent hour on Monday and head to the Lyon’s Den with his 870 in hand for the last day of the Youth Weekend.
Monday, October 8th. We were up a little late – about 7am – grabbed some breakfast and headed to the land. No one else was going to be there but since the dirt roads were pretty wet from the rain on Sunday, we parked up top and walked back in. Before we got to the bridge, I asked Andrew if he was loaded and he said ‘No’. I told him that he can shoot anything that we see and he needs to be ready. We stopped into the Secret Spot and swapped the memory cards in the trail camera and I pulled a box of 20ga sabots from his fanny pack so he could load up. Good thing we did that…
We continued along the path heading to the dam and with plans to take the canoe across the pond and go sit under a tree up on the flats of The Knob. 100 yards before the dam, I see a deer standing in the trail 60 yards ahead of us. I give Andrew a quick whispered ‘Stop’ and he freezes in the trail just ahead of me. As we watched this deer looking right back at us, I said ‘Nice doe’ – since we were looking through brush and I didn’t notice any antlers. Andrew has a better angle and says ‘Dad, that’s a buck’ and the deer turns to look south and then I see the antlers. Andrew asks ‘Can I shoot him?’ Sure, but you’ll have to use your regular season buck tag and can’t shoot another buck this year… Up goes the gun, click goes the safety, he thinks a bit about dropping down on one knee but there is too much brush in the way, so he shoulders the gun again and BANG. The buck wheels around and takes off to the north and crashes less than 10 seconds later.
We walk up to where it was standing and see that he was working a scrape, we follow the torn up leaves to the north in the direction that it ran. There were two possible trails that we each followed for about 20 yards when I looked up and saw a white belly not more than 30 yards ahead of us.
Buck number two for 2012. A nice 7 pointer.
Again, a bunch of pictures before the gutting begins. Then we take a little float on the pond to wash our hands and check for any duck signs, before walking back to the truck to get changed and bring the deer cart back.
So here’s a quick wrap-up of Andrew’s 2012 season – so far – we were in the woods for a couple hours for the Bow Opener and he shoots a nice 6 pointer and then we’re walking into the woods for the Youth Gun Season and he shoots a nice 7 pointer. So all in all, he was ‘hunting’ for maybe 3 hours total and has two bucks already.
But wait, there’s still more…
Back to the 6 pointer that Andrew shot with his bow…his first deer ever…remember?
When Clint was caping the remaining hide from the face of the deer, he noticed some strange ‘bumps’ along the forward part of the upper jaw. Once the cape was completely off and prepped, he went back to clean off the skull and examine these ‘bumps’. What he found was fangs.
After doing some ‘research’ online, we see that this is a very rare occurrence that is a genetic throw-back to prehistoric times.
How cool is that? Andrew’s first deer taken with his bow. Not only is it a very nice chocolate-racked 6 pointer, but a one-in-a-million fanged deer at that. It is going to make a great European Mount…