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by Don Forsey
(Niagara County)


November 2, 2008 Wheatfield NY


I was on time getting to my stand in the morning, but a little late getting settled in to my tree. I had my headlamp still on looking for my grunt call. I already hung up my quiver, backpack, and binoculars and for the first time in year’s antlers for rattling.

I turned off my lamp and realized after my pupils adjusted, that it was later in the morning than I had thought. Don’t get me wrong, it was early still, but not quite legal shooting time yet. Not finding my grunt call I started to panic a little which is something I do quite often and easily. Just ask anyone who knows me.

I felt more pressure this year to get a deer with my bow; it is pressure that I put onto myself as I enjoy being successful with my archery tackle. The pressure was not necessarily to kill a deer as much as with the little time we archers had this year because of the shortened season. As every day slipped by I thought more about the less than 4-week season. We are missing a week of the rut and for what?

I finished putting on my scent wafers (fresh earth) and noticed that I have yet to strap on my release. As I hunt for it in my pocket I hear a soft grunt somewhere behind me in the distance. I slowly turn around in my stand and I have to peek around my tree to look for a buck.

I immediately see a deer moving from my left to right at 80 yards away. Not knowing what sex the deer is I am now frantically searching for my grunt call. Nothing, gone, nowhere to be found. As I start to panic even more I hear the soft distant grunts far behind the deer that I see. My first impression is that the deer I see is a doe and a buck is soon to follow, but I cannot yet see. So with an impending buck now in view 80 yards away I feel helpless and a little naked without my grunt call. The antlers I have hanging are real and are from a friend I work with. My only guess on what to do next is try and rattle the buck in.

In the early light I can see antlers from this far distance, but have no idea as to what spread, mass or how many points. I am hoping it is the buck I had seen just 3 days earlier while hunting from a different stand 300 yards away, a nice 10 or 11 point that I had walk under my stand. I was in a huge maple tree with 8 trunks, which stopped me from having a shot, I grunted that buck in, but he came straight head-on walked under my stand and walked straight away as I tried to count the points.

By now I figure this would be a good time as any to try and rattle the buck in. With one hand I just tinker the antlers together to just try and get his attention. I can see the deer flick his tail but that is the only reaction I see. He started to walk straight away from me for a few yards when, yep you guessed it, I panicked. I rattled lightly again and did my worst impression of a grunt call with my voice.

Thank god this was not recorded on film. As I am sure I would never hear the end of the ribbing that I would surely have to endure. He starts to carry onto his left to right direction of travel. I imagine following the first deer that I saw just moments earlier. I now hang my bow up to try and get more aggressive with the antlers when he turns and starts heading straight towards me. By the time I hung the antlers back up and grab my bow again he is at about 60 yards and making a “B” line right to my tree. The buck gets to about 20 yards and stops to take a look around, eventually looking up at me and turns on the radar.

By now the sound of my heart pumping is as loud in my chest as the big bass sound coming from the cars of our younger generation. I don’t remember ever having my heart act like this, probably because I never thought that the buck would act positively to my rookie rattling. Besides the distance of 20 yards the only thing in between us is my tree. I am looking around the tree with my left eye, hiding the rest of my body behind the tree. Think thin Don, think thin.

My next thing to panic about is what side of the tree is he going to go to? If he goes to my left my bow and arrow are already on that side. If he goes to my right, I have a lot of movement to make. What seemed like minutes (10 seconds) he takes a step to my right so I lean to now peek my right eye around the right side of the tree. As I do so he is still looking up at me. Did he see me move? I thought that this was a good time as any for this deer to split the scene. As my luck would have it, and I am lucky (just ask anyone who knows me) the buck takes a few steps to my right and takes his eyes off of me for the first time in minutes (10 seconds again). I switch sides of the tree with my bow and I tackle obstacle number one. Now for the draw, he takes a few more steps allowing me to do so. At full draw the buck stops and I cannot see his head, which is a good thing. He can’t see me either, but there is a small “V” in a tree in front of the deer’s vitals. Do I shoot? No. I look ahead and see that there is plenty of room for a shot if he steps forward. Still at full draw he does. I can’t tell you if he was walking or if the buck stopped when I released, but the arrow disappeared perfectly where I had aimed.

One quick jump and he has cleared a small 4-foot wide drainage ditch and he is off to the races. He covers a quick 80 yards or so and I can hardly see him through the thick timber and blow downs. I hear him stumble and see a flash of deer as I hear dry branches cracking under his weight. What must have been 10 seconds or so (really) I hear nothing but the leaves falling on this frosty 28-degree morning. I know that the deer is down and probably expired by now so I start to pack my things together. Still not seeing my grunt call anywhere I lower my bow to the ground.

I then pull my bow back up to attach my quiver and then lower it back down again. I am a frazzled mess at this point now as it sinks in to what I have just done. I killed the best buck to date with a gun or bow and I did it with rattling antlers and using my mouth as a grunt call. I would never have dreamed that I was capable of such an undertaking. If I can do it, I guess anyone can.

After a short and very easy blood trail I walk up on a perfectly symmetrical 8 point with a 16” spread. It was not that bigger buck I saw a few days before but that only means that he is still out there helping out the area gene pool. Oh, I almost forgot, I still have not found my grunt tube.

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