This past November, I shared the experience of filling my whitetail doe tag with my brother Josh. I’d hunted GRIT Editor Hank Will’s Osage County, Kansas, farm fairly hard, passing on a couple of small six pointers in hopes of filling my buck tag with one of the Buckzillas I’ve seen moving around on that piece of prairie. There's few things I like more than whitetail deer hunting in Kansas.
But with a week to go before my bachelor party (a pheasant hunting trip out near Pratt, Kansas), I knew as November aged it was time to put some meat in the freezer. And with an upcoming mid-December wedding, I also knew this hunting season would be cut a little shorter than usual.
Here's a few of the good ol' boys after a full day of chasing roosters on Day 1 of that bachelor's party:
So, Josh and I headed out to a familiar piece of land behind my aunt and uncle’s house about 25 miles from the farm we grew up on. Although I don’t own land yet, I’m very fortunate to have access to some great hunting ground both on Hank’s land and on our family’s and extended family’s land in southeast Kansas. Access is tough nowadays with farmers leasing property to hunting outfits and a general distrust of our neighbors (which might be warranted by a lack of respect in some instances) that is much different from how it was when I grew up. But that's another story.
I’m lucky to be able to hunt, I was lucky a mature doe came in near our ground blind that November morning, and I was lucky enough to share it with my brother and get the moment captured on video.
The video may seem a little harsh to some, and I’m open to criticism, but keep in mind that no one appreciated or appreciates this animal more than I do; still to this day every time my wife and I eat the tasty meat she provides.
There’s a story to this hunt, that isn’t told in the video. I actually missed a smaller doe about 30 minutes before I stuck an arrow in the doe you see in the footage. Usually hunting from a tree stand, I sight my bow every year from elevated positions for a more accurate shot. Before each season I like to practice tirelessly so that I won’t injure an animal and not recover it, the worst experience you can have as a bow hunter short of falling out of your tree.
Hunting from a ground blind, I was set up on this morning to be shooting from my knees. Angles and elevation make a big difference in shot placement. For instance, if you’re shooting straight down, I’ve always been told to use the 40-yard pin. I’ve never done it, I’d rather let them walk out a few yards and burn them while they’re quartered away, but shot physics depend on shot path and the trajectory of your arrow.
Thinking about it, a 20 yard completely horizontal shot is going to feel the effects of gravity the entire way. A straight-down shot – a bad shot in my opinion – doesn’t have to overcome gravity at all. So this helps explain the difference, as small as it might seem, in the arrow you shoot from 17 feet up in the air compared to the arrow you shoot with your knees on the earth. Following this logic, you wouldn't anticipate the need to aim low when shooting from a ground blind; but that's been my experience and the experience of others I know.
The first younger doe that I drew back on that morning, I gave her a buzz-cut. When my release let loose of the arrow – I concentrated on both eyes seeing it off my arrow rest just like I always do – all I saw was fur fly and all I heard was my brother cracking up beside me. Later watching the video I heard my flurry of profanities. It was embarrassing, but my brother said he’d done the same thing from his knees out of ground blinds. Retrieving my arrow after the hunt, I was thankful to see no blood, so at least I didn’t injure her.
When I got a chance at a bigger, more mature doe, I was thankful for the opportunity and made the adjustment, aiming about 6 inches low and placing a good shot through both her lungs. She ran about 100 yards and died a quick death.
Oddly, she didn’t leave much of a blood trail, and although my brother calls it “needle in a haystack” in the video, what I finally did was follow along a nearby creek and found her about 10 yards from it. She'd headed for water.
The 45 pounds of meat in the freezer have sustained my wife and I on many a night, including our annual tradition of eating charcoal-grilled backstraps (venison tenderloin) on New Year’s Eve.
Here in a couple of weeks, I’ll combine some ground venison with farm-raised pork and cure some venison-pork sausage deersticks.
All thanks to this awesome animal.
Can't wait for fishing season and morel mushrooms. As I write that, there's 5 to 6 inches of snow on the ground, but we've felt the breath of spring a couple of times already!
Caleb Regan and his wife, Gwen, live in rural Douglas County, Kansas, where they enjoy hunting, fishing, and raising and growing as much of their own food as they can. Caleb can’t imagine a better scenario than getting to work on a rural lifestyle magazine as a profession, and then living that same lifestyle right in the heartland of America. Connect with him on Google+.