Editor’s Note: ‘Along the Trail’ is a weekly column written by David Hewitt of Switzerland County; and covers all things dealing with the outdoors, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.
The twitch of an ear gave her away.
I peered through the yellowing leaves of a tangled mess of paw paw trees and soon, the hidden image of a yearling doe emerged. The horizontal line of her back, the flick of a tail, a glimpse of a leg.
Silently, the slick coated doe picked her way through the low hanging branches and found the trail that would lead her past my hiding spot. A squirrel caught the young gal’s attention and she froze in her tracks for a moment assessing her situation. Some movement behind her, the snap of a twig…her twin walked out of the same thicket. A little darker, a little more gray, but aside from that, a carbon copy of the first doe.
The two deer browsed and nibbled on leaves and acorns as they slipped their way closer. Both 30 yards out, I had already made the decision before coming to the farm that if given a chance, any legal doe would be a target. I always try to help my farming friend by taking a few deer off of his place in return for permission to hunt, a mutually beneficial relationship…The lead deer slowly, painstakingly slow inched closer into range.
I could feel my heartbeat quicken and my left hand instinctively gripped the handle of my longbow tightly.
“Slow down, relax”, I whispered to myself, controlling my breathing.
Closer now, I can hear the deer crunching the acorns like popcorn. She is unaware of my presence, just as I had hoped. A few more steps is all that I would need. I picked my spot as she cleared a small sapling and quartered slightly away from me. As if on auto pilot, that hunting instinct took over. I felt myself bend slightly at the waist, my bow arm just barely bent at the elbow, the bow canted. The string came back effortlessly as I focused behind the deer’s shoulder. The worn leather shooting glove touched the corner of my nose as I hit anchor and in a blur, the arrow was away and buried with that familiar thud that only bowhunters know.
The deer bucked at the shot and I knew immediately it was over. She dashed away in her last race and it was finished in an instant. I climbed down from my perch and tried to recall how many deer I have taken from this red oak tree, how many deer I’ve brought home from “The Farm”…too many to remember or deserve.
I retrieved my arrow, buried in the dirt. The blood stained feathers told the tale. The old fixed, two blade broadhead on the business end of the arrow shaft did its job. I placed the missile back into my quiver and took up the trail.
The sign was easy to follow and the evidence was clear that the shot was lethal. Just a few yards ahead of me lay the yearling doe. I knelt down and patted the deer on the side and gave her a quick once over, just a habit I suppose from 35 years of deer hunting. I whispered my thanks to the Lord for the chance to be in the woods and for the success.
Soon after that strange combination of excitement from adrenalin, mixed with gratitude tinged with remorse reminded me that I am a human, but that I am also a hunter.
– David Hewitt