A cold front was moving in and the air was finally beginning to chill down, which was why I'd made the trip from my Florida home to my hunt camp in mid-Georgia. I'd tried hunting the early season a couple weeks earlier and had found that the deer there were still mostly in a nocturnal summer pattern. I was back in hopes that the cool weather would get them moving.
The front hadn't fully moved in yet, and the temperature was a mild 63 degrees when I arose to start my morning routine. An hour later, I was settled in my stand.
The stand was a tripod, and it had been moved to that location following my success at the same place the year before, when I took my made-to-order buck using a pop-up ground blind. The tripod was in just about the same place my blind had been, overlooking a small food plot.
As I settled in on the stand, I clumsily bumped my quiver, which I'd removed from my crossbow and set aside. Naturally, as it fell to the ground it missed no opportunity to bounce and clunk off of each crosspiece on the deer stand. I already had one Rage-tipped arrow in the crossbow, so I just gritted my teeth, hoped the noise wouldn't spook any nearby critters, and let the quiver stay where it was. If this turned out to be a normal morning hunt, I wouldn't even need one arrow anyhow.
Incidentally, the arrow on my string was the same one that had taken my first-ever archery deer more than three years earlier.
I'd been in the stand for about an hour and a half when I had a fleeting chance at a coyote and flung an arrow at it. The vagrant vermin handily jumped the string and left the scene unharmed, and I was left in the stand without ammo - so I climbed down and retrieved the quiver I'd dropped earlier. The arrow now on my string was a virgin.
The Deer Cometh
About 40 minutes after I'd tried to nail the coyote, a deer - and then another - stepped into the plot from the right. One was larger than the other, and was clearly a mature doe - which made her a perfect candidate to come home with me.
The doe was alert and although I managed to quickly confirm the range to her (35 yards) with my range finder, I was soon frozen in place while she stared up at the stand, trying to figure out what was wrong with this picture. My camo face paint may have helped prevent her from spooking immediately, but she was still pretty interested in me.
To see what I could get away with, I sloooooowly shifted the crossbow on the stand's rail and slid into position behind it, and found the deer in the scope. So far, so good.
The deer was fully alert, but not twitchy; that is, she was intent on the stand but didn't appear as if she might bolt unpredictably. She faced me, almost head-on but quartering just a touch, and I could see some of her left side.
Choosing the Shot
I quickly coached myself into finding the correct elevation using the scope's aiming points; I split the difference between the 30- and 40-yard marks. Knowing that shot placement is critical, I did as I always try to do and aimed at the vitals inside the deer. The center of the three-dimensional heart/lung area is where I wanted to put my arrow, and I aimed just to my right of the deer's centerline. The crossbow arrow, as aimed, should have easily penetrated ribs just inboard of the left shoulder, finding plenty of good stuff inside to decommission.
That was the plan, anyway.
Through it all, my heart hammered and my adrenaline surged... I was working methodically and carefully, but I was still pretty jazzed up.
With a squeeze of the trigger, I let the arrow fly. It got there quickly, but the deer was faster. I could tell that she had "jumped the string" and moved before the arrow arrived... the question was, how much had she moved? It had looked like a pretty good shot, but it was not easy to tell.
The deer wheeled and ran back into the woods in the direction from which she'd come. I heard her crashing in the brush and told myself to calm the heck down, that I had seen the arrow hit her front end and that's where the vitals are located. I got out a compass and busied myself determining the direction of the most recent crash I'd heard. I re-cocked my crossbow and placed another arrow on the string as I sat there, forcing myself to wait.
The time at the shot was 9:13.
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