The unmistakable double-step crunch of dried leaves alerts me to my approaching quarry. My eyes dart in the direction of the sound. I catch the movement without turning my head and realize this deer is right on course. It is headed to the treasure trove of acorns I'd found at the bottom of this ridge earlier in the week. It has to walk right by me and my heart begins a steady increase in anticipation of the moment.
My leg starts to shake as I reach for my bow. It is slow at first and then increases as the deer gets closer. The deer, a young spike, is now less than 15 yards away, but behind a tree and nearing the location of my perfect shot angle.
I repeat, "Don't rush the shot, draw to full draw," in my head as I try to calm down. The deer stops at ten yards and looks away in the opposite direction for some unknown danger. I slowly draw my recurve and concentrate on a spot right behind his front shoulder. My adrenaline surges to a peak as the arrow releases and I watch the lighted nock of my arrow on a laser-beam path to his vitals. Then, the highest of highs is the lowest of lows as I see my arrow sail over his back and into the ground.
The weeks of preparation; of finding the perfect tree to climb to have a deer within 10 yards is over.
But the deer doesn't run. My adrenaline begins to climb again. He is preoccupied with the alien light beam stuck in the ground behind him and stays to investigate. I slowly remove another arrow from my quiver and repeat the same slow process of repeating things not to do in my head. The deer takes a few seconds to smell the arrow and then decides this is a dangerous place. He takes several more steps toward me and then starts to vere away. He presents a 12 yard quartering away shot and I send an arrow on a path straight into his heart. The lowest of lows are now the highest of highs in anticipation of what's to come. Then, at the last millisecond, he drops and the arrows hits high behind his shoulder. I watch the deer run for more than 150 yards and the sinking sensation in my stomach gets worse with every bound he takes.
With the deer well out of sight, I climbed down and looked at the place of impact for a blood trail. I saw nothing. I waited about 45 mins and went to where I last saw the deer and began to look again. About an hour and half later I found a glimmer of hope. 330 yards from where I shot the deer, I saw my lighted nock glowing in the woods.
My heart began to race again as I thought of finding the deer and the roller coaster ride being over. But all I found was a bloody arrow and a small pool of blood. I trailed a spotty blood trail for 75 more yards before I lost it altogether. With every next spot of blood there was a little more hope. Then it was over. I looked for more than four hours total and never found any more hints of an ending to the story.
I tossed and turned all night thinking about what happened, and how it could've gone differently. My next thoughts were why am I even trying to kill a deer with the most difficult route available. It's an unexplainable desire. The euphoria found when it all goes rig
ht is better than any high you'll find in a bottle or pill. But the lows are equally low.
I could go back to a compound bow, or just wait until rifle season and make this all so easy. But this trad game is like a disease you can't shake. No matter how bad it gets, I just want it more.
Note from Author, Drew Hall:
I wrote this in October 2022 after a missed opportunity. I wanted to remember the heartaches so in the moments of success, I won't forget how tough the journey has been.