This is the story of two extremes. One of elation and one of despair, and how quickly one can replace the other.
Dylan and I have been looking forward to this past weekend since we got our hunting lease. This was the one weekend in Fannin county that an "Antlerless permit" was not needed to bag a doe. We've been referring to the weekend as "doe weekend" and basically it just means that for the three day Thanksgiving weekend you could hunt does, as well as, bucks. Since we've seen many does on the property and only a few bucks we looked forward to the weekend as our real chance to bag our first deers.
This past weekend was not looking good as of last Tuesday. I "tweaked" my back and since I've had too much experience in this area, I was afraid I was going to be bed ridden for a week. When I felt the twinge, I got into bed and took muscle relaxers as quickly as possible. I spent most of Tuesday and Wednesday in bed. I figured that not only was Thanksgiving lost, but the hunt, as well.
I never went into spasm, so I proceeded to do the stretching that I've been directed to do from the previous times I've thrown out my back. On Thursday, I felt ok and decided to accompany my family to Lake Whitney, where Angie's cousins were hosting the holiday. It's our first time hanging with them on the holidays and everyone was there. We had a wonderful day and I mostly just sat on the couch watching the football games.
Friday morning (3:00am) came and I got up. I felt ok. Our original plan was to camp out at the lease on Friday night, but it was raining and I was afraid for my back, so we decided that if we didn't bag our does, we'd drive home and return the next morning. It's a little less than two hours to the lease and since gas is down to about $1.65, I thought it would be better to spend the night in my own bed.
Friday was a loss. It poured on Dylan as he sat in the tripod. I was in the pop-up blind behind him, so I was dry. Don't feel bad for him. I wasn't hunting, he was. I had to be with him because he never completed his hunter ed. He never saw a deer.
Friday night, we decided to sit together in the blind near one of our tree stands. We saw nothing until dark. At about the same time where it was too dark to see (or shoot) a number of deer came out of the woods to our right. Dylan saw them and raised the gun. However, it was dark and hard to make out the deer. Because he wasn't sure, he didn't fire. I was proud of him. That two minutes after many hours in the blinds was enough to get us jazzed for day two. He knew he was gonna come back and sit in the same spot.
On day two, we sat in the blind where we saw those deer the day before. Dylan tried to go to sleep. I told him if he slept, I would shoot what I saw...He stayed awake at that point. About ninety minutes in, we saw two deer come out of the woods. They headed towards the feeder and were does, so Dylan got into position. He scoped the larger doe which was facing away from us. I told him to get ready and that as soon as she turned to fire. She began to turn and he fired with no hesitation. I don't know if he fired too quickly, or not, but the deer dropped. The other (smaller) ran into the woods. Dylan began to shake as the effects of the adrenalin took over. Truth be told, so did I. We congratulated each other and as our attention left the deer, it staggered to it's feet. Dylan was the first to notice, but he had moved out of position to fire again. The deer staggered to the edge of the woods and stopped. Dylan raised his rifle to fire again, but the deer disappeared into the trees before he could fire. We weren't concerned. We knew he hit it and we figured it wouldn't get far and we could track it. We called Steve (Angie's cousin for instructions) and waited.
He told us to wait a couple of minutes and track it. While we were preparing to leave the blind another doe came out of the woods to our right. Since Dylan had shot his, this one was mine. I moved into position as Dylan moved out of the way. The doe heard us and began to run for the woods. I bleated, it stopped and I fired. The deer dropped. Since Steve had told us when we called him to always keep your eye on the animal, I chambered another shell and reacquired the deer in my scope. She kicked for a couple of seconds and then lay still. We waited for several more minutes to see if she was going to get up. She wasn't, so we departed the blind. After inspecting my kill, and calling Steve and Angie and letting them know we got a second in the ten minute interval since our last call, we decided to start tracking Dylan's.
We walked over to the feeder. No blood. That's not good. We did know EXACTLY where she entered the woods, so we walked over to the same entrance she used and expected to find her there. We didn't. We weren't terribly concerned yet, except for the fact we couldn't find a blood trail. Since she fell and stayed down for a couple of minutes, we figured he had shot true and she wouldn't get far, but the lack of a blood trail was a bad sign. We searched for a while to no avail and called Steve. He would come and help us look. We found a single drop of blood on a blade of grass at the entrance of the woods, but no more.
We walked for what felt like several hours. We searched damn near the entire 205 acres of the lease, and many of the neighboring properties. I figured we'd find her at some point, but the more we looked, the more pessimistic I got. We looked hard. I knew that Dylan was going to be crushed, and frankly, I was also motivated to make sure we didn't waste a kill. However, after over two hours of looking, we gave up. Steve believes that Dylan shot a little early and didn't get a good broadside, and either grazed her chest, or more likely, gutshot her. That would explain the lack of blood and the possibility that the doe ranged very far before bedding down and dying.
Dylan was crushed and I was very disappointed for him. Although I had harvested my first deer, my elation was countered by my hurt for him - compounded by the fact that I would not have shot my doe if I knew we weren't going to find his. Basically, my hunt had become elation tempered by disappointment because of the hard lesson we both had to learn. To Dylan's credit, he remained mostly positive. He said something to the effect that "this happened for a reason and maybe he'd score a buck later", or something like that.
We hunted the evening. He chose to sit in the tripod again, since we figured the spot where we were was lost for a couple of days. Unfortunately, he never saw another animal. Since he couldn't hunt on Sunday, his doe weekend was done. He was bummed and our ride home on Saturday was pretty quiet.
I returned on Sunday afternoon and sat in the tripod myself. However, I also saw no game.
We still have a month and a half to get bucks or hogs, so we still have some time. Until then, I'm sure the venison is going to taste a little bit bitter and a little bit sweet.