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Maryland Archery deer hunt (or killing stuff with a 455gr. projectile) - *BLOOD*

Six-GunSix-Gun Posts: 8,155 Senior Member
So, I've been a bit quiet on the board lately and that's for a couple of reasons: 1) I have been practicing with my bow since being invited to hunt a private tree farm in Cooksville, MD and 2) I didn't want to jinx myself by talking about the hunt ahead of time. It seems the last couple of times I built up a trip to go hunt, it ended up being a bust. So, I stayed quiet and went to work practicing. It had been a year since I last shot it and I was WAY out of practice with the 125 gr. Slick Trick broadheads I have. I got everything sighted in and headed to Maryland.

Now, I was told ahead of time by my host that this isn't really a trophy area and that the deer would be much smaller than the Nebraska whitetails I usually hunt, but that was fine by me. He said there would be a lot of deer on this small property and everything was good to shoot, including fawns, to help control the depredation of the tree stock. Besides, I was in it for the hunt, as I wanted to finally put a kill on my bow after failing miserably with it on quite a few tries in Nebraska.

We hunted from fixed ladder stands which is usually outside of my M.O., but after trying to shoot those Nebraska deer with a bow from the ground (and getting busted pretty much every time I drew in those open grass fields), I was more than happy to try something different. It worked great! On the first day, I saw a few deer (a couple of does and a fawn) pass the creek stand I tried on that day but they were at the fringe of 40 yards through cover that was just too thick for my taste. I didn't try the shot figuring that there would be ample chances given how early in the hunt this was and that I was already seeing deer.

The next day brought several deer closer to my stand - two does with two fawns a piece, as well as several other fawns - and brought three different shot opportunities. The first shot I took was at one of the does in the first group at 30 yards. The shot felt good, but when I found the arrow, there was no blood. She was in a bit of cover, so I just assumed I clipped something on the way through. Hmm...oh, well. Moving on. The next shot was at a lone fawn who hung around the stand for way too long. I really didn't want to shoot a fawn, but I was on order to kill deer as I could and it would also count toward the "shoot two antlerless deer before you can shoot a second buck" rule in this region of Maryland. Basically, you can kill a buck at any time, but you aren't eligible for a second buck stamp until you bag two does or buttonbucks with antlers 3" or less in length. So, with this fawn sitting at just over 20 yards in a clear lane, I took the shot. Again, it felt good and this time, there was ample blood on the arrow, but no blood trail! Worse, the arrow smelled like guts. Me and my buddy looked for at least 40 minutes and just couldn't find blood. Eventually I got back in the stand to try again.

The second fawn I shot at this same day was bumped when my buddy came to meet me for lunch. I received a text from him saying "There's a deer right next to your stand!" I look to my left, and lo and behold, there's a fawn right there. So, I grunted at the fawn, shot it when it paused, and again the shot felt great. The deer ran not even 50 yards and I heard it crumple up. The shot left a blood trail that Ray Charles could follow, but when I got to the deer, I was concerned about my bow setup. The shot that I had lined with the boiler room actually hit nearly 6 inches right and caught it in the throat, clean through the carotid artery and then-some.


It made for an impressively quick kill, but was nowhere near where I was aiming. Something wasn't right with my sights. When we got back for lunch I launched a few broadheads at a Block target and confirmed my suspicion: the bow way hitting way off to the right. That would explain the seemingly easy shots going awry. Looking more closely at the bow, the entire sight ring was canted inward, probably due to being in the hardcase while we drove an extremely stiff Jeep CJ-6 across an ungrated dirt road. I fixed everything and got my zero back. From now on, the bow would stay in my hands and out of the case while we drove in and out of the farm.

Fast forward to the last night of the hunt: I sat at a completely different stand than I had the previous two hunting days. This one sat near the property line fence where the farm met up with the local gas works, overlooking a narrow field. Early in the evening, I spotted two fawns out in the field, but decided I really didn't want to shoot any more of them. I would wait to see if some mature does or bucks would come in. Sure enough, right where the gas works fence met the narrow field I was watching, 4 mature does show up just over 180 yards out. They were very skittish and took forever coming out in the open in such broad daylight. Unfortunately, they hung up at 88 yards when the largest doe got a whiff of something she didn't like. The does went back the way they came rapidly and stiff-legged. After waiting over an hour for those does to come in during the waning daylight, I figured that was it for my hunt. As the dark was starting to show a even more, I heard something moving through the grass, but initially thought it was a squirrel. I look just below me at 13 yards and I see what I thought was a doe just under the stand through a very thin opening boxed in by a tree trunk and some branches from my perspective. I took my time, lasered the range again to confirm distance and carefully picked my spot. I had just checked my zero the day before so there should be no surprises, right? Not so fast.

I fired what I was sure was a perfect quartering downward shot right through the deer's back. I heard the crack of what was certainly the sound of ribs snapping and watched the deer bound a hundred or so yards down the field and then off across the way into heavy cover toward the creek. Shortly thereafter, I heard what had to be the death crash. If all was right, that 455 gr. arrow/broadhead combo should have went through the top ribs and out the deer's flank on his left side, taking out plenty of lung matter along the way. Again, I felt great about the shot...until I found a seemingly bloodless, stinky arrow and no blood trail. I felt sick. I had to be the problem in the ballistic equation. There is no excuse for missing a 13 yard shot unless I clipped the perilously close tree trunk or branches that framed my shot from the stand. Now what? There were less than 10 minutes of legal daylight left when I called my friend, Paul, over to be a second set of eyes on the ground. We started looking for any trace of blood that I may have missed, but now it was flat-out dark.

Headlamps on, we tracked the same stretch of ground that I had already covered once by myself. Still, neither of us initially found blood. We went to the hole in the heavy cover where I saw the deer disappear and looked deeper in with nothing to go on but my best memory of the deer's route. Then, like magic, Paul found blood right next to the last place I had looked, but just a few yards over. It wasn't just a little bit of dark blood. It was good, heavy, pinkish lung blood indicating a well-placed shot. Sure enough, just 20 or so yards away, there lay my deer. Apparently, the guts plugged the blood flow from the exit wound, and none showed up on the ground until it started coming from its mouth on the last leg of the death sprint; we were lucky as heck to find anything that far down the path. But then came the next surprise: this was not a doe - it was a 6-point buck still in velvet! It seems that the fading light combined with the velvet on the small antlers made them disappear into his back. I literally had no idea that I had taken a crack at, and killed, a buck until we found him.


Best of all (outside of the harvest, of course) was the fact that this time, the arrow flew exactly as I had envisioned it. It indeed smoked through the back ribs on its way toward a total pass-through exiting the flank, decimating the lung tissue and killing the buck less than 10 yards before he could get across the creek. All told, he probably went about 140 yards from the point of impact. That 125 gr. Slick Trick magnum broadhead left one helluva exit hole for only having a 1+1/8" cutting diameter. It stood up well and can probably be resharpened just fine despite some very light impressions on one of the blades indiciating where it hit the ribs.


At the end of the trip, it was all I could ask for: three great hunting days in unfamiliar woods and two deer to show for it. I wouldn't trade it for three days of work, no matter how much they were paying me.

Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.


  • Ernie BishopErnie Bishop Posts: 8,609 Senior Member
    Good for you.

    "The Un-Tactical"
  • sakodudesakodude Posts: 4,886 Senior Member
    A great adventure, congrats.

  • Grizz1219Grizz1219 Posts: 424 Member
  • JerryBobCoJerryBobCo Posts: 8,227 Senior Member
    I can't believe you would rather do that than come and fish with me. Oh well....

    Congrats on a great hunt, Luis. You done good!

    Gun control laws make about as much sense as taking ex-lax to cure a cough.
  • tennmiketennmike Posts: 27,457 Senior Member
    Looks like you done good! Both of those deer should be some good eating, too. Getting that buck with antlers still in velvet is nice. :up:
      I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don't know the answer”
    ― Douglas Adams
  • jbohiojbohio Posts: 5,619 Senior Member
    Sounds like a great time. Should be some tasty venison! There's nothing quite like taking an animal with a compound bow. Congrats!
    Early season bowhunting is great, I can't wait till our season starts.
  • ZeeZee Posts: 28,460 Senior Member
    Good hunt. Even with all the equipment problems, you still pulled through.
    "To Hell with efficiency, it's performance we want!" - Elmer Keith
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Posts: 8,155 Senior Member
    Thanks a lot, boys. Jerry - I appreciate your understanding when I told you I was going to take up this opportunity instead of going fishing this fall. I will try again to make it out there this coming spring as the wife and I are due for a trip back to CO to see her family, too. It was a ton of fun and I have to give some credit to those Maryland woods. There was a LOT of deer activity in those woods. We saw 22 total the last day alone and Paul said it's been a painfully slow early season thus far. I will definitely think about doing this again if the schedule works out like it did. I actually had a work obligation in Maryland that lined up with this trip, so it couldn't have gone much better as far as convenience.

    As for the archery experience in general, I will never forget the sound of the arrow hitting that buck. The power of a modern compound bow is simply amazing. That arrow went through the deer like a hot knife through butter and the sound of ribs cracking was unmistakable.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • FisheadgibFisheadgib Posts: 5,797 Senior Member
    Are you going to mount the rack? Mounts in velvet are kind of unique and pretty cool.
    snake284 wrote: »
    For my point of view, cpj is a lot like me
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Posts: 8,155 Senior Member
    Fisheadgib wrote: »
    Are you going to mount the rack? Mounts in velvet are kind of unique and pretty cool.

    Nah - not this one. I'll try this again and see if I can score a larger one. There are a handful of really nice deer that have come out of this property, but they are few and far between. Paul has hunted this place for 25 years or so and has exactly one very large 8-pointer that he has had mounted. Regardless, you are very right. It is a special thing to get a velvet buck, not matter how big or small. I told a buddy back in Nebraksa who has hunter for a decade plus and he has never gotten a velvet buck. Not shocking since he only hunts the rifle and muzzleloader seasons, but that may change since he owns a crossbow as of few years back. Just last year, Nebraska opened them up to use during regular archery season, so he may finally get his shot.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • LinefinderLinefinder Posts: 7,858 Senior Member
    Very cool, Luis.....

    Keep this up and pretty soon you'll be like Scooter.......lookin' down your nose at rifle hunters and only picking one up to shoot pdogs or groups.....:jester:


    PS. Don't tell Jerry, but I'd trade a truckload of trout for two deer.......
    "Walking away seems to be a lost art form."
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Posts: 8,155 Senior Member
    Well, I will openly admit that the kill on that buck was significantly more satisfying than your typical 75-150 yard rifle poke at a deer. When you shoot broadheads, especially at fringe distances for your shooting capability, there is just no room for errors in form. Small mistakes equal some huge shanks at longer ranges. You can easily completely miss an 18" Block target at 60 yards if you jerk the release or torque your hand. Now, I won't EVER give up on my rifle hunting or look down on it as an art of its own, but that first bow kill was really something to behold. I might just have to bring it on our next pdog hunt! :tooth:

    I should also give a plug to the Leupold RX-1000 TBR rangefinder that I used. The "bow mode" feature that incudes angular compensation from the stand is a real eye opener and works like a charm to convert linear distances to actual shooting distances when you hunt from high, steep angles. A 30 yard lasered shot can easily need to be treated as a 22 yarder when you compensate for angle, and that's a mighty big difference in the bow world. All you need to know is the general speed class and/or 40-yard drop of your arrow to select the proper drop class and the rangefinder does the rest. Read the top number and shoot for that range. Boom: you know the proper range pin to use.

    Oh, and I changed my mind - I decided to get a cheap skull mount done of the velvet antlers. I'm also having the hide tanned with the hair on to use as a winter deer blanket for when I have to sit on cold ground again. A friend lent me one for that purpose a couple of seasons back and I was sold immediately. There's nothing quite like deer hair to insulate you against getting a frozen bottom.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • JerryBobCoJerryBobCo Posts: 8,227 Senior Member
    Linefinder wrote: »
    PS. Don't tell Jerry, but I'd trade a truckload of trout for two deer.......

    Mum's the word.

    Of course, I have it on good authority that all you have to do is say the word and a day of fishing can be quickly arranged.

    Gun control laws make about as much sense as taking ex-lax to cure a cough.
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Posts: 8,155 Senior Member
    I found one more pic that I forgot to post. This angle show the size and location of the entrance wound on the deer's back: just behind the shoulder blade, you'll notice that dark spot. You can draw an imaginary line through other shot of the exit hole to get an idea of the perspective I had from the stand through that window in the brush.

    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
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