Heartbreak on the Delta

Bow hunt leaves Atchafalaya Delta WMA hunter tired, empty-handed.

I found a new stand location at the Atchafalaya Delta WMA, with little hunter pressure and tons of deer and hog sign in the area. My first hunt resulted in the hog kill mentioned in my last article.

I was looking forward to finally getting a morning hunt, since the fog was finally not going to be an issue. I set up well before daylight, and could hear a deer walking slowly around feeding about 40 or 50 yards directly in front of my location. This was about 20 minutes before good light.

A little while later, the duck hunters opened up. I counted close to 100 shots before 7 a.m.

Suddenly a nice 8-point buck comes flying into the field I was overlooking. No doubt it was pushed by the duck hunters.

All I could do was quickly grab my grunt call and let out a short grunt.

The buck slammed on the brakes. And even better, he stopped in a small area where I had an opening for a shot.

I quickly drew back, at the same time figuring an estimation of the distance. I used my 40-yard pin and let loose.

From the immediate reaction, I knew I had connected.

I gave it a little time, and then got down and looked for blood. I found a little and then more and more.

Fifteen yards later I found my arrow, which was completely coated in blood. Always a good sign.

I followed the easy blood trail for about 75 yards, and then it entered the myrtles. Not knowing how much farther I would have to look, I went back and got my backpack and started serious blood trailing at 8:30, which was 35 minutes after the shot.

Upon entering the myrtles, I noticed the blood trail was much less than before. Now I was looking at sporadic, small drops spaced out from each other.

It seemed that when the deer stopped running, he also stopped bleeding.

I was able to follow rub marks on the undergrowth that had blood smears on them but, again, the sign quickly deteriorated to very small amounts spaced out.

The buck was following game trails, and occasionally would go into the thick stuff that would force me to get down and crawl underneath. Each time my hopes were raised, as deer often seem to seek thick cover right before they expire.

But each time the trail would emerge from the cover to an open trail.

The trailing went into an hour, then two, then three. I had covered approximately 600 yards from the area of the shot, and still the trail went on.

With each passing hour, my hopes grew dimmer. I went from expecting to find the buck in the first 50 yards to hoping and praying that I would find him anywhere, no matter how long it took.

I was determined to search as long as I could still find even one speck of blood. Several times I was sure it was over, only to find another small drop.

Finally the trail doubled back and went into an open field where I could not find another sign of blood. I did semicircles and took some guesses on the direction, but every one of the trails turned up empty.

It had now been four hours and 20 minutes of long, grueling searching. But it was over and I had to admit defeat.

I hope you never experience that feeling because it is not a pleasant one. My only hope was that the arrow did not do fatal damage, and that the buck would recover.

My final conclusion was that the shot was probably a little high, hitting below the backbone and above the vital area. The blood trail was initially from both sides of the buck but later usually from one or the other side.

I found out after the shot the buck was actually only about 33 yards out, and I used the 40-yard pin.

Unfortunately not every hunt works out like they do on the television shows. I did not have the opportunity or time to range the distance, as this was just the second time I used that stand and the buck stopped at an area I had not ranged. From the time I saw the buck running across the field to the release of the shot was probably about eight or nine seconds.

With a little more time to accurately estimate and place the shot, this story would have included a picture of the nice buck that I brought home and would have a much happier ending.

But that is hunting. Experiences like this one have happened to me before during my 30 years of hunting, and they may happen again. I try to use the negative experiences as learning tools, and when I do get that next one it will be all the sweeter!

God bless all of you, be safe and good hunting!

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