I quietly shut the truck door, shouldered my stand and took a long deep breath. The landscape was changing rapidly and I knew winter was around the corner. The rut was essentially over and I had made a move to hunt the edges of the thickest bedding area I could find. Rifle season on public land drives the deer to deep cover by mid November. All of these things were running through my head as I walked along, sounding like an elephant walking in cornflakes through the fresh blanket of fall leaves. As I approached a drain that made its way down to a beaver pond from the top of the hill I paused. I remembered walking out one night and spotting a doe who had made her way down just at dark. I stood for a minute pondering a change of plans, and then turned and quietly made my way up the drain. Inside the edge of the pines there was a small pocket of red and white oaks that bordered a 2 acre cutover that appeared to be an old loading dock. A well worn trail skirted the edge of the cutover across a saddle and there were several piles of fresh droppings along the way. I chose a white oak 15 yards below the trail. This gave me a good shot from my stand to the edge of the cutover and let my scent blow downhill and out over the beaver pond.
I settled in and was sitting quietly for about an hour. The spot was perfect and I couldn't believe I hadn't hunted here before now. I stood looking out over the beaver pond watching the wood ducks feeding and listening to their quiet chatter. I looked back over my right shoulder towards the cutover and there stood 3 does at 50 yards. I never heard a thing. They had slipped up on me silently the way deer often do. They fed along quietly as I retrieved my bow from its hook and slowly got into position. The lead doe was the largest and she was scanning the woods constantly for any sign of trouble. She slowly and methodically made her way down the trail. I checked my shooting stance, made sure my limbs were clear, and pulled slight tension on the string. As she came into range I slowly drew the bow and settled to anchor as the deer paused broadside at 15 yards. That's when it happened. Time just seemed to stop. I stared at a spot 2 inches behind her shoulder , saw the arrow spinning in slow motion, and the fletching collapsing as it disappeared through the deers side. The doe jolted forward a few steps and looked around. She walked down the trail about 20 yards bleeding badly from her side. The arrow had passed cleanly through her. She began to get weak and laid down and was soon still. It took me several minutes to realize what had just happened. After a year away from bow hunting, and switching to traditional gear, I had just killed my first deer with a stick and string. I had sent an arrow I built and fletched, a broadhead I had sharpened by hand with a file to its mark. I gathered my things and descended from my perch. I ran my hands over the deers soft coat, placed my bow across her shoulder and took a few photos in the fading light.
I have never had a higher moment than that in my time as a bowhunter. In that moment, I found a connection that I had never experienced before. This is what I had been searching for, what had been driving me, since the young boy of 12 picked up his first bow. There was a soft sadness and yet a glowing pride and sense of accomplishment. It felt raw and pure. There was a deep primalness that caused my heart to pound and my hands to shake. I thought back over my journey as a bowhunter. The struggle to learn the craft with no teacher but a few books and magazines. The memory of a 19 year old standing over his first deer after years of mistakes and fruitless seasons. My bowhunting had finally come full circle.