Mid october found me perched in a saddle between two ridges that descended into a swamp bottom. I had been staying close to a group of does that had thus far managed to elude me. There were multiple trails leading out of the swamp and up the ridges where the deer were cleaning up this years mast crop. There was buck sign everywhere along the bottoms and ridge tops. My plan was to stay close to the does in hopes of taking one of them, or any buck that came sniffing around. It was a warm, bright afternoon and I was sweating from the walk in and the climb up into my tree. I was in a pine that was flanked on each side by two young white oaks. One thing I had learned this season was hunting higher in the tree reduced my chances at a broadside shot. Ideally, I wanted my shot at around 15 yards, and at my old compound stand height, the angle was just way too steep. Hunting lower meant that my scent was lower, and I was closer to the deer's line of sight. I had already been picked off a couple of times earlier in the season, so now I was looking for stand trees with more cover. Since this was public land, I used a climber to stay mobile, but it limited the trees I could get into. I found at times I didn't have a good stand choice where I really wanted to hunt. I trimmed a small limb to my left, and used it to hang my bow. A few other limbs were in the way and I quietly made small cuts to bend them over, opening up space to shoot but maintaining as much cover as possible. The sun was hot, and I took a long draw from my water, pulled my hat down low over my eyes and settled in to wait. The sun finally dipped below the tree line, and the shadows began to stretch across the landscape. I was standing, slowly scanning the draw below me, when I saw three does making their way up the hill behind me. They passed by me at about 80 yards, browsing their way up towards the hardwoods on top of the hill. I watched them intently, silently praying one would stray within range. They soon disappeared into the thick brush and were out of sight.
I turned back to my right and reached again for my water bottle. As I lowered the bottle, I noticed rings in the creek below spreading towards me. I reached for my bow, and shifted my feet so that my bow shoulder was in position to draw. The deer emerged from the low branches that were obscuring my view of the water. I instantly recognized the tall brown tines. It was him. I could feel my heart beat quickening, and I took several deep breaths and tried not to look him in the eye. He stopped just after crossing the creek, and raising his nose into the air, and began to analyze its contents. He moved more quickly then and he covered the last thirty yards before I could blink. He stopped just below my tree, and began rubbing his antlers and forehead on a small sapling leaving his scent behind. He was less than six yards from the base of my tree, and slightly quartering to me. I wanted to draw so badly. I adjusted my grip on my bow, and glanced around me checking the clearance for my bow limbs. It was then that I noticed the scar. High on his shoulder a small area had healed over and left a small patch without hair. Right then, I knew I wasn't going to make that mistake twice. The buck continued to work the small bush, and I could see the bark shavings collecting in the grooves of his antler bases. I could see the whiskers on his face quivering back and forth. His eyes were shining, but still deep and dark. He turned then, and made his way directly under my tree, and then angled away uphill where the does had gone. He stopped at 10 yards, once again checking the wind. His body was quartering away now, but the angle was steep because he so close. I knew if I hit just left of his spine the arrow would exit low behind the far shoulder. I shifted my feet, raised my bow, and came to anchor. I stared at a spot eight inches back from the scar I had given him a few weeks ago. I could see my arrow tip in my peripheral vision, and I released. The arrow hit its mark. The buck jumped forward, looked around, and snorted loudly. The arrow was buried over two thirds of the way into his chest cavity angling down and forward. "He's dead," I whispered. The buck trotted off down the hill making a wide circle and crossing the creek exactly from where he had come.