With apologies to David Letterman and his "Stupid Human Tricks," I must share my "Stupid Deer Hunter Trick," or the opposite of Daniel Mires story... this is "How NOT to Kill a Deer."
Sadly this is not a trick I planned or practiced. Nor is it the first such stupid hunting or fishing trick I've performed. I have traveled 60 miles to duck hunt only to realize I left my gun at home. I've had multiple near-sinkings of boats... in one case it was still attached to my truck. And I have stripped to my skivvies to swim after ducks (alive and dead) sending my male parts retreating into parts on my anatomy previously unexplored.
Each and every stupid hunting or fishing trick holds a special place in my ammo box of memories. I believe however, that Saturday's experience might live on the top shelf for years to come.
I am hunkered down at the edge of a mountain laurel thicket in a creek bottom on the Fall Creek Falls WMA. It is a bow hunt (crossbow for me) and I'm hunting on the ground. I won't bore you with the reason I was "sans treestand." Just consider it evidence of my more "casual" approach to deer hunting these days... a casualness that leads to "Stupid Deer Hunting Tricks."
After several hours, the dove stool grows as hard as limestone on my poorly-padded posterior. I stand to stretch my legs, leaning my crossbow, stock up, against the stool.
I wasn't overly still, but apparently still enough. Somehow, like an apparition, a deer appeared directly in front of me 40 yards out. It was a very healthy doe tip-toeing toward one of the few openings in the laurel.
Without taking my eyes from the deer, I drop my hand, pouring it downward like cold molasses. My fingertips grope and finally make contact with the crossbow stock. Reversing the flow of the molasses I lift ever so slowly. My eyes stay locked on the wariest wild animal in the United States that continues, step-by-step toward my "personal space" in this little piece of forest. I may not be perched aloft, I am however well-camouflaged.
So far so good... I have weapon in hand without getting busted. Now she's 30 yards out and still coming. The crossbow is almost to my shoulder when a noise in the distance hangs her up.
Head high, ears forward, nostrils flaring, she uses all her keen senses to find the source of the noise. Nervous as a cat, at one point she even turns back, stiff-legged, taking a few small steps from whence she came. My arms begin to shake as the heavy crossbow takes its toll.
In time however... maybe three minutes, maybe five... she calms down. There are no more strange noises and apparently no inappropriate odors. She turns back my way and continues her forward motion. Just a few more steps to a clear shot and the crossbow settles perfectly to my cheek.
In the scope I can count hairs on her rib cage. I pick out a single hair on the second rib behind her shoulder as my point of aim. She stops perfectly, dead-center in my best shooting lane.
A gentle squeeze on the crossbow trigger... slowly, carefully and with no "jerks."
Those who have shot them know... crossbows are loud. They sound more like a rifle than a bow. It's not a problem however because the arrow speed easily compensates for a deer's ability to "jump the string."
This deer did no jumping whatsoever. She simply threw her head high with big brown eyes boring holes in me. I was still peering through the scope searching desperately for a hole in her hide. It was glaringly obvious that her hide and everything else about her was completely unscathed. She was in no way harmed, simply bewildered by the noise.
My mind raced wondering, "Did I shoot high or did I shoot low? How did I miss? Why isn't she running away?"
I knew what would happen when I moved, but as we stood there in a stare down, I knew I had to attempt a reload, just in case she really was bewildered enough to give me a second shot. I dropped the crossbow down and recocked.
The big doe jumped a few yards but she was still in range. I turned to grab another arrow from the bow quiver I placed beside my stool.... and that's when I saw it.
Right beside my dove stool stood an arrow... my original arrow... the one that I thought I sent hurtling toward a death dance with a deer. Instead I had "dry fired," flinging absolutely nothing but noise through the forest.
Chances are we've all done it with a gun... heard that sickening "click" of a firing pin falling on an empty chamber when we "thought" our gun was loaded. But how do you do that with a bow... even a crossbow?
Obviously as I had reached down to pick up my crossbow by the stock and lifted straight up, the arrow slid down silently from its rest. And I, so focused on the deer, was completely blinded by the adrenalin-induced haze. Never, during the entire stand-off, did I realize there was no arrow in my bow.
I grabbed the arrow, slid it properly on the bow and turned just in time to see the deer's white flag disappear in the distance.
My friend Fred Moudy joined me around Noon for lunch.
"Did I hear you shoot," he asked.
"Yep," I answered.
"Did you miss," he followed.
"Nope," I countered.
"So you got one?"
"So you hit one?"
Fred was understandably confused so I shared the full story.
Fred listened... then he laughed... then he said, "You missed."
Stupid Deer Hunter Trick.
I know I'm not alone. I bet you have a "Stupid Hunter Trick" of your own. If you're man enough (or woman enough) to embarrass yourself publicly, e-mail it to me and I'll share it here.