Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Blood Trails In My Mind

The first deer I ever shot went unrecovered.  I was a teenager, hunting with Daddy and several others at our club.  We were using shotguns and dogs as is traditional in that area.  I was standing next to a small field when a large buck (in my memory it has moose-like proportions, but in reality it was probably a nice 8 point or so) came out of the woods at a slow run about 30 yards away.  I put two shells of 00 buckshot out of my old 870 into the deer but it kept going.  How accurate were those shots?  I don't know.  I was 15 or so.  I was a pretty good at turkey shoots but lousy at clays.  Did I actually aim at a spot or just at the deer in general?  Did I, like Daddy reckoned, aim at the antlers? I don't know those things either, the details are lost to memory. 

Regardless, I stayed put until one of Daddy's friends showed up and we started on the blood trail, a good one too.  Plenty of the bright red stuff.  Unfortunately, the deer made a straight line for our property boundary, and crossed over into timber company land a couple hundred yards away.  I remember that, for whatever reason, the blood between us and that landowner was worse that the crimson splattered on the sand, and we were strictly forbidden from trespassing.

Could things have been different?  Of course, looking back as an adult I would at least call someone in charge and tell them the situation, a boy's first deer is likely dead a short way across the fence.  I'm not sure if someone did anything like that or not.  I just remember I was forced to give up.

Looking back on it I suppose the feelings from that incident could have been a part of why I gave up hunting for a couple of decades.  When I finally shot another deer it was messy as well, we recovered her but not until she soaked up a finishing shot from another of our hunters. 

Those are distant memories though, and the two deer that I shot since I returned to hunting both had the decency to die quickly and not very far away. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how lucky that was, because I’ve read a lot of bad accounts since then.

Lately I’ve thought even more about wounding since it’s archery season now in Florida Zone C and I’m hunting with my recurve. I’ve practiced a lot and feel pretty confident to 25 yards or so, but a 370 grain arrow from a 45 lb bow is a long way from a Barnes VOR-TX .270 round. My friend Charlie, who was a hunting guide on Catalina, wrote me a lengthy email about tracking wounded game, emphasizing the positive mental attitude aspect of it. He ended up editing it and it got posted on the blog of a hunting club in California, its a pretty good read that doesn’t hide any gruesome details, I highly recommend any hunter taking this advice to heart.

So what happens if I do make a wounding shot, and after absolutely exhausting the search find no carcass?  I certainly don’t want to cause excessive suffering. But I also know that many, if not most, wild animals die suffering, and in the woods nothing is wasted. I’ll do my absolute best to do my part, if but everything goes wrong and I don’t get the meat, the buzzards will. 

And I really like buzzards.

Nice mixed flock of Black and Turkey Vultures at Palm Point, Newnan's Lake
Beautiful adult Black Vulture at Anhinga Trail, Everglades National Park
Turkey Vulture in a pond cypress, Pa-Hay-Okee Overlook, Everglades National Park