Today is the opening day of Montana’s archery hunting season, for deer, elk, moose, and so forth. Unlike years past, I was out (in the rain) this morning as the sun rose, bow in hand, hoping I could get within 20 yards or closer. I’ve been practicing since spring, and while I was hoping my effective range would be further, the longbow learning curve has had multiple plateaus, and while I’ve found more joy in the act of shooting a longbow than any firearm, I haven’t been able to like it enough to shoot more than 2-3 days a week. I’m on the multi-year plan with bowhunting, and the reward of just being out today, under such stringent dictates, was more than reward enough.
I had a good plan, based on deer crossing a half-plowed, half-grass field. Extra sun along the dirt/grass interface has produced a 6 foot wide band of grass 4 feet tall, more than enough for total cover while crawling. In the dark I walked out and sat in the grass, 200 yards from the nearest tree. As the sun began to come up I panned the distance for deer, and after a few minutes noticed a skunk, coming right at me. And it started to rain. Under the circumstances, it seemed like a good idea to get up, circle the skunk, and retreat to the biggest nearby ponderosa pines to not get soaked. Crossing the creek, I spooked a deer, which stood in the semi-darkness at 80 yards, snorting at me. 20 minutes later, just long enough to begin questioning my move, plan B appeared in the form of three deer down the other field, 300 yards away. The tiny creek edged the field all the way, screening my movement. 10 minutes later, and most of the way down the field, plan A came back into play, when the same (I presume) two deer I’d observed weeks before crossed the field diagonally, passing right by my original sitting place, hit the creek line, and continued towards me, feeding casually.
With nothing to loose, the three deer on the other side of the creek showed no sign of heading out, I waited as the pair fed my direction. The wind was horrible, and as I guessed once the deer were dead downwind they sensed something was not quite right, and gradually reversed course. Now, back to plan B. The three deer had continued to hold to the edge of the field, and if they continued as before they’d pinch down to the end and meet the creek. I’d ideally be waiting on just the other side of the 5 foot band of brush, and get a shot.
That did not happen. I got into position, which involved a drenching 50 yard full belly crawl, only for another hunter to wander through the field at the other end, sending two of the three deer off into the woods. Inattention before crawling had filled the objective lenses of my binoculars with dew, and it took me minutes to clean them well enough to see with certainty that the third deer was also not in view. A quick sneak down the other fenceline might well have gained a shot, as the small buck was actually feeding ten feet back from the field, in a big gap between trees, but I didn’t know that until I had backtracked 100 yards, at which point my careless manner had revealed my human presence fully, and I was due home shortly.
In other words, a good first morning of the season.