Never Give Up on a Wounded Deer

Posted by: Tony Fraley
Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bowhunting.Com would not be where it is today without our dedicated staff. Our many thanks to those who contribute - including Field Staff member, Tony Fraley, who was able to take a great buck in Wisconsin this past November.

On Thursday, November 10th, I was hunting a small woodlot in central Wisconsin. A soft blanket of snow covered the earth. Just after sunrise, while watching a nice deer trail I had noticed weeks earlier, I caught movement. It was a buck and he was heading straight for me! With his nose glued to the ground, he closed the distance quickly and I could feel my heart race!

At just twenty-five yards he started heading directly into my position, stopping slightly quartering in at only ten yards. I drew. After the arrow released, the buck jumped up before trotting off. In the short distance I could see him standing alongside a field edge. Another buck, ears pinned back and hair straight up, strutted toward the buck I had just arrowed. The display was awesome, and for a moment, I thought a fight may occur! My buck wanted none of it, however, and he casually walked the opposite way. I could tell he was injured. I just didn’t know to what extent, everything happened so fast!

Looking at the impact site from my tree, I could see white hair on the ground. A few moments passed and I got down from the tree to take a closer look. I slowly crept along the trail I was sure the buck had taken. At the field edge I found blood - a lot of it!

I decided it would be best to get out of there and talk with my stepfather, who was hunting nearby. I did have some concerns because it was snowing lightly the entire morning and I was afraid the trail might be lost very soon. We talked it over and he agreed to give it some time. Patiently waiting, I replayed the scenario over and over in my head. The suspense was killing me!

Two hours had gone by when my stepfather decided he wasn’t going to wait any longer.  He took off on his ATV in the direction my buck had traveled. I stood there dumbfounded at what to do.  I know to wait, but the snow was piling quickly. I decide to begin my search too.

I met up with my stepfather a few minutes later and we began to follow a very weak blood trail. After a few moments, what we discovered made my heart sink.

blood trail in snow

The blood trail was very weak.

The buck had crossed the highway and traveled onto land I did not have permission for. I decided to get into my car and see if I could find out who owns the land. I wasn’t about to lose this deer!

While pulling out of the drive I saw a post office vehicle. I flagged it down and asked the mail carrier if she happened to know who owned the land. She kindly gave me two names of who might own the property and asked me to follow her and she’d direct me to one of the possible owner’s homes.

Instead of following the post office vehicle, I took the initiative to drive down one of the two driveways looking for the landowner. It turned out to be a big mistake, the snaking drive abruptly ended at an abandoned home. I turn around as quickly as possible, hoping to once again catch the nice woman who was so eager to help. By the time I got back on the road – she was gone.

Disheartened, I returned to the farm to meet up with my family and discuss the apparent misfortune the recovery of my buck was taking. I couldn’t believe I had messed up my only opportunity this season.

About thirty minutes passed when suddenly the post office truck passed the farm again! I ran as quickly as I could to meet it. Trying to catch my breath, I explained that I couldn’t find the owner. What she told me next made my heart jump out of my chest! She explained that she had already spoken with the landowner and verified I could absolutely go onto their land and look for the wounded animal!  I was elated and extremely grateful for all this woman had done for me. I thanked her and left immediately to pick up the trail.

After a quick meeting with the landowner, I headed to the area where we suspected the buck had traveled. Blood was minimal, but the recent snow made tracking the deer easy for the first hundred yards. After that, it got tough. The trail ran into a healthy pine thicket where no snow had stuck to the ground yet, and deer tracks were everywhere! Though I was frustrated, I knew I had to keep my wits. I believed the buck had probably been hit behind the lungs in either the liver or paunch, so I told my son we should find water. Knowing a creek sat on the opposite side of the property, we began to make our way toward it.

Within a few moments of reaching the meandering creek, I picked up blood once more. We followed it a few yards, but were forced to stop once again as we realized the buck had crossed the deep waters. This was unbelievable. Once again I was looking in the direction that the buck had traveled and, once again, I was without permission.

creek in winter

A creek nearly kept me from recovering my 2011 Wisconsin buck.

Disheartened, I returned to the landowner’s home. I explained the situation and, to my delight, it turns out the land is owned by his aunt! The dead end driveway I drove down just hours before was not abandoned after all! The landowner gave me permission to park at the house and pick up the trail once more!

With spirits running high, I marched down to where I thought the buck had crossed the creek. I was startled by a big bodied deer as it took off through the brush. With a quickened pace I moved to where I had first seen this deer, quickly finding blood once again. It was my buck!

Slowly, bow in hand, I followed the path on which I think the deer ran. I found half my arrow after a short distance, reaffirming the buck I was following was the one I had indeed shot hours earlier.

At the top of a ridge, I scanned for sign. As I turned to the right, I caught a glimpse of my buck, just sixty yards away! He’s alive, but barely. I tried to form a plan to close the distance and allow for another shot, but it never transpired. The buck heard me and decided to scramble through the brush and out of sight. I chose not to follow this time, instead I watched as he disappeared, guts hanging from his wound. I elected to back out until morning. The time is quarter to two.

I returned to our last encounter on the ridge at eight o’clock the next morning with my son at my side. We followed a weak blood trail for just a few moments when suddenly we saw a deer! My deer! My buck! The great beast only made it another fifty yards or so after our last encounter, before crashing under a pine tree.

tony fraley buck

I was so relieved to have found this buck! Admittedly, I made many mistakes leading up to that moment, but one mistake I didn’t make was giving up.  I never gave up hope and it paid off! I had waited over twenty-four hours to get my hands on him and my smile was ear to ear!



1 Comment on "Never Give Up on a Wounded Deer"

Re: Never Give Up on a Wounded Deer

A true sign of good hunting ethics Tony, congratulations are in order for your persistence in recovering your trophy. A nice lesson was taught to your young son that should carry on to his future hunting years. This should be mandatory reading at hunter safety classes.

Posted by Dave Marsh on 12/23/2011 6:14:08 AM

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