The Michigan DNR sent out emails to thousands of Michigan deer hunters this year asking us all to take a doe if we had the opportunity. My son, Jacob and I were both sitting on our second combo tag and I still had a doe tag going into Christmas weekend, so I figured we should try our luck in the woods one last time for the year. It was a bit warmer than I like it this time of year but the weather was kind of rainy so I figured that might get the deer to increase their movements during the daylight hours. I had Friday, December 22nd off from work but Jacob had school that morning so I went out alone. Other than seeing a few big deer in the neighbors field, the only thing within range that morning were a couple of fawns. Friday afternoon, I took to the woods alone again. When I arrived at my buddy Steve’s house, he told me that he planned to head out to the woods once he finished what he was doing. I decided to sneak back to the South edge of the woods so Steve could slip into the North end when he made it back. I bumped a couple of fawns from their beds as I slowly crept through the woods and made my way to a ladder stand that we have set up facing the South third of the property. I had just nicely gotten settled when a text came through from Steve letting me know he was walking back. Now, every experienced hunter knows that if another hunter is entering the woods you are hunting, you turn and watch in that direction. However, for whatever reason, I decided to stay seated, that is until I heard the familiar sound of deer crashing through the woods. The sound was getting closer, and I knew immediately that I had messed up. I quickly got to my feet and turned around just in time to see two small fawns pass me on my left. Then, I saw her, a nice big doe, she was standing 30 yards behind me panting like a dog that had been playing fetch for an hour. I shouldered my 450 Bushmaster AR, but when I lined up for the shot, I couldn’t see a thing through the scope because in my haste, I had failed to pop the eyepiece lens cover open. Now on a traditional rifle or shotgun, that’s not a big deal, you just raise your thumb and pop that sucker open. However, on an AR platform, the scope is an inch above the barrel and the pistol grip far below the barrel, meaning the shooter has to let go of one end of the firearm to free up a hand to reach the scope cap. By the time I was done fumbling around with my scope cap, she had decided to follow the two fawns. I quickly raised the 450 so I could make the swing around to the other side of the tree and lined up for the shot. Now folks, I preach not to take shots at running deer but as seemed to be the way things were going at that moment, once again, I did not follow my own advice. I got the crosshairs on her and touched off a round. Bang!! I saw dirt fly. I picked up the radio and told Steve, “A swing and a miss”. A few moments later two more fawns came running from the same direction. I hung my rifle back up and sat down. I just sat there shaking my head thinking “What a rookie move”. I radioed Steve again to let him know that I was going to get down and look for any signs that I may have hit her. I was certain that I had not even come close to her but I had to do the responsible thing and make sure I had not wounded the animal. After a thorough search and combing of the area where she was when I shot and the trail she ran off on, I was reassured that it was a clean miss. I climbed back up in the ladder stand and settled back in for the evening. About forty five minutes before dark, I looked over my left shoulder and saw two deer about forty yards North East of me. As I reached for the 450 the doe furthest to the East looked right at me. After several minutes of a staring contest, she finally calmed down but she was standing in a large thicket and was facing straight towards me making it very difficult to see how big her body was. One thing I have a lot of trouble with is judging the size of a doe. I kept looking at her and trying to compare her to the other deer to the West but that deer had its head behind a tree. Even though I was pretty sure it was a good sized adult doe, I opted not to take the shot. That night I returned home and was greeted by Jacob. “Well, how was hunting today?” he asked. I filled him in on the day’s activities and told him that I thought we had a very good chance of seeing some deer in the morning if he still wanted to go out with me. He said he wanted to go so we decided on a time to get up and made plans to head to the woods again in the morning.
Saturday morning we woke up to a light rain. We made the drive over to Steve’s place and when we pulled in the driveway we noticed the house was dark. I told Jacob that either Steve forgot to set an alarm or he got up and saw the rain and figured we weren’t coming out. Either way, Jacob and I were there and we were going hunting. There are three blinds on the property and one of them is located in the South end of the woods which is the furthest one from the house and also happens to be the same area that I had been sitting the evening before. We decided that we should walk all the way back, leaving the other two blinds that weren’t as far back for Steve should he decide to come out a little later. Jacob and I had been in the blind for about an hour and were having some quiet conversations when I noticed movement on the lane directly West of the blind. There was a group of deer making their way North on the West fence-line. It appeared to be a group of three or four fawns and a couple of nice doe. The only problem was, they never offered us a shot. Every time one of the big ones stopped there was at least one tree in the way. We continued to watch them for several minutes in the hope that they might circle around in front of us and present an opportunity to take a couple of them. We eventually lost sight of them and I received a text from Steve saying he was thinking of heading back. I told him where we were sitting and asked that he let me know when he walked out because I was pretty sure he would push those deer back to us and this time, we would be ready. By then it was just about nine o’clock and Jacob had just asked me how long I planned to sit. I had no more than replied that I planned to sit until at least ten o’clock when I noticed movement in the brush about fifty yards to the North. “There’s deer coming right now.” I whispered to Jacob. There were several trees between us and the deer and Jacob was having a hard time seeing them. I watched them with my binoculars and carefully studied each of them to figure out which of them were the largest. Finally one of the bigger deer in the group emerged from the brush. I whispered “here she comes buddy” Jacob desperately tried to move into a position where he could see the deer but he couldn’t get a clear line of sight. I said “I’m gonna take her” Jacob said “ok” and covered his ears. I eased my trusty old Mossberg 12 ga. with a fully rifled barrel out the window and settled the cross hairs on the deer’s shoulder. Wham!! She jumped straight in the air and took off running. I could see the fresh wound in the center of her shoulder and could tell it was broken by the way she ran. I watched her fall in a pile of downed trees about fifty yards away and told Jacob “she’s down!” Jacob congratulated me on making a nice shot and commented that until then he had never seen me shoot a deer. You see, prior to this year, when Jacob has hunted, I have always let him carry the gun and I let him do the hunting. It occurred to me just then, that I had never shown him how it was done. I had always just sat with him and coached him through it. As I looked back out the window, I could see that none of the other deer had run off. I whispered to Jacob “just be still and stay quiet, because one of those other deer may step out and offer another opportunity.” We waited patiently for several more minutes, as we kept a close eye on the remaining deer. They kept looking over at their recently deceased traveling companion as if they expected her to get up and rejoin the group. While we waited, I informed Steve that we had a doe down but not to come out with the UTV just yet as we were hoping to take a second one. Finally the others calmed down and they began to move around again. I watched again with the binoculars keeping an eye on the larger deer in the group. One of them started to move into the open. “Get ready to shoot”, I whispered to Jacob. He slowly eased the 450 out the window. The doe was slowly walking out into the open. As she weaved between the trees she turned and started to cut at the perfect angle and offered Jacob a broadside shot. It’s hard when you’re sitting with another hunter because you have to remember that each of you has a different view out the window of the blind. The doe was in clear sight and in what appeared to me to be in the wide open. I kept saying “take her”, “shoot buddy shoot”, but Jacob didn’t have a clear shot. She started to get a little spooky and began to pick up her pace. Just as my heart started to sink and I was about to say let her go, the 450 barked! I saw the doe jump straight in the air just as mine had and as she tried to run off with one shoulder clearly broken. Jacob had made a perfect shot. She went about forty yards or so and dropped. I looked over at Jacob and told him what an awesome shot he had made and congratulated him on his first doe. We sat there for a few minutes and talked through the events that had just taken place and how it all unfolded. Jacob told me the whole story from how it all looked from his seat and I shared my perspective with him.
We hit a couple of milestones that morning. It was Jacob’s first doe, it was the first time he had seen me shoot a deer, it was our first double, and we had just taken the first two deer ever from the blind we were sitting in. I let Steve know we were successful and asked him to come out and give us a hand while Jacob and I got to work dragging the two doe into clearings where they were easier to tend to. When Steve arrived at the blind, he looked down at the blood trails and said “well, you two certainly gave these deer a bad morning didn’t you?” We shared the story with Steve how it all unfolded that morning and he shared in our celebration of success.
I have harvested dozens of deer in my lifetime, and I’m a little sad to say, I can’t remember all of them anymore. I hope these memories of deer hunting with my son never fade as they are by far my fondest. Jacob and I had an amazing season with me shooting a beautiful big eight point with my crossbow on November 1st, him getting a nice eight point of his own on opening day and then closing our season by doubling on a couple of does. I sincerely hope your deer season went well and if nothing else, I hope you made some memories.
As always, Happy hunting, good luck in the woods and God Bless.