Sliding the scratched and slightly leaky canoe into the pond in the pre-light stillness. Reaching the end of the pond and dragging the canoe and gear up the steep hill into the big lake.
Somewhere near the head of the lake and owl hoots, as if on a timer, about every two minutes. Another is heard replying nearer to me.
The only sound, other than the chatty owls is the dipping of the paddle into the calm water. It's a relaxing sound if ever there was one.
Dreading turning on the headlamp, I make a couple of missed location attempts at my trail leading to my stand. With daybreak less than 30 minutes away, I hit the light and discover I am only 15 yards off my trail, but was unable to see anything in the inky blackness.
Settling into the stand as the ridge comes alive never disappoints. How many times I've witnessed it, I have no idea. All I know is it never grows routine.
It was largely a pretty uneventful morning.
Around 930 or so, despite the mild temperature, I was getting a bit of a chill as I had worked up a sweat on the trip in, and now the damp T-shirt felt as though it was just pulled out of a deep freeze.
I no sooner had the thought that I'd just sit till 10:30 or so, when I caught movment. Sure enough, it was the mature barren doe I knew was here. I had decided that she would fit the bill for my first tag a couple weeks ago, even before the season opened. However, now that she was 14 yards away, I was unsure. For whatever reason, I'm hardwired to shoot bucks, even smaller ones.
With the shoot or not to shoot raging in my temples, when she turned broadside and looked the other way, I decided not to look a gift horse (deer) in the mouth. I drew my new bow back and settled the pin on her.
It seemed easy and steady compared to the recurve bows I have hunted with the last almost 20 years. I touched the trigger on the release.
I saw the arrow strike, or rather I saw the fur part right where I was aiming, well perhaps a couple inches higher. The strike was quieter it seemed than those big heavy trad arrows.
For a brief second I thought maybe I was seeing things and missed by her reaction. She took 3 jumps and started blowing ! Two jumps one direction and the 3rd hard to her right, which put her 6 yards from the base of the tree I was perched in.
I started reaching for another arrow, but I could see a toonie sized hole right behind her shoulder. To be honest, I was unsure what to do. I feared the additional movement might start her, and although my eyes are not what they use to be....I could see the entry hole, and while I couldn't see the exit, blood was clearly seen dripping from her far side. I held tight.
Seconds ticked by as if I had my hand on a hot stove element. Again, I thought about taking another shot. But I trusted my eyes.
Then, and I add it only because it happened, she began to lick the entry hole. Not alarmed. Not in distress. This went on for a couple minutes.
Let's say 2 minutes elapsed. I almost couldn't beleive what my eyes were telling my brain. Again, I reached for a new arrow but then I heard her cough. Breathing grew more labored ( mine too I suspect) . Her legs grew unsteady ( mine too ).
She mustered enough strength to take a final leap and crashed.
It messed with my head a bit. Twenty years ago, it may have bothered me less. I don't know.
Ive long said hunters hold more respect and understanding for life (and death) then do those who only buy meat from the super market and are long removed from the process of how meat gets in those neatly packed styrofoam trays ( styrofoam !!) packages.
I'm chalking it up to sharp broadheads and a quiet bow.
In the end, I'll own it and consider it a job well done. The lack of distress on her part is comforting.