Stepping out into the chilly predawn
darkness from the cozy
warmth of the cabin instantly shifted my hunter’s senses into
high gear. It was the greatest morning of all… opening day of
bow season for Nova Scotia’s whitetails.
The velvety still darkness engulfed me as I stepped off the
doorstep and into the blackness. While my vision was severely
handicapped, I felt as though my hearing and maybe even my
sense of smells was heightened.
From way down the river valley towards the cornfields I heard
a small pack of coyotes serenading the night farewell. I
realized I wasn’t the only predator prowling this game rich
valley on that morning. I couldn’t help but wonder how their
hunting had been. Had they been successful? How would my
hunting go? Would I be successful?
I reached the end of the dew soaked field. With light coming
quickly I had a decision to make. Should I head to the east,
where my carefully hung tree stand awaited me over a well
used deer trail? Or should I head west, up and over the
hardwood hill for parts undecided for some spot n stalk
I knew the odds were better tipped in my recurve’s favour if I
took the stand option. The shot would be less than 15 yards if
all went according to plan. The deer would most likely be
unaware of my presence 15 feet above them as they meandered
to their daytime hangouts.
For some reason though, I was feeling nomadic. Before long
the still hunter in me won the battle and I turned away from the
stand and I began the ascent up the hill.
I silently made my way to a spot where I had taken numerous
deer in the past while waiting for a little more light to filter
through the overhead canopy. I was entertained as a big Ruffed
Grouse fed nearby. A small flock of geese flew overhead at
treetop level. It was turning into a great morning already and it
had barely begun.
For the next couple hours I just picked my way slowly and
methodically from tree to tree. Stopping often to lean against
one and dissect any nearby cover. Often times only moving my
Before too long I had reached the top. The view of the valley
below me was just the proverbial icing on the cake for making
the long lingering walk to the top. Looking down I could easily
see the patch of woods where my tree stand was hung. From up
high it looked like an even better location to ambush an
unsuspecting deer. To the right was a cornfield. To the left was
a big green field. The back side was bordering the picturesque
St. Mary’s River. The deer often left the cornfield right at light
and passed near the stand. I began to question my choice of
ways to spend the season opener.
It was too late to hit the stand now so I opted to press on,
careful not to get careless and simply start walking rather then
hunting. I willed myself to go slow. Stop often. Listen always.
Pay attention to the wind.
And so it went, tree to tree. A dozen yards and stop. The
farther I went, the less deer sign I encountered. I trudged on
and found myself nearly out to the cranberry bogs that inhibit
this part of the countryside. All that was between me and the
bogs was a large cutover that was at the end of a nearby road
system from a recent forestry operation. Rather than cut across
it I decided to walk its perimeter just inside the woods line.
Deer are creatures of the edges and I feared if I simply walked
out in the open I would spook them and ruin any chance of
getting within bow range.
As is often the case, this took much longer than I anticipated.
When I was about half way around the huge cutover, with
sweat rolling off me like Niagara Falls, I sat down on a big
stump from the logging operation of 5 or 6 years previous. The
clear cloudless sky was as blue as only a fall sky can be. It felt
good to take a load of my feet, drop my pack, cool off and
enjoy the view before me.
Checking my watch, I soon had to make a decision. If I didn’t
head back down soon I might as well stay here and hunt the
rest of the afternoon. If I delayed hiking out much longer, I
wouldn’t be down in time to head anywhere else for the
The lack of sign coupled with the fact I had prescouted
carefully hung stand(s) waiting for me to hunt one of them
down closer to my cabin made me shoulder my pack and begin
the trek off the hill towards the valley floor.
I hadn’t gone very far when I spotted movement out in the
clearing. I instinctively dropped to one knee.
Perhaps 200 yards out I could see two bucks squaring off
against each other. While it wasn’t a full fledged testosterone
enraged battle I could easily hear the clacking of antler against
antler even from that far in the still thin autumn air.
I slid my pack off with as little commotion as possible and dug
for my binoculars. Upon focussing them on the two bucks
two things became quickly apparent.
1) They were not huge bucks but either one would make a nice
trophy with a recurve bow. They both appeared to be nice 8
2) They were so engaged with each other a stalk to within trad
bow range just might be possible with a hefty dose of luck and
At first I wasn’t sure what to do. They were just squaring off in
about a 20 yard circle. After a while I figured I could either
wait them out or try and get closer while they were
I choose the later.
My first mission was to close the distance and go from there. It
wasn’t much of a plan but I pushed my bow ahead of me and
crawled on all fours behind it.
Not daring to look up for fear of being busted, dutifully I kept
my head down and repeated the process over and over. Push
bow ahead. Crawl. Repeat.
After about 100 yards of crawling I had a small knoll in front
of me that offered some cover. I had no idea if the bucks were
even still in front of me. If they were still where I had seen
them last I estimated they would be about 75 yards out from
the little knoll I was crouched behind.
Slowly I got to my knees and peeked over. Holy! They were
right in front of me at maybe 20 yards and still nose to nose. I
had either underestimated how far I crawled or the sparring
bucks had moved towards my direction. Without hesitation I
pulled a cedar arrow from the bow quiver and nocked it.
In one deliberate motion I began drawing the bow and rising
into a shooting position as smoothly as my heightened heart
rate would permit. Oddly, I was a little surprised they were
both still there, their only concern being each other. Either one
offered me a broadside shot.
I frantically scanned their headgear looking for the bigger one.
All the while my brain was screaming just pick one and shoot
before they bust you!
The draw was as smooth as silk. The instant my finger
anchored to the corner of my mouth I let the string slip. The
bow was dead solid in my hand upon release. The broadhead
tipped cedar arrow flew true and buried deep.
The hit buck spun to his right and sped away. The remaining
buck stood momentarily looking slightly confused. I had to
wonder if he thought he somehow won the stand off. Slightly
thrown off or not, he didn’t stand long before making tracks.
I switched my eyes to the buck I drew on just in time to see
him quite literally disappear. The only explanation I could
muster was that he must have gone down. There was no way
he could have gotten out of that chopping without me seeing
Nevertheless I looked at my watch and elected to wait the
mandatory 30 minutes. I walked back to gather my backpack
and have a granola bar to help kill the seemingly long wait.
I may have made it to about the 20 minute mark before the
combination of seeing the arrow hit and the deer just
disappearing before my eyes had me on the trail.
I found blood right away. Good blood. Another 20 yards and I
found my arrow. Perhaps 30 yards beyond that lay my buck. I
approached to about 15 yards with an arrow nocked but was
apparent it wouldn’t be needed.
After completing the field dressing and tagging requirements I
began to realize I had just spot and stalked a nice whitetail
buck with my recurve bow. Some days are diamonds they say.
Without a doubt this day was one.
That in it made the long tough drag that lay ahead seems
somewhat less daunting. I had plenty of daylight ahead of me.
The buck would be out and hanging in the meat shed long
I grabbed an antler and headed down towards the valley floor
with a crisp autumn wind at my back on a beautiful fall
afternoon. Diamond day indeed!
At that precise moment, I actually felt bad for those who never
get to experience the satisfaction of being a hunter