My Dad and I were going about our morning chores and checking out our cow herd in the Ford when I spotted this high-racked buck on a riverbank from a 1/2 mile or better away. I didn’t have my binocs with me at that time, but he looked to be a big-bodied mature buck. He had a hot doe pinned against the river and he was standing guard not to let her get away, not unlike the 6 or so other bucks I had seen that morning on the river.
Well, we had to drive on over to that side of the river anyway to see if some cattle browsing over there were ours, so I grabbed my longbow out of my pickup and threw it behind the seat of the Ford "just in case"....afterall, there was only 8 days left in the season. I also grabbed my Leica’s as I was hoping to glass that buck and perhaps negotiate a shot if he turned out to be a shooter.
The cattle in question turned out not to be ours, so I decided to try and get a peak at that buck. I snuck as quietly as I could over to the riverbank and gazed down river...I spotted him around 180 yards out. I only took about 2 seconds to look then ducked back down, knowing right away he was a good, mature buck. I didn’t even know how many points he had...just that he had good mass, good brows, and was big bodied.
I wanted to stalk him, but as Dad reminded me the leaves were so loud that it would be a hard bid, as was proven just sneaking over to the river bank to glass him. The large Cottonwood leaves that covered the ground like a rough blanket were very dry and the day was quiet, a bad combination for the ground hunter. He suggested nudging him along the river while I waited behind a cottonwood in hopes to ambush him as he strode past my setup. After a little thought, I trusted it to be the best plan. It is tough getting rutting bucks to go where you want them too, especially while tending a hot doe; but if anybody could make it happen, it was Dad. No matter the outcome, it was worth a valid effort.
I grabbed my Robertson Longbow out of the back of the old ranch truck, took off my boots, and socked it towards the high riverbank. After a short pause, I picked out a large Cottonwood that was set right on the edge, overlooking the steeper bank and ultimately the Milk River below. As I orchestrated a very slow "stalk" to the tree, I eventually could see the buck and doe; and now noticed two other deer near them.
Whenever I set my shoeless foot down on the crispy leaves too fast, one of them would pick up their head and look my direction, even at nearly 200 yards away. Several frozen moments occurred before I could straighten up and stand behind that big ‘ol Cottonwood. After observing the trails, I prayed his doe would take the low road and come beneath me...between me and the river...rather the climbing to higher ground and using the trail that passed just 13 inches from my tree and ultimately my foot! I couldn’t risk scraping the leaves away for a quieter place to stand, so I peeled off my coat and laid it atop the leaves. Between it and no shoes, it was as good as I could do. With the wind in my face, it was up to Dad to get him to come by for a shot.
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Dad took the Ford and made a large circle around to the other side of the buck. He knew that it would be too risky to just come up over the riverbank above the buck as him or his doe would more than likely bolt hard and fast. He parked the One Ton Wonder well out into the field and hiked the long way around a strip of woods that was situated against the river a several hundred or more yards from the rutting buck I was after. He was hoping to pick up a few deer in the wooded cover and move them slowly into the buck we were after, easing them along the river to me.
His plan worked perfectly. He bumped up about 7 other deer, including two smaller bucks, and they headed right down the river bank towards me. The were nudged almost to slowly...the anticipation was killling me as I watched the buck come closer only to stop and gaze behind him and then grunt at his doe. With the wind still in my favor, the buck eventually took the lead and followed the trail directly below me; the trail I had hoped he would take. Once he reached my shooting lane, he paused to look back, giving me a downhill shot under 20 yards with my longbow. I picked a hair, anchored...and what seemed like slow motion in slow motion, I released while at the same time he turned ahead and stepped forward!
I couldn’t take back the speeding arrow, and it connected solidly with the buck, but well behind the hair on which I was concentrating. The buck lept into the air, landed on his feet and lunged into the river! I was immediately dissappointed in myself, but knew that these things happen. The thoughts If only he wouldn’t have taken that step and I shouldn’t have been so deliberate and slow kept repeating themselves in my frustrated mind. He crossed the river and climbed the bank on the other side, and I was able to evaluate the situation as he paused for short minute and walked directly away from me into the timber. I had a pretty good idea of where he was headed, and with less that two hours of light left in the day, I was going to have to wait until tomorrow morning to recover him.
The thick fog that the morning brought into the Montana scenery was intimidating. After it cleared enough to see effectively, I took to the blood trail my buck had left behind. As expected, it was very easy to follow for quite a while but quickly slowed up, becoming laborious to track. Luck was on my side this morning though, as I soon discovered him laying dead just few yards from where I had last seen him walking the evening before!
I had just recovered my first longbow killed buck, and it felt good. I was glad I had paid so much attention to my Uncle Roy when he showed me the skill of sharpening a Bear Razorhead with a file, then stone, and lastly a leather strop. It was shaving sharp when it entered that buck, as well as it’s also sharpened inserts...the combination was devastating and a testament to why one should always hunt with sharp broadheads. The buck had bled to death internally very quickly, and my heart was bleeding with joy. I thanked the Lord over and over for letting me recover my buck and so graciously giving me this moment to cherish.
After caping my buck out, I could see that he had a lot of recent wounds on his cape and ears from fighting. He had several areas under his hide all along his body that were badly bruised and bloodshot, I assume from locking horns with another buck.
It's kind of cool....nearly 17 years to the day I killed my first buck with a Robertson Recurve just a few hundred yards from where I killed this buck. This longbow buck was actually tending a doe just yards from where my very first buck died that many years ago, and ultimately came up the same trail to me. Dad and my uncles pushed that first buck to me way back then, too. Some things never change, and tradition is a great thing.
My longbow was a Robertson Mystical Longbow of 64" and 64#'s (www.robertsonstykbow.com). My 1960's Bear Razorheads and Maple arrow combined for 700 grains of thumping penetration.