I Finally Got a Shot at a Mature Buck in North Dakota and...| WhitetailDNA Journal

By Alex Comstock

Honestly, this journal post is not going to be an easy one for me to put together. This year has been one of the toughest deer seasons I have endured as far as the amount of work I have put into it dating back to last spring, compared to the number of mature buck encounters I've had. With that said, the last week or so of hunting has been pretty decent, with it producing multiple mature buck encounters, and I finally got a shot at one. 

Last Thursday, November 17th, I headed out to the stand around noon. I was set up in the tree by 1:30pm, and after only being set for roughly a half an hour, I looked up and saw a big buck headed straight towards me. 95% of the time when I see a buck, I get up my binoculars to see if he's mature/a shooter. This buck I knew right away was one that I wanted to shoot. I quickly grabbed my bow, turned the camera on, and it was game on. 

My first good look at the buck when he was roughly 60 yards away and headed right for me. 

My first good look at the buck when he was roughly 60 yards away and headed right for me. 

The buck was approaching from the other side of the river as me, and there is a major river crossing twenty yards right in front of my stand. I figured he would head right for that, and I would have a chip shot. Of course, he changed his path slightly, and ended up crossing the river roughly forty yards from me. If it weren't for the limbs in my way, I would have had a great shot the moment he stepped out of the river. When he did finally cross, I ranged him at 38 yards, moved my camera to where I thought I would get a shot and drew my bow back. He took about another five steps, stopped to shake the water off, and I released an arrow. I knew right away that I pulled the shot forward. He was quartering away rather hard, and I knew I hit right around the shoulder. Once he took off, he went about fifty yards, stopped, and looked back. In the frame of the camera, I could see blood running down him, and not knowing what kind of penetration I got, I was optimistic about my shot. 

Moments before the shot...the buck walked out of the frame before I could get a shot off. 

Moments before the shot...the buck walked out of the frame before I could get a shot off. 

You can see the wound on his shoulder, leading me to be optimistic about a good recovery.

You can see the wound on his shoulder, leading me to be optimistic about a good recovery.

After the shot, I waited about fifteen minutes, then went over to the site of impact. I found my arrow right away, and my heart sunk. I got next to no penetration, and my broadhead had broken off. I knew right away the only way I was going to have a smooth recovery was if I clipped the heart, or hit an artery. Usually with a shoulder shot, there isn't much blood, and with this shot there was a fair amount of blood. Not quite being sure on what to do next, I backed out, talked to a bunch of friends, and smart deer hunters, and decided to go look at dark. By the time I would head after him, it would be about four hours after the shot. 

I came back at dark with a couple buddies, and we followed blood for about 200 yards, and then it just stopped. There were no beds or anything, the blood just got down to pin drops, and then stopped. After a few hours of tracking, we elected to back out and come back in the morning. I spent the whole next day (Friday), and another five hours on Saturday searching every inch of ground I possibly could. I found a few specks of blood Friday, but you practically needed a microscope to see it. After a total of roughly 15-16 hours looking for this deer, I came to the conclusion that I think he's still alive. I only got a couple inches of penetration in the shoulder, and the buck seemed to walk off OK after the shot. I don't know for positive he'll be ok, but I sure hope he shows back up on trail camera. 

Overall, this has been a really really tough experience for me. I have worked tirelessly to get my first mature North Dakota buck since moving here last year. I have passed buck after buck waiting for the right one between last season and this season, and finally had everything come together, and I couldn't write the last chapter. I will have to use this experience to make me a better hunter, and I need to learn from it. Hopefully at the end of the day, it will make me a better deer hunter than I am now.