By Wade Middleton
A cooler than normal early October morning found me climbing into an old oak tree situated at the corner of a food plot as the sun began to break over the hill. I was slightly late heading to the stand on the Wendlandt Ranch, but I knew from experience to trust the words of Scott Wendlandt, who manages the land and deer hunting, that the deer would be in the area as the day went on.
My stand that day was old school to say the least. It’s made up of old 2x4s, rusty nails, and an old plastic boat seat. This is the preferred design of Scott’s brother and a longtime friend of mine Clark Wendlandt. We often tease Clark about his stands. While some may be of dubious design and style they are rarely in an area where you don’t see deer.
I quietly settled in to wait and enjoy the morning. I checked my safety harness, opened a scent stick made by Conquest Scents to help defeat the swirling winds, and lastly made sure my NV32 Blackout Bow setup was ready. After all that was in place, I enjoyed the sounds of nature waking up around me.
According to Scott (who has spent nearly 40 years in this area), lots of bucks congregate in this part of the property during the early season. With acorns dropping and a bit of corn spread around for added value, it was a matter of waiting now as I knew from experience this area of Texas is loaded with deer. It wasn’t long until we saw several deer. One buck that caught our attention was a chocolate-racked eight-point that looked to be a couple of inches outside his ears. The buck I was eyeing was cruising a far fence line and after that, he began working his way across the field nearly on a string to where we had set up.
When I say we, I was sharing the tree with my good friend and sometimes trusty cameraman Jeff Reynolds. Jeff and I’ve filmed many a deer hunt together. Over the past 15 years we’ve built a bond working together that’s forged over our love of deer hunting. However, sometimes Jeff can also be the NO man which can make me grumpy when he’s that guy. You see, filming a deer hunt in a leafy tree, he’s the guy who can tell me NO when a buck is being blocked from camera view. Which in my line of work means I have to sit there and pout and not draw. Or worse at times I’m holding the bow at full draw trying to let it down after he calls me off by saying NO to a shot because sometimes my shooting lanes don’t match his filming lanes. That’s what happened this fine October morning when the buck walked through one shooting lane perfectly broadside with me at full draw before stopping me with a well-timed “NO, I can’t see him.” Which he added in for added emphasis this time.
As I held the bow at full draw just a bit longer, it was apparent I wasn’t going to get a shot at this angle. I begin to sulk a bit like a lab puppy being told no for chewing on a shoe. I could see the deer feeding perfectly broadside with its leg forward exposing its heart. “That’s a dream position for a bow hunter” I thought as I turned to grin at Jeff after letting off from being on full draw and mumbling. I know…Jeff was only doing what’s right despite my feeling like he was being a fun hater this morning!
The buck wandered off, hopped the old rusty barb-wired fence slowly raising his tail, and trotted off. A couple of hours later, we climbed down leaving a lot of gear in that tree so we could easily return later that day for an afternoon sit. Both of us relived the encounter as we headed back to camp laughing about how close we came to sealing the deal.
GO WHERE THE DEER ARE
We had seen about a dozen different deer that morning, and knowing the afternoons in that part of Texas are often better, we headed back to the same tree stand from the morning at Scott’s urging. At a stand set up like that, we should see action as the shadows grow longer and the sun begins to go down. So we settled in about 3 hours before sunset.
With about 45 minutes of shooting light left Jeff whispered, “Over there.” I glanced back to see him pointing towards the south. Sure enough, the eight-point from this morning was about to jump back into this field in nearly the exact same spot he left earlier this morning. It’s amazing to me after all these years how sights like this make my blood pressure rise but, that is a good thing if you ask me.
The deer working now from my right was going to settle in and pass somewhere between 25 and 35 yards out. I wasn’t worried where he crossed or where he stopped since I was shooting the Garmin Xero A1i Pro bow sight. Once I’m drawn, the Xero will give me a precise range at the touch of a button to my target and then give me one single aiming point to focus on thanks to its laser range finding capabilities. This ensures there won’t be any guessing on which pin or how far the buck was, which helps an archer eliminate any doubts where to aim.
I was shooting a Blackout NV32 bow with BlackOut MX6 Micro Diameter arrows tipped with Blackout Gator broadheads. According to my off-season chronograph work, my bow setup had those arrows traveling 292 feet per second. Now at full draw, I settled the single pin on the vitals at 32 yards and let the arrow fly! The result? A perfect pass through. The buck from where I sat ran straight away, hopping the barbed wire fence and out of sight.
The words “SMOKED HIM” ring out in excitement as I exhale and the post-shot adrenaline courses through my veins like it always does. At that moment I get nervous, chatty, goofy, and tend to babble much like I did when I shot my first deer some 40 plus years ago. I turn to Jeff in full babble telling him, “The shot just felt perfect to me. We will give him some time. But I’m thinking that deer’s already dead over there.”
Jeff is now grinning ear to ear, always a good sign since he has a great ability to process it all behind that camera. He’s already saying that the deer should be dead right over there. “I saw blood spraying everywhere, that broadhead opened him up and you hit him perfect.”
THE TRACKING BEGINS…
We waited several more minutes and climbed down from the tree stand. I walked off to get the Yamaha Wolverine Side-By-Side that we had been using to carry all our gear and now hopefully a deer. With all that done, I walked over to the spot I had shot the deer. I reached down to pick up the blood-stained BlackOut MX6 Micro Diameter Arrow right where the deer was standing and examined the arrow from the broadhead to nock. No doubt about it – total pass-through.
With confidence in what we had seen with all the blood, we slowly and easily, followed the blood trail. Sure enough, roughly eighty-five yards away, we find the buck piled up as the sun begins to set.
Nothing is more fun and gratifying than making a good shot. That validates all the practice throughout the off-season. Bad things happen in bow hunting at times, no matter how much you practice. I have hit ’em in places that just amazed me how fast they died, and I’ve hit ’em in places where they didn’t. This one here was just a total pass-through and was running dead from the moment that arrow hit him. That to me, is just so gratifying.