whitetail buck

By John Stepp | Eastern Outdoors Media

On two separate occasions, I emptied my quiver while hunting from a deer stand. The first time it happened was a bizarre sequence of events, which may sound like a load of BS. The second time, however, was less weird but nevertheless eventful.

The first time I emptied my quiver was in 1996 around Halloween. Operation let her rip, tater chip, took place at my parent’s farm where I grew up. I was perched high above a travel corridor between doe bedding and a large cut cornfield. That day, I was hunting a couple of mature bucks that were in the area, and I knew I was in a great spot to intercept them before dark. The anticipation was palpable and made even more intense by an encounter with one of my targets the previous night. He passed just out of range, and the subsequent small tweak to my stand location was promising.

It wasn’t long before several did begin stirring from their beds and slowly working their way to the stubbled cornfield. Then all at once, the doe group erupted in panic as they simultaneously rocketed out of the area. Moments later, two young coyotes revealed themselves looking nearly as puzzled as I was from all the commotion they had unknowingly created. Like any good deer hunter, it immediately became a coyote hunt.

As the first dog rounded a large sinkhole and entered the clearing, he was quickly met with a sharp broadhead that turned his lights off instantly. The completely bewildered second young coyote had by now started trotting away, but he kept looking back towards his companion the whole time he retreated.

With no time to think, I instinctually began mouth squealing at the coyote. To my utter amazement, he instantly hit the brakes before changing course and slowly began creeping to the downwind side of my location. At 50 yards, he presented me with the only shot opportunity that I figured I would get. Unlike the previous coyote who dropped dead like a sack of bricks, this one was only wounded. He started squealing, barking, and chomping at what ailed him. I felt horrible about the misplaced shot. Quickly, I knocked another arrow, but by this time, the wounded coyote had rolled down into the sinkhole and out of sight. I knew he was very much still alive based on the horrendous sounds echoing through the timber. Therefore, I quickly descended my stand in order to dispatch him. The problem, however, was that the sinkhole he occupied was big, deep, and thick.

My first attempt to put the poor coyote out of his misery was swatted by a sapling. The next missile I sent was deflected or maybe I just missed. Had there been a hunting app to guide me, this wouldn’t have been the case. But, either way, I had one arrow left so I tried to make it count. It didn’t. In utter defeat, I walked over to the first coyote who was still holding on to my arrow, and I extracted the used arrow from him. By the time I cleaned enough gunk off the arrow, brushed the debris from the broadhead, and returned to the deep sinkhole, the injured coyote had made his way to a little shelf that was open enough for me to deliver the goods. To this day, all five of my Beamen ICS hunter arrows, along with the dumbest coyote on earth, still reside at the bottom of that massive sinkhole. And for those still keeping track, the first arrow I shot killed not only the first coyote but the second one as well. Good times.. I wish I could have shared such a thrilling experience through an outdoor activities app to guide amateur hunters.

The second time I unloaded my entire quiver was in 2016, and it had a much more desirable ending. It also took place on our family farm. November 4th, as I recall, was a bluebird day in Kentucky, and I was fresh off an ankle surgery that had me sidelined for much of the season. I was hunting a network of ridge systems that mature bucks would frequently patrol looking for estrous does. As fate would have it, a gnarly old mainframe 8-pointer with several stickers and kickers strolled past me at exactly 35 yards. It was one of those encounters that happened fast – as they often do in sweet November. I had just enough time to pre-range a log before the old bruiser arrived next to it. Just like in a dream, at that same time, the sunlight beamed down on the vitals of this buck. I was able to squeeze off a shot that felt great. But by then, I had no idea about the point of impact, because of the sun’s bright rays and my less-than-stellar eyesight. The deer, however, did not even flinch – no mule kick, no running off, no nothing. He just stood there for a couple of seconds before slowly sauntering away from me. As you can imagine, I’m confused and trying like hell to piece together what just happened.

By the time I knocked another arrow, the buck was 50 yards out quartering away and was seemingly frozen in his tracks. He was now behind some thick brush, leaving me zero chance of getting an arrow in him so I grunted softly with my mouth. He heard me loud and clear. His ears immediately swiveled, but his body remained unchanged. Then, out of nowhere, he lay down, keeping his head up and appearing alert.

Once bedded, I knew I had a small window to slip an arrow through. I anchored, let out a little breath and a big prayer, and sent it right into a tiny sapling. Once again, the buck heard this, evident by only a slight movement in his ears, but he remained still. By now, I’m convinced the deer is at least wounded from the original shot, but I have no idea if it’s a mortal wound. Arrow number 3 comes out of my quiver, onto my bowstring, and yes, into another tree. As I’m loading the fourth arrow, I notice the big bucks head beginning to wobble, but I’m still working hard to deliver the knockout blow. Arrow number four barely grazes his back, and again the buck shows no signs of the hit. My final arrow gets slightly deflected before burying into the forest floor a foot shy of its intended mark. For the second time in my hunting career, I found myself up a tree with no arrows.

The only option is to sneak down, retrieve one of my arrows and pray the buck doesn’t run. Luckily as I’m lowering my bow to the ground, the beast finally gives up the goat. Once I collected myself enough to examine the old 8-point, to my amazement, the first shot was double lungs. This hunt was one of those weird hunts that most of us experience with enough time spent chasing critters with a bow. I couldn’t forget this hunt even if I tried, because there are a couple of arrows still stuck in trees – just out of reach – that serve as a reminder of the second time I had to empty my quiver.

In modern times, you can find more such memorable and unique moments being shared on hunting apps.

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