Your Subtitle text

The Black Ghost

By Paul Askew

I hung up the traditional bow this year and had my taxidermist/bowtech Tim Tuttle string up my compound, so I could put some meat in the freezer. In between trips to the coast to hunt elk, I am fortunate enough to have access to private land for deer in Oregon's Willamette unit. Recovering from sore legs after chasing elk all weekend and getting some chores done, I looked forward to spending the last couple of hours of daylight in my ground blind I have set on my friend’s property. I have several pictures of bucks on this property, but like typical blacktails, these boys are not consistent.

I was set up in a creek bottom that is basically a blackberry bush flat mixed with tall grass in the bottom and timber on the ravine slopes. I placed the blind on a small bench on the ravine wall overlooking a natural funnel with several bedding areas on either side of where my blind is set. We had bumped a nice buck from his bed a couple of weeks earlier that was still in full velvet and about 40 yards from where I ended up placing my ground blind. The blackberry bushes not only hide the deer from us, but it really helps hide us from them.  Although I was in their bedroom, I was able to make a quiet and undetected entry. I had already set in this blind for several evenings this season and had had an opportunity on a spike but passed. I also bumped deer coming out of the blind within fifty yards or so and on a couple of occasions I could hear deer in the distance moving in the thick brush but was not able to identify whether they were bucks or does.

One evening, I had my wife in the blind hoping she would arrow her first deer.  At about 10 minutes before last legal light, we started hearing a deer moving to our right in the tall grass and blackberry bushes. I guessed that it was a buck because it didn't start moving until daylight had really faded in the creek bottom. Although I never saw this deer, it gave me a lot of hope that the bucks were still using this place. So as to not spook the deer, we waited a half hour after dark and just listened until we could not hear the deer moving before we exited the blind.

Once again, I am back in the blind. At this point, I am telling myself the bucks have shed their velvet and probably changed their pattern. At this time of year, I have tried to harvest decent bucks with no success. Most of the time I set a stand or blind in the early season to just be in nature relaxing and day dreaming of a big buck showing up. It is the day dreaming while sitting these early season spots and the relaxation that keep me going back every evening I possibly can.

We always hope that dreams turn into reality and on one such evening in mid-September, my dream came true. Having set the blind several times this season, I had the small birds roosting pattern down as they are noisy until about 20 minutes before last legal light. The birds had all but roosted when I heard the footsteps of a deer in tall grass. I thought the noise was coming from my right or behind me. I would hear the movement and then silence, so it was hard to pinpoint. The deer continued to move, but this time I realized it was directly in front of me out 30 yards or so.

My vision was obstructed by a large fir tree and branches; I slowly moved to peer out the window of the blind. Through the branches, I saw the deer but only part of the body and not the head. I immediately told myself it is probably the spike or a doe, but then I see that it is a buck and tell myself “oh man, that is a good buck". The buck moves my direction and is now 15 yards to my left but obstructed by the fir trees long branches. He was looking up the ravine, but not at the blind. I just kept saying to myself,
“please, please walk a few more steps big guy”. I guess he was listening, because he fed directly in front of my semi-elevated position and offered a less than 15 yard broadside shot.

With my bow already drawn, I placed the top pin just behind his shoulder and dropped the string on my Hoyt Ultratech. The arrow made a cracking sound and the buck bounded. I watched him run 25 yards and could hear him continue running until he stopped at about 40 yards from impact. There was brief silence and then rustling around where he had stopped. I was sure he was dead right there.

I looked at my phone and it was 7:33 p.m., which was 15 minutes before last legal light and typical for blacktail behavior. I called my wife and told her the news. I waited 15 minutes and walked to my car to get my pack and take up the blood trail. There was blood almost immediately.  It was easy to follow right to where I last heard the buck. I was ecstatic as the last few seasons with the traditional bow had been really hard, and it was nice to punch my tag on a decent buck with my compound.

I went to set up my Nikon camera and take a few field photos, but the camera was broken. I guess too many miles in the pack finally took its toll. I was too far from anyone to get there in a timely manner and take photos of me, so I had to do it myself using my iPhone. I have a new camera as of today.