Monday was my first day hunting with a bow, in about 15 years. I was never much of a deer hunter. My father and I always focused our efforts on small game. But now that I have a new bow, I've got the bug. Monday was the first day of the second Archery/Flintlock season in PA.

I got a late start Monday. I was hunting a steep (and I mean steep! 35degree incline, 1000' vertical feet) hill near my parents. It is bounded by a river/highway at the bottom, and a residential area at the top. It is chuck full of garden-fed deer, and not many people bother hunting it.

I thought to myself “all I'm hoping for is to get a shot” as I walked into the woods. Maybe I should have wished for even more… 5 minutes after I steped into the woods, I had my first shot (and miss.)

As I sized up the shot, I realized that this was going to be a lot harder than at the range. I was shooting over a small valley, slightly downhill, over some brush, between some trees, and in very flat light. I tried estimating the halfway point, tried picking out a feature I thought was 20yds away as a basis point, tried estimating the size of the deer… anything to give me a good idea as to how far away the deer was. It didn't help I was a little bit excited too.

I guessed long, and my first shot sailed harmlessly just over the deer's back.

An hour of slowly creeping along the hillside gave me another long, but easier shot. This time my arrow clipped a small branch about halfway to the target and sailed wide of the mark. One drawback of carbon arrows & fast bows is that the arrows don't seem to make as much noise skipping through the woods, and a miss sure goes a long way. I never found that arrow.

But just as light was beginning to fade I got one last shot. A fat doe, nearly broadsides, straight uphill, about 45yds away. A tough shot, but the deer was far enough away I could take my time and really concentrate. This time my range estimation seemed to be spot on, but as I shot the arrow she took a quarter step turn in my direction. As luck would have it, my arrow went exactly where I had aimed it, which since she moved turned out to be square in the shoulder. My heart sank when I saw that the arrow failed to fully penetrate.

I waited as long as the light would allow, and then followed the trail. I was initally hopefull as there was enough blood to make it easy to follow. But about 400 yds later I found the arrow, and after it fell out the blood trail all but dried up. The doe I was following was in a group of 7 other deer, and their trail crossed back onto their previous outbound trail, leaving a jumble of prints. It was now well past sunset, and I was forced to give up.

I hope to give it another try tomorrow. I hopefully improved the odds a bit by picking up a laser rangefinder. The weather might help too… instead of 10F with crunchy leaves and snow, it's going to be 50F and wet. At least my bowhand will be happier… that aluminum riser is damn cold at 10F.