The Horseback Doe
By Anne Pelkey
It was September 14, 2005, a Wednesday. I'd gotten out of work and was torn between going hunting (expanded archery season had just begun) and going for a ride on my horse. I knew my husband was out hunting, but I also knew that winter was coming, and I wouldn't have many good riding days left - a real dilemma. I decided to combine the best of both worlds. I'd been practicing shooting my bow off my horse for fall turkey season (she's much better at spotting the turkeys than I am, and can get much closer to them too) so I thought I'd do some more practicing.
I hadn't planned on actually hunting while I was out, but decided to take a couple of arrows with me in my quiver to have the full effect while riding. My horse, Bee, and I were about half-way around the mile long woodlot trail when we heard a "SNAP" off to the right of us. Bee stopped and looked to the right. I knew she could see something that I could not, so I asked her to step forward a few feet. There, not 10 yards away from us, stood a beautiful doe. The deer wasn't alarmed by our sudden appearance in the least and I'm sure she heard us coming. She looked at us for a couple of seconds, then, continued to feed. Apparently, the sight of horses wasn't a concern - she'd obviously seen them many times before. If anything, she probably felt bad for this particular equine, this one had a large growth on its back (me). I marveled at the deer for a moment, and then decided, "what the heck!" I had to at least try. After all, I had my bow, I had my arrows, I had my license with a doe tag - and I had a doe! All the criteria for a well rounded hunt. My only obstacle was Bee. I didn't know how much movement the deer would tolerate, or how much of the deer that my horse would tolerate. From past experience, my horse could be pretty nervous around deer, but, so far, so good.
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I had to turn Bee around on the trail so that I could be in a better shooting position. The deer didn't budge, she just watched us turn around and ate. I asked Bee to "stand", removed an arrow from the quiver, knocked it, clipped on my release and drew back. The doe wasn't presenting a shot, and Bee was getting bored with standing there. Apparently, Bee felt that we'd been standing too long and moved forward (patience is NOT one of her strong points). I had to relax my draw and back Bee up to reposition her. I ended up having to do this 3 times. The doe must have been amused by the antics of this strange looking horse, because she just continued to feed and look at us every once in a while. Finally, on the third attempt, I asked Bee, once again, to "stand". I drew back, and waited for a shot. The doe actually took a step towards us and turned slightly. It was a quartering-to shot, not the perfect, broad-side shot we all dream of, but it was the best I could ask for at that moment. I looked through my peep sight, aimed, said one more "stand" to Bee, and told the doe; "it's now or never, girl. If you're gonna run, run." She didn't, and I released my arrow. I heard it strike the deer - but I didn't see where it hit. I didn't see where it hit, because at the moment the arrow released and hit, the deer bolted. When the deer bolted, Bee instinctively reacted too, and, unfortunately it was not the reaction I was hoping for. Bee was very startled and reacted by rearing, spinning on her hind legs and bolting up the trail towards home. Me, well, I wasn't as prepared for that as I should have been. I was completely off balance, and still in shooting position (follow-through, you know) when she reared. I managed to stay with her through the rear and spin, but the bolt did me in. All I could think about on the way to the ground was, "my bow!" I tried to hold it up so it wouldn't hit, but I ended up slamming the cam into the ground anyway - so much for that. I jumped up immediately (adrenaline is amazing) and looked at my horse, my faithful steed, galloping away towards the barn. At that point I was worried that my friends would see her coming back home without me, and worry, so, I did the only thing I could think of to do at that moment; I called to her. Pointless, I thought, but it's all I had. I started yelling, "Bee! Bee! Come to Mama! Bee! Come here!" Her head started whipping from side to side, like she was trying to see where my voice was coming from. Then, she did an amazing thing. From a dead run, towards home, she stopped, turned around and trotted back to me! I just stood there, stunned. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. She ran up to me and put her face into mine, nuzzling me. Her eyes were huge - as if to say "what the heck just happened, Mom? That was scary!" I always carry a fanny pack full of treats, and I gave her handfuls of them, with lots of hugs and kisses to boot! She waited and stood while I called my husband to tell him what happened. (I left out the 'falling off' part, until later) My husband couldn't believe it. He told me to go put Bee away and wait for him at the farm and we'd start tracking my deer.
On the way back to the barn, I met up with my friend, Kim on her horse, Indy. I told her what had just happened and she offered to help us find the deer. I asked her to wait until my husband and I got back. I thought I had made a good shot, but I had no way of knowing for sure and I didn't want to push the deer. By the time my husband and I got back it was getting dark. I gave Kim the green light and she and Indy started picking their way though the trees in the direction that I thought the deer had gone. My husband, Kevin, and I started looking for a blood trail. We weren't having much luck until Kevin found my arrow! I was so happy. There was good blood on it - it hadn't made a complete pass-through, but I was more confident that I had made a good shot. It was really getting dark now. Just after we got the arrow, we heard Kim calling to us, "Annie! Kevin! Over here!" She had let her horse find her own way through the trees and Indy found my deer! Just like a bloodhound! My shot had been a bit high, but it took out both lungs and she only went about 100 yards. I gave Indy lots of hugs and praise (I had already put my treats away, but promised her a bag of her favorites for later). We would not have found that deer so quickly if it weren't for her and Kim. They were real lifesavers! After the deer was cleaned, Indy even helped drag her out for us for quite a ways. What a night! Shot from a horse and found by a horse - you can't get much better than that for a horse and hunting enthusiast!
The doe weighed in at 125 pounds, a pretty good sized deer for my first successful bow hunt. The bruises were worth it for this amazing night. My friends say that I'm going to have to quit hunting now. When I asked why, they said, "You're never going to be able to top this!" I had to agree with them at first, but now I've thought of a way to top it - next time around, I don't fall off. That would do it, I think.
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