How Not to Approach A Wounded Deer
By Douglas Maxson, Michigan BAC Local 2 Retiree
It was October 24, 2020—deer hunting season. After checking my field cameras, I decided to hunt from my ground blind. With a swamp in the Northwest corner and a cornfield directly across from my blind, deer travel in the area was heavy. I expected a buck to show up in front of me, and that evening, it did.
At about 6 p.m., a five-point buck leisurely walked in and stood broadside at 25 yards out. Though it wasn’t the deer I was hoping for, it had a massive body and would suffice for some nice venison meals.
A crossbow at that range is usually an easy kill. I put the crosshairs of the scope on the kill zone and pulled the trigger. It sounded different than normal as the arrow flew off the rail, but it did strike the body with a thud.
I sat and waited about a half hour before I started tracking. With all the other experiences I had shooting and tracking after a crossbow shot, I expected to find the deer within 100 yards.
There was a good blood trail, but after walking the distance of my property and not finding the deer, I grew concerned. I continued across my neighbor’s property knowing he wouldn’t mind since I got permission. Following the blood trail was difficult at times because of the heavy layer of leaves on the ground.
After walking at least another 100 yards, I saw a deer lying motionless ahead. It made no attempt to flee as I approached. I confirmed it was the five-point buck I shot, and it was severely wounded.
I got as close as eight feet on the side he was facing away from. Several times he turned his head to see where I was. It was not my intention to stand there looking on, as I knew he was hurt and did not want him to suffer. The problem was, I didn’t bring my crossbow or any weapon other than a knife. I wasn’t about to play Tarzan and wrestle a beast bigger and stronger than me.
After a few minutes of contemplating what I should do, the decision was made—but not by me. The buck jumped to his feet, turned, and charged toward me with his head down in a last effort to remove my presence.
There was no time to run. My first instinct was to grab his antlers and hopefully stop any contact. He stayed low enough for me to get a good grip on those protruding bone monuments for a last standoff.
Though he was severely wounded, his adrenalin kicked in with enough strength to make a statement that he was not going to end his life without a fight. I felt a burning sensation as his left antler contacted my right thigh. Fortunately, he didn’t penetrate my clothing. The speed and force at which he charged, even wounded, was unbelievable. I was thankful I was in good enough health at age 70 to withstand the charge.
As quickly as he attacked me, he surrendered and raced away. I took a few breaths of relief. After walking another 100 yards with little light for tracking, I decided to stop looking, go home, and resume the search in the daylight.
The next day, I followed the same visible blood trail with no luck. On my way back, I spotted him not far from the last place I saw him. I was glad to recover him. The temperature fell into the 30s overnight, which helped keep the venison safe. I hope I never encounter a deer this way again, but I have learned, “how not to approach a wounded deer.”
Always have a weapon with you when recovering a wounded animal.
In 2022, Maxson learned another important lesson that resulted in the biggest buck of his life. Read story.