MY FIRST BOW AND ARROW WHITETAIL BUCK
Jesus Did It!
My first whitetail buck harvested with a bow and arrow was a very special spiritual experience. How so? Because God deserves all the glory for it! Please allow me to share all the exciting things He did that day ' and something that He did seven years after that day which makes this such a precious testimony.
The year was 1986. I was age 39. I was hunting north of Greenville, Michigan, in the Langston State Game Area. I had been hunting whitetail deer with a bow and arrow for nearly 10 years up to that time, and had yet to harvest a deer. I had passed up many does, because I was hunting bucks only.
At the edge of the forest of the State game area is a favorite oak tree I loved to hunt out of. A local farmer planted soybeans, green beans or corn each year in the field butting up to the woods, and the oak tree was right near a corner section of the woods ' a good strategic spot to ambush deer, and a well used deer trail entered the woods there. The oak tree was big enough that I could stand out on one of the big limbs and didn't require any platform to stand on.
Normally I practiced a great deal before bow season started to make sure I could shoot accurately when I took a shot at a deer. However, that summer leading right up into October 1986, my work at the telephone company was so demanding that I just wasn't able to find the time to do any practicing.
I stopped by a good friend of mine -- Gene DeWitt of DeWitt's Auto Service in Jenison, Michigan, a couple of weeks before bow season was to start (October 1) -- asking Gene if he had been doing any target practicing with his bow, and was he ready to go deer hunting. He shared that he too had been busy, and hadn't had a chance to do any practice shooting like myself.
Laughingly and just half-kidding, I said to Gene: 'Yeah ' if I get a chance to get out hunting at all this fall, I'll probably just ask the Lord that if I release an arrow, that He supernaturally guides it to be a lethal hit on the deer. I doubt that I'll get the chance to practice at all, as busy as it has been.' Gene just sort of laughed with me, realizing of course, that I was just kidding. Bow hunters don't shoot at deer without shooting their bow some prior to actually shooting at a deer with their bow. The odds of getting a bad hit on a deer is too great.
October 4th of that year was the first Saturday of bow season for deer. It had rained a solid three weeks right up to the morning of the 4th. I had never seen so much rain in the early fall in Michigan. We were beginning to wonder if we were going to get 40 days and nights of it!
I decided to go up to the State Game area that Saturday morning and put up a tree stand in a swamp. There was a huge buck living in that swamp from the year before, and I really wanted to put him in my freezer. As I hung off the side of two skinny little trees with my tree climbers and body-belt in that swamp, making a make-shift platform to stand on between the two trees ' the cold rain and strong winds accompanying the rain seemed to penetrate all the way to my bones.
By early afternoon I had finished the platform and was ready to go home. I was shivering cold and exhausted. However, by mid-day the rain had nearly stopped, and I thought to myself: It has been raining steadily and hard for the last three weeks. Deer have been laid up all this time, and now that the rain is stopping, deer are going to come out to feed like crazy this evening. It sure would be a good evening to hunt the edge of a farmer's field.
I decided to drive over a couple miles away to the field where that big oak tree was located, just to see what kind of crops the farmer had planted that summer. I found out he had planted corn, though it was pretty scraggly from lack of moisture. Then temptation began talking loudly: Why don't you just go sit in that big oak tree this evening ' just for the fun of it ' and watch the deer. You can take your bow with you, but you don't have to shoot it, even if a buck does come out. Just go and enjoy the evening, and watch the deer.
I had not brought a lunch, because my plan was to drive back to Greenville that mid-day and eat a hot meal in a restaurant, and then drive back to Grand Rapids. I was hungry, wet and cold, but I also knew it would be an exciting evening, so I decided to forgo eating. I wouldn't starve, after all, or freeze to death.
I climbed up in that oak tree at 5 O'clock that evening. Light rain kept coming down, but a strong wind blew the droplets of rain off the leaves onto me, causing my wet clothes to make me even colder. (I had not taken rain gear up with me that morning, and my clothes were still wet from working in that swamp that morning).
I began to relive events in my mind from the previous bow season where I had shot at a big 10-point whitetail buck out of this very spot, but the arrow kissed a small twig on the big oak as it sped toward the buck standing only 8 yards away in plain open sight at the edge of the woods. The arrow just grazed the buck's hide. The arrow went right under his brisket ' the buck reared back on his hind haunches like a hot poker had touched his chest, and ran right past me down the edge of the field for about 50 yards before running back into the woods. I had worked so hard for so many years to get my first buck ' but it seemed to be getting harder and harder. Would this 1988 archery deer season be any more productive?
I started shivering really bad from the cold, and then I checked my flashlight ' only to discover that the flashlight had clicked on in my pocket, and now the batteries were dead. I had no backup batteries in my car, which was a good half a mile away.
With no light to follow a wounded deer after dark, and the possibility of catching a good cold, I told myself that I was going to get down out of the tree at 6 P.M. and go back to my car and drive home. That would be the sensible thing to do under the circumstances.
At about 5:50 P.M. two bucks literally came trotting out of the woods, stopped about 40 yards out in the cornfield from the edge of the woods, and immediately began munching on corn. I was right ' the deer were starting their feeding frenzy!
The two bucks were out about 70 ' 80 yards away. One looked to be about a 6-pointer, the other perhaps a little bigger. The corn was sparse where they stood eating. I thought to myself: I know these two bucks are going to slowly feed across the corn field, and would travel to a soybean field half a mile away after dark. I know they won't come anywhere near me to get a close shot if I just let them be. I wonder ' if maybe I shot at them, they might do something dumb like run my way, instead of back into the woods where they came from?
Just after climbing up the oak tree when I first got there, I had prayed this prayer: 'Lord ' I ask that if I shoot an arrow, or any other arrows this evening ' that you make it be a lethal hit or a complete miss. I don't want a wounded deer, and you know that I've been so busy I just haven't had a chance to get out and practice the way I wanted. I trust that you will do one or the other ' a solid, lethal hit, or a complete miss.' I decided I would shoot an arrow to see if I might be able to scare the bucks to run closer to me.
I pulled back on the bowstring, aimed the arrow well into the sky and out in front of the two bucks, making sure the arrow wouldn't land too close to the deer and accidentally wound one, and let the arrow go. Both bucks jumped when the arrow landed in front of them. The 6-pointer spun around and quickly ran back toward the woods, and stopped broadside at the edge of the cornfield, looking my way.
I got a second arrow off my quiver and notched in on the bowstring. I looked for the 6-pointer, but now I couldn't spot him. He evidently had stepped back into the forest.
Where was the larger buck, I then wondered? Had he ran further out into the cornfield, or ran back into the woods behind the first one? All of a sudden I caught a glimpse of movement through the oak tree leaves: the buck was moving quickly down a cornrow ' coming right toward me!
The branch I was on ' its littler branches and leaves obscuring the buck 'didn't allow me to shoot if I wanted to. What was the buck going to do? Come right up below me and stand briefly under the oak where I might get a shot? My heart was racing ' adrenalin was pumping. Should I shoot period, if a shot presented itself?
The buck was only about 20 yards from the oak tree when he turned and did a 90-degree turn ' heading directly for the corner section of the woods. It was going to use the trail other deer used coming out and going into the woods. There was an open swath of about 20 feet from the edge of the cornfield to the edge of the solid woods. This buck would quickly move at a fast trot through that open area before entering the woods. If I wanted to take a shot, that would be my only chance! There would only be about a couple of seconds to aim and shoot at this fast moving target!
Fast moving target?! I thought to myself: I was not a good enough marksman with a bow to be shooting at a moving deer, especially a deer moving as fast as this one was. You haven't practiced all year; you don't take shots at moving deer; you have no light to trail the deer even if you hit it. Are you crazy or what to be thinking about releasing an arrow?!
A fleeting thought of the 10-pointer I had missed the year before flashed across my mind. In a moment this buck would be at the same spot I had missed the 10-pointer, except this buck wouldn't present a standing shot for me. This buck was moving rapidly.
I had the arrow near his front shoulder when he exited the corn. Something caused me to release the arrow.
The release felt right. But the buck never changed his stride ' no indication he had been hit. In a second he was gone. I looked on the ground and it looked like an arrow lying there. Nawww' couldn't be ... ?
I climbed quickly down out of the oak and retrieved my arrow lying on top of the ground. It was covered from end to end with blood. The broadhead was slightly mangled. Yep ' the arrow had gone completely through the buck, which was a hopeful sign that I had not hit any solid bone in his front shoulder. This looked like a lethal heart shot.
I followed the trail into the woods, but I could find no blood spots. Rain on the reddish leaves that had blown to the ground from the three weeks of wind and rain made it difficult to determine what was a drop of blood and what was just moisture on reddish leaves.
I followed the deer trail into the woods for about 200 yards, where I intersected a well-kept fire/horse trail about 15 yards wide. I thought to myself: I've found no blood while on the deer trail all the way to here. I'm not certain the buck stayed on the deer trail. I'll walk both ways on this fire trail, and if the buck made it this far, surely I'll find blood on the fire trail where the buck crossed it and kept going deeper into the woods.
Walking about 200 yards both directions on the fire trail, I found no blood. My heart was sinking. I had hit the buck all right, but maybe it was not a lethal shot after all.
I then began to pray. 'Lord ' maybe I shouldn't have taken that shot, but I felt You gave me the okay to take the shot when I quickly asked you whether I should or not. Earlier, when I prayed and asked you that if I took a shot, it would be a lethal hit or a complete miss ' I trusted you that it would be. Was that presumption on my part? Probably was? If so, I ask forgiveness. I really think I got a lethal hit on this buck, but without a light, it is soon going to get dark on me and for certain then I will not find the blood trail. Tomorrow morning most likely will be too late to follow any blood trail, if I can find one. What do I do from here?'
The thought came to me to go back to the edge of the cornfield where the buck had entered the woods, and look better to see where a speck of blood or two could be found. Obviously the buck had not stayed on the deer trail, but had peeled off of it shortly entering the woods, if it was leaving a blood trail at all.
I decided to make a circling sweep as I headed back to the cornfield. It was nearing 7 P.M. now and with a heavy cloud cover, it would be dark by about 8:30. As the corn field came into clearer view from my viewing it from inside the woods, I realized I was too far away from the oak tree, and I needed to start walking directly toward it, rather than straight out into the corn field in the direction I had been walking. Time was short and precious.
As I moved closer to the corn field, at the edge of some thick shrubbery in the woods was something that looked abnormal ' something that looked more like a deer horn poking up out of the ground instead of a dried tree branch. Hmmmm ' I eased closer.
Next I saw what looked like part of a deer horn attached to the horn-like tree branch. Moving closer, I now realized it was my buck, totally lifeless! My heart leaped with joy and vocalized praises to my Lord! He had helped me find the deer just in time!
I had been right. It was a perfect heart shot. God had answered my prayer! Out of curiosity, I quickly followed the blood trail through the woods, following it all the way back to where the buck had entered the woods. In my haste, I had walked right past where the buck had left the deer trail and didn't go but about 90 yards from where I had hit the buck to where it had died. It was a non-typical 7-pointer. Not all that big, but lots of fat on him for his size.
I quickly dressed out the buck. If I gave it everything I had, I might be able to drag the buck around the cornfield and get to my car by dark, or a little after dark, and wouldn't need a light after all. Worse come to worse, I could always drive into Greenville and buy new flashlight batteries and come back.
As it turned out, I reached my car at the far edge of the cornfield right at dark! I sang songs of praise to God all the way back home that night. What a day it had been. Yet the story doesn't end here.
I've never been one for putting money into animal mounts, but this buck I wanted mounted. It was one I never wanted to forget. I took the buck's head to a taxidermist and he quoted me a reasonable price, but I also told him I wasn't sure if I could come up with the money to pay for it right away. He assured me that it would be no problem: 'If you don't pick it up within a year's time, I'll just sell it to someone else. There's always someone wanting to buy a buck mount and hang it up. I'll get my money out of it, either way, so don't worry about it.'
A year passed. Money was limited and the memory of the hunt wasn't as important as it once was. I decided to let the taxidermist sell the mount to someone else. However, I didn't call him to give him permission to sell the mount. That would be too painful for me to do.
I shot a few more bucks with my bow after that, but still I regretted not having that first buck hanging on my wall. Surely I could have come up with the $125 to keep that mount, I kept telling myself, as time passed. Why did I let that mount slip away from me?
Several years later I got a phone call from someone I didn't recognize.
'Would this happen to be a Norm Rasmussen?'
'Yeah, that's me.'
'Well ' I found your name and phone number on a buck mount as I was cleaning out my attic in my garage ' something I've been trying to get at for years. I didn't realize this mount was even up there, but I thought rather than do anything with it, I would give this number a call first and see if you still wanted the mount, if anyone answered the number by your name, or maybe knew how to get hold of you.'
'Well ' YES ' I would LOVE to have that mount! This is incredible! But after seven years ' what is the interest on it by now -- $1,000?!'
'Naw ' nothing like that. How about $150 for it?'
'I'll be right over with $150!'
I would have given him $200 if he had asked for it ' seeing how the Lord had kept it for me all that time and didn't allow anyone else to have it!
I realize this story is not for most women or non-hunters, but bow hunting for me has been a special time of the year where I get alone with God into the solitude of the forest, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, where I've had some of my most cherished moments with Him, either reading the Bible, or praying, or both.
As of this writing, I'm 58 years old (2005), and I am a lot more thrilled to see deer get away than my putting one in the freezer. If God allows me to harvest a deer, I usually pray and ask the Lord to show me someone who doesn't have any meat for their family, and God provides me with a needy family. If not, Western Michigan Teen Challenge in Muskegon, Michigan is always thrilled to get their hands on venison. I'm sure any Teen Challenge Center is the same across the nation. Sometimes it is very difficult for WMTC to provide meat to a couple hundred students enrolled there. I can't think of a better cause than to give to Western Michigan Teen Challenge, or your local food pantry that helps feed the down and outers for the cause of Jesus Christ and the Gospel.
Anyway ' that's my favorite deer story. I hope you were somehow blessed reading it. Truly, God's hand was in it all. As a P.S. ' that was the only deer I ever bagged without first practicing with my bow and arrow. And ' even though I have practiced shooting a lot prior to the opening of each deer season ' I've still ask the Lord to let the shot be a lethal hit or a complete miss when I actually shoot at a deer. Just a few short years later I shot two bucks the same season that got away after I got a good hit on each of them, even though I prayed the same prayer and trusted. I found out it's not a formula to replace learning how to shoot a bow accurately, and knowing one's limitations.
Nevertheless, I still pray the prayer every time I hunt with a rifle or a bow. I figure ' what do I have to lose? God isn't obligated to answer the prayer, I realize ' but He just might.
If anyone reading this has a Jesus-glorifying hunting or fishing testimony (any outdoor testimony for that matter that exalts Jesus Christ), please send it to us for publication. I believe God loves it when we involve Him in our hobbies and recreation time and when He shows Himself mightily to us like He did with my first archery buck ' when we take the time to testify of His goodness so others can see a glimpse of His glory and ever-present reality.
After all, God wants us to be aware that He delights in involving Himself in everything we do that is not evil, but if we don't consciously invite Him to reveal that to us ' we might be missing out on exciting encounters that we would otherwise not experience with Him.
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