On the evening of Oct. 31, 2015, my bowhunt started out like most, but it ended in tragedy.
My stand is located in an area of 10- to 12-foot scrub oaks with a mixture of pines. The visibility was sparse at best, and my shooting lanes ranged from 14 to 31 yards.
Deer activity was very quiet. As the sun began the set, I started a sequence of bleats followed by some shallow grunts. Immediately, I could hear a curious deer approaching my stand from a short distance. Without much time to spare, I grabbed my bow off the hanger and positioned myself for a shot. I soon realized the deer was following my scent trail directly to my tree. At that point, I knew the deer would step into an open lane just 14 yards away.
As soon as the deer stepped out of the thicket, I knew he was a shooter buck. I came to a full draw and launched my arrow, which struck a small twig. My mechanical blades deployed, and my arrow hit the buck low. I quietly retreated from my stand to give this deer time to expire.
The weather was changing for the worse. We had a front pushing through late in the evening and into the early hours of the morning. Allowing this deer to bed for 12 or more hours was not possible. I contacted deer tracker Chuck Cumber and his mountain feist dog Willie for assistance. Without hesitation, the two were willing to give a helping hand as they have done countless of times with other fellow hunters.
Allowing the deer to bed for three or four hours, we arrived back at my stand. Chuck had brought a few buddies with him to watch Willie work. Since we were on private land, Chuck could legally let Willie off the dog leash and let him roam.
Willie immediately picked up the deer trail and headed into the thicket. Chuck shared with me that if his dog barked, it meant that he had the deer bayed, and we would need to get to the deer quickly and dispatch it.
A short time passed, and we heard Willie bark. As we quickly headed toward Willie, he quit barking. Chuck told me that my deer had expired, and that Willie would be there waiting for us to arrive.
When we arrived, we were absolutely stunned to find the deer gone and Willie lying on the ground and breathing heavily. Chuck picked up Willie and shouted out for his buddy Rob, who happened to be a veterinarian. Placing Willie on the ground, Rob quickly examined Willie and discovered a thumb-sized puncture wound on Willie’s side.
We immediately broke off the tracking job and put all our attention on getting Willie some help. During the course of travel to the local emergency veterinary clinic, Rob performed mouth to nose CPR the entire time. Arriving at the clinic, the doctors took Willie immediately for care. A short time later, we all were devastated by the sad news that Willie had succumbed to his injuries.
I have no words to describe the feeling of emptiness, sorrow and pain I still have over this. I don’t understand why things like this happen or what lessons we are to learn. A man and his amazing dog Willie unselfishly gave a helping hand to so many only to lose his most treasured love, his dog Willie.
Willie was swift, very agile, smart, high-spirited, loveable and had a flowing gait when he ran.
Willie provided us GPS information off his tracking collar that we used to find the deer. We knew Willie would have wanted us to continue the search for my buck. We recovered the deer in a beaver pond 465 yards away from Willie’s last waypoint.
To see pictures of Willie and some of the deer he has tracked, go to www.facebook.com/Willie-the-Tracking-Dog.