A Sobering Tale

Our own Lou Alexander just sent me a story about what she called, "the ugly side of hunting." I've never had an incident exactly like the one she describes below, but her very sensitive reaction to it made me proud to number among such conscientious sportsmen. I mentioned to Lou I thought humbling experiences such as these remind us how great a responsibility hunting is. Here's Lou. -K.H.

My husband and I had a rare hunting weekend without our girls. As usual on the weekend, the wind was blowing, but that's Kansas for you. I went to a new stand we'd decided to put up the weekend before and Tim, my husband, went to a stand we have deep in the timber just east of a deer bed and breakfast. I only saw a buck about 35 yards out and he was never in clear view, so I headed in at dark.   
I usually get home before my husband, so I started dinner. He didn't come in as expected so I figured he'd shot something or had fallen. Just as I was about to head out to check on him, he came in. He'd shot a doe and found a blood trail but had lost it and couldn't pick it up again with his pen light. He was pretty sure it was a good hit and figured we'd get her later. We went ahead and ate dinner to give her time, and then went on our tracking adventure.    
Even though it was 2 days past a full moon, we had cloud cover, so it was pretty dark. We went to the stand and couldn't find the arrow where he shot so we went to the blood trail that he'd found. I found out quick that tracking in the dark isn't quick or easy! I got really turned around since I was walking with my head down. We picked our way around the woods, marking our trail with every hunter's friend, toilet paper.       
We'd been at it about an hour when we were down to our last 2 squares. Tim decided to walk up the hill to see if he could see anything. He called out about 30 yards away and said he'd found her, but she was still alive. A few cuss words were said by both of us. He hadn't brought his bow, so I said I'd stay to make sure she didn't move while he went to get it.    
By that time the moon was out of the clouds and on high power, casting shadows. I sat down by a tree with my light off and waited. I didn't want to stress her anymore than she already was. It was still a bit breezy, but otherwise the woods were quiet while we waited. I cried while I waited, knowing she was weak and scared and what her fate would soon be. When he got back, he took another shot to finish the job, at which point I wished we could have done it with a gun for her sake and made it quicker. Time seemed to creep by after the shot until she expired. With a heavy heart, we loaded her up to go dress her.

I have wounded one animal with a rifle and had to shoot him again -- that was awful too. I feel awful when that happens. I was so bothered about the doe that I slept in the next morning using the high wind as a good excuse. When your prey looks you in the eye, it makes it so much more personal. I always feel bad after I take a deer or turkey, but this cut a little deeper. I was back on the stand the next evening with the memory of the doe held close and prayers for my arrows to fly straight and true. -L.A.