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Hunting roe deer with a traditional bow
By Eric de Lavenne
> Eric, with two of his three sons, Thibaud (left) and Charles (right), who are also avid young hunters and bowhunters
For the last 15 years I have had the luck to be authorised during my summer holidays to hunt the roe deer buck (in France, depending on the place you live, having a summer tag is more or less easy). I'm a traditional bowhunter, hunting the hard way (no tree stand, no blind, no decoy, no camo). I'm hunting alone – combining walk and stalk, encounter and ambush methods.
The place I hunt during summer time is a 250 hectares typical western France place: small meadows, small rivers, small woods, a lot of hedges and many fields (corn, sunflower and wheat). By chance, our holidays house is inside this area which is private.
Roe deer is a small deer (20 to 27 kg for the buck). The male is very territorial. Depending on spring weather, roe deer mating season lasts one month, from mid-July to mid-August, when grass and fields (except wheat which has been harvested) are at their maximum height. As the woods in this area are very thick and small, I prefer hunting in the open fields. Since I began hunting with the traditional bow, I have killed 18 roe deer buck at an average distance of seven metres (four of them having been killed around three metres).
For the summer hunt, if you are serious, you have to be outside by 6 am, come back after 9 am and invest three more hours in the evening, from 7 pm to 10 pm.
This year we've had very bad spring weather and a rainy first month of summer. When I started my holidays, at the end of July, I knew it was going to be a difficult year – quiet animals, high grasses and high fields. Patience will be the keyword this year. In such bad conditions, you have to be prepared to take the very first (if not the unique) opportunity, which implies a lot of concentration while hunting and also a lot of shooting practice during the day.
After one week of hunting, with no real opportunity, despite the time dedicated, I finally got successful.
At 6:15 am, I was hidden in a strategic hedge near a corner. In the past, I killed two roe deers from this spot and one at 20 metres. I have a very good view to a large and sloping meadow bording a wood. There is almost no wind. Around half past seven, at 100 metres from me, a nice roe deer buck is crossing the river at the ford and entering the woods.
As I am planning to go back home at 9 am, ten minutes before the 'end of the game', I notice a doe and a young buck from the year feeding on the grass, close to the place where the buck disappeared. Suddenly, as I was expecting, the buck jumps out of the woods and runs towards the doe. The female tries to escape and runs towards me, followed by her yearling. I know something is going to happen and stand up, willing to take advantage of this situation. Male and female come to me, cross the hedges at 25 metres and make large circles in the meadow, while the yearling comes into the hedge at 10 meters and starts calling his mother. I know what is going to happen. Few seconds later the doe is coming very close, followed by the male. As the doe is near the wood hedge, she stops. By chance, the male is just passing me at around 12 metres and stops as I draw my bow and release the string. In perfect silence the arrow makes its flight and hits my prey.
The hit is not a perfect one, because the male suddenly jumps ahead wanting to follow the doe that decides to enter the woods... a back shot. I come back home. Two hours later, with two of my sons, we track the woods and understand that the animal has left and moved in the direction of a large corn area. I decide to give him more time to reduce the risk of losing it. Around 3 pm we enter the corn field and follow the blood for about 70 metres. The track is very difficult. Around half past four the track is leaving the corns and following a very thick hedge. We need to crawl to follow the spoor 20 metres along. By luck, as I look on my left, I see a little drop of blood on a fern; the buck entered a 30x75 metres area covered with big ferns. I am sure the buck is bedded down there and decide to stop and call a bloodhound driver. One hour later we are back in the veldt with the driver and the dog and after forty minutes, the animal is found. He ran around 350 metres before dying.We tracked it for more than three hours.
Bow : deflex-reflex longbow, bamboo limbs, 62 inches, 50 pounds at 27 inches (Le Grand Gallois – Wakatanka)
Arrow : Easton Legacy 2018 and 160-grain Grizzly broadhead.