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Tim Wells Bowhunts Finland
Finland’s Illusive Roe Deer & The “Impossible To Bowhunt” Raccoon Dog
I have seen many parts of the World and there’s not much left on my bucket list that I haven’t already experienced so when I stepped off the plane in Finland I was upbeat for the new adventure. Bow hunting roe deer is something few hunters have done. Not so much because of the extreme difficulty but more because it’s illegal to bow hunt in many countries where roe deer live.
Finland however, is the exception, however, bowhunting is socially unacceptable with much of the general public as well as the hunting community. Because it’s viewed as inhumane. Ha! So access is difficult to acquire.
By chance I had developed a friendship with another bowhunter named Matt Miller who was also a European guide. A Sweed’ who like myself could give a crap about the anti-bowhunters feelings. Like minded, I was here to join him on a quest to arrow one of these small deer. Matt knew the country and had somehow gotten access from an open minded farmer.
Fresh off the airplane we set out to hunt a section of farm country that was held a robust herd of deer.
Now bear in mind Finland is to roe deer as Florida is to whitetails. They don’t grow em big but I was happy just to be able to hunt a roe deer no matter its size. It was day one at six pm that Matt dropped me off along what I guessed was a hundred acre wood lot. He pointed me toward a good section of the timber where he had seen bucks in the past. Wheat fields laid along its borders and it resembled the average Midwest farm country.
Roe deer act a lot like whitetail do. They rut, feed and bed in similar fashion; so the objective was to hunt them as I had hunted my entire life and hope it was enough to earn me one good shot.
Matt was a good hunter and had hunted for years yet only lucked out once on roe deer. His record had set the stage for what I figured was gonna be a tough hunt. Likewise, in the past I’d been turned down by several Spanish outfitters who claimed roe deer were nearly impossible with a bow and promised I’d be waisted their time if I tried.
So before stepping into the timber I had already made up my mind that the first roe buck I laid eyes on was gonna wear a Grim Reaper Broadhead if I got the chance. And if indeed I would see one it would also be the first one I had ever witnessed. Not making excuses for a surprisingly quick article, but it was what it was.
I crossed a small finger of a little field before entering the timber; an open forest whose under canopy now laid before me. Then I slowed my pace as I would in any scenario of uncertainty. If by chance I’d wonder up on an unsuspecting roe, I wanted to be ready.
Easing forward and carefully scanning the timber I slowly still hunted my way toward my destination. To my delight, tiny rubs and little scarps were all around. It was apparent they were here and from the fresh sign, recently.
Now I don’t wear a watch but I can tell you I had’t gone seventy yards into the forest when movement caught my eye. Ten minutes at best I’d say, and there he was. Holy crap, a roe buck! At least it was a deer that looked like the photos I’d seen prior to the hunt. And that answers the next question. Yes, I let er fly.
He was head down, forty five yards, give or take, crossing a small meadow toward me. When I came to full draw I was a tad perplexed that the buck had yet to see, smell or hear me. Nonetheless, I let ‘er ride the wind and at the shot, like most small deer, he hit the dirt and began to spring into retreat as the arrow zipped right through him. He then hauled butt but never made it outta sight. I watched him stumble and roll to a stop. I then stood there a little stunned at the abrupt end to my long awaited quest.
I heard a noise and glanced behind me, back through the timber, and saw a tractor passing along the same road I was just dropped off on. Ironic. I then walked to the dead buck and found an elegant tiny deer whose beauty was far greater than I had already expected it to be. He was young. Two years maybe three but I was happy though felt a little robbed of the full experience.
So with a roe deer down I set my sights on another “impossible to bowhunt” critter called a Raccoon Dog. They are abundant throughout this section of Finland and were notorious for robbing nests and killing small game throughout their habitat range. About the size of a fox they are stout little hunters.
Raccoon Dogs don’t climb trees and they spend the winters mainly in burrows with others. Primarily nocturnal and as with most predators I’d hunted they avoid humans. Other than that, I had little knowledge or direction on how to hunt them other than drive the roads at night with thermals or sit over bait and pray they show up.
I was bowhunting so over bait it was. First, I tried calling them, which coxed a few fox in close — but no raccoon dogs.
After hunting them four days straight I had not seen a single Raccoon Dog so I took an afternoon off to fish. Finland turned out to have some fantastic walleye fishing and as a result gave me a bucket of guts to set out as bait
Days later, at last light he showed up at my bait, all beady eyed and scraggly furred.
He took his time, looking side to side as he approached the bait. Like a wolf he was cautious all the while tip toeing toward trouble. As I waited for the right moment, he stopped briefly, and looked my way. I too looked him over for it was the first of his kind I’d ever seen and despite his ratty long hair I found him quite beautiful in his own way.
At last the temptation was too much for him and he put his nose to the bait. When he did I shot the beast which ended my hunt but wrapped up anther adventure. A successful trip for I had captured both kills on video.
Not far from the Russian border, Finland had delivered more than I had hoped for; and with some luck, I left Finland with a pair of fine specimens which would add a touch of decor to my man cave. Even better, I had finally experienced hunting for Finland’s roe deer and the fabled Raccoon Dog.