November 04, 2010
The buck had lived in the vicinity for many years. How had he been so lucky for so long?
On the evening of November 2, I saw the buck for the first time. I had just settled into my stand when I heard a twig snap. Looking over my left shoulder, I saw a giant buck crossing a ditch about 50 yards away. He stopped in the ditch, urinated on his tarsal glands, and then rubbed his back legs together.
When I turned over my can-style bleat call twice, the buck immediately turned and headed my way. As he closed the distance to 20 yards, he caught wind of the estrous doe urine I had placed on a sponge in one of my shooting lanes. As the big 8-point turned to smell the sponge, I began to draw.
He must have caught my movement, as he made two quick bounds and stopped 30 yards away. With brush blocking his vitals, I had no shot. He paused for a moment and looked around before walking off. Frantically, I fumbled for my can call and produced a bleat. The buck stopped but then quickly resumed his departure. I tried grunting, and again the buck paused only momentarily. I was devastated. A monster buck had just stood in one of my shooting lanes, 20 yards from my treestand, and I couldn't get a shot!
Later that evening, I called in two more bucks -- a 11„2-year-old 7-point that responded to my can call and literally ran a circle around my stand tree in search of the hot doe, and a 21„2-year-old with a malformed right antler. I had seen this same malformed buck the previous season from the same stand.
I decided to take him out of the gene pool, and when he stepped into one of my shooting lanes at 15 yards, I sent an arrow through his chest. As he ran off, he appeared to be dragging his hindquarters. Upon recovering the deer, I discovered that his left rear leg was severely damaged. His femur was completely disconnected from his pelvis and was actually protruding through the skin on his hind leg. The bone was extremely discolored, indicating it had been this way for some time. Now I was doubly glad to have taken him.
The following morning, I returned to that same stand, creating a scent trail on the way in by dragging a rag soaked with estrous doe urine. While walking past another one of my stands, I noticed two fresh scrapes with a large hoof print in each of them.
Having seen no deer by 9:30, I decided to climb down and move to the stand overlooking the two hot scrapes in hopes that the big boy might return to check them during the middle of the day. As I slowly approached the stand, scanning the woods for fresh sign, I heard rustling in the leaves and turned to see the giant 8-point, 20 yards away, walking directly toward me! I froze.
He walked within 10 yards before noticing me and slamming on the brakes. We were locked in a stare-down for only a few seconds before he snorted and bounded away. He went about 50 yards before stopping to check his backtrail. With the wind in my favor, I don't think he knew what I was.
He only knew I was something that didn't belong. I tried calling to him, but he remained unimpressed and eventually trotted off. I couldn't believe it -- two encounters with the same big buck in less than 24 hours. That evening I hunted the stand overlooking the scrapes, hoping he would return, but I saw only one small deer. The next morning, the wind was out of the southwest --perfect for a stand I had on the edge of the woods next to a field of standing corn. I was a bit late arriving at the stand and bumped what sounded like a large deer on the way in.
Just after first light, I heard something coming down the same path I had walked in on. Slowly standing with my bow in hand, I could see something white through the trees, and moments later, there it was, coming right at me -- my white German shepherd! He had broken his chain and tracked me right to the tree. I had no choice but to climb down and take him back to the house. After locking him in the garage, I returned to the stand but was not encouraged. After all the disturbance, this seemed like a waste of time.
I decided to sit the stand anyway, and only 20 minutes later a doe and two fawns meandered nearby through the timber. Maybe this would work after all.
About 9:30 a.m., I looked over my left shoulder and there he was -- the giant 8-point was coming out of the corn and entering the woods about 40 yards behind my stand. As he started to angle away from me, I pulled out my can call and turned it over twice. The buck immediately changed direction and started heading right at me.
As he passed behind a group of large trees 20 yards from my stand, I came to full draw and waited. This looked perfect. But when he stepped into my shooting lane, he changed direction and was now angling toward me. I had no shot!
At 10 yards, he stopped and then veered slightly to the left. I squeezed the trigger on my release, and the arrow buried deep into his chest. As the buck tore off, I could see about 12 inches of my 30-inch arrow sticking out of the top of his rib cage. The arrow had hit a little farther back than I had planned, so I decided to go back to the house and give him some time before taking up the trail.
To get some help, I called a friend of mine, and after waiting two hours, we set out to find the buck. We found white hair where he had been standing at the shot, so I figured my arrow had pierced his underside. But because it didn't pass all the way through, the blood trail was sparse.
We had followed the trail for about 80 yards when I spotted what looked like an ear up ahead. I got off the trail and crept forward to investigate. As I got closer, I saw the back of a deer. I picked up my pace, and just as I did, the deer stood and took off. My heart sank. That had to have been my buck.
We walked to where the buck had jumped up and found four beds within a very small area, all of them soaked in bright-red blood. We figured that somewhere between where we had left the track and where the buck had bedded, the arrow must have worked its way through the deer.
We decided to backtrack the blood trail in hopes of finding the arrow. The trail was easy to follow, and we quickly found my arrow. Based on the bright blood on the arrow and the amount of blood the deer had already lost, we could hardly believe he was still alive.
We waited another hour before continuing on the trail. We could see blood spatter where the buck had gone through some deadfall, but beyond that, sign was scarce. At first we found only small drops of blood, then only specks, and eventually nothing!
At this point, the buck had reached a drainage ditch and headed north, paralleling the ditch. Several times I walk
ed the ditch where it ran out of the woods and divided a cornfield and a bean field, but I could find no sign. With no evidence that the deer had crossed the ditch, we figured he must have gone into the corn. So we spread out and started walking the corn.
For what seemed like hours, we searched but found no sign of the deer. So I decided to make my way back to the ditch to re-evaluate the situation. I had almost exited the corn when I cut a large, deep track. Looking down the row, I saw another large track. The distance between the tracks indicated that the deer had been running.
I followed the track a short distance to a point where the deer appeared to have turned and headed deeper into the corn. Walking across the rows of corn, looking up and down each row, I had gone 10 or 12 rows when I noticed what appeared to be a clump of dirt. Not wanting to leave any stone unturned, I made my way down the row. The clump of dirt turned out to be the deer's back. I had found my buck! I dropped to my knees and thanked God.
My 8-point buck green-scored 1502„8 inches and dressed-out at 275 pounds. We guessed the deer to be either 6 1/2 or 7 1/2 years old. He had lived a charmed life -- until I saw him the third time. Author's Notes: I used a BowTech Pro 40 bow set at 65 pounds draw weight; 30-inch Easton Axis arrows; Rage three-blade broadheads; Copper John three-pin sight; and Whisker Biscuit arrow rest. For clothing, I wore Under Armour Loose Gear as a base layer under Cabela's Microsuede with Scent-Lok.
The author, 46, is the principal of Davison High School in Davison, Michigan. He and his wife have three children -- Jacob (12), Morgan (9), and Logan (6).