I only tell this because I was finally able to put my hands on him.
I have seen this deer on camera for 2 years and always wanted my chance. He was seen a couple times by other hunters and they passed last year. From last year to this year he added some mass, but was close to the same everywhere else.
This year he alternated between my stand and another stand fairly close by. Early in the season he walked into the other stand and was shot by another hunter. He hit him high and in the middle of the back. We had it chalked up to a lost buck. Then he showed back up on my camera with a spot on his side where he had been shot. From there I did my best to pattern the buck.
Finally he walked in on me one morning. It was early, but I knew for sure it was him. No doubt. I think they refer to it as “buck fever” because my heart was pounding. I rushed EVERYTHING!! Including that part where you are supposed to put your pin on the deer!! I let the arrow fly and watched it sail right under him…from 27 yards. I have never been so sick in my life.
I decided to stay out of that stand for a while in case I had spooked him too much. I checked my camera about 5 days later and saw that he was coming in nearly every morning. I got in the stand early the next morning hoping for that second chance. I got it!! He walked in 10 yards to my right. The lesson I had learned from my miss was to be patient. I had no choice this time. The buck ate corn in front of me for 20 minutes always facing away or directly to me. Never had that good shot. He started to walk away and I thought great…what a tease. Then he stopped and turned broadside. This was it. I drew and as I came to draw he quartered away. I held and SET MY PIN and let it fly. The arrow hit solid and he took off. The euphoria of the kill was unbelievable. I has persevered and now the trophy was going on my wall…until it wasn’t.
I waited for about an hour. I had heard what I thought was the buck crashing in the brush to my right. I looked for blood where I had hit him at. Never found it. I walked in the direction he ran for what seemed like forever before I finally found blood. I started videoing my tracking because of how much blood I had found. I searched forever, but could not find him. I had 2 friends come help me track and we spent all afternoon with no luck. I was sick again. I watched for buzzards for days and nothing.
I can’t remember exact dates, I think it was Nov 9th, but I had a friend pull my chip from the stand. The previous morning he was at the feeder…alive and well. I couldn’t believe it, but seeing the picture I realized that I tried to slide the arrow into the area right behind the shoulder too perfectly and I was too close to the shoulder. I still believed that should have been a kill shot, but I was ecstatic that he was alive. Now I was worried that someone else, my dad, was going to kill the deer and I would never live it down!! My dad hunted the stand that weekend and ended up killing a very nice 11 off of it. The 11 was probably a bit bigger than the 8 I was chasing, but I was relieved that he shot that deer and not the 8 that I had history with.
After that weekend the buck started showing up back at the original stand he was shot at. He rarely hit my stand. I filled up feeders last week and decided to start putting some protein out again. I waited 5 days and decided to hunt the stand last night.
I was a bit late getting into the stand. There was already a deer on the feeder and as I walked in he took off. Before I got in the stand I grabbed my camera to see what had been coming in. I flipped through the pics and there he was. The 8 was coming back to my stand. To say it got my hopes up was an understatement. I had been in the stand maybe 20 minutes when I had a deer behind me blow. I just knew my hunt was over, but I sat there and waited. About 15 minutes later…about 4:45…he walked in. My heart starting pounding because I just knew it was my chance again!!
He wouldn’t give me a shot!! He walked in and out 3 times staying behind some small hog paneling that I didn’t want to try and shoot through. When he walked out the 3rd time I was sure he was gone. I started texting my buddy about seeing the deer again. He couldn’t believe I didn’t shoot!! We were talking back and forth when he walked back in. I texted Chris, “he’s back.” Chris kept texting shoot, shoot!! I still didn’t have a shot so I snapped a picture and sent it to him. He wanted me to quit taking pics and shoot the damn thing.
The buck turned to leave again and then stopped and looked at the protein feeder. The protein is in a pen by itself. He stood there for probably 20 seconds, but it seemed like forever!! Finally he decided to jump in the protein pen. He ate a little protein facing straight to me. Finally he walked toward me and turned broadside. I drew…and then he took a couple steps and quartered away. I had learned from my previous encounters though. I slowed down and remembered what my friend Dr. Potts…aka the Doctor of Death…told me after I had the deer escape death before. If a deer is quartering away aim at the front leg on the backside. If you aim there you will seldom have a problem.
I brought the pin up that backside front leg, centered the pin and let it fly. I knew I had made a good shot. The arrow passed through completely and I saw blood pump. I watched him run to my left and up a hill and start to slow just before I lost sight of him. I was almost certain he was done.
The time couldn’t move fast enough for me as I waited to get down. I wanted to use the daylight to track him, but knew I might end up pushing him if I went to early. I got everything together and got down about 5:40. About 20 minutes after I shot him…I know…too soon, but I couldn’t contain myself. I picked up my arrow and followed the blood trail. There were moments when I worried because I was having to use tracks instead of blood, but I walked a fairly quick line to the last place I saw him. I had my head down looking for next blood when I looked up and there he was…dead. The feeling was incredible.
To hunt something for 2 years and to have him slip away twice and to then finally be able to harvest him is an incredible feeling and one I will never forget. The guys I hunt with always tell me, “that’s why they call it hunting and not killing.” The reward for all the hard work, patience, and perseverance can now be measured by the trophy that will be on my wall.
By Jason Holley