Been a strange season. Beans still in all around us, and really just been unusual. Even with talking to some other local hunters that typically do well just not seeing the deer they expect, I went several times with not seeing a single buck and not honestly seeing all that many does either. Have not even heard any close shots which is highly unusual.
For the month of October for the most part we had pics of only one buck and we had plenty of pics of him but all at night. I was pretty sure this was the buck we passed on several times last season that had splintered his antlers early on. We had a couple hundred pics of him last year and saw him too many times to count. He even walked in view of our house during daylight on a couple of occasions during the rifle season letting me know he must be bedding nearby. We thought he was 4.5 last year. We believe this area was his area and he did not tolerate other bucks as we saw his aggressive dominant behavior.
I pulled cards the week before last and noticed his activity was getting close to legal shooting time and also noticed he had a group of 3 does in several frames and in some frames on a scrapeline he was tracking that group. Told my wife, Catrina, mid week last week any time now he is gonna slip up and move during daylight. So Thursday she got off work early and was in the stand sometime after 3. I figured she might see him at last light. I get home with my kids at 3:30 and get my 7 year old son to go outside with me to help me put a new fuel pump on my truck. We had been outside for a few minutes when we heard the shot, at around 3:40 with temps in the 50's. So I get my son and go back to the house to get my phone and go to text my wife as I hear another shot. Few minutes later she texts me "it was him, first shot low don't know about the second". Unfortunately she was unable to see the deer or the direction he went when she shot due to the cloud of smoke, this would prove to cause major issues with trying to figure out just which direction he went. The shot was from her accura mr loaded with 100 grains of triple 7 and pushing a 240 grain hornady American whitetail(interlock), and the shot was at about 140-150 yards. She had a hard away angle on the second shot and raised to the second dot on her inline xr scope. The buck was following a doe. She said she knew immediately for sure when the buck stepped out that this was the same buck as the one we had seen several times last year, by his stance, size, and body language.
After getting the kids settled I head back to start helping her look and I get a text to wait that the doe had circled back around. So I took my time and walked back after she told me the doe finally walked off. We searched for blood all over the area she thought he was standing and found none. So went in the brush and started searching primary trails and after looking a good while finally found some blood on a good trail. Blood looked indicative of a good hit but there just was not much of it. One of us had to leave to get our 13 year old daughter from her color guard practice, so I sent Catrina and I came back to the house and got lights and kept looking. By this time it was getting dark pretty quick and I was not sure which direction the little bit of blood I found was leading. I found more blood, but still was not sure if I was following the right direction. Impossible to pick a single track with all the fresh fallen leaves and churned up ground. By the time my wife got back I took a quick break to eat and then we went back to looking and had been looking for just a few minutes when we heard some yotes start howling. I said we should probably go to where they are, but still was not sure at that point which way the deer went. I knew that the old channel in that direction was very tough to follow even in daylight due to loggers having pushed a load of tree tops down that way when they cut the neighbors woods, it is swampy and thick and just not easy ground to cover, much less in the dark. We had heard splashing in the opposite direction when we first started looking 2 hours earlier and she said the doe had looked really hard that way so we thought her deer might have went that way. I ended up finally finding the trail of blood that lead to the spot where the deer had entered the brush. Our oldest daughter had gotten here to help watch our 7 year old, my wife's light was going dead, but I still had a good charge on the battery I had and told Catrina we should get a pistol and try to get to where the yotes were. By this time my wife was really down and she was cold, our oldest daughter who is 16 weeks pregnant wanted to go with me to look some more. Think by this time I had been looking close to 3 hours and told my wife I would take our daughter and see if she might see some blood I was missing. It started raining on us and we called it quits. I should have gone by myself and followed my gut, wanted to follow the channel but decided I would wait until morning knowing there would be no blood to find with the rain.
So Friday morning I took off looking after my wife took the kids to school. She caught up to me a little after 8 and we spent about 3.5 hours looking, having gone to where I thought the yotes had been about 14 hours earlier. My wife had walked within less than 5 yards from where I would end up finding what was left of the carcass and head from her deer yesterday morning. I hunted Saturday afternoon and saw several bucks, with one right at last light being what I was sure would be a shooter. That pretty well confirmed to me that this buck was dead and I decided I was not going to give up on finding him. Further I pulled cards on cams and where he was so regular the last pic of him was on the 7th. I had looked on Monday for about 3.5 hours but looked in the other direction towards where we heard the splashing. It was when I was about to turn and walk back yesterday morning after having looked for about a 1.5 hours that I saw a couple buzzards circling. I watched them and tried to pinpoint where they were circling and I knew that was the area I thought we had looked but thought I would look again that maybe we somehow overlooked him. As I got closer there was a black vulture on the ground that would not leave and I knew at that point the deer was there somewhere. I had to back track a bit to cross the channel and as I got closer the buzzard hopped up on a tree directly above the remains of the deer. I really don't know how he was missed on Friday morning with seeing how little was left, I doubt there would have been anything to salvage Friday morning.
I think he was a 5.5 year old and plan to check his teeth at some point. Heaviest mass of any deer I have seen here. He has 10 points over an inch long. Interestingly he had the opposite side matched and intact last year prior to splintering his antlers. Not much left of his cape 4 days later, but the pattern of the white on the face matches pics we had of this buck in the prior season in the second pic below.
The 2017 season, he is on the left in the first pic
Not the outcome we were hoping for, but at least we know where he is. Pics really don't do this deer justice, he had very nice mass for a TN deer, the jump in mass from last year to this year is pretty impressive and shows there is potential for TN deer to have mass if they are allowed to get some age. Hope to get a good mount with as close a cape as possible and recreate some pics with the hunter. The deer probably went no more than 350 yards.