Rack Magazine

Fearing the Worst

Fearing the Worst

By Lisa Price

Kentucky buck is presumed dead for 11 months before it actually dies.

When the 13-pointer stopped mugging for Ashley Bugg’s trail camera in January 2012, the hunter from Corydon, Ky., assumed the deer he’d been watching for two seasons was dead.

“In the last photograph I had of the buck, it looked to be in bad shape,” Ashley said. “Its gut was all sunk in.

“I still kept checking the camera and hoping, but it was no pics … no pics … no pics,” he added.

Writing off the whitetail as being dead, however, was 11 months premature. Turns out, it had simply become someone else’s thrill for a while.

Ashley’s cameras might have stopped yielding photos, but a neighbor’s units began filling with images. The deer was even seen alive by Ashley’s cousin while he was harvesting beans during the early fall.

“Of course, neither the neighbor nor my cousin told the other, and nobody said anything to me,” smirked Ashley, who wasn’t any more forthcoming. The only person he told about the buck was his grandfather, Wayne, and only because the man could keep a secret.

“When Kentucky’s 2012 season opened, I was after a nice 9-pointer I’d gotten on camera,” Ashley said. “I had several encounters with it, but I never could close the deal.”

A pleasant surprise on Nov. 16 made him forget all about the lucky 9-pointer and missed opportunities.

“The rut seemed to have happened early. I saw lots of activity during bow season,” Ashley said. “But sightings were decreasing; I wasn’t seeing much of anything during the gun season.

“When I first got into hunting, I wasn’t a firm believer in playing the wind, but the more I began to go after big bucks and older deer, the more I became a believer,” he said. “The wind is what caused me to go to an elevated stand on Nov. 16.”

The stand, which is topped by a pop-up-type blind, is tucked into thick timber. Ashley was sitting in it by early afternoon, but he didn’t see a deer until half an hour before quitting time.

“A doe came in and walked around the edge of the woods, and then she left,” he said. “I heard another deer walking about 10 minutes later, like it was coming closer.”

The slow, deliberate steps convinced Ashley he was about to see the 9-pointer he’d been hoping to acquire in his crosshairs. It definitely sounded like a buck, he thought. He could just envision it coming, tired, yet determined to pursue the doe that preceded it.

“I saw only the left side of its rack, at first, which told me immediately that it was a shooter, not to mention bigger than the 9-pointer I was expecting,” Ashley said. “I wasted no time. I picked up my gun and pulled the trigger.”

There was no bang, however. Not even a click.

Ashley had forgotten to disengage his gun’s safety.

He’d left his usual gun, a .270, at home. Knowing he was going to a covered stand, he took his dressy .300 Mag instead.

“The .300 Win Mag is a special safari edition, really nice — all synthetic and stainless steel,” he explained. “I hadn’t shot anything with it because I’d never taken it afield. It was too pretty to hunt with, usually. But the weather was clear that day, so I took it.”

None the wiser, the buck kept on going, only a little deeper into the timber by the time Ashley realized his mistake.

“It was still walking very slowly,” he said. “I could hear it take two or three steps, stop, two or three more steps, and stop. I kept my eyes on the sound and was ready to take the next opportunity.”

Eventually, Ashley got a clear shot. And even after the boom, the deer’s unhurried, start-and-stop gait never changed.

“I did finally hear a crash, but I didn’t know if the buck had fallen or taken off after the doe,” he said.
Ashley got down and searched for blood in the waning light. He kept on searching after dark as well, until his flashlight died.

Feeling sure he’d blown his chance at the biggest buck he’d ever seen, he was disgusted.

“I went back to the house and told my grandfather,” he said. “He listened to the story, and then he told me he was certain the buck was dead. He even told me approximately where he thought it was lying.”

The next afternoon, since the wind wasn’t right for going back to the same stand, Ashley chose a different one. As he approached the area, he couldn’t help but remember what his granddad had told him the previous evening. Actually, the stand he’d chosen to hunt was smack dab in the middle of the area where his grandfather had told him he’d find the buck.

Ashley never sat in that stand. He was too busy dragging out his buck, which he found dead right beside it.

“My grandfather knew what deer did when they were shot on the property,” Ashley said. “He also had more confidence in my ability to shoot than I did.

“I knew immediately that it was the buck from my 2011 pictures, because the brow tines are so distinctive,” he added. “Beyond those, the antlers really packed on length and mass.”

Ashley pulled out his cell phone, and there was never a doubt about who he’d call first.

“I told him I’d shot the buck from the trail cam pictures,” Ashley said. “And my granddad dropped everything in order to join me.”

Hunter: Ashley Bugg
BTR Score: 205 1/8
Centerfire Rifle

– Photos Courtesy Ashley Bugg

This article was published in the August 2014 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.

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