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The Turnaround Buck

By Dylan Smith

Whitetail Deer
The author’s seeming 10-pointer in fact has 16 scorable points adding up to a BTR tally of 182 2/8 Semi-Irregular. Dale Larson measured the Kansas giant.

“Things have to take a drastic turn if I’m going to take a good buck this season,” I thought as I headed to my hunting grounds on the afternoon of Nov. 13, 2005.  It was the last day of my week-long vacation, and I was worn out from hunting hard through unseasonably warm weather. I had been fortunate, however, to have a few encounters with some nice bucks throughout the week.

I had passed on two 3 1/2-year-olds during the week and let my camera cost me a giant on the morning of Nov. 12. I was beginning to wonder if my decisions to pass would come back to haunt me. But what happened next turned my season around immediately.

As I pulled in to where I was going to hunt, I spotted a tractor working some ground in front of my intended stand. I was upset, but I quickly came up with a backup plan and was eager to get into another area just a couple of miles distant. I made good time getting to the other property, but I had a long walk ahead of me. As I hiked in, I had a good feeling about the hunt. I had set up several mock scrapes in the area earlier in the season. I had seen several small bucks working the scrapes, and I knew it was just a matter of time before the big boys moved in to take over the area.

The evening was much cooler than the days prior, and I was able to slip in undetected. The action started early as I had a 120-inch 8-pointer follow my drag rag covered in doe-in-estrus lure within 5 yards of me. I was in a natural ground blind (a fallen oak tree) that offered perfect concealment and just the right amount of openings.

Whitetail Deer
Dylan Smith first appeared on our pages in 2004 with this wacky-racked, velvety Sunflower State brute.

I was daydreaming and watching the sun descend on that beautiful fall evening when I was suddenly snapped back to alert by the sound of crunching leaves. I heard the deer thrashing his antlers in the licking branch that hung over one of my mock scrapes well before I confirmed the noise with my eyes. I finally saw the deer and could immediately tell as he worked a scrape that he carried a giant 10-point frame.

It was at this point that I decided to hit the record button on my camera and position it where I anticipated a shot. I could hear my heart beating as I watched the magnificent buck make his leisurely approach. I was able to capture decent video of the deer, considering I had it on my tripod and was running it by myself. However, I was unable to get video as he tore up my mock scrapes and devoured the remains of a bumper crop of acorns that filled the draw. Had it been any other deer, I would have made an attempt, but I knew under these conditions it was too risky.

As I awaited the buck, I decided that the combination of the slight swirling wind and his slow approach would require an earlier shot opportunity. I am a scent-control freak. Even though I wear my scent-free suit and shower in scent-free soap, I wasn’t about to take any risks. At this point, the buck had veered a bit off course and was 25 yards away as he freshened up a real scrape. I took the opportunity to shift my camera to the left with my elbow as the buck had his head in the branches above.

Subscribe Today!The buck finally swung wide as I had anticipated, and when he stepped behind a very large oak tree, I drew my bow in hopes that I had spun the camera far enough to capture the shot. I let him clear the tree and take a few steps closer toward where I thought my camera was aimed.  The buck swept up one last acorn, and as he stepped into my shooting lane just 15 yards away, I carefully hit my release. The arrow found its mark, and I miraculously captured the shot on film. The buck ran 35 yards, turned back toward me and tipped.

I was shaking uncontrollably after the shot. As I narrated what happened, I heard something else coming. As if I hadn’t had enough excitement, I looked up to see a mainframe 10-pointer with a drop tine heading straight for my buck, which lay dead. The camera was rolling and the footage was even shakier because I was a mess. The buck laid his ears back and did the usual stiff-legged walk as he approached the downed buck. He circled it downwind and then smashed into it and began thrashing my buck on the ground.

I decided that was enough and got up and approached the pair. I was hollering the whole way over, trying to get him off, but the buck was too far into the fight zone. He finally snapped out of it when I got to within 15 yards. It made for some great video, but I had seen enough of him tearing up my trophy. My buck is a mainframe 10-pointer with 16 scorable points.

See More Buckmasters Feature StoriesI had video of this deer in velvet from the previous summer, and I ended up taking him more than 2 miles from where he was hanging out then. I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason when hunting whitetails, and for that I owe one particular farmer big time!

-- Reprinted from the August 2006 issue of Buckmasters Magazine

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