Travis Jackson | 02/24/23
1. The Elusive Buck: Years of Watching and Waiting
I can’t put into words how truly blessed I am to be able to share this story. I had been watching a particular buck for the past two years, having him pop up on camera on several properties that I hunt that are all relatively close to each other, but never having him show up consistently until the summer of 2020 when he started to be a frequent visitor to a property that I had just gained permission to hunt over the summer.
At this point, he had my full attention, but just like any other buck, once fall arrived, he had changed up his pattern completely, going missing from trail camera photos. I had started to get worried another hunter may have harvested him as this is a highly pressured suburban area, and I knew that I wasn’t the only person who knew about him, but I wasn’t giving up easily.
2. The Search for Redemption: Hope Amidst Defeat
At this point, I had tried to locate where this buck had mysteriously disappeared. On October 7th, I checked a trail camera on a property I had just gained permission to hunt a few weeks prior. I had no expectations of this buck showing up, but to my surprise, he had made his way across a busy main road and ended up about 2-3 miles from where I had been watching him all summer. Still in shock that he had shown up and unprepared, I knew it was time to get a game plan together. The next day I went in, hung a stand, made a mock scrape with some dominant buck urine, and decided I would give it a day before going in.
October 10th, I decided the time was right and got in the woods early that morning. It had been raining on and off pretty much all day but was supposed to clear up later in the afternoon. I hadn’t seen much of anything all day but decided to make the best of it and sit it out. At around 5 o’clock, I saw a deer in the distance but couldn’t tell what it was, but it was heading my way. As it got closer, I immediately knew it was him and my first case of buck fever set in. knees shaking, teeth chattering, I let my emotions get the best of me and rushed my shot at 48 yards hitting him high in the shoulder and immediately knew that I had messed up. Feeling defeated already, I sat in the stand for about an hour replaying the scene over and over and finally worked up the nerve to get down from the stand and see if I could find the arrow. As luck would have it, about that time, it decided to start raining again, but I went to the point of impact to look for any signs anyways and found about 6 inches of arrow 50 yards away in the direction that he had run. He had broken the arrow off with the broadhead still in him.
3. A Gut Feeling: An Unexpected Reunion
At this point, I pulled out, went home, and made my first-ever call for a tracking dog. The next morning, we set out to start our search. After a 1.5-mile track leading back toward the main road he had originally crossed from his summer hangout, the tracker decided it was time to call the search and said he felt confident that this deer was still alive.
Having lost all hope, I headed home to let it all sink in. I put all my time and effort in the upcoming weeks into keeping protein and minerals out in all the areas that I knew he had frequented In the past in hopes that he had made his way back home. He hadn’t shown up on any of my cameras since I shot him, but I felt deep down that he was still around.
4. The Perfect Shot: Triumph After Patience
On November 1st, I had made plans with a buddy to hunt together at a property we share, but on the way, something in my gut told me differently. I made a last-minute decision to go sit at a spot that I often overlook, I hadn’t had him on camera at this particular spot since the prior year, so I had no intentions of him showing up here, but something just told me to go. I went with my gut and headed over to settle in my ground blind.
It was a slow afternoon, and I hadn’t seen much, but around 5 o’clock, the floodgates opened. I had does coming in from every direction, it seemed, until a 4 pointer came in chasing them off. At 5:50, a group of does starts working their way back in, and I was once again surrounded by about 15 does. I had my attention over my left shoulder for a few minutes, watching two deer come in from behind me with no knowledge of what was right in front of my face.
As my neck started to hurt, I slowly turned my head back around to the front to be shocked seeing the buck that I thought I would never in a million years be seeing again, standing broadside at about 10 yards right in front of me and looking me in the eyes. In disbelief, I shut my eyes and prayed to God. I slowly opened my eyes just enough to see through my eyelashes to see him still standing there, looking right at me. I kept my composure and waited for an eternity for him to take his attention off me with my eyes still half shut.
Finally, he turned away from me and started walking towards a doe. He was standing 25 yards away broadside, but with all the does around me, I knew it was over if one of them busted me. I wasn’t letting my emotions get the best of me this time, I waited patiently, and he gave me a perfect 25-yard shot.
5. A Trophy of a Lifetime: The Buck's Significance and Legacy
I sat there for about 10 minutes in utter shock at what had just happened before deciding to make my first call. I pulled my phone out and called my best friend Tyler, who had been in search of this buck with me since the beginning, and shared the news with him. Tyler was still in the woods hunting at the property in which we had planned to hunt together that afternoon, so he didn’t answer right away but knew when he saw that missed call that something was up.
He calls me back, whispering, what’s up? I am so excited at this point that I can’t seem to get the words out of my mouth. Finally gaining my composure enough to spill the beans, Tyler is now just as excited as I am, and I can hear him running through the woods back to his truck.
About 30 minutes later, Tyler arrived, and we decided to look for the arrow. As we walked closer to the point of impact, we could see blood surrounding the area coming from both sides and knew that he wasn’t far. We found the arrow covered in blood and looked up to see him lying against a tree about 20 yards away from the arrow. When field-dressing him, I recovered my broadhead from the first shot, so there is no doubt in my mind that this is the same deer.
To have an opportunity at a deer of this caliber not only once but twice was truly a blessing. He scored 156" before deductions, and his official score is 146 5/8 taking the number 6 spot for all-time big bucks in my county. He is a trophy anywhere, but in my home state of Georgia, it's not every day you get a chance at a buck of his caliber.
6. Lessons Learned: Perseverance, Gratitude, and the Rewards of Listening to Your Gut
The story of this buck's journey and my hunt for him taught me many lessons. First and foremost, perseverance pays off. It's easy to give up when faced with defeat or obstacles, but by continuing to work hard and never giving up, I could achieve something that seemed impossible at times.
Additionally, this experience taught me the importance of gratitude. I am truly blessed to have been able to hunt this buck and share his story. It's important to always be thankful for the opportunities and blessings that come our way.
Finally, this experience reinforced the importance of listening to your gut. My decision to change my plans and hunt in a spot where I had a gut feeling that the buck might be led to my successful hunt. Trusting your instincts can be a powerful tool in both hunting and life.
In the end, the story of this suburban buck serves as a reminder of the rewards that come from hard work, perseverance, and listening to your gut. And for me, it will always be a cherished memory of a once-in-a-lifetime hunt experience.
If anyone takes the time to read this, I hope that you at least take this from it, NEVER give up and ALWAYS give thanks.