Thanks to Mark Birtzer for today’s guest post. Amazing the cool and unusual things that happen in the deer woods:
Last November 8th during Southeast Minnesota’s shotgun season, I started the day on one of my favorite stands: just inside the woods near a field corner, at the top of a steep coulee. Our hunting area consists of only 2 things: level crop fields, and wooded gullies that are so steep only a mountain goat could love them, but that tough terrain holds some really good bucks. Plus, 4 years of state-mandated Antler Point Restrictions have paid off in even more mature bucks being sighted every year.
The wind that morning was forecast to be OK for my stand, but eventually it would switch to a bad direction. I decided to start the day there and to move at midday. About 10:00, after seeing several smaller deer earlier, a respectable 8-point appeared on the main trail, heading right for a lane where I knew he would cross at under 30 yards. I got ready, but before he emerged, he turned a 180 like he’d hit a wall and trotted back from where he’d come. I felt a wisp of breeze on the back of my neck. The wind had switched early!
I knew there was no point staying in that stand, so I got down and started a slow still hunt through the bottom of the gully toward a spot deeper into the property than I usually go. I was mostly in exploration mode, feeling like I had blown my chance at a buck that day.
As I moved along the gully, the sun was shining on the steep hillside above me to the right. I caught a bright flash and spotted a big antler. I could see his body and had all of 1 or 2 seconds to turn to my right, find him in the scope, and get off a shot before he would slip into some thick cedars. When I fired, his hindquarters collapsed and he started stumbling down the hill with his front legs churning. A spine shot! I got one more shot off before he went down and disappeared behind some brush.
As I approached the buck I saw that his right antler was broken off! Though I would not have hesitated to shoot him even if I had known he was a half-rack, there was still a strange set of emotions. I think mostly I just wanted to know what the other side of the rack looked like. He was by far my biggest buck, a great old bruiser that dressed out at 210 pounds. He gave me and my son, Clint, an epic workout as we dragged him up out of that gully while my dad went to get the truck. The 3 generations of us enjoying that experience together was one of the best things about the day.
If the story ended here, it would be great, but there is one more twist. One day 5 months later, just this April, we hit the property for some shed hunting. After a good number of miles without any luck, we were walking one last field edge about 200 yards from the stand where I had started the day back in November when I killed my buck. My brother-in-law spotted bone on the ground. He picked it up and started yelling in excitement. A big shed? No, it was the missing antler off my buck! I had walked within 20 yards of it several times during late season last year. What luck! The missing side has 6 points and completes the rack, for a total of 11 points with an inside spread of 21 1/2 inches.
We had kept the cape off my buck with the intention of pairing it with a 10-point rack from my grandfather’s first deer that he shot over 60 years ago. We thought that would be a cool way to create a special family heirloom that would commemorate all of the intergenerational togetherness we’ve enjoyed while hunting whitetails.
But now, I might not be able to pass up the opportunity to mount and display my reconstructed “Lefty Buck” as he looked in his prime!–Mark