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North Dakota has one of the earliest archery openers in the country (noon on August 29) and hunters are putting down the bucks. Thanks to Derek for the first buck story of 2014 on BIG DEER blog:

Hi Mike: I went to our farm to check my trail cams and do a little scouting, and found out that neither of my cams had worked. I was bummed out but saw plenty of deer sign so I decided to sit in a stand rather than scout from a distance.

I watched this buck and 3 others for 3 hours inside of 300 yards before they came down the trail toward me. A 28-yard shot hit the mark just a bit low but definitely in lungs. He ran about 10 yards and stood there bleeding in the bean field. Then he walked another 15 yards and bedded down in a row of trees still within view. He got up and bedded down 2 more times in the next few minutes before going behind the trees where I could not see him.

After the shot, at least 3 more shooter bucks came in. All were in velvet except one. That hard-horned one tore up a small pine tree 15 yards from my stand, what a show!

After all the deer left, I got down and trailed my buck about 150 yards into some cattails around a slough. The blood trail ended where the cattails ended, so I figured he either went all way across the slough, he doubled back somewhere, or he was out in the water. I backed out and waited for daylight.

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Well, first thing the next morning I figured out why I had lost the blood trail. I found the buck floating out in the middle of the slough. I put on hip boots, but the water ended up being about 5′ deep, up to my armpits. Luckily the meat was not spoiled and since he was in the water all night, the coyotes couldn’t get him.

Ever have a blood trail end in the middle of a slough?

(Hanback: Not in a slough, but I shot one out on the Milk River and lost the track at the riverbank…luckily we saw him floating, much like yours in the picture, a quarter-mile down the river before he sunk or was swept away.)

The buck was in full velvet, with an 18″ inside spread and a kicker on his right G-2. What an awesome hunt.—Derek P.

Check back tomorrow for another velvet beauty from North Dakota shot last weekend.