Thanks to a kid exploring his backyard and the generosity of a landowner, a Kansas bowhunter was recently reunited with his buck of a lifetime, which he shot, but ultimately couldn’t find, two years earlier.
According to the Kansas City Star, Dusty Smart was hunting a friend’s farm near Emporia, Kansas, in 2012, hoping to harvest a deer he’d photographed with trail cameras every day for two weeks of the rut. He knew this particular buck followed a group of nine does, so he set up a treestand overlooking a trail they favored. “It was the day before the gun season was going to open, so I knew this was last chance,” said Smart, 37. “I knew gun hunters were going to be on that land, and there was a chance they were going to shoot him.”
The buck showed up as predicted, but knew something was amiss, and when Smart tried to make a 45-yard shot, the buck jumped the string and the arrow didn’t hit a vital organ. Smart and his friends trailed the deer late into the night, and Smart took a day off work to search for the animal, but he eventually gave up any hope of finding it.
“I would tell my friends about how big this buck was and that he had gotten away, and I could tell they thought I was making up stories,” Smart said. “They were getting tired of hearing me talk about it.”
Fast forward to September 2014, when he received a phone call from a friend who participated in a Scouting event on a farm close to where Smart lost his deer. He said there was a skull with antlers from a giant deer hanging up in the shed—a rack that likely belonged to the deer that Smart never found.
The landowner’s son had discovered the trophy while exploring the area last summer. What’s more, he agreed to give it to Smart. But before he could take possession, Smart needed to undergo an investigation by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism to make sure he harvested the deer legally, and then obtain a salvage permit from the agency.
Nearly two years after he let the arrow fly, Smart was finally able to bring his trophy home. He and a friend scored the 28-point deer and estimate it to be around 235 inches. If the official score is anywhere close to that estimate, the deer will rank in the top 20 all-time non-typical whitetails harvested by bow in Kansas.