On October 28th, almost two months ago now, I passed a shot at a pretty 10-pointer. The 3-1/2 year old buck was lazily following a doe toward my stand and at first glance looked so nice that I picked up my bow, clipped my release on the string, and prepared to shoot him if he gave me the opportunity. But then he stopped at 30 yards to nibble on some standing soybeans, and I got a long look at him through binoculars.
I’d decided to pass by the time he strolled by at 16 steps. He was a gorgeous whitetail, but it was early in the rut and I knew there were more mature animals in the neighborhood. So I put the bow down and in doing so I confirmed something my wife has long suspected–that while I do hunt hard for a chance at a big deer, I’m hunting just as hard for an excuse to stay in the woods!
Well I still haven’t tagged a buck this fall, and on a scouting walk behind my house last week I ran into the same pretty buck I’d passed. This time he was lying 20 yards from one of my treestands–dead, for at least a week. The crows and coyotes had started to work on his hindquarters, but other than their chewing I could find no mark on the sleek 10-pointer. He could have been injured by a car, gored by another buck, or had a wound I couldn’t identify. I’ll never know.
Naturally I’d have liked to have seen the buck make it another season. But I was also relieved to have the closure. I’ve passed shots on other nice bucks and never seen them again, and if I’m hunting near home and it’s a buck I’ve seen or have pictures of, I always wonder what’s happened to them. This time I know. And after a call to the local warden, who gave me a possession tag for the antlers, I’ll always have a reminder of a great encounter on a gorgeous afternoon in late October.