Kevin Armstrong shared this story with us. Thank you Kevin!
As strange as it gets!
At first light in the morning on 11-1-08 Karma and I embarked on the trail of this big Ontario County buck. We had tracked (and recovered a deer) for this hunter before. We knew him to be a serious trophy hunter. He had the lethal arrow and a detailed story of the hit. All evidence indicated a classic paunch hit; 3 inches too far back, mid body. The hunter knew immediately that he had a paunch hit. He knew the blood trail would be sparse, so he quietly backed out of the woods and called Karma and I for help. He and I agreed that the deer should in no way be pushed. We agreed to take up the trail first thing in the morning.
As is the norm with paunch shots the blood trail stopped after 100 yards or so. After 200 yards we came upon a large empty bed and a small puddle of blood. From the bed Karma continued on with undiminished enthusiasm.
The trail wove on and on and on through beach woods, through a thick logged over area, down a deep gully then gradually back up out of the gully, across a harvested corn field, then through a thicket. After 2 hours of trailing and well over a mile we were at the door yard of a rural home on the "next road over" from where we began. We were 2/3 of the way through a circle of about 1.5 miles in diameter. Without permission from the land owner, and without the knowledge of who to even ask for permission we abandoned the trail.
As I stood there telling the hunter that "something has pushed this deer". We noticed a tractor and manure spreader leaving the field on the other side of the home owner's door yard.
The hunter explained that a neighbor regularly ran coon dogs through that woods at night. We were sure something like that must have happened.
To be on the safe side we started Karma on the trail at the very start again. "Maybe she missed a turn..." Little Karma took us exactly the same long, serpentine route all over again. For the second time we halted the trail at the same dooryard. Now we spent a couple more hours doing a fruitless area search.
In mid afternoon, physically and emotionally drained we agreed to call off the search. I knew the hunter would comb that woods for a week, or for as long as it took. He had hunted this particular deer too long and too hard to give up.
When I came in from a tracking call this afternoon there was a message on my tape from the hunter. He had found the deer!
As it turned out he had not only canvassed the woods for the last 10 days exhausting all of his vacation and personal time but he had also canvassed the neighborhood. Word got out that he was looking for the lost buck. It seems one of the neighbors knew where it was.
Do you remember the tractor and manure spreader we had seen? Well, it turns out the farm hand who was spreading manure on the field where we had stopped the trail had found the buck, freshly killed, and half eaten by coyotes, laying at the edge of the field and dooryard; 50 yards from where we had stopped! On his way back to the barn he loaded the remains of the buck in his spreader and took it home as a conversation piece.
Word had gotten back to the hunter where the buck was. The hunter called on the farm hand. The hand willingly surrendered the antlers to their rightful owner.
Now if anyone has a better tracking story than that this season I want to hear it!
Kevin & Karma