As you know Bob Yax's Gusto was killed recently when he got loose and was run over by a truck. Bob shared with me a couple of stories that he wrote up this year on more interesting recoveries. Thank you Bob!
One Tough Buck
by Bob Yax
Hunter (Eric) called into the Deer Search hot line late morning on Sat 10/29. He had hit a big Buck Friday evening at 6:00 from a tree stand. He was using RAGE broad heads and had a complete pass thru. He said the arrow had solid dark blood on it, but no food particles. He described the hit as a broad side hit, about halfway between the front and back legs and about halfway up, top to bottom. It sounded like a possible liver hit. After hitting the deer, Eric and his hunting partner Todd, backed out immediately and planned to come back on Saturday morning to track – (exactly the right thing to do for a liver / gut hit). On Saturday morning, Eric and Todd followed a decent 150 – 200 yard blood trail until the blood stopped. After that they did a visual search for awhile in the direction of travel. They then backed out again and called Deer Search.
After Gusto and I arrived at 1:00 Saturday, we inspected the arrow and found that it was covered with a thick layer of dark blood. It also contained some small food particles and some white hair (it looked like a liver & stomach hit with the exit wound low on the deer). On an anatomy chart, Eric indicated a hit more than mid way up the deer from top to bottom and slightly further back than a liver would be located – I worried that the hit may have been to the intestines & stomach only – that may have explained why they hadn’t found the deer in its 1st bed after the overnight 13hr wait. We put Gusto on the blood trail at the hit site and he was off. He breezed through the first 200 yards where there was an easy to follow blood trail. Once the blood ended, he continued on through the open hardwoods heading downhill at quick pace – he definitely was on the trail. After a hundred yards or so in the open hardwoods we hit a row of Posted signs.
At that point we hit the brakes and Eric made some calls to find out who owned the land and if we could get permission to continue tracking. Gusto wasn’t at all pleased with this sudden stop. He tugged at the leash and barked continuously. I’m sure he thought “ hey ! - what’s the deal – he’s getting away”. Well, after waiting about 5 minutes we got the permission we were hoping for. I let up on the leash and Gusto was off again heading down hill through the open woods. We ended up going about 100 yards into the posted land and soon after found ourselves coming back out of the posted area. By now we were at the bottom of the wooded hillside walking just inside the woods on a straight / level path towards a large field. All along so far, Gusto seemed to be hot on the trail, very confident of where he was going. Once we broke out of the woods, we had a large / thick goldenrod field in front of us. Probably 300 yards long and 150 yards continuing down the hill. Gusto jumped into the field and started downhill. The goldenrod was about 4 ft high and very thick. Gus had a hard time getting through it at ground level especially with the 25 ft leash trailing behind him. He continued to make his way downhill through the goldenrod by burrowing under it or jumping over it. He often put his nose high in the air, trying to air scent the trail / deer. This is always a great sign that something “interesting” is ahead. Several times during the 15 minute trip though the field I thought “he just wants to get to the woods on the other side”. We finally did make it through the field and he headed straight into the brushy wooded area that continued downhill ahead of us.
After 5 yards into the new area, now on my hands and knees, I said to myself “now we’ve got the rosebushes – we always end up in rosebushes!” This hillside was thick with blown down trees interspersed with rosebushes and brush. Gus was still hot on the trail and I was amazed at how long he had been so hot on this trail – probably a half mile so far. Now that we were about 10 yards into the thick stuff, Gus turned and started heading parallel to the bottom edge of the goldenrod field. I was just trying to keep up with him – he can go under and through the blow downs and bushes while I have to go around and over them. Not long after I thought “this would be a great place for a deer to bed down” the sound of a breaking branch caught my attention. I looked up ahead to see a tall rack with the backside of a deer under it taking 2 jumps before disappearing in the brush. The Buck got up only 30 yards ahead of us and was gone just about the time I started bringing up my side by side 20 ga. Something in the way he ran said he was hurting. Meanwhile Gusto was barking and running after him. Luckily I had a good grip on the leash. Eric, who was up above me, along the edge of the field heard the commotion but didn’t see the deer. After going about 25yds past where the Buck had jumped up, I stopped Gusto, who was barking wildly, and said to Eric, “now we’ve got a decision to make – keep going after him, or to back out till later”.
It had been 20 hours since the hit and the deer was still able to get up and run, but he still let us get within 30 yards of him. At this point I was thinking it had to be a gut or intestine hit and the deer could possibly survive another 12 hours, especially if it was intestine only. I told Eric our best chance to recover this deer was to back out till Sunday morning and to avoid pushing him any further away. He totally agreed, but wasn’t looking forward to another sleepless night. At that point we marked the trail where we had stopped with some orange tape and I pulled the still barking Gusto off the trail. We also put some tape along the edge of the woods before entering the big goldenrod field. Luckily we found a 4 wheeler trail to easily get back up through the thick field. Immediately after we started heading back up the long hill to the truck, Gusto was out of his “tracking mode” and was just casually walking back with us. It amazed me how he could suddenly turn off the excitement of the past hour and I was wondering what was going on in that head of his – did he somehow know that we weren’t finished with this deer yet ? Once back at the truck (2:30 PM) we arranged to meet again on Sunday morning at 9:00 – 39 hours after the hit. He should definitely be dead by then, but how far away would he be ? And how well would Gusto pick up the trail again ?
On Sunday morning it was 29 F and clear. I met Eric in Cohocton, and Gus and I drove in his truck with him back to the Avoca farm and then the mile through farm fields back to his stand location. There, we met up with his hunting partner Todd and his 15yr old son Zack. It was a beautiful, crisp, calm and sunny morning as we headed back down the hill through the open hardwoods and then onto the 4 wheeler trail through the goldenrod field. Along the way, I pointed out to Eric and Todd how casual Gus was as he headed down to where we ended on Saturday. He wasn’t yet in “tracking mode”. The previous day Eric had asked me “how do you know when he’s really on the trail and when he’s not” . Gusto was about to demonstrate the difference.
When we got near the point we marked the previous day, I put Gusto on the trail about 20 yards back from where we ended on Saturday. I prayed that he would regain his previous enthusiasm for this deer. I wasn’t disappointed. He immediately got hot on the trail again and blew by our last piece of flagging tape. After about 25 more yards in the thick brush he came out into the open goldenrod field again for a short time and then headed back down the hillside into the thick stuff. It was hard keeping up, and at one point after letting go of the leash, I found myself running to catch up. Gusto was getting close and he wasn’t waiting for me. Then something caught my foot and the next thing I know, I’m sliding face first on the ground reaching for the end of the leash. To my surprise, I caught the end of the leash and didn’t hurt myself. Gusto was not happy with the brakes being put on, and once I picked myself up, we were back in pursuit.
At this point Gus was pulling, jumping and air scenting with his nose high in the air. We were now in a patch of 4ft high goldenrod within the brushy woods. Just ahead I saw a small flattened clearing in the goldenrod. When we got closer, I peeked into it and saw a half a rack poking up from the ground. I stopped Gusto about 10 ft from the clearing and yelled up to Eric, Todd and Zack who were 30 yards uphill - “So how big did you say this buck was ? “ - Eric said “about 140” – I said “well you better get down here and score it “. After a short confused pause, Eric came running down the hill in a flash. The high fives and celebration ensued. All toll, we had traveled only about 150 yds from where we had jumped the buck the previous day. He must have been hurting pretty badly to only travel this short distance after being jumped. The Buck sported a very high 8pt rack that we estimated at 130 – 135 inches. The arrow entered about halfway back on the deer and about 8 inches up from the bottom. It looked like it could have been a liver hit, but I didn’t think that was possible since he was still alive and running 20+ hours after the hit. When Eric gutted it, however, I was shocked to see the clean pattern of a Rage broad head right through an inch thick section of the liver - Amazing!!! - You learn something new on every track.
This was one tough Buck ! - that led us on a memorable adventure.
Bob Yax, Eric Zastawrny & Gusto - Sunday 10/30/2011