By Bob Yax
Just got back from a cold rainy day (Wednesday) of tracking. This afternoon I had to shoot a 12pt non-typical 18 hours after the hit, and that wasn’t the most interesting track of the day!
The track we started this morning at 9:00 has a long backstory. The Hunter, Charlie, had hit a big buck this past Saturday morning (11/5) at 9:30. He thought his arrow had entered low in the ribs, about 6 inches back of the front leg on the right side. The white hair at the hit site indicated that the exit was near the bottom of the deer. Being pretty new to bowhunting, he waited about 1.5 hours to begin tracking. He and his hunting friend tracked the deer about 300 yards, when they jumped it. They then backed out for about an hour and continued tracking a dwindling blood trail. After several hundred more yards, they jumped it again. Finally, after about 3 hours of tracking, they jumped it a 3rd time and then tracked it a few hundred more yards to the last blood sign at the edge of a golf course, on a cart path. At this point they’d tracked about ¾ of a mile. After the cart path, the buck headed across a fairway and then along the woods on the other side. Charlie was able to track the buck’s hoof prints in the soft dirt. About 100 yards past the cart path, they lost all signs of the buck. From that point on, Charlie and his hunting friend grid searched the woods on that side of the fairway for another hour to no avail.
Two days later, on Monday 11/7 at 8:30 am, Charlie called into Deer Search asking for help. The rut in our area, as well as cross bow hunting began this weekend. As a result, we had 30 to 40 calls waiting in our system. We don’t have the manpower to handle all those calls, so on Monday evening I began deleting calls older than 36 hours and then calling those hunters back to say sorry and to discuss their hits. Charlie hunts in an area far from most of our trackers and it was now 59 hours after the hit, so I deleted his call and then called him. After hearing the story of his hit and track (jumping the buck 3x) it certainly sounded like a liver hit. It went a long way between beds, but it was being pushed. I knew the deer was dead, and Charlie made it clear how much he wanted to recover it, his best buck to date. I thought that a body search, to smell the dead deer might have a chance of working – but they usually don’t! I told Charlie, that I might be in his area on Tuesday and that I might want to give it a try. Well, Tuesday didn’t work out, but I did catch a call for Wednesday that would be nearby. Charlie and I traded a bunch of text messages Tuesday night, and he even emailed me a Google Maps photo of the area with his deer track marked on it. At that point I didn’t realize that the track so far, was ¾ mile long. The photo showed that the area was very large with diverse vegetation. I agreed to meet up with him on Wednesday morning at 9 am – 4 days after the hit. From Saturday thru Tuesday it had been sunny, warm (65deg) and breezy, but Tuesday evening and Wednesday AM the forecast was for rain. Sure enough it started raining about 9 pm Tuesday evening. At that time, the thought hit me that with this moisture, Thor might actually be able to follow the 4 day old track!
Wednesday morning, as I made the 60-mile drive to Hume, Allegany County, the rain was pretty heavy, but luckily just about stopped as I met up with Charlie. After doing our paper work, Charlie showed me his arrow & Rage 2 blade broad head. The arrow and fletching showed not much blood, and the first 10 inches had a coating of white fat / suet on it. Likely from passing thru the fat on the bottom of the chest. I decided we should start the track at the hit site in the hope that Thor could actually pick up and carry the track beyond where the hunters had lost it. I started Thor where we thought the hit occurred and headed off in the direction the buck went. I never saw any blood, but Charlie convinced me that Thor seemed to be going the right way. After a short time, I was convinced that Thor did have the track.
To make a long story shorter, for about the next hour, we followed Thor down what seemed to be the right track through the mixed hardwoods. On 3 or 4 occasions along the way, Thor got into a circling pattern 30 or 40 yards in diameter, obviously trying to figure out which direction the buck went after it stopped and circled. Once we got to within about 200 yards of the golf course, Thor got stuck in a circling pattern for about 15 minutes. He was working hard, but couldn’t get out of it. It could have been the Hunters bloody boots that complicated that area. The 3rd bed was ahead in the thick brush between us and the golf course. We were now about an hour into the track and still hadn’t gotten to where the hunters had lost the track. At that point, I asked Charlie to take us to the last sign of blood at the edge of the golf course, 200 yards ahead. Soon we were at the cart path where the buck came out of the woods. Still in the path, was a dime sized blood clot. The 1st blood I’d seen so far. Thor caught the scent again and headed off hard across the fairway towards another woodlot. A short time later, Charlie confirmed that Thor was on the path of hoof prints in the fairway that they had followed 4 days earlier. 75 yards further along the edge of the fairway and we were now at the point where Charlie lost the trail for good. At that point, Charlie and his friend went on to search the woods on that side of the fairway, and the woods beyond. Now I was hoping / praying that Thor would take us in a totally new direction. Soon after, he was in the middle of the fairway, heading back across towards the cart path and woods beyond. Yes! Charlie, had never searched in this area. It was totally clean and Thor was heading hard into it. That buck should be lying, dead ahead within a few hundred yards. So, I hoped!
Well, we continued into the new section of woods for another 200 yards with Thor seemingly, still on the trail – I sure thought so. Then, just as I was beginning to doubt him (I shouldn’t do that!) I spotted what I thought was a blood spot on a wet leaf. I stopped and dabbed it with a white paper towel – BLOOD! The last blood sign I’d see on this entire track. A short time later, Thor was in his 4th or 5th area of circling. I stood by for 5 minutes trying to be patient – it’s hard! Finally, he was off on another 200 yard line thru the woods. I expected to see the dead Buck ahead of us at any moment. We’d been in this woods for at least 400 yards, the buck should have bedded by now. After another 100 yards we were at the corner of the woods and a clover field. Here, Thor spent at least 10 minutes circling a 30-yard diameter area in the woods. This is torture! Multiple times, he would seem to head off on a line out of the area, only to come circling back! In our early tracking days, I couldn’t take it, and would pull him off in a direction I wanted to go. Now, I’ve learned that he almost always figures it out, if I give him the time he needs. Finally, Thor headed into the clover field and then took a good straight line, for about 100 yards, across it to the woods beyond. He quickly got thru the woods and then we headed into a large thick brushy basin. We were now more than a half mile beyond the last bed, with no sign of the deer. I began to have my doubts, but Thor was still determined as we headed down the narrow deer trails in the dense brush. After a 200-yard arch thru the brush, Thor’s nose was suddenly up, scenting hard. 10 yards later I caught a whiff and a few yards later I saw half a rack poking out of the weeds ahead – we had him!!! The buck was a big 6Pt, and the shot was just about where Charlie thought. The broad head looked to hit the bottom of the liver. Unfortunately, after 4 days, only the rack was salvageable. But that, and the track it took to find him, will provide memories of this Buck well into the future… Photo below shows Charlie and his Buck. Map shows total track route. Red portion is where Charlie tracked the Buck, Thor tracked the entire route. I learn more and am amazed more every day!