The next day came and went with no sightings. Or the next day, or the day after that. It took a full week to relocate him as the rut had kicked in and they were all cruising looking for hot does. Eventually I relocated him about a mile from where I had seen him the night before my season opened and I scrambled to get permission. Ended up getting permission in a spot that he seemed to be using fairly regularly with a big ditch gully draw running through it that the does seemed to like to spend time in. Offering electrical work goes a long ways sometimes.
I spent the next week heading out every morning and every evening looking for him. Got him spotted a few times and got some good photos of him in the snow with that big old rutted out neck. He took our breath away every single time we saw him. It ended up that we could locate him once every few days and I even saw the other bowhunters after him the one time. At this point the rut was in full swing and they were on pretty serious lock down.
Finally one evening I spotted him with a group of 5 does bedded about an hour before sunset about 200 yards away from the big ditch gully on an open flat. I ditched the truck and buried myself into some trees at the edge of the gully. Eventually they all got up and started heading perfectly my direction. One way or the other one of the does pegged me and I thought it was all over. Luckily the lead doe hadn't seen anything and kept coming which drew the buck over to the one that pegged me. I don't think she was all that confident that I was a threat cause as soon as the buck nudged her she got with the program and followed the lead doe down into the gully.
Eventually the does lead the buck right past me at 39 yards. He got up on top of a little rise and was watching his does quartering away with the near leg forward. With the does just out of sight I put the rangefinder down and started my shot sequence. Found my anchor, good sight picture, the middle yellow 40 pin settled at the 2nd to last rib right at the off shoulder. Slow squeeze and the arrow buried to the fletching. In that moment I would have said that it was a perfect shot. He took off and the last I saw of him was at 150 yards doing a wobble walk through the scrub.
The blood looked good and I figured I would give him the night and not push him. The next day I got back on the trail and found blood at every step that he took for a full mile back to the creek bottom that I had watched him in during the October hunt. I eventually found his last bed with very little blood in it. What a nightmare. I had lost the largest buck that I may have ever laid eyes on when I had a tag in my pocket.
I spent too much time looking for him in the coming weeks. The only time I wasn't glassing was when I had to go back to Kansas for Thanksgiving. The week after Thanksgiving, exactly 14 days after the first shot I got a text from a buddy that knew what the situation was. He had found the buck on his feet about 1/4 mile from where I had taken the first shot. I finished up the service call that I was on and sped over as fast as possible. He was in bad shape. When I got there he was watching a group of does being tended by a forkie across a fence. He could NOT jump that fence no matter how bad he wanted to. The first shot was high but he still had a hard limp, labored breathing and looked emaciated.
I wasn't able to get permission until after shooting light but knew where he was going to be the next morning. The does had moved off with the forkie and as bad as he wanted to be on them he could not get across that fence. It would be a gross exaggeration to say that the next morning was anything more than a dispatch as he basically let me get right on top of him with very little effort. In the end I cannot say just how relieved I was to finish him on my terms, and the meat was perfectly fine. The post mortem showed that I had clipped the top of both lungs with the first shot and that there was about 4 cups of BLACK coagulated blood in the bottom of his chest. The CPW officer and I are both on the fence whether he would have made it through the winter.
I don't want to say what we came up with score wise as it seems high compared to what we were guessing, but he is big enough that I am gonna get him officially scored. I've never had that done before and I'm kind of excited for the 60 day drying period to be over with.