Buckmasters Magazine

Lost and Found

Lost and Found

By Tom Fegely

How a top-10 Pa. buck almost never made it to the hunter’s wall.

Much of deer hunting’s enjoyment and memories involves sharing tales experienced by friends and other lucky and wise hunters. Each year’s deer camp provides a wealth of stories of bucks seen but not shot, others that got away and some that didn’t.

For those that didn’t get away, the tale often shares a common theme: The hunter works in close enough for a clean shot, and the deer drops in its tracks. It’s the essence of the whitetail experience.

But things don’t always work out that way. Even some short shots turn into long searches. Consider this factual occurrence. You’ve spent a few lucky hours afield and have been blessed with shooting what might well be a near-record archery buck. It’s the biggest buck you’ve ever seen, and you know the 20-yard shot was precise. But somehow the buck leaves no blood trail. Now, several days later, hope has diminished. Will fate intervene and provide another opportunity to find it, say, in another few weeks?

Fat chance.

But it could — and it has.

A Local Legend

Just ask Chris Scott of Zionsville, Pa. His 2005 deer season was anything but simple and dull, thanks to a buck he believes he and a few other local hunters encountered in the same area as far back as 2002. Scott’s most recent tale began on a cool, still October afternoon when the Pennsylvania bowman, then age 47, strapped himself into a 20-foot fixed-position treestand about three hours prior to quitting time.

The stand had been placed in a heavily vegetated farmland fencerow in southeastern Pennsylvania with a soybean field on one side and an unharvested cornfield on the other. It had always been a reliable deer stand, as proven by Scott’s dozen bucks taken there over the past 27 years.

The sole object of Scott’s 2005 quest — he’d decided prior to the season opener — was to focus on a local legend buck that he’d seen on rare occasion over the previous three or four years. The deer had approached to about 70 yards in the bean field on the final evening of the 2004 bow season. However, it was the first and last glimpse Chris would get of the buck at any time throughout the hunting seasons that year.

Lost and FoundThe 2005 Showdown

That buck was on Scott’s mind the moment he left work at 4 p.m. on Oct. 17, 2005. By 4:30, he had strapped himself into his treestand, hoping that would be the day. He saw a few small does in the first 30 minutes, but things picked up shortly after 5 p.m. Prior to climbing up, Chris had taken a few minutes to drip Tink’s #69 Doe-In-Rut Buck Lure at the base of a tree near his stand.

It didn’t take long for the fun to begin. Several does showed their black noses as Scott watched the edge of the bean field from his platform 20 feet above. Cautiously peeking over his shoulder, he was stunned to see a hefty, white-antlered buck slowly approach the tree line, then move deliberately closer to sniff the highly odiferous rutting scent.

Chris harbored no doubt that this was the buck of his waking thoughts the past few years and the deer he last saw on the final eve of the 2004 bow season. Silently and calmly, Scott hoisted his bow and traced the deer’s route toward the bean field. Confidently and calmly, he released the Easton carbon arrow as the buck closed to 15 yards.

Well-Placed Shot ... Or Not?

The white-antlered, non-typical buck lunged and flicked its tail as Chris watched it sprint across the soybean pasture and disappear on the opposite side. It was over in seconds. He knew his shot was on the mark but didn’t recall seeing the blue-and-orange fletching to help locate the kill. That would need consideration later. The job now was to find the buck, which Scott didn’t think would be much of a problem.

“I couldn’t wait to get down and take a close-up look,” Scott said later. “There was no doubt in my mind that the shot did its job.”

But the buck wasn’t to be found. Five or so hours later, in company of his brother, Tim, Scott admitted that his enthusiasm was starting to wane. They found no hint of blood or tracks. Without some kind of sign, the chances of finding the wounded or deceased deer were slim at best.

“That’s what really did me in: not finding any blood,” he said. “We also checked a (nearby) road and couldn’t find anything but a few specks of blood. I watched the buck quartering away through the soybeans, but found nothing there either.”

Lost and FoundPraiseworthy Persistence

Five more days of searching revealed no additional news. By Oct. 22, Scott and a couple friends had put in dozens of hours and finally accepted the fact that despite their persistence, the behemoth buck had somehow given them the slip. Or had it been killed or wounded by someone else and not found?

Taking a break from his routine, the next day Scott hunted another location near his home and took a 6-pointer. But even then he wasn’t satisfied.

“I wanted the season over,” said Scott. “I was hoping that I would at least know if I killed it or not. That’s what was bothering me most of all. I just had to know.”

Finally, on Nov. 12, the final day of the fall archery season, came the first bit of positive news since mid-October when the initial shot took place. The landowner, whom Scott didn’t personally know, told Scott of hearing about an exceptionally large buck supposedly found dead by a hunter on an adjoining property.

It wasn’t until after Christmas, however, that avid bowhunter and adjacent property owner Kip Kogelman and his friend Matt German — both ethical and honest bowmen — called Scott to inform him of a particularly large buck they discovered.

Via phone, Scott told of his blue-and-orange-fletched carbon arrow.

“The arrow had penetrated the vitals,” German noted. “It didn’t pass through, and the buck died about a quarter mile from where Chris shot it.”

The entire sequence of events had stretched from Oct. 17 to Dec. 28. Upon retrieval, the entire arrow was still inside the deer when it was found. Scott, Kogelman and German had been hunting the same buck for several years.

The matter needed no further scrutiny. “He (Scott) shot it and he should get it,” said Kogelman. “I would want the same done for me. I’m just happy to be part of it.”

Glitch in the Hunt

Later in the week when the buck tale made the local newspaper, the three hunters contacted Bob Danenhower of Bob’s Wildlife Taxidermy regarding how the buck should be tagged. Who, indeed, owned it? State law mandated that anyone who handled the untagged deer was in violation of state game law. Each of the hunters had it in their possession at one time or another.

Area wildlife conservation officer Matthew Teehan interviewed the men involved and determined that the participants were safe and merely caught up in a complex chain of events.

Scott paid a fine of $10 per point — $130 — giving him full ownership.

Say Cheese

Surely not everyone expects to experience the sort of ordeal that Chris Scott endured from October through January of the 2005 deer season.

But this buck seemed destined to draw attention.

Take, for instance, the day in late September when workers for a local utility company working a country line spotted a monstrous buck feeding in a scrubby field. The weeds and stunted trees made it difficult to separate the deer from the stubble as it fed in the distance.

Noting that no one had a camera on hand, one of the linemen lowered the bucket in which he was working, hopped in the utility truck and sped to his home a couple miles away. Upon his return, he got back in the bucket and snapped photos, while also filing the memories away. Those who experienced the event had proof to go with any tale told of the majestic 13-pointer. The deer, you might have guessed by now, was the majestic 13-pointer, which now hangs on Chris Scott’s wall.

The Score Card

The behemoth whitetail weighed an estimated 300 pounds. The rack grosses 210 3/8 inches, which would place it in the top-10 among Pennsylvania bow bucks.

Read More Articles by Tom Fegely:

An Ounce of Prevention: Muzzleloaders require extra care to prevent mishaps and ensure functionality.

Hiding In Plain Sight: We’ve learned some of our best concealment tricks from the original masters.

Bowhunting Mini-Lessons: No matter how many years you hunt with a bow, there’s always something new to learn.

This article was published in the August 2008 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.

Copyright 2021 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd