Might take only one hunter to shoot a deer, but a community is sometimes required to recover it.
Chad Durfey’s story begins when he took his daughter, Julia, trail riding behind their house in late July 2015.
“We were just sharing some father-daughter time,” Chad said. “As we neared the river, we saw a group of deer feeding in a bean field about 400 yards away. I had my binoculars, so I paused to look.”
Two bucks were among the dozen or so does, and one was pretty impressive. While his daughter was looking at them, Chad took a call from a friend. As they chatted, the big buck became part of the conversation.
Chad’s buddy eventually talked him into taking a picture of the deer by holding his cell phone up to the binocular.
“I got an image, but the quality was lacking. Still, there was enough to see the rack was quite large. I kept the information close to the vest for as long as I could,” he smiled, adding that he’d gained permission to hunt that farm 15 years earlier.
Chad set up a trail camera to monitor a mineral site and checked it in mid-August.
“Sure enough, I had several photographs of this buck in full velvet on two different dates,” he said. “There was a two-week interval between pictures, but both times it appeared as if the buck had approached from the south.”
Chad moved the camera about 50 yards closer to his deer stand and pointed its lens toward a corn pile.
“I never got any more pictures of the deer before the season opened,” he said. “By mid-October, I felt I might be doing more harm than good by keeping the corn pile stocked. All I was doing was feeding the raccoons.”
Rather than hunt after work on a chilly Oct. 13, Chad opted to stay home and take care of yard work. He resumed hunting the next day, and pulled the camera’s memory chip on his way out of the woods.
At home later that evening, he plugged the card into the computer and, lo and behold, saw the buck he so desperately wanted. The deer he’d nicknamed Train Wreck had stood in front of the camera while Chad was mowing the grass the previous evening.
“Why Train Wreck? Because I knew I would be a wreck if I ever got a chance to shoot him,” he said.
Chad worked Thursday, but he was free to take advantage of a favorable wind on Friday. He told his wife he was going to go behind the house.
“I always try to keep her informed of where I will be hunting,” he said.
Worried over the noise his ATV would make, Chad decided his mountain bike might be the stealthier option. He tested his theory before leaving the house.
He gathered his gear to see if he could comfortably sit on the bike. Once aboard, he held his longbow across the handlebars and rode down his driveway and back, twice. Piece of cake, he thought.
“I went down to where the landowner had mowed a path through the CRP. I laid my bike down in the weeds and walked into the bottom I wanted to hunt,” Chad said.
At the crack of dawn, he blew a few tending grunts through his call, but then thought better of it because there wasn’t enough light to see anything. He resumed around 7:40, and then waited another 10 minutes. The third time he grunted, he stood and tried to direct the sound in different directions.
“After that, I pushed the call back inside my shirt and sat down,” he said. “Soon, I was looking to the northeast when I caught movement to the side. I shifted my eyes and saw antlers moving. I knew they belonged to a shooter buck, but I did not know it was Train Wreck.
“He came to within 30 yards and stopped, which was too far for me to shoot,” Chad continued. “Then he turned and started walking toward me. At 15 yards, he passed behind a large hickory tree and stopped. That gave me a little time to calm down.
“He was looking left, then right, probably for whoever made that (grunting) sound. I was standing and waiting, sure that I was going to get a 15-yard shot. All I had to do was draw my bow,” he said.
Suddenly, a hen turkey flew down out of a tree and landed 10 feet in front of the buck. You’ve got to be kidding me! Chad almost screamed.
“The turkey ruffled her wings, spotted me up in the tree, and then took off,” Chad said. “I just knew the buck was going to blast out of there as well. But what does he do? He takes a few steps out from behind the tree, toward the spot where the bird landed!
“I drew, aimed and released,” he said. “Instantly, I screamed inwardly: The shot is all wrong!”
The arrow landed in the leaves, 2 feet in front of the buck, which had no clue what had happened.
“He took another couple of steps in the direction the turkey had flown, turning his butt to me,” Chad continued. “He was about 24 yards away, watching the turkey going down the hill.
“I hated that turkey before, but I was loving her for being the distraction,” he added.
The buck’s wide-eyed fascination with the fleeing turkey allowed the rattled hunter to grab and nock another arrow. But Chad didn’t have a clear shot, even though the deer was still inside 25 yards.
“Just when I thought it was hopeless, the buck turned and started angling toward me. I quickly found a shooting lane, and when he stepped into the opening, I bleated softly with my mouth.
“He stopped, and I released,” he said. “It was a perfect shot, except the arrow wobbled a little just before impact, which affected trajectory. I saw the arrow bounce off his left shoulder and fall to the ground.”
The buck wheeled and ran for about 40 yards, favoring his left front leg.
Chad figured he had nothing to lose, so he began grunting in a last-ditch attempt to soothe or lure the deer back to him. The maneuver got the whitetail’s attention, but not enough to alter its course.
Train Wreck was at 70 yards, going the other way, when Chad realized another buck was approaching.
“A young buck walked right over to the arrow on the ground, sniffed it, and almost jumped out of its skin. It ran several yards and stopped,” Chad said.
“When I returned my attention to Train Wreck, he was gone. I have no idea where he went, if he left or fell,” he continued. “So I just sat still.”
Chad sent text messages to several friends and remained seated until 9 a.m. When he got down, he went straight for the arrows, first then second, anxious to check for blood.
The first arrow was clean, indicating a miss. The second, or at least the back 15 inches of it, was also clean. But the front end, lying about 15 yards away, was painted red.
Rather than follow the blood trail, Chad went back to his bike and pedaled home. He wanted to confer with friends, call a lady with a tracking dog – just in case – and call his boss to take the afternoon off from work.
The latter was easy. His supervisor even offered to assist in the search if they waited until 1 p.m. It took that long for all the volunteers to gather.
It rained, a 15-minute downpour, right before the search began.
After the trackers found where the injured buck had bedded, they fanned out and covered several hundred yards. When the blood trail ceased, they called in the dog.
When the dog lost the trail, they called off the search.
Later that afternoon, Chad, his son Jaxen, and his friend Charlie returned to start again just north of the last blood. In less than 15 minutes, Charlie reconnected with the trail.
The guys followed the sign slowly and quietly, but they still wound up jumping the buck. Chad, stooping in the thick brush, heard before he saw it.
“I stood up just in time to see him slowly making his way out the far side, definitely favoring the left front leg,” he said.
“I hung my hat on a branch, and we backed out of there and went back to the house,” he continued. “I called all my friends – Josh, Brock and David – to let them know we were going back in at daylight Saturday.”
Chad didn’t have the whole day. He and his family were supposed to be in Columbus by noon so his wife, Marna, could run in a marathon.
His deer hunting entourage got an early start. They lost the trail in a bean field, so Charlie stayed in the field while everyone else spread out in the neighboring woods.
Chad eventually found more blood, and then he came across the deer’s bed, but he couldn’t really tell how fresh it was.
Not long afterward, David found the dead buck. After 30 hours of being a train wreck, Chad knelt beside his undoer.
Hunter: Chad Durfey
Score: 188 6/8
Editor’s Note: Ed Waite is a master scorer and regional director for Buckmasters Whitetail Trophy Records. A longtime contributor to Rack magazine, he has also published three volumes of big deer tales, “Wallhangers” I, II and III, which are available at book stores, on Amazon and through WallhangersUSA.com.
This article was published in the October 2016 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home. Read Recent RACK Articles:
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