Rack Magazine

Happy Ending

Happy Ending

By Louis Locke

The perfect salve for losing a deer is to get another, even bigger one.

My 2015 deer season got off to a rough start.

My first — and what should’ve been my last — time in a stand that year was the evening of Oct. 1, earlier than I usually hunt. Trail camera photographs prompted me to jump-start the season.

I’d planted a food plot the previous spring, and nice deer were coming to it. I had several on camera starting in September.

I decided to go out on Oct. 1 and had two bucks from photographs sparring behind me around 5 p.m. The bigger one then walked directly under my stand en route to the food plot 10 yards in front of me.

I drew as it moved behind some branches, and then it turned and was quartering away. I decided to take the shot, and my hit appeared to be good, though maybe a little high.

The deer sped off quickly, and I lost sight of it. But I heard it coughing just like the buck I shot in 2014. In my mind, it was a lung hit; the buck was as good as dead.

I decided to sneak out at dark and call my son and friend to come help. We decided to eat dinner at Applebee’s first, to give the deer time to expire. We started searching about two and a half hours later.

We found very little blood, just a few drops about 20 yards from where I shot it. We then found the spot where the buck must have stood, and there was a good spot of dark blood.

I was unnerved to hear the deer coughing again in the nearby brush, apparently before leaving post haste. And that’s when we decided to back out and return the following morning.

I was back on the trail soon after my shift ended, and I found where the buck had bedded. There was a lot of blood. I also found my arrow about 20 yards from first bed in its trail. It was unbroken and appeared to have been pulled out.

One of the broadhead blades was bent. So I figured it must have hit bone.

The trail then led into high grass, where I found four more beds about 5 yards apart, all full of blood. The grass was 5 feet high, tough going, and we lost the trail after four hours.

We jumped several deer from the grass, but couldn’t tell if one of them was my buck. I decided to call it quits for a while and to get a few more guys to walk out the grass later that afternoon.

We never found any further sign of the deer. I concluded that the arrow must have clipped only one lung, at best.

I spent the next month earnestly checking for crows, looking at my trail cameras and even searching neighboring properties, but I found no other sign of the buck. Not knowing if it was alive or dead was driving me crazy, but I’d done everything possible.

I didn’t hunt much after that. I had my leave scheduled from Nov. 9-15. I wasn’t planning on hunting hard until that week. But then I got news that my son was returning home from Australia for an unplanned visit on Nov. 5. We had to travel three hours to Kansas City to pick him up, and I had to take an added day of leave to be able to travel with my wife to get him.

While travelling to KC, I read an article in a hunting magazine about the seven best days to hunt. Nov. 6. was one of them. I was planning in my mind a way to make it work for me to do a morning hunt on the 6th, if possible.

My son said he wanted to sleep late, so I got my wife Karmen’s approval to do a morning hunt. I decided to go to my other property that is in Argonia, Kansas, a good hour and a half drive. I had collected a photo of a good buck with a split P2 from that place.

I didn’t have any idea what a surprise awaited me. I hunted all morning, seeing only small bucks. I did rattle in a couple of 21/2-year-olds, but nothing I wanted to shoot. I decided to take a rest and eat a snack.

About 10:40, I heard a noise in the timber to my left. A doe popped out and was meandering about 20 yards in front of me. She kept looking back, and then I heard what sounded like a dog panting.

I looked and there was a big framed buck in the timber with its tongue hanging out, breathing very heavily. I went to reach for my bow, but the doe saw or sensed me and trotted up the pasture.

The buck moved directly in my window after that, but I couldn’t draw my bow quickly enough. It trotted after the doe, up the pasture, crossed the creek and went into the property’s bedding area.

I knew the buck was a shooter. Its antlers stuck way outside its ears, and the rack had good mass. I never got a real good look at its antlers, however.

After that incident, I texted my wife and told her about my morning. I asked her if our son Jeremiah was up yet, and she said he was still sleeping. I asked what his plans were for the evening and when I needed to be home.

She said Jeremiah wanted to go to the high school football game, meaning we didn’t have family plans until late. Accordingly, I got permission to stay afield for the rest of the evening.

I was excited. I decided to wait out that buck. If I was going to get a chance at it, I needed to be in the pasture when it and its girlfriend rose from their beds.

I stayed in my stand for the rest of the day, mostly watching squirrels. At about 4:30, I saw a doe walking in the pasture. I figured the buck was behind her, though I didn’t see it.

She grazed for a while. I then heard a faint grunt. I got my bow ready and decided to just be quiet and see what happened. The grunt kept getting louder and louder. I knew the buck was getting closer.

I eventually saw the deer at the creek bank, headed my way. It wound up directly in front of me at 20 yards, scent-checking the trails that were coming up the creek bank. It then turned, went in the creek, and began following it, grunting with every step.

I drew when I could. The buck eventually was broadside as it made its way to my right. I’m a right-handed shooter, so my drawing arm was pinned against tree. I couldn’t get my pin settled.

I had to adjust my feet and stance because the deer was about to get out of my shooting lane. When it stopped to smell the bank, I released my arrow. The hit appeared to be on the back side of ribs.

The buck ran 100 yards south and stayed in the creek until it hit the bridge, where it went up the bank. I heard a crash a few minutes later.

I waited until dark and headed toward the road to my truck. I shone my light where I heard the crash while I was walking up road and couldn’t see anything, so I decided to go to my truck and think about what to do next.

I thought I would drive down the road and see if my headlights could illuminate anything. As I neared the bridge, I saw blood splatter all across the road. I got out and shone my light. The blood was heavy, and the trail went into neighboring property.

After I thought I heard movement in the brush, I decided to back away and go to farmer’s house to gain permission to continue tracking on his land. He knew the owner, and I thought it would be best to start the search in the morning.

I didn’t want to lose another deer. So the farmer and I made plans to meet at 9:00 after I got off work from night shift to search for the deer. I also called my son and told him to meet me there.

He decided he would hunt the property that morning, and then help me search when I arrived. I picked up one of my friends, Roger Bushe, on the way. We got a call from my son at 8:45. He said there was a car parked close to my blood trail across the road.

I told him to stay at my blood trail and start tracking to investigate if someone was trailing my deer. I called the farmer and asked him to also go down and see what was happening. I was worried someone was taking my deer, of course.

It turned out the car belonged to a couple of bowhunters who were hunting across the road. They were walking out of the woods from the west when my son got on the blood trail.

I arrived and we found where the deer had crashed that night. It hit a tree and blood was all up and down the trunk. Part of the arrow was there, too. But we couldn’t find any more blood after that, even after I got on my hands and knees.

I was devastated. I began to think I’d lost another deer.

I decided to do a grid search after exhausting all efforts to find any more blood. We formed a line of six people about 5 yards apart. I wanted to walk the creek for a quarter-mile down one side, and then turn around and follow the opposite bank.

We found the deer 75 yards from where it had crashed into the tree. I was elated to hear Roger yell, “Here he is!”

I was also jumping for joy to discover it was a double-brow buck.  I always wanted to harvest one. I named him the “Double Brow Surprise.”

I had no history with this 17-pointer. No trail cam pictures.

I’m just very pleased for the happy ending, even though the coyotes found it before we did.

Editor’s Note: Seems Louis Locke can’t walk in the doors of Topeka’s Monster Buck Classic without carrying a tremendous set of antlers. He was also featured in the July 2015 issue of Rack magazine for his 2014 buck that had a composite score of 200 1/8 inches.

This article was published in the June 2017 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.

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