Five years ago I was sitting in the "Pecan Orchard" waiting for a mature buck to show up and for the second time that weekend I noticed a 2.5 year old 8 point had come into the food plot. He was easy to identify. For a 2 year old he was already pretty wide (18") and had damaged the tips of his G-2's and G-3's while in velvet. Made a mushroom cap on the very end of each tine. I decided I would name him Mushroom. He joined up in the spring with another 2 year old 9 point that I named Promise, because he looked like he had potential. Except during the rut these two bucks were always seen together.
Over the next few years, both bucks stuck around and I got to watch them mature. This story isn't dedicated to Promise, so I'll drop him from this story now and continue on with the eulogy of Mushroom. Mushroom, when he turned 3.5 made a pretty dramatic jump. He had a split brow tine on his left side and had grown quite a bit in tine length, beams and spread. I saw him several times over that year and just hoped he stayed away from the property lines and the county road so no one was tempted to shoot him.
His 4.5 year came around and I began to watch him grow throughout the summer. He put on an incredible frame and I really began to worry that someone might shoot him if he wondered. Luckily this deer was a homer and never roamed too far from his neck of the woods. At this point he was still an 8 point and the only thing he lacked was mass and more tines. I watched him all through that deer season as well.
The spring of the next year he started putting on bone and it looked like he was going to add the mass he was missing from the year before. The frame was still there. The tine length was even better. Spread was incredible and his main beams were well above average too. He was still an 8 point when he finished growing. I was pretty sure he was over 150" as an 8 point. I couldn't stand it anymore, so I decided if I could take him with my bow, I was going to start trying to kill him. That first year I didn't have a single chance at him with my bow. I saw him on several occasions while rifle hunting for does and culls, but refrained from shooting him as I thought this would be an absolute remarkable bow kill.
Last year I couldn't wait to check the cameras to see how he had progressed throughout the summer. When I pulled the cards and started flipping through the pictures I was disappointed. He still had the same frame and might have even improved overall, but he had broken his left brow tine during velvet and I knew when he went to rub velvet off he would break the brow tine completely off. Ok, so he wasn't going to have matching 6 inch brow tines this year. I could live with that.... But my beautiful 150 class 8 point had grown a g-4 on his right side!!!! Why?? Regardless I was still going to go after him. All last season I was religious about hunting him every chance I got with my bow. Could have taken him with my rifle on a few occasions but I was refraining. Finally the last weekend of deer season I made the trek to my stand in the dark once again and got set up. As I set there in the dark, I heard something rustling in the leaves over to my right. This went on for right at 1.5 hours and continued after sunup. A couple of small bucks entered into the field on my left and the rustling happened again. Both small bucks went on point so I started glassing where they were looking. As I looked I noticed an ear twitch in the thick brush, then I made out an antler. One buck started walking that direction and out stepped a young 8 point. I set there and another buck appeared and then another. Finally from out of his well hidden bed Mushroom stood up not more than 45 yards from me. He watched me climb into my 21ft ladder stand that morning and never broke for it. I was caught with my pants down, because I was still sitting and had to move with 6 pairs of eyes all within 40 yards of me. After what seemed like 20 minutes of the eternal squat trying to stand up as slowly as possible, I was able to shift my feet to get ready for the shot. The sun had just popped up over the horizon and I was staring right into it. I shifted my feet and waited for all eyes to be looking anywhere but directly at me and Mushroom was feeding at 30 yards from me. I drew without alerting any of the bucks, but was having a booger of a time dealing with the glare coming through my sight. I was able to angle enough to put my 30 yard pin behind his shoulder and steady for the shot. As my finger touched the release I thought to myself, he's about to die. I followed him as he took another step and when he stopped I put pressure on the release. My heart sank when I heard the silence of the morning being broken by a loud CLANG noise and a bright flash of light down close to him as he ran off directly away from me. I put my hand over my eyes and glared to see what happened. At this point with my confusion I was just praying to the good Lord that I didn't hit him at all. Finally I could see it as the sun got higher in the sky. As I followed him that one last step I did not see in his silhouette the feeder leg that he had stepped behind. The loud CLANG I had heard was the sound of my broad head hitting it squarely and blowing my arrow up into 4 pieces. I started to make out the pieces on the ground from my perch. I got down and confirmed that it was a clear miss and a weight was lifted off of me that I hadn't wounded this buck. Trail camera pics 2 weeks later confirmed my miss. I never did get on him again with my bow.
My place is on MLD so I put my cameras out for one of my deer surveys and couldn't wait to see what he was this year. NO BROKEN BROW TINE!!!! But he did grow the scrawny g-4 again. I put cameras all around him to try to get his pattern before rut started. One problem, I wasn't getting any pictures of him. So I decided to hunt him with my bow based off the same info I had last year. I got in one bow hunt in October and did something to my left shoulder that hurt every time I pulled my bow back. I lightened the draw weight, but it still hurt. It was time to go to the ranch to take out some does and decided I would take my 5 year old son with me to get a hunt in too. I told my wife that in light of my shoulder, if I saw Mushroom while Hamilton was hunting with me I would try to take him, as this would be a very special moment to share with my son. She has grown pretty tired of my endless pursuit of this buck so she was really hoping he would step out. I picked my son up in town from his grandparents house and gave him the choice. We could either go after the BIG BUCK and take a chance on not seeing anything or we could go to a different location and have a chance at seeing a bunch of deer. Makes a daddies heart swell up with pride when he hears his son say, "Daddy, let's go get that big buck!!!" THATS MY BOY!! So we get over there plenty early and I get him set up with my iPad, cheetohs, cookies and juice. As he was watching train videos on You Tube he would look up on occasion and ask if I had seen any big bucks yet. I told him he would be the first to know if I did. About an hour after getting in the blind I noticed movement back behind the feed pen on the other side of the barb wire fence separating the two pastures. I through up the bino's and saw a 9.5 year old buck I had named Cull 8 6 years ago coming our way. I told my son, close up the iPad, we're going to shoot this buck. I reached for his ear muffs and I'm working on getting them on him and I ask him if he sees the buck. He says, "Yeah, he's big!!!". I'm thinking to myself, he's not big, there's a reason I named him Cull 8. I get him situated and set my bino's down and reach for my gun as I look back out the window for the first time since spotting Cull 8. Expecting to see Cull 8 getting ready to jump into the feed pen, I was extremely surprised to see Mushroom standing between us and the feed pen staring down the run down buck in the brush. It was as if he was challenging the old man to dare take one step into my kitchen and I will clean your clock!! I told my son this was him, this was the buck we were after. I asked him if he was ready and when he didn't respond, I knew his hearing protection was working. I settled the cross hairs on the point of his shoulder, as I wanted to anchor him right there and not take a chance of losing him in the dense green briar thicket that surrounded this setup. I squeezed the trigger and watched the buck instantly drop. My son was super pumped and so was I.
It's really bittersweet. The cat and mouse games that I played with this buck over the better part of 2 seasons has ended. I failed at my goal of taking him with my bow, but at the same time I got to share that moment with my 5 year old son. Some of my best memories were when I was his age sitting in a deer blind with my dad. I hope it's the same with him. I'm sorry for the long read, but I figure this old monarch deserved to have his story told. Man what an opening weekend.