Long post so skip to the pics if you would like
So my brother and I started seeing this buck last season as a vey nice 3 year old 8 pt that had 2 white spots on his left shoulder so he quickly got the name Snowflake Jr. (we had a buck a few years ago that we called Snowflake that had white on his right shoulder).
Fast forward to late summer 2021 and we grab our first round of trail cam pics to see what is hanging around. My brother and I both have Snowflake Jr. on camera and he went from an 8 pt to a 10 pt with decent mass for our area. Needless to say he quickly became our #1 buck. We had several shooter bucks on camera but for me this was the only buck I was going to take during bow season that I had on camera barring nothing bigger showed up.
We hunted opening weekend and I had some good hunts with some mature bucks showing up but my brother's area was a ghost town for the most part. My brother was able to connect on a decent sized boar on the 4th just as our trip was ending. Two weeks later my brother gets down to the lease in time to hunt that Friday evening and he Facetimes me as I am heading to the lease after work. I just know he has shot Snowflake Jr. as he shot the buck we were both after last year too
but to my surprise he has arrowed a nice mature 8 pt! It was getting pretty cold so he waited at camp for me to get in so I could see him before we ran him to the processor.
I had a couple of good hunts on Saturday and then Sunday morning I have a black boar come in just before the feeder is set to go off. Feeder goes off and he bolts then quickly comes back in. Knowing I won't be seeing any deer with him under the feeder I send a slick trick his way and he takes off. I quickly recock the crossbow and load another bolt and get settled back down hoping I can still salvage the hunt. After about 30 minutes I catch movement to my left and it's a buck chasing after a doe and then I notice a dark horned buck walking towards me and he turns to go to the feeder I realize it's him. I settle my nerves as he cautiously approaches the feeder and I click the safety off. I settle the crosshair just behind his right shoulder aiming for the offside leg. I squeeze the trigger and my slick trick hits him and he bullnoses into the dirt and stumbles past my feeder and then rolls over to the left and is laying there butt to me. He picks his head up and I can see blood from his right side as I sit there not knowing really what to do or what is happening. I am thinking I hit my mark and he will quickly expire as I am also thinking to myself to recock the crossbow but I would need to lift the arm of my tripod and stand up to do that so I hold off. All of the sudden he starts to get up so I quickly grab my pull ropes and hook them onto the string as he starts to slowly walk off and my follow up opportunity has vanished.
Obviously there are a million things running through my head and second guessing myself about everything that had just happened and the coulda shoulda woulda's start to run through my mind. About 5 minutes later a group of pigs come in and I hear something in the brush rustle around and I believe they jumped him from where he bedded down. I get down out of the stand and run the pigs off hoping they didn't push him far. I call my brother and let him know what is going on. I also recorded the shot with my iPhone that I have a mount setup for. I watch the video and that's when I realize my bolt hit to the right and hit his right shoulder. I slowly move through the video as slowly as I can scroll through the frames and notice the arrow was sticking out his left side and broke against the feeder leg. I get down and grab my arrow that is laying there missing the broadhead and the fletchings.
I leave the area and head to meet my brother. We go over the shot and we think that I hopefully clipped the front part of lungs or at least a major artery. We decide to start filling my brother's feeders and a couple of my feeders before going to start looking for the trail a couple of hours later. We find good blood where he was laying and have a good blood trail for about 30-40 yards and find a large spot, most likely where he bedded before the hogs came in. After that the trail was limited and we made it another 30-40 yards before deciding to call in some dogs.
We call Cecilia Steel and let her know our situation and she loads up her gear and heads our way. We meet her in town and take her to the spot where the buck was shot. After about 5 hrs after the shot she lets her 2 dogs get to work. Turk a veteran tracking dog that is tried and true and Gubbins a 9 month old pup just learning the ropes. Turk hits the trail immediately while the puppy starts going every which way. Turk leads us down the trail we had already been on and then we get to where we stopped and Turk continues on without missing a beat. We cross an interior fence of the ranch onto another section of the ranch and we try to keep up. We make it up a very large hill when Cecilia turns and says "wounded deer won't go up hills huh" as we all kinda chuckle.
We make it about 300 yards or so following the dogs trail with the GPS before she says "they just jumped him" when the puppy starts barking and their pace on the GPS takes off. We make it back down the hill and towards the front part of my area between me and my brother's area of the lease. As we make it down the hill she says Turk isn't following along but Gubbins is still going. We catch up with Turk and she lets him cool off in the cattle trough before we head back into my area to pick up the track.
After a little more searching she calls Gubbins back and lets him cool down at the water trough in my area and then we head back to the trucks. We decide to drive to another interior fence of the ranch were Gubbins had appeared to have lost the track earlier. The dogs start working again but without any clear direction so she decides to back track down the ranch road and puts us on blood again using the GPS from the dogs collars. After finding some blood she gets the dogs back on the track and away they go. As we make it back towards the trucks the dogs cut off the road into the brush where I find a shed stuck in a tree from a buck I took last year we called "Splits". I snatch the shed and continue to follow along. We cross the fence when all of the sudden Gubbins starts barking and Turk takes off to join in on the action. We get within about 15 yards of the dogs when they take off. With all the brush none of us saw what they were after so Cecilia takes us back to the location where Gubbins was barking and we find an armadillo hole and realize it wasn't my buck they ran after.
We continue to follow the track behind the dogs into another portion of the ranch for about another 100 yards or so before we finally decide to call it. After out running two dogs and over 1.5 miles of tracking it is obvious the dogs aren't going to catch him and he isn't hurt bad enough for them to have bayed him. Cecilia tells us that she believes based on shot placement and the reaction to the dogs that we have a good chance of seeing him again. We make our way back to the trucks and take the dogs to another water trough to let them cool down. I pay her for her time and effort even though the outcome isn't what we hoped for and Gubbins comes over and sits in front of me as if almost to say sorry he couldn't get my buck for me. I start petting the pup and when I stop petting him he starts pawing at me over and over. After some more scratches and pets it is time to say goodbye and we head back to the main gate to let them out.
After getting back to camp my brother loads up and heads back home and I decide to head back as well instead of staying and hunting the next morning as I am sick to my stomach. I have lost 2 deer in my life and both have been 10 points. The next 2 weeks I continue to replay the scenario over and over and just pray that somehow I missed everything important and he survives.