TLDR: Caught up to a nice 8 with three years of history this morning.
I've been hunting hard most of the season and been making progress on some of our doe/exotic goals. I've glassed some nice bucks, mostly 4 year olds and one 5yr old last week who we had on the do not shoot list. Almost all of our target bucks this year are what we call "border" bucks. Their range extends onto the ranch, but the bulk of it is on a neighbor and as such have been showing up on our place mostly at night which makes for tough hunting. Despite this, we always have a few surprises and deer that we know only move in during certain times of the late season.
Anyways, I wrap up work Friday and hit the road. Run into some traffic delays so I plan on going to Cottonwood, which is one of our easier access spots. I pull through the gate and make it down to the blind by 3:45, later than I would like but I can see the corn feeder and most of the huntable area and I am clear. The protein feeder is in the opposite direction and you can't see it until you are right at the blind. I slowly walk up and as I do, a large deer round the protein feeder. I drop to a knee and am blocked with some brush, but Lady, my dog, is already at the steps of the blind. She sees the buck and freezes but unfortunately being still doesn't hide you well when you are the size of a small white horse. The buck looks up, sees her, and takes off. All I see through my scope is some backwards sloping g2s as is exits into the draw.
The Trouble Maker
Friday evening, I see a few 1yr old bucks, a pretty regular 3yr old, and a couple red deer hinds which we still need to take a few, but I decide is too much work for one person to clean at dark, especially when there was a mature shooter in daylight in the area. Saturday morning is a cold, crips 26F, and I get to the blind, completely clean this time, around 6:15AM. About 10min before shooting light, I spot a couple does make their way to the protein feeder from up the draw. The corn feeder goes off and they hop out of the pen and head that direction. Two make it all the way and two stop short in the food plot ~50yds in front of me. I am watching the two in front of me for a few minutes before turning my attention back to the two at the corn feeder. Except there are three deer there now. I throw up my binocs and can tell right away it is a big bodied 8pt, but one I don't immediately recognize. I need it to turn and look up to confirm its 5+ and to try and identify which deer it might be. It gives me that angle and to my surprise, it is a deer we call "Split Ear". Split Ear is a buck that we now have 3 years of history with and a buck we believe to be at least 5yrs old. He typically shows up Mid December and will stay through February, but is always in post rut body shape so we have never been entirely sure just how old he is. He turns broadside and a clean shot later is down where he stood.
Split Ear in 2020/21 season - we conservatively estimated 3.5yrs old, but thinking he was more likely 4.5 here.
Split Ear in 2021/22 season - I saw him several times in person this year and passed due to the broken G2. Looking back at these pics, I think he is clearly over 4.5
Checking the cameras later after the hunt, sure enough Split Ear was the buck I saw the afternoon before and had only started showing up again two days earlier. This was the only stand he ever showed up to all three years. He had a similar rack to last year, but the slightly back tilted g2s were new. A nice twist to a great conclusion for this buck.
270win 130gr softpoint was resting just underneath the exit side skin.