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Cherokee County Bow Buck Provides Travis Jackson With Rare Second Chance

Hunter's Journal: August 2022

Reader Contributed | August 2, 2022

Travis Jackson, of Woodstock, with a Cherokee County bow buck from Nov. 1, 2020.

By Travis Jackson

I had been watching a buck for the past two years, having him pop up on camera on several properties where I hunt that are all relatively close to one other. I never had him show up consistently until the summer of 2020 when he started to be a frequent visitor to a property where I had just gained permission to hunt over the summer. At that point he had my full attention. However, just like any other buck, once fall arrived, he changed up his pattern completely and went missing from trail-camera photos. I had started to get worried that another hunter may have harvested him as this is a highly pressured suburban area, and I knew that I wasn’t the only person who knew about him. 

I wasn’t giving up easy. 

At that point I had put everything I had into trying to locate where this buck had mysteriously disappeared. On Oct. 7, I went to check a trail camera on a property where I had just gained permission to hunt a few weeks prior, and to my surprise, he had made his way across a busy main road and ended up 2 to 3 miles from where I had been watching him all summer. I knew it was time to get a game plan together. 

The next day I went in, hung a stand and made a mock scrape and decided I would give it a day or so before going in.

On Oct. 10, I decided the time was right and got in the woods early that morning. It had been raining on and off pretty much all day but was supposed to clear up later in the afternoon. I hadn’t seen much of anything all day but decided to make the best of it and sit it out.

At around 5 o’clock, I saw a deer in the distance but couldn’t tell what it was, but it was heading my way. As it got closer, I immediately knew it was him, and my first case of buck fever set in with knees shaking and teeth chattering. I let my emotions get the best of me and rushed my shot at 48 yards, hitting him high in the shoulder. I immediately knew that I had messed up. Feeling defeated already, I sat in the stand for about an hour replaying the scene over and over and finally worked up the nerve to get down from the stand and see if I could find the arrow. As bad luck would have it, about that time it decided to start raining again, but I went to the point of impact to look for any signs and found about 6 inches of arrow 50 yards away in the direction that he ran. He had broken the arrow off with the broadhead still in him. At this point I pulled out, went home and made my first-ever call for a tracking dog. 

The next morning we set out to start our search. After a 1 1/2-mile track leading back toward the main road where he had originally crossed from his summer hangout, the tracker decided it was time to call the search and said that he felt confident this deer was still alive. Having lost all hope at that point, I headed home to let it all sink in.

I put all my time and effort in the upcoming weeks into keeping protein and minerals out in all the areas where I knew he had frequented in the past in hopes that he would make his way back home. He hadn’t shown up on any of my cameras since I had shot him, but I just had that feeling deep down that he was still around.

On Nov. 1, I had made plans with a buddy to go hunt together at a property we share, but on the way something in my gut told me different, and I made a last-minute decision to go sit at a spot where I often overlook. I hadn’t had him on camera at this particular spot since the prior year, so I had no intentions on him showing up here, but something just told me to go. I went with my gut and headed over to get settled in my ground blind.

It was a slow afternoon, and I hadn’t really seen much, but around 5 o’clock it was like the flood gates opened. I had does coming in from every direction it seemed, until a 4-pointer came in chasing them off. 

At 5:50 a group of does started working their way back in, and I was once again surrounded with about 15 deer. I had my attention over my left shoulder at this time for a few minutes, watching two deer come in from behind me with no knowledge of what was right in front of my stand. 

As my neck started to hurt, I slowly turned my head back around to the front and was shocked to see the buck that I thought I would never in a million years be seeing again. He was standing broadside at 10 yards right in front of me looking me in the eyes. In disbelief I shut my eyes and prayed to God. I slowly opened up my eyes just enough to see through my eyelashes to see him still standing there looking right at me. I kept my composure and waited for what felt like an eternity for him to take his attention off of me with my eyes still half shut. Finally, he had turned his head away from me and had started walking toward a doe. He was standing 25 yards away broadside, but with all the does around me, I knew that if one of them busted me it would be over. I wasn’t letting my emotions get the best of me this time. I waited patiently and prayed to God once again, and He gave me a perfect 25-yard shot. 

I sat there for about 10 minutes in utter shock at what had just happened before I decided it was time to make my first call. I pulled my phone out and called my best friend Tyler, who had been in search of this buck with me since the beginning. Tyler was still in the woods hunting at the property in which we had planned to hunt together that afternoon, so he didn’t answer right away, but he knew when he saw that missed call that something was up. He called me back, and I couldn’t seem to get the words out of my mouth. When I finally gained my composure enough to spill the beans, Tyler was just as excited as I was and I could hear him running through the woods back to his truck. 

About 30 minutes later Tyler arrived, and we decided it was time to look for the arrow. As we walked closer to the point of impact, we could see blood surrounding the area coming from both sides and knew that he wasn’t far. We found the arrow covered in blood and looked up to see him laying against a tree about 20 yards away from the arrow.

When field-dressing him, I was able to recover my broadhead from the first shot, so there is no doubt in my mind that this was the same deer. 

I can’t put into words how truly blessed I am to have this opportunity. I prayed hard and put in a lot of time and effort for this one. If anyone takes the time to read this, I hope that you at least take this from it: NEVER give up and ALWAYS give thanks.

Cherokee County Top Bow-Bucks

Rank Score Name Year County Method Photo
1 178 2/8 (NT) Chad McCook 2007 Cherokee Bow View 
2 172 2/8 (NT) Jeromy Loftin 2015 Cherokee Bow View 
3 142 Scott Cochran 2020 Cherokee Bow View 
4 141 2/8 Matt Wilson 2021 Cherokee Bow View 
5 139 5/8 Rick Ortwein 2019 Cherokee Bow
6 139 2/8 Rick Strickland 2013 Cherokee Bow
7 137 4/8 Blake Hamby 2016 Cherokee Bow View 
8 133 1/8 Blake Hamby 2020 Cherokee Bow View 
9 132 2/8 Jay Beavers 2002 Cherokee Bow
10 130 7/8 Cody Johnson 2021 Cherokee Bow View 

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