Hunter: Anna Seay
Points: 10 (5L, 5R)
We got in our stand about 4 PM overlooking a small food plot adjacent to a good travel corridor near heavy cover. The wind was right in our face, which was perfect. Anna had killed an 8-point buck earlier in the season, and we were hoping to finish her season with something bigger. I really believed that with the season going two weeks longer than in previous years, bucks would begin reverting to a food source based activity pattern as they tried to recover from the rigors of the rut. During the previous hunt we saw nothing, and the hunt prior to that we saw a doe and button head, which were subsequently run off by some cattle. I believed that if we were patient, Anna would get a shot at something good before the end of the season. It was around 5:40 PM when we started seeing some activity as a small spike and 7-point buck entered the food plot. I was sure we had seen both of these deer on trail camera previously. The 7-pointer was a pretty deer, but probably only a year and a half old and Anna had already taken something better this season. I told her that I thought this buck was big enough to end the season on and agreed. Anna had never passed on a buck before unless she was unable to get a clear shot. As the spike and 7-pointer exited the food plot, I noticed that Anna was shaking all over. She normally only does this after the shot. Just then, we noticed another buck entering the food plot from the same direction as the first two. This was an 8-point buck, which I'm also pretty sure we had on our trail cameras in the past. He is a beautiful buck, but also young like the 7-pointer. I told her that I thought he wasn't any better than what she had killed before and pointed out that there might be another buck coming behind him. She agreed to let him walk but continued to shake uncontrollably, which I thought was awesome. Within 5 minutes those three bucks passed through the food plot and began feeding in a smaller section of the food plot that was really just a section that got residual seed when the main plot was planted. Although they were still very close to us, we could only see glimpses of the bucks through the privet and briars as they continued to feed. The opportunity to shoot any of those bucks was gone. To our great surprise, the 7- and 8-pointers began to fight. It wasn't a serious fight like it might have been during the rut, but it was pretty heavy sparring and they engaged each other at least three different times. Anna had never witnessed this behavior before in person. Fifteen minutes had passed since the first three bucks appeared. They were still feeding and sporadically sparring when another buck entered the food plot from a different direction than the other three. Without looking through her binoculars or scope, Anna immediately announced that he was a shooter. I raised my binoculars and quickly agreed. I said "whenever you can" and disengaged the safety for her. "Right in the shoulder," I reminded. Unlike the first three bucks, this deer did not feed in the food plot at all. He walked right through it, alert and with a mission as he headed directly toward the three other deer. Although I did not think of it at the time, I think he may have been responding to the sound of the 7- and 8-pointer fighting. He was about to exit the food plot when I bleated at him. He stopped, and Anna fired. He kicked his back legs high in the air and took off as did the others. Anna later told me that she stopped shaking as soon as she looked through the scope. I was sure that she had hit him, but I was a little uneasy because I couldn't detect a broken shoulder or any other telltale signs of a lethal shot as he ran. Anna and her sister had previously taken 12 deer (10 bucks) with this rifle. Almost half dropped where they stood and most of the rest fell within sight. A couple of others crashed just as they went out of sight. None of those 12 deer had an exit wound and none appeared to have left much of a blood trail although we generally didn't have to try to track them. It had been in the back of my mind that we might need a good blood trail some day and the smaller .243 caliber might not provide it. I quickly texted my friend Bill, who tells everyone that he is owned and has been trained by “Bo” a Black Mouth Cur trailing (tracking) dog. Because of Bill’s profession, Bo’s main focus is trailing people based on a scent article, but Bill feels that to a talented dog, an article is an article and since he technically owns him and not his agency, he has had no issues running the dog on an occasional deer recovery mission. After a deer trail, Bill will follow up with a few human trails in areas of heavy deer travel and has never had a cross track issue. Before it got dark, Anna and I walked into the woods near where the deer had disappeared. As the woods opened up, I hoped that we might see the buck lying nearby or possibly spot the white belly or tail which would give away his location, but we did not. This was disconcerting as none of their other deer had ever run far. We backed out and waited for Bill and Bo. When Bill arrived I showed him the video of the shot and he winced. He didn't like the angle, thinking it was a bit too quartering toward us. Although the camera angle was a little worse than the angle of the actual shot, I was concerned as well. I had learned to trust both of my daughters to make really good shots. Did I get overconfident in their abilities to make a great shot at less than ideal angles? Did she get just one lung instead of two? I started kicking myself for not waiting for the deer to get more broadside before stopping him and was worried that I had messed up Anna's opportunity for her best buck yet. As Bill prepared to let Bo begin the track, I told him that Bo would be my favorite dog on the planet if he found this deer. Bill first let Bo smell us to help eliminate any contamination issue we may have caused. We then took Bo to the approximate location of the deer at the time he was shot, and Bill gave him a command to let him know the track was a “last known area article” and then gave him the command to locate. Bo started playing out his 30-foot tracking lead as he checked things out. There was some concern, as we had four deer bolt from the same general area, but that concern was short lived. Bo appeared to work tightly in the last known area, trailed the deer backward toward the direction from which he had come, got the direction sorted out and came back to the starting point, and proceeded to enter the tunnel in the briars where the buck had entered the woods after the shot. You could see the change in his demeanor when he figured it out and took off. As Bo and Bill disappeared, I stopped to give Anna a flashlight. Immediately Bill called out that Bo was on the track and then he yelled: "Mark that blood!" Mark it? I couldn't even see them through the briars. As we followed and emerged from the briars we began looking for the blood he had spotted. Anna soon found it, a big splash of bright red blood a little bigger than my hand. I hadn't seen blood like that from the .243 before, so I was obviously encouraged. We marked the spot with some surveyors tape and then realized that Bill and Bo were far ahead of us. We could see Bill’s headlamp moving fast as Bo dragged him rapidly through and over all types of obstacles. I think we heard Bill announce that he saw blood at least one more time as Bo dragged him toward his goal. During the track, Bo crossed a creek three times and Bill saw blood at one of those crossings. It wasn't long before we heard Bill yelling for us to “come on” as he was laughing and praising Bo for a job well done. Anna’s shot placement was great for the angle she had, which was not as severe as it appeared on video. I’m sure the buck went down very quickly, but we all know how fast they can cover ground. I can't describe the relief that I felt when I realized that Bo, my new favorite dog on the planet, had found Anna's deer. Bill later checked Bo's GPS collar, which indicated that the distance of the track (in a straight line) was 265 yards. Since the actual path the deer took was far from a straight line (beginning probably 30 degrees off from the straight line direction), the real distance of the track was estimated to be over 320 yards. We both agreed that Bo covered this distance (with Bill in tow) in less than 5 minutes. I have trained, handled, competed and hunted with Labrador Retrievers for over 20 years. In that time I've seen working dogs do some amazing things, but the way Bo made short work of locating that deer was as impressive as anything I've seen a canine do. Bill makes it clear that Bo is an article trailing dog, not a step by step tracking dog. That means that Bo triggers on an article and works both the trail and the scent cone to locate the matching source in the shortest possible route. He says that it is harder to train the tracker not to mess up a dog like this (the dog does not need to be trained, he knows what to do) but the results are impressive. The 2017/2018 season was a season to remember. I got to watch my daughters display a lot of patience and make four really well-placed shots, three of which were made from awkward positions. This was the first season in which they harvested four bucks between them, each taking an 8-pointer and 10-pointer. If you’re not hunting with your kids, you are missing out on some great memories.