Hunter: Ty Phillips
Points: 10 (5L, 5R)
The week leading up to taking this buck, a major October cold front swept through. My dad and uncle both slipped down to our hunting land to take advantage of the morning lows dipping into the thirties, and my uncle was able to capitalize, taking an old warrior buck we had been watching on camera for several years. The morning after taking "One-eyed Jack" as we had called him, my uncle saw this ten pointer walk right past the Redneck blind we have sitting on a large food plot around 300 yards away from the back porch of his cabin. Knowing a big buck had been seen in daylight only days prior, my anticipation was high as I climbed into the Redneck on the afternoon of Saturday the 22nd around 5:00 pm. The food plot behind my uncle's cabin is notorious for holding lots of deer, and over the next hour and a half, 18 does filed out of the hardwoods surrounding it and began to browse on the food plot mix starting to pop up through the tilled dirt. As I continued to watch them, around 6:45, a shot rang out a fair distance away to the North. "I bet that's Hadley shooting Doctor Strange!" I whispered to myself. My dad and brother Hadley were set up on another one of our best food plots in the hopes of shooting a +5.5 year old buck with several unique kickers snaking off his antler bases. For all his character, we had nicknamed him "Dr. Strange" over the summer. As the sun began to sink toward the tree line, the first bucks, a spike and a 2.5 year old, emerged at our trough corn feeder tucked into a stand of tall pines along the edge of the food plot. They fed for around five minutes, sidestepping each other as they chowed down on the fresh corn. Looking back to the feeder after glancing back at the does in the plot, I saw a new rack emerge behind the feeder. "I bet that's him," I thought to myself. Sure enough, as I raised my binoculars, the ten pointer my uncle had videoed filled the frame. My heart began hammering in my chest. I took a few deep breaths, collecting myself, and then got my gun up and waited anxiously as he fed at the feeder, providing me with no shot angle for ten to fifteen minutes. Finally, seeing him prepare to leave, I got my gun up to my shoulder and readied myself. But even as he walked into the plot and got closer and closer to me, he only provided a straight on or steep angle quartering to me. "Come, come on," I thought as he methodically browsed on the food plot shoots popping up from the ground. After what seemed like forever, he finally turned and gave me a slight quartering to angle. "It's now or never," I thought. Steadying the scope, I placed the tip of the crosshair a few inches back from the shoulder to account for the angle and squeezed the trigger. At impact, the buck bolted across the plot and into some high CRP grass in front and to the right of the blind. Shaking, I texted my dad that I had shot him, and after we talked on the phone a few minutes later, we agreed that I needed to go look for blood before it got dark. Descending from the Redneck, I walked in the general area of where I felt the buck had been standing when I had shot, in a gap between two small trees in the plot, and began searching for any signs of blood in the dirt. As I kept looking, I grew more and more nervous and frustrated. No blood to be found. "What an idiot," I thought. "I missed the deer at only fifty yards." In my first few years hunting alone, I've had to deal with the heartbreak of several misses on big bucks. It seemed like I was going to have to navigate that again. I continued looking, walking an 100 yard loop around the entire area. Nothing. Now upset to the point of quitting, I recollected myself and took about ten steps towards the stand. Bam. Tiny, but there it was: a quarter-sized splotch of blood on the ground. I called my dad. "Found blood," I confirmed. "Ok, we'll be there in just a second," my dad replied. Before hanging up, he added that Hadley had shot Dr. Strange, and they had him loaded up the truck already! Excited for Hadley but also now refocused on my own buck's blood trail, I threw down my orange to mark the spot of first blood. Following a faint blood trail, I was gradually able to work my way to the field edge, finding a few drops every four to five yards. But once I got to the edge, it petered out; with the small size of the drops and the CRP grass making the ground difficult to see, I couldn't make any more progress. I waited a few minutes, and soon my dad's headlights came bouncing down the lane and into the food plot. After giving my brother a quick congratulations on his buck, we grabbed flashlights to see in the dusk light and got back on the blood trail. With three pairs of eyes, blood was much easier to find, and we were able to find blood in one of several lanes cut into the CRP. But the quantity of it still wasn't much, and once we reached the reached the point where the tall grass resumed, we were lost again. "Son, I don't like how this blood looks," my Dad remarked. "The color and amount doesn't give me much confidence in your shot placement." We continued looking, but found no more blood or evidence of the buck, and I began to lose hope. "I've wounded this deer," I thought to myself. I cringed as I thought of the buck laying in the hardwoods a few hundred yards away, grappling from severe pain from a gut or liver shot. "Guys, y'all keep looking. I'm going to take a flashlight and do some loop-searching out in front in this high grass." I nodded quietly and looked back down, in utter disgust with myself. A minute passed, then ten, then twenty with no progress. I was ravaged by feelings of failure and shortcoming. At rock bottom, I said a quick prayer that the buck would either die quickly or survive my poor shot, and that, if he died, we would somehow find him, however far away he was. Looking up, all of the sudden, my dad's flashlight stopped about twenty-five yards in front and to the left of us. After a moment of silence, his voice rang out confident and clear over the grass. "Come 'ere boys!" I paused, partly in disbelief and partly in glee, knowing what had happened. My brother and I ran towards my dad. "I got him!" He exclaimed. Whooping loud enough that the neighbors could hear, I ran up to my buck and gave my dad a huge hug. "Son, God helped me find this buck. I felt him pushing me not to give up and to walk this way, and here he is!" He exclaimed. I paused, astounded. Right after I had prayed, God led Dad right to the buck. While he had only run about 100 yards from the point of impact, the CRP grass would've made it tough to find him that night. In a way, God used the difficulty to show his ability to overcome it, and he truly showed his power through the miraculous recovery. After dragging the buck out, my brother and I took individual pictures with our bucks and then took a photo together, fist bumping and celebrating all the while. the body and antler mass on Dr. Strange was huge, and needless to say, there were some shocked faces on much more experienced hunters peering into the truck bed as we pulled up to the processor. While this ten wasn't my biggest buck, he is one of my most memorable and one I will be most proud of. Examining the entry wound on my shot, we concluded that I actually hadn't made a bad shot at all. It was a wonder the deer got as far as he did. God used the uncertainty in the recovery to force us to lean only on him and to fully demonstrate his glory and faithfulness. 'll never forget the memories of finding him and doubling up with my little brother! What a blessing, and what a hunt!!!