By Mark Kenyon

Last week I posted an article about spotting the first two “velvet shooters” of the year on one of the farms I hunt – and I was pumped!  You can read about that encounter and see photos at this link. Since that encounter I’ve seen the same two bucks in the same field two more times, and I’ve gotten a couple clips of decent video footage. That said, last night I was watching the videos with a friend, and the more we watched the big 10 pointer the more we thought he might be a buck we knew. That buck is one I call “Leaner”, and he’s a deer I had quite a history with. After reviewing past video from last year, and numerous trail cam pictures I can now confirm that “Leaner” is back and badder than ever!

Needless to say, I’m excited. And when I’m excited, I tend to tell very long stories – so I apologize in advance. But if you’re as obsessed with big bucks as I am, you can probably relate! That said, here’s the story of Leaner.

Lets start at the beginning. Last summer, mid August, I spotted a bachelor group of really nice bucks in the back of a soybean field (pictured above). One of these bucks was an absolute Michigan giant I dubbed “Triple Threat”, given he had a split brow, an inside tine, and a small drop tine. Another buck in that group had a G3 tine that had been damaged in some way so that it leaned in almost horiontally. I named him “Leaner”.

Fast forward to September and I started getting pictures of that same buck “Leaner” , now hard horned and with his leaning tine broke off. I had pictures of him in my Whitetail Institute Imperial Clover food plot, and on the edge of the same bean field I originally saw him. He wasn’t a giant buck antler-wise ( I realize for many of you he might even be considered small! ), but he looked like a three year old, and for me a three year old 120’s 10 pointer in Michigan would be a good deer. So I decided if I got a chance at him during the season, he might get an arrow!

Fast forward again now to the end of October. It was October 26th, and it was the first day after a big cold front hit my area. I knew it was going to be a good night of action, but the wind wasn’t right for any of my best stands. That said, I slipped into a stand I had over the same Clover plot I had pictures of Leaner on, and settled in. Over the course of that night I saw 14 does, and a handful of young bucks. Finally, just before last light I looked ahead of me and immediately saw a big white rack crossing a power line clearing in front of me. He was about 50 yards away, just out of range, and before I could hardly react he had crossed the clearing and was out of sight. A minute or two later he emerged in the cut bean field about 200 yards away, in which he proceeded to chase does around. I got some footage of him in that field, and upon reviewing that I immediately realized that I had just had a close call with Leaner.

Now we’re going to take a time machine into November, I headed out to Iowa for the first 8 days of the month. But upon my return, I had a slew of pictures of Leaner on my trailcams – if I hadn’t been in Iowa, I would have had some nice daytime encounters with him! Most of the pics were on a camera placed over a scrape – again in the same vicinity of all the previous pics/encounters. It now appeared that he had an arrow wound, entering high on his left side, and mid level in his paunch on the right. Interestingly, later that year I heard from a neighbor that his neighbor shot a ten pointer, but it was a bad shot and they never found him. I’m guessing that was Leaner!

On Nov  12th I began hunting this piece of property again, as a major cold front rolled through that brought a 30 degree temperature drop along with rain and some sleet/snow. I had three days left before gun season, and I was going to hunt every hour of daylight I had left.

So, November 12th was a frigid, wet and windy day. 30ish degree temperatures, 20ish mph winds, and constant rain/sleet. I was bundled up in my treestand an hour and a half before daylight, and I just tried to weather the storm in my cocoon. Around 9 AM a small buck and doe came running out of the swamp in front of me, and then quickly turned back in and disappeared in the brush. I turned my head for a few seconds to my left to glance at my nearby Winter Greens food plot, and by the time I looked back to my right, the small buck and doe were back, now only 40 yards away. With them was a big buck! It was Leaner.

I was so caught off guard by his sudden appearance at 40 yards that I wasn’t able to move or grab my bow at all until he began walking away. By the time I could move, and I grabbed my bow, he had moved out to 60 yards and moving fast. I knew I had to try calling to him, so I searched my pockets for my grunt tube. I got a quick grunt out, but still no reaction so I figured I would try a snort wheeze.

Now, some of you may rmember this story from the fall, as I featured this in a separate post and in one of our webisodes last year. But to make a long story short, I accidentally blew my snort wheeze through the regular grunt chamber on my grunt tube, instead of the special chamber just for snort wheezes. This resulted in a horribly loud noise, and Leaner took off like a rocket. Epic fail.

I never saw him again.

So here we are now again in 2013 and last week I saw this 10 pointer feeding on this same property. When I first saw the buck, I didn’t realize who it was. He had a decent 10 point frame, stickers coming off the base of both main beams, and a potential flyer starting on one of his G2’s. He looked to be a stud in the making.

Last night, when reviewing footage again I got to thinking that the frame of this deer was similar to that of Leaner. And then I noticed a scar on his back right paunch. Immediately I knew it was him. I compared footage from this year and last year, and without a doubt this was Leaner. He’s back!

So I realize thats a long story – and I guess the only moral of the story is that I’m pumped! I’ve only just begun to be able to hunt a couple properties for multiple years in a row, so it’s really exciting to begin developing history with bucks. Needless to say, I’m really excited to see what Leaner grows into this summer. And if he’s anything like he was last year, he should be very killable.

The hunt for Leaner begins now!

Do you have any bucks on your hit list this year that you’ve got history with? Tell us about them in the comments!