Big congrats to my pal Chad Searcey, of Reality Driven Pursuits, for his harvesting of this great Missouri buck. It seems hard work, determination and low pressure were the keys to this story with a happy ending! Enjoy Chad’s account of the hunt for this dandy whitetail.- MK
By Chad Searcey
The sport of deer hunting never ceases to amaze me. The roller coaster ride that is deer hunting seems to have less peaks than valleys; however; when you reach the peak, the gratification and satisfaction that comes with the hard work and efforts one puts in during the off season is often times indescribable to non-hunters.
The story of my NW Missouri buck that I harvested on October 12th, actually starts 10 months earlier during the Missouri muzzleloader season of 2012. The farm I was hunting on a chilly evening last December was a farm I’ve hunted for the last five years. The land owner was a close personal friend of mine that I had met when I started my Doctorate course work. I knew the property well and knew the deer movement patterns; however, it had seemed that over the past couple years, big buck sightings were less frequent than the first couple years I hunted the property. That said, my trail camera pictures told me there were still big bucks roaming the property. I was just never in the right place at the right time.
As I took the stand in December 2012, I was sitting on the edge of some Missouri hardwoods. I was overlooking a clover food plot that I had planted in 2011 and was hoping for the best that night, but wasn’t expecting much. I figured my best chance of seeing a shooter was going to be at last light. After the November gun season, big bucks in Missouri tend to go nocturnal. As I was shivering in the cold Missouri wind, I heard something behind me.
As I turned and looked I was surprised to see two great bucks approaching my stand from the east. Both looked like great bucks, but one was pretty busted up. I noticed the busted up buck had bladed G2s, however his G3s were both broken and a G4 was broken on one side, so I decided to let him go and take the other buck. The buck I called Blades was trailing the one I was going to shoot. As they came within 20 yards Blades stopped and looked directly up at me. I was taking aim at the first buck, and it was obvious he skylined me. He had a look on his face like ”oh crap! Time to get out of here!” So I knew it was now or never.
I quickly squeezed trigger of the CVA Muzzleloader, smoke filled the air and I saw the buck run off on three legs. I was confident I made a good shot. As I began tracking the deer I ran out of light and decided to back out. When I came back the next day I spent 6 hours looking for the deer, but unfortunately I lost the blood trail. In reflecting on the shot, I felt like I rushed the shot and didn’t take into consideration the steep angle that I was shooting at. The buck was close and there was a drastic angle in the bullet flight. I was devastated I lost the buck.
Fast forward to summer 2013. If you follow Reality Driven Pursuits, you know we put in our time scouting, planting food plots, hanging stands, etc. However, I told myself this year, I’m staying completely off this property. I have a strong belief in pressure management, which is one of the keys to a quality deer management system on your farm. This summer, there would be no hanging trail cameras, no messing with stands, no filming bucks in velvet. I was staying completely out. I felt like this was the best way to increase big buck sightings on this farm. Therefore, I decided to wait until mid-October to step foot on this farm for the first time in 2013. Waiting of course, for the perfect wind.
That day happened on October 12th. A good NW wind meant it was time to hunt this stand location. Back to the scene, back to where I lost a buck just 10 months ago.
A friend of ours, Matt Calloway agreed to film the hunt. RDP teammate Jordan Mathes was unavailable so I was glad Matt was filling in. We made it to the stand a good three hours before sun down. I was confident we would see a shooter, in fact I told Matt before walking in, I felt like staying off this farm until now is going to pay off tonight.
After we got set up, we watched a couple does feed out into the clover food plot. We watched as a bearded hen and some other hen turkeys fed through the CRP grass. At approximately 5:45, an hour and a half before dark, I heard Matt say, “CHAD BIG BUCK, GET YOUR BOW!”
I turned around and looked up at him and I said “Really?”, “Yep!” Matt whispered. I could tell in his voice this was no joke. I gave a look behind me in the timber and sure enough a buck was rapidly approaching. The first thing I noticed about the buck was two great bladed G2s! No doubt in my mind this was the busted up buck from the year before. I knew right away I was taking this one. I slowly grabbed my bow, turned around in my stand and got ready. It was under a minute since Matt said something to me and he was on top of us. He came directly to the base of our tree, peered out into the clover field and then slowly started to make his way down the edge of the tree line. I waited until he was quartering away and then released an arrow. You all know the sound…”Thwack!” echoed through the woods! We all know what a sweet sound that can be.
I tempered my excitement after the shot because of what happened in 2012. Matt and I waited about 20 minutes and then got down to search for my arrow and for blood. The blood trail was spotty at best, and we found my arrow about 40 yards from where I shot the buck. It must have fallen out when he was running. Therefore, I hoped that the lack of blood meant the arrow was blocking the exit wound until it fell out and not because I had made a bad shot! The problem we were having while finding blood was there were so many red leaves that had fallen off the trees. Every other leaf looked like it had blood on it. As it grew dark in the timber we decided to back out. I couldn’t help but think, “oh great….don’t tell me I’m going to lose another one…same farm, same stand, same timber….ugggghhh.”
If you’ve ever experienced leaving a buck overnight, you know the feeling….like you, I didn’t sleep much either.
The next morning, Blake Kramer, Justin Mathes, Jared Mathes, and Justin’s wife Laurel came with me to look for the buck. We picked up on the blood trail in the spot after I found the arrow. There were a lot of places where we found great blood. My anxiety was turning to hope. We followed the blood about 300 yards, it led us to a fence line and across the fence was 40 acres of timber. The deer didn’t cross the fence, instead the blood led us directing down the fence line about 50 yards. I concluded the deer was hurt too bad to jump the fence. We came to a point where there was good blood. It was obvious he was bleeding from both sides of his body. However, we lost the trail, it just stopped. We searched across the fence. We walked several semi-circles. Thirty minutes had gone by, no blood.
I back tracked thinking maybe the deer double backed. My hope was starting to fade. Thoughts of 10 months ago entered my mind again. Meanwhile, Blake had crossed the fence and was wandering through the 40 acres of timber, needle in a haystack he was looking for. I was probably 200 yards from Blake when I heard some shouting. Blake was hollering. I yelled, ”WHAT? DID YOU FIND BLOOD?” I then heard Jared, who was between Blake and I yell to me, ”CHAD, BLAKE FOUND HIM!”
I can’t tell you the emotions I started feeling. Emotions I think only one who hunts has experienced. I was the last one to make it to the buck. The rush of emotions was a roller coaster, only faster than before. The buck had been devoured over night by a pack of coyotes. It was amazing…there wasn’t anything left but hide and his head. I can’t say I’m surprised, because for years now I’ve known this section of the country has a coyote problem.
In the end, I was very happy to recover this buck, even if I can’t enjoy his venison. It is an unfortunate reality, but it’s the chance you take when you can’t find a buck after an evening hunt due to darkness.
I want to thank Blake, Justin, Jared and Laurel for taking the time to help me find this buck. There is no way I would have found it by myself. Each one of our team members found blood while on the trail of this buck. I also want to thank the many people that messaged me through social media. Your thoughts and prayers kept my spirits up overnight. I read each comment that was sent to me on twitter, Facebook, and our RDP Facebook page. Although I haven’t met many of you, I appreciate your friendship and want to say thanks for taking the time to give me the encouragement to find this great Missouri Buck. It truly made a difference.
-Chad Searcey, RealityDrivenPursuits.com