By Mark Kenyon

He was the buck of your dreams. Tall tined. Splits, crab claws, stickers, mass. Everything you’d ever dreamed of and for many weeks and months, he was all you dreamed of. And then one day, he was gone.

Maybe you killed him, maybe someone else killed him, maybe you just don’t know. But he was gone. And whether you expected it or not, there was a pit in your stomach. A little empty place, that you couldn’t quite put a finger on or explain, but it was there none the less.

I’ve certainly felt this way before and maybe you have too.

Our aim is to hunt and eventually kill the bucks we pursue, but in the interim we learn their personalties, observe their behaviors, anticipate their habits and patterns, and in some small way, try to understand them. And it leads to this strange phenomena, this connection, almost a relationship, we develop with the animals we hunt. Last year, I experienced this with a deer many of you have heard of named “Six Shooter”. In an article titled “Saying Goodbye To An Old Friend”, I explored the unique mix of emotions I encountered upon completing my three year hunt for this buck, and the strange sense of loss I felt upon realizing I’d never hunt him again.

This year, the buck it seems I’m saying goodbye to is the infamous “Jawbreaker”, whom I’m sure you’ve heard more about than you care to. Two years of encounters, finally a shot, and ultimately no recovery. It took quite a while to move on from that hunt, that deer, that connection. But eventually, I had to.

And that’s true for all of us. One buck disappears and another takes it’s place.One dream fades, another comes to life. One story ends and another begins.

While my season is finished in Ohio, it appears that there will be plenty of opportunities for a new story next year. Just over the weekend, my hunting partner Josh returned to our property and encountered three of the big bucks we’ve been hunting, including “Glenn”, a deer who I had an opportunity at last year and missed. In addition to that, numerous new shooters have appeared on camera. Including this giant below … It seems there will be no shortage of new bucks to get to know, to chase, to obsess over and to connect with. And eventually, I imagine this will be true for you too. Another will appear. A new hunt will arise. A new challenge will unfold.

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And then again, maybe an old book will be reopened again too. While I wasn’t able to recover Jawbreaker, I still held on to hope that he might have survived. In late October, I captured several photos of a buck I thought might be him, but after further investigation, turns out that deer was actually the buck seen above. But now, again, a photograph has appeared that just might, maybe, possibly be the ole boy again. Below, you can see that photo. He’s way off in the distance at the extended range of the camera, this photo is actually pretty cropped and zoomed in. And given that this photo isn’t great, it’s hard to say for sure if this is him or not. But there’s at least a chance, and I guess, only time will tell.

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And isn’t that the case for all of us? Who knows what will happen in the months and seasons to come. Maybe you, and I, will have an old friend to chase, or maybe we’ll start anew with fresh faces and a new quarry. Only time will tell.

All I can say for sure is this. There will be new hunts to be had, new adventures to experience, new lessons to learn and new dreams to chase.

And in the meantime, I simply can’t wait, for it to begin again.