By Mark Kenyon

Many of you know the story by heart at this point, but now we finally have an ending. This past weekend, I found Jawbreaker.

Jawbreaker. The buck I’ve been hunting in Ohio for two years, that I got a shot at last October, that I couldn’t recover after two full days of tracking, that I thought I’d seen alive again and gotten a shot at in November, who then turned out to not be the buck I’d shot. The buck I featured in this video, and this article, and this podcast. Yea, that Jawbreaker.

This past weekend, back down in Ohio to shed hunt, I dropped down into a cedar-choked draw, less than five minutes into our walk, and there he was. Lying on a flat spot at the head of the draw, cedars and downed trees on three sides, and his towering frame rising out of the dirt, right in front of me. As soon as I glimpsed the antlers, I knew it was him. He was about 200 yards from where I’d shot him, and within twenty yards of where I’d walked several times while grid searching the area months ago. Was he there at that time, on October 17th and 18th? I’m not sure. But he was here now.

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Momentarily, I lost my breath and a feeling of deep sorrow descended upon me.

I had long ago come to terms with the reality that Jawbreaker had most likely died last fall, but I still didn’t like it one bit. And finally walking up on him, what was left of him now, broke my heart. He was an incredible deer, a massive, mature, mammoth of a deer and he had commanded my imagination for the past two years. And now all that was left of him was a pile of bones.

If I could, I’d go back in an instant and change how this all happened. But I can’t.

All that’s in my control at this point is how I move forward from an experience like this. And as best I can figure, the only way I can do this buck justice is to learn from this experience and the mistakes I made along the way, grow as a person, and share this story with others. We all screw up. We all blow it sometimes. We all have our “Jawbreakers”. But we also each have an opportunity to learn from those things and rise back up.

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So what now?

After discovering the remains, we called the DNR and had them come out to give us a salvage tag, and now Jawbreaker is home. Eventually he’ll find a place in what I think can most accurately be called my “memory room.” For years to come, I’ll walk by those antlers and think back on this experience, I’ll recall my shortcomings, I’ll think back on how I’ve grown since, and most importantly, I’ll remember this special animal.

As one Wired To Hunt reader said to me in a recent message, “Love live Jawbreaker.”