I had been on this buck these last few years very hard. Setting cameras and stands cleaning trails and lanes looking at maps and trying to strategize how I might finally catch up to this legend of the fall. I even got to get my first glimpse of him on the hoof a few weeks back on a gloomy day in a nasty swamp.
The day after Xmas I was out hunting an area that I know well and have had cameras in for several years and never had any pictures of this specific buck in the particular patch of woods. As I was checking one of my cameras on an oak ridge that was littered with acorns this year I stumbled across one side of his shed antler. I didn't even have to think about what deer this shed was from the 6 inch triple brow tines immediately were recognizable from staring at countless trail camera pictures and videos from this season. At first I was baffled as to why his shed was here in this spot and also full of excitement because besides wanting to shoot my number one target buck for the past few years the next best thing would be to find and locate his sheds before the squirrels do. It truly felt like the deer gods had placed it at my feet when I looked down and saw it.
After analyzing the shed and noticing the fresh blood and big fresh running buck tracks in the patchy snow next to where I had picked it up I also saw that there were small fresh drops of what looked like more blood in between his strides. Excited I began to follow the tracks in hopes that I may find his other side since he was literally still bleeding from this shed detaching from his pedical. I quickly realized something was not right as the small droplets of blood that I first saw in between his tracks was now becoming more pronounced and there was patches of hair and thats when I saw the coyote tracks weaving in and out and began to see where they had taken him down a few times before I finally arrived at his final resting place. he wasn't frozen. He was almost warm to the touch. The coyotes had began to eat his hind quarters and guts. There was no shed He had already dropped his other antler as well.
I looked over his body for a bullet hole and there wasn't anything that was obvious other then the fact that his leg looked like it was severely infected and his hoof was 3 times its normal size.
I started to back track from where I found the first antler hoping the other might not be far behind. After a few hours of following the tracks thr sun went down I went home and once again began looking at maps and strategize how I could locate this other side. First thing the next morning I decided to check go back and retrace his steps as well as check a few nearby feeding locations.
While I was checking the oak flats for signs of his other side I decided to check another camera I had 1000 or so yards away from where I was.
To my surprise the last few pictures on my camera were of Drip Drop this camera has been on this tree over this scrape on this run for 5 years and he never appeared on it until this time at 2:38 am on Christmas and then at 2:41 the first of 5 pictures of coyotes on his tracks.
At this point I had a point of travel because in this picture he was still holding onto the side of his rack that I had already found. I knew with his leg injured he probably wasn't traveling very far unless he had to. I turned around looking in the direction he last came from and saw a low area full of oaks that I could see had been all dug up from feeding. I made my way down the ravine and started slowly scanning every square inch of the oak flats turned leaves, thats when I saw the unmistakable horseshoe shaped main beam. The two sides of his sheds were approximately 3/4 of a mile apart from one another.
I truly feel like this deer and the deer gods gave me one final prize for my years of effort in trying to catch up to him by dropping these sheds where they did.
Now in this off season and all future off seasons I will be conducting operation DripDrop Revenge and hunting these mangy muts.
Nature is a tough bitch. In the Northeast the coyote simply replaced what the wolf and cougar always did. Not right or wrong, good or bad. Older bucks severely run down after rutting are especially vulnerable. In this case it seems that a bad leg made it more so. A friend found the same end result for a seriously large buck last January.
My son and I recently found a nice 8 pt buck I shot in archery and regretfully did not recover. it really bothered me to not harvest his meat. I did a euro on him out of respect and reminder .