The Old Gentlemen Buck by BWB Team Member Logan Rackliff

It was the morning of the last day of the regular firearms season here in Maine. There was 2”-5” of snow on the ground and the temperature had risen to slightly just above freezing in the night. The thermometer in my truck said 32 degrees when I headed out, but the snow was soft and melting a little. The air was thick and kind of foggy, one of days you could just feel that the deer were going to be up and moving. I climbed into my truck before daylight and struck out from camp in search of a big buck track.

I still had the memory and excitement of missing the monster Big Woods Buck that I was tracking the day before fresh in my mind. Even though I had beat myself up about it a little on the long walk back to the truck and the ride back to camp, I didn’t get too upset about it. Just seeing that big beautiful buck and having a shot at him was everything I could have ever hoped for. I made a conscious decision to not let myself be bummed out by missing him. I chose to be thankful and excited to learn from it. When I did, my confidence soared, which is your number one tool when it comes to tracking a monster Big Woods Buck.

I drove out the camp road with my confidence sky high and focusing in on my game plan for the day. My confidence in my tracking ability was high, but the confidence in my knee and truck tire were low. I had put a slice in the side wall of tire the day before and I could only drive maybe 25 minutes before I’d have to pump it up again and it was getting worse. I also have a knee that I had ACL surgery on when I was 16 and it has always bothered me tracking. Sometimes it’s worse than others, that morning it was pretty sore from the long track job the previous day.

I wanted to go back out to where I had missed the buck the day before and possibly get on that ol’ big boy again, but was worried my knee wasn’t up for it. I had left his track about 2 miles back in on top of mountain. I planned to drive a road that was in the same general area as the day before in hopes to pick up a track so that would hopefully mean less miles on my knee and tire.  I told myself if I can’t find a track on this road I’ll turn around go back to the area I was the day before and hike out there. Well it turned out that night was one of those nights the deer were out everywhere. There were so many tracks in the road where does were feeding and bucks were following and chasing you couldn’t even tell what side of the road they went in on. I went by a few spots like that because with the temperature right at 32 degrees the tracks were almost impossible to age to know what side of the road the deer went in on and more importantly I couldn’t find a track that got me excited (especially after looking at that huge track all day long the day before!) The next tracks I came across were of huge buck following an older doe track. The sun wasn’t up yet, and I still had a little air left in my tire so I decided to drive the rest of road to make sure he hadn’t crossed the road again. After a quick check and finding nothing, I headed back to the big track.

 I started out on the track at daylight. The snow was soft and quiet and the air was still. I set a decent pace at first, knowing the track had not just been made. The buck took me into some 3 to 5-year-old chopping and worked his way down into some larger open woods. Just when I thought it started looking “deery” and I could see where the doe had started feeding, I heard a branch break. I stopped dead in my tracks and blew the grunt tube a couple times. After a few minutes, I moved on and soon started seeing some other deer tracks. At first, they were older doe tracks and then some decent buck tracks mixed in. Not long after getting into these other tracks I came across some smoking fresh tracks of a good buck chasing a couple of does. With this monster track I was following, I could not talk myself into following anything else. The track then took me into a new chopping that was open and it seemed like all the deer in the area had gone through there overnight.  Usually places like these are nightmare for tracking but the beauty of picking up one of these monster tracks is that it’s easy to stay on him when he gets mixed in with other deer. I saw other good buck tracks that morning but none compared to his.

I was close to a mile into the woods now and hunting this new chopping slowly because there’s so much recent deer sign everywhere. My buck did a few small circles but he was running pretty much a straight line. I continued on and when he crossed a road and now it was just the big buck I was following and the doe he had chased across the first road. The tracks took me downhill angling away from the road and to the intersection of a brook and a pond. It was in a chopping about 5 years old with a lot of raspberry bushes and maple whips. I picked up the pace, because I knew now that I was a good distance behind these deer. After a half hour of navigating through the skid trails and whips I found where the buck caught up with the doe in her bed. I could see where the doe had got up but not long after they had laid back down together. I went a little further and I saw where they laid down again, and then a little further on the same thing. That buck and doe had laid down together probably 4 times with all beds being within 100 yards of each. The buck’s bed is huge and very round, much larger than my gun in all directions.

Now I was getting really excited because every time their track left their bed they got a little fresher. After the fourth bed, I saw where the deer were feeding and working their way up to this high spot in the chopping. The buck rubbed his horns on a little sapling. I knew these deer would lay down again and I felt that they would not be too far away. I thought about circling but there was no real way to circle high and look into that spot. This high spot was also very thick loaded with these raspberry and maple whips making it impossible to hunt it the way I wanted to. I stayed on the tracks and would be ready as I came up over this high point. As I approach the high spot I hear a twig snap at the top or just on the other side. I blew my grunt tube a couple times and I waited few minutes before working my way to the top while continuing to grunt. At the top, I found their beds in the middle of all these thick whips. The buck took a hop or two but then started walking.

The buck and doe headed down hill into some better chopping’s, where it was fairly good going. I was thinking that this was a great place to get a look at a deer. Now the tracks are fresh, I know I’m not far behind these deer. As I crossed each skid trail, I looked down them both ways as far as I can see hoping to catch a glimpse of this big buck. Soon I can see that they are heading for some open hardwoods. I hurried on the tracks, hoping to catch them going through those open hardwoods. Just as I start slowing down and sneaking close to the hardwoods, I hear something and see white flags going. The deer were heading down the hill and angling southwest so I decide to hustle to the top of hardwoods to my left (south) and try to get a look at them. I know all this buck cares about is this doe, and I can see beyond these hardwoods is another nice chopping that looks fairly open.

I take off down the hill as fast as I can and run into their jumping tracks. I followed them out into the corner of the chopping, all the time keeping watching as far as I can see. The jumping tracks lead me into some bigger softwood growth that is 50 yards wide on both sides of a brook. I could see up and down the brook and all the way across it and through the soft woods on the other side of it into the corner of another chopping. I went down the hill to cross the brook looking everywhere around me. I crossed the brook and came up through the softwood on the other side. I followed the jumping tracks out into the chopping and then back into the thicker softwood that surrounded the brook.

Once in the woods the deer start to slow down. It had been 20 or 30 minutes since I had jumped them and they had traveled just over half a mile. I followed them down through the thicker woods and then the tracks began jumping again and angling back up the brook where we had just come from. I know these deer cannot be far. Sure enough after 4 or 5 steps I saw them go. They were heading back towards the chopping they had just come through. I ran up through the 100 yards of thicker woods, that I had just came through. As I did I could see movement in the woods to the left of me. My heart is leaping with excitement hoping that these deer might actually come back out into this chopping.

I slowed down and snuck out into the corner of the chopping, looking up the edge of it where I had just come through 3 minutes earlier.  Just then the doe pops out of the softwood about 60 yards away jumping and landing in the middle of the skid trail that makes the edge of chopping. By the time she’s hitting the air again the buck busts out of the woods right behind her. He lands just short of where she did. I was ready and as he landed his second jump I pulled the trigger on my Remington 7600 Carbine and sent the 180gr Core-Lokt on its way. I had the bead right on his shoulder and at the shot his whole front end dropped. This amazing animal somehow caught himself and kept jumping almost like nothing had happened. He disappeared behind a little hump and I racked another shell in the old 7600 hoping he’d come through the next open spot. I saw some brown jumping, but it was the doe, but then the buck was right behind her. I’m swinging with him but can’t get a good shot because the doe is blocking him, then at the last second before I lose sight of them again she jumps ahead of him and I touch of the old pump again.

I gathered myself up and put a couple more shells into my clip and took off in the direction that they had gone. I go up the skid trail until I hit their jumping tracks. I followed the tracks for three steps before seeing some good blood. I followed the blood trail to where he went underneath the top of a blown down tree. I went about 10 steps and I saw a big patch of brown on the ground 80 yards away. I put my binoculars on it and can see that it is my buck. I follow the trail and saw where I had hit him the second shot as well because there’s blood on both sides of the track now. This tough old boy had traveled about 110 yards before piling up. As I was walking up to the buck, the doe jumped up 10 yards from him. I also jumped her again on the way out to the road 30 yards away and could see where her tracks had come within 20 yards of us while I was taking pictures of him. I guess she just did not want to leave this old stud. While tracking this buck, he had never pushed the doe or pressured her at all, and just laid around and followed her patiently so I’m going to call him the “The Old Gentlemen” buck.

When I got up to him I thanked God for the wonderful hunt and giving me this amazing animal. Then I told this King of the forest how much that I appreciated him. He was a beautiful 10 pointer with a perfectly symmetrical rack, fairly wide with real thick dark golden horns. He was a huge bodied deer and it was amazing seeing what had made that huge bed and track that I had been seeing all morning. It had been a while since I’d seen a good deer so I wasn’t sure how much he would weigh and I didn’t dare to guess. When I got him to the scale, it hit 200 pounds before his head was off the tailgate and when everything settled down it ended up at 239lbs of the last day of rifle season. I later found out that his teeth were almost wore out, making him a true monarch of the forest. I don’t take killing these deer or any animal lightly even for a second. It is a big deal and is something that I greatly respect and am very thankful for.