I had high hopes at the start of the bow season. A buck I saw last year was still around the property I hunt, and his antlers were even larger now that he was 5 ½ years old. In August, I hung 14 stands to give me more options during various wind direction and morning versus afternoon hunting.
Set-camera photos of him showed he was still in the area and appeared very healthy, but 20 days into the season I still had not laid eyes on him. This was not unusual for a buck of this age class, as they can be reclusive and nocturnal until the rut.
After coming out of a stand during the late morning hunt on October 20th, I glassed the lake shore and noticed a log that seemed to have drifted into a weed-bed out of place. I got in my boat and rowed up to what was now apparently a dead deer. As I floated closer, I could see it was a buck, and when I peered down through the clear water, I could see the common base 2nd and 3rd tines and long beams which confirmed this was the buck I had been waiting for. I dragged him up onto land and began to search for a cause of death. He had been in the water for only three days or so. The only legal hunting season that was open was archery, and there were no broadhead wounds. I could not find any holes in the body what so ever. Pushing on the chest and abdomen revealed no gas venting hole. His tongue was not discolored or swollen, and there were no sores on his pallet or lips.
I called the game warden and his verdict was the same as mine, cause of death unknown. We did suspect that the buck could have died from EHD or blue tongue disease, but it was the only deer found in the area and we heard of no other reported deaths in the county during August or September. The disease often causes deer to go to water to cool off, and it could have drowned once leaving the steep bank in a state of delirium. It may have drowned prior to further advanced disease symptoms like a swollen tongue and restricted airway. We also caught several poachers in the immediate area shining deer with a spotlight and an uncased 0.22 caliber rifle on the dash. But without a complete autopsy, we were not able to establish a firm reason why this great buck had died.
My season continues without the presence of the huge 10-pointer. I later measured his rack at 187 inches typical 5x5. Even though this dream is lost, there are more bucks to chase and greater adventures to be had.