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I was hunting a piece of property in Connecticut that I’ve hunted many times over the years. I heard the leaves rustle in the distance, I got out my glasses and I couldn’t believe what I saw. It was him, the one that I’m sure we all have, the ghost, the one that you see once and then he just disappears.
Three years ago I had an encounter with this deer, he was probably 3 ½ or 4 ½ years old at the time. I had a few night time trail cam pictures of him, and I did get lucky one day and I saw him at 150 yards. He was a monster, he wouldn’t come in, and I spent the next three years hunting hard for this beast, never seeing him again on trail cam or in the field until the other day. He was a pretty big deer for this area, so I figured I would’ve heard about it if someone took him, but after that one day three years ago, he seemed to just disappear.
So when I heard the leaves rustle and saw this buck coming at me, I pulled out my glasses to get a better look, and there he was. I knew it was him in an instant, seeing those unmistakable split brow tines. He is much older now; his rack and body has diminished with age and he wasn’t moving as quickly. He came almost under me and I was hit with that moment, asking myself what I should do? Do I shoot him or not? So many thoughts went through my mind. On one hand I really wish this deer could go off to a pasture somewhere being fed and live out the rest of his days. But we all know that nature is cruel. It is evident to me that he is on the down cycle of his days and his future holds some unfortunate likelihoods; being pushed out of the herd, being challenged by and fighting the younger bucks, being starved out for food and eventually being killed by coyotes. I know this sounds odd based on the decision that I ultimately made but I didn’t think that was an honorable death for this animal.
So, as I release my arrow, believing that he deserves a better death, I am also humbled by him. In his prime and in my prime, he beat me. I’m know I’m not the only one he beat. There will not be one time that I put his venison in my mouth or walk by his mount that I won’t honor him. My prime, his prime, he won.