Opening Day Magic

Well its that time of year again. We have our first big buck story of 2013 and its a GIANT. This story comes from Travis and his 160+” giant will be tough to top. He has some great trail cam pictures and an awesome story. Give it a read and good luck to all you hunters out there trying to top this deer. Congrats Travis!

As he walked out behind the big cedar at 40 yds and I took my bow off the bow hanger I couldn’t help but think back to the summer of 2009. That was the first time I got pics on my moultrie game camera of a potential shooter that my wife and I would name Tank. We continued to monitor trail cams the rest of the summer and early fall and althoughIi received lots of pics of tank, I set my sights on another deer that season. I was fortunate enough to harvest a 148″ 10 ptr that year, a great deer that I didn’t have any pics of. 

The summers of 2010 and 2011 were much of the same. There were plenty of velvet pics of Tank on my moultrie game cams and as a 4-1/2 year old my brothers Brandon and Trevor estimated that this deer might score in the upper 130’s. Tank was a really nice deer but around the same time I started getting pics of a deer that we thought would gross around 200 as a typical. Needless to say this would be the deer that we would chase exclusively for 2010 and 2011 whitetail seasons. 

Tank as an 8 pt in 2011
Tank as an 8 pt in 2011

The summer of 2012 I started running my cameras again the first week of july hoping to get pics of the big 200″ deer. Although I documented several pics of the giant, Tank had disappeared. Tank would be 5-1/2 that year and we just figured that the big 200″ deer had run him from his home area. We suspected that would be the last we saw of him.

On Oct 1, 2012 I was turkey hunting and scouting for deer sign on the other side of the farm where A local farmer had seen some nice deer using a rye field. I wanted to be positioned there a few mins before dark to see what was using the field. As dark approached several deer entered the field and one of them was a very big 10pt that I didnt have pics of. As I watched him work through the field I realized that it was Tank /i was looking at! He must have moved to that side of the farm and in the process put on a couple more points. With the added inches I figured he would gross somewhere in the mid 160’s. Unfortunately this encounter was the last time I would see Tank in 2012.

Summer of 2013 brought more pics of the 200″ deer and much to my surprise Tank had returned to his old haunt. After 2 long hot dry summers in missouri in 2012 and 2013, Tank remained a 6 1/2 year old 10pt ptr but his g4’s where much smaller than the year before. We estimated him in the mid 150’s and would def target him and the other giant running on that side of the farm. 

Tank in velvet
Tank in velvet

Opening day was Sept 15th 2013 and after checking the wind I decided to head to the block of oaks that held my big deer. The previous 3 weeks the deer had been filing thru the oaks early in the morn and between 6 and 7 every nite after visiting the neighbors bean field. I was hoping to catch one of them going to bed early in the morning.

Watching the sunrise is one of my favorite parts of hunting and this morn the good lord had painted a beautiful picture for me to see. I had a feeling that this would be the morning for some magic. However after sitting in a tree for 5 hrs without seeing any deer to say I was very disappointed would be an understatement. 

My wife and kids had been out of town so I left to go see them and to play with the kids for a few hours. At 330 in the afternoon I called my brother Brandon to ask for his opinion on where to go that evening. After talking through the options he convinced me to go back to the same stand I had hunted that morning.

At 5 pm I climbed back into my stand but I must say I had little hope after the lacklustre morning hunt. I checked my watch at 5:30 and glanced down a long ditch which lead towards a creek. With the wind blowing straight down the ditch I was in disbelief to see Tank heading my direction. I watched him feed on acorns as he worked his way closer.

After a brief text exchange with Brandon I decided to go ahead and try to shoot him if he gave me a shot instead of waiting on the 200” giant deer. As tank stepped behind a cedar tree and I quietly grabbed my bow and watched him head towards an oak tree and into an opening. As I drew my hoyt carbon matrix he froze in the opening. He stood with his stare fixed on me motionless in the tree and stompped his foot. He had finally caught just enough of my scent to make him nervous.

I shoot a tru-ball back tension release and as I was working my release he took a step to leave right as the shot went off. I watched my easton arrow hit a touch further back than I had wanted and instantly the nerves set in. Tank ran about a 100 yrds and due to the early afternoon rains I couldn’t tell if he stopped or fell or just had run out of hearing range. I waited an hour snuck down to find my arrow and made a big loop way around the direction he ran and headed home. 

As I reached the truck my first call was to my wife and I couldn’t decide who was more excited. The next phone call was to my two brothers. We discussed the shot and after showing them the arrow we decided to wait till the next morning before attempting a recovery. At 7 the next morning Brandon and Trevor showed up for what we hoped to be a short job of tracking Tank. It had rained all night and I was a bit nervous that the lack of a blood trail would make for a long day of looking. We stood where I shot him and split up walking in the direction he had ran. After only about 5 mins of walking I heard Trevor yelling that he had found him. Approaching them I was still unsure just how big he really was. As I finally put my hands on his rack I was able to appreciate just how long his tines and main beams were. I was speechless. Tank had 25″ main beams and 12″ g2’s and g3’s. After we put the tape to him we come up with a gross score of 161-2/8 as a 10pt and taking off his g4’s he would have grossed 156″ as an 8 pt. 

Travis finally gets his hands on Tank!
Travis finally gets his hands on Tank!
Tank's side profile
Tank’s side profile

Its a bittersweet feeling after shooting a deer like Tank on the first day of the season. I am very thankful to have a great family at home to help me pass my time waiting for gun season but it has been very hard not being in the woods chasing big bucks and doing what I love to do. Special thanks to my friends at scentblocker. If not for them and the great products they sell I’m not sure I would have killed Tank. I also to east fork archery   a for their unlimited use of the shop and range. They have been crutial in allowing me to to hone my skills as an archer. And last but not least my amazing wife at home for being my rock and pushing me to be the best man I can be.

Story and Photo’s by:
Travis Bailey 

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