The One that Got Away

Have you ever thought about what happened to the one that got away? I’ve got a story about one that got away, or more accurately, the one I let get away. We saw a deer seven years ago at our ranch lease in Mexico. It was a 4 ½ year old with ten long tines and a ton of potential. Then I saw him the first day of the season when he was 5 ½ years old – a giant ten in free ranging Mexico that scored over 160. I could have shot him easily that hunt, but I passed him up. We have had so much success on our Texas ranch letting deer grow until they are at least 7 or older that I couldn’t bring myself to harvest this buck prematurely. This management strategy has resulted in a much improved herd, both in individual deer size, and genetic benefit to the overall herd. It’s really pretty simple. This strategy gives the bigger, more dominant deer more years to breed and positively influence the herd’s genetics. This was not the end of the story for this deer. Far from it! Fast forward another year - the Mexico giant is 6 ½, and we are actively hunting him. I saw him one time at the end of the year. It had broken off almost all of its points but had one 13” tine remaining. The deer had a very distinct color, so I knew it was the same deer. Then at 7 ½, we got a scouting picture of the deer before the season. Three pictures. An absolute giant – easily over 170 and might could have even scored 180. But we never saw the deer in person that year. Then, at 8 ½, I saw it one time, probably a mile away. No doubt, it was the right deer – gigantic, but I had no way to get close enough for a shot. The next year, when the deer was 9 ½, he eluded us during the season but we got some trail camera pictures of him after the season, and he was probably right at 170. Then the following year, when the deer was 10 ½, we once again failed to see him at all during the season, and we concluded he was probably dead. We did, however, find his shed in April. Again, no doubt about it. It was the same deer. Then again, the year he would have been 11 ½ we never saw him nor did we find any evidence of him – no scouting pictures, no sheds. This year, the deer would have been 12 ½, and while looking for another deer my brother had shot, we stumbled across this monarch. The antlers were totally preserved and absolutely enormous. We concluded that he had died some time between September and January when he was 11 ½ years old. Following this free ranging Mexican monster’s progress over seven years was an awesome and instructive experience. It affirmed our philosophy that allowing giants to grow old and breed is an important factor in improving the herd. We definitely have a lot more good looking young ten pointers in that general area than we did seven years ago. No doubt, this Goliath positively genetically influenced the herd. And he got the last laugh. We hunted his area extremely hard, and he died right under our noses. So was letting this monster go at 5 ½ the right thing to do? Absolutely!