The Quest for Big Boy, Jr. – Part I

In 2013, I killed the biggest buck of my life. We chased him for two years, with no in-person sightings. Only trail camera pictures proved his existence. But on opening day of rifle season, my .30-06 ushered in his demise the first, and only, time he was seen in-person. “Big Boy” was no longer, but shortly after taking him, another buck showed up on our cameras. After analyzing him, it was quite clear. Big Boy left behind a descendant.

Big Boy, Jr. was incredible when he first showed up. He had long, sweeping main beams and G2s that flared straight back. His neck was swollen. He was a spitting image of his father, who it seems may have been running him out of the area the past couple of years. With Big Boy, Sr. no longer present, Big Boy Jr. made his Hollywood entrance within a week.

Big Boy, Jr.’s flaring G2s can be seen in this trail camera photo as he walks down the road. Photo taken in 2013.

Big Boy, Jr. investigates a popular scrape on the Mahoney Property. Photo taken in 2013.

Although we hunted the rest of 2013, we never encountered Big Boy, Jr.  He eventually disappeared off our cameras in December and we never found his sheds in the spring. A buck like that doesn’t get passed up, so we assumed someone, or something, got him.

Summer arrived and we held out hope he would show up early on our cameras. July turned into August. August into September. He never showed. Even more discouraging, several others of our up-and-coming bucks seemed to be missing as well. Still, we kept our hopes up that maybe the unusually warm weather was affecting their movement and seasonal patterns.

By mid-October, I had only hunted once. The weather had me discouraged and so did our cameras. I saw numerous deer, but they were young. On October 18th, I gathered the camera chips. It was a warm, Saturday afternoon with temperatures in the mid-60s. It felt warmer with the clear sky and lack of wind. The sixth camera had nothing of interest on it, like the others before it. I put the seventh chip in my computer fully expecting the same results.

My process was methodical. Delete. Are you sure you want to delete this photo? Enter. Delete. Are you sure you want to delete this photo? Enter. Delete. Are you sure you want to delete this photo? Enter.

Deleee-… oh s***! NO, I’m not sure I want to delete this photo! At 2:56am on October 17th, Big Boy, Jr. had returned. He was magnificent.

Big Boy, Jr. makes his first appearance of the 2014 season in an area where he previously showed up on camera the season before.

He returned late at night again four days later at the same location.

In seconds, my confidence was rejuvenated. The king of the woods had finally returned. My focus on anything but hunting was now severely limited. Tough MBA classes and job interviews, seemingly much more important over the course of life one might think, were instantly forgotten. My purpose became centered around one thing.

After sighting him on cameras, I waited until the weather was absolutely perfect to move into his domain. The opportunity came on October 31st, Halloween night. The morning started off horribly with 25 mph winds and freezing cold chills. But by the afternoon, the wind had died down enough to safely sit in a tree stand. I moved in.

Deer activity was rampant. Bucks were chasing everywhere. I grunted in a nice buck with deformed antlers due to an injury he sustained earlier in the year. Then, at 6 pm, the moment I had been waiting for was upon me. I looked to my right and there walking towards me was the buck I was after, Big Boy, Jr.

He came to 17 yards and offered me a shot. With his head down munching on acorns, I adjusted myself slowly and began to pull back on my bow. As if he had some sixth sense, his head immediately shot up as I started my pull. I stood motionless, but the jig was up. He knew something wasn’t right, turned his head, and slowly circled around some trees out in front of me, never offering a shot until he was at 45 yards. For my skills, that was unfortunately out of range.

He was the biggest buck I have ever seen in the wild while hunting. I sat heartbroken and in disbelief. Since he walked by, I have been second guessing my every decision. Why didn’t I wait? Why didn’t I draw back sooner? Would it have a made a difference?

I’ll never know. But what I do know is this. Making eye contact with that buck sealed our fate as adversaries. Our lives are now interdependent on each other. I will not stop my pursuit of him until I am successful. And he will use his wits to evade me as long as he can. He won last year, and he won again Halloween night. But in my mind, his time on earth is officially on countdown.

The next part of my quest for Big Boy, Jr. awaits.

Watch the video below to see footage from the first encounter. Due to YouTube restrictions, the video might only be accessible via desktop or laptop computer. But give it a shot on your mobile device if you don’t have the other option!

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