Date: November 15-17, 2o12
Report By: Justin
Weather Conditions: Temperature high in the 50’s and lows freezing, sunny and beautiful during the day
I have been putting off writing this story for as long as I could, not because of laziness or because it was a difficult story to tell, but because it is a story that has been many years in the making and now has come and gone. Even though this story really marks the beginning of what I feel are many amazing years of great hunting at our lease, our success over the last weekend has been a long, and trying road. However, this is one story that I will remember for the rest of my life.
Fellow Lost Boy Craig Emmite and I have been on this deer lease for many years now in the small East Texas town of Groveton, Texas. It holds some of the best memories that I have in my life to date and has really contributed to my life as an outdoorsman. This is actually one of the places that helped form this amazing group we all hold dear to us today. This is not the story where I will describe our lease to you; this is the story of two Lost Boys and a deer named Thud Butt.
After many weeks of trying to schedule this hunt, with both our jobs and other complications keeping us from getting up there, we finally found a weekend that worked for both of us. We decided to both take the day off Friday so that we could get as much hunting in over the weekend as we could squeeze out of it. Thank god we did!
After reviewing the game camera pictures for the last few months, we have been deciding which deer we were especially interested in harvesting and which ones we thought could benefit from another year or so to reach their potential. We had decided between two deer that we had been following with great interest; they were named Rufio and Thud butt, both named after Lost Boys characters. Rufio is a thick beamed nine point mature deer that is the largest deer we have seen on our lease yet. Thud Butt is a high racked 7 point with a very unique set of antlers.
We agreed that either one would be an excellent trophy and would make a great addition to the Lost Boys hall of fame. Craig, being the best friend that he is, told me many weeks ago that he wanted me to take the first buck this year and very selflessly volunteered to videotape. I still don’t know how I will ever repay him, but I would do the same for him in a heartbeat.
After struggling to make it through a week of working and obsessing over the weekend to come, it was finally here. We drove up late Thursday night, and already, we could hardly contain ourselves. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. We had gotten a huge cold front that moved through and it was the peak of rut. Driving up you could tell the rut was on. Deer were all over the place! Craig even had to slam the brakes on a back road to avoid a head on collision with a very good looking buck.
By the time we made it up to the camp in the middle of the night the itch to get out to the stand was too big to not scratch. Over the last few years, Craig and I have developed this unintentional tradition where we get so excited about hunting the next day that we go sit in the stand all night and usually are miserable and exhausted the next day, but we do it time and time again, even though we swear to never do it again. We were laying in the bunks all of 5 minutes when I hear, “Hey man, you wanna go sit in the stand?”, and I’m up and getting dressed.
From the moment we decide to stay up all night in the stand to the amazing climax the weekend had, it was non-stop action. It first started when driving to the stand. We came upon a tree that had fallen into the road blocking our way. Yeah, like some wimpy tree was gonna stop us now. So there we are, at 2 A.M. in the pitch black darkness chopping this tree to pieces with a rusty axe that I luckily had in the bed of my truck. We blasted through the tree in about 5 minutes of adrenaline filled lumberjacking and on we went.
Sitting up in the stand in the dead of night, with nothing but my thoughts and my best friend at my side, is one of the greatest joys I get out of being in the outdoors. The sky lit up with stars that only a fellow outdoorsman will ever really understand. We sat cold and shivering, eagerly anticipating what the dawn light would bring us.
The morning light had barely set in around 6 A.M. when we were already seeing the outline of a buck in the middle of the cleared pipeline area that we hunt. Until 8 A.M. there was a constant wave of hot does being chased by bucks all around us, but none of the ones we came for. We got a little worried that the bucks were chasing so hard that we may not have enough time to get a clean shot off if we decided to take one.
At around 8 A.M. we decided to try our luck with a little spot and stalk on a group of deer we saw crossing the pipeline about 400 yards away. It was not hard to convince ourselves that we had to get out of the stand and stretch our legs after freezing our butts off in the stand for the last 6 hours. We made our way down the pipeline quickly, but quietly, and found a good spot to wait them out. Even though we were not very concealed in the brush, the deer could have cared less. We saw at least 3 does and 4 bucks walk within 50 yards of us and not even give us a second glance. Two bucks in particular were in my crosshairs for about 10 minutes and could’ve been taken easily, but again, we weren’t there for just any average deer.
At around 9:30 we decided to call it a morning and head back to, and the deer were still running all around our area. We knew then that our odds this weekend were increasingly high.
We got back into the stand at around 1 that afternoon. We knew it would probably be a long wait for the deer to come back out, but the rut can have a strange effect on deer that makes them completely unpredictable, so we figured why not. It warmed up a lot during the day to around 50 degrees, and it was looking like we were in for a gorgeous afternoon hunt. What better way to pass the time and get your game faces on than to do a little face painting?
One reason that we love hunting the pipeline is that even though they might not always be within shooting range, our field of view is huge and we, more than not, always get to see some action.
It wasn’t until around 5pm that we started seeing some deer finally moving. We could tell how much the weather affected their movement, because the heat made them hungry and slow; a perfect combo for getting a shooting opportunity.
Just as we were starting to think that we weren’t going to be seeing any of our two big boys that night, out walks Thud Butt. Up until now, we knew that Thud Butt was bigger than most of the deer we had seen so far on the game camera, but nothing could prepare us for actually getting to see him in person. He had three pretty decent sized does with him and he literally towered over them. Right then and there the nerves kicked in. Neither I nor Craig, had to this day, seen a deer on game cam, named him, followed him for months, and then have the opportunity to see him with our own eyes. The feeling was amazing, it really felt like all our hard work we had put in out there and all the sleepless nights and countless obstacles we had overcome had finally paid off.
Honestly, we probably felt like we could take a shot at him and miss and it wouldn’t even matter because the satisfaction and pride was enough in its own. Unfortunately, that was not the case whatsoever. Because I will shamefully admit that I took my shot at him and missed that first night and no amount of pride or self-satisfaction will hold you up when you miss. It wasn’t buck fever, it wasn’t the shakes; it was literally a case of just rushing to shoot and not taking my time. I was broken; I could’ve crawled into a little ball and stayed that way forever. I don’t think I even said a word for about an hour or two after, and Craig didn’t even have to ask to know how I was feeling. It’s the feeling that every hunter will probably feel during his life, just utter disappointment. It felt like I just blew a once in a lifetime shot, and it would haunt me forever.
Luckily for me, I have a friend that sometimes knows me better than I know myself. He was able to pick me up out of the hole I was in and remind me that I was not one that quits after things get a little tough. Hunting is all about being out where you love and getting to do what you love, and that’s a lesson I will never forget again. So as hard as it was, we prepared once again for another full day of hunting.
The next morning was the same as the first morning, freezing cold and does getting chased to the brink of exhaustion by multiple small bucks. It would’ve been next to impossible to stop one for long enough to get a clean shot. The morning didn’t develop into anything. We knew our best opportunity was going to come again in the afternoon hunt. So we packed up, headed to camp, got a little rest, and prepared for the afternoon hunt.
Once again, we found ourselves up in the stand around one with a fresh start and a fresh coat of face paint on. I decided to go with the strategy that maybe I could hypnotize a deer into giving up, while Craig went the more customary approach. It wasn’t until about 6 P.M. when we had about given up hope of seeing a deer that we finally saw some signs of movement. It started with one doe that came to the feeder by herself, then out of nowhere, I hear Craig say, “Oh my God bud, it’s Thud Butt!”
I don’t know how or why but someone upstairs was looking after me this weekend. Not in a million years did I think I’d ever get another shot at a buck that weekend, let alone get an opportunity to redeem myself. This time, I knew that he wouldn’t get away again. It took almost all the energy I had to contain myself enough to get the rifle up and in position.
I could tell by how hesitant Thud Butt was that he was not going to come completely out of the woods and expose himself. Every twig that snapped sent him jumping back into the wood line. He was just as nervous as I was. It took about 10 minutes for me to calm myself down enough to be ready to shoot, but as soon as I knew I was ready, there was nothing that could’ve made me miss. I steadied the crosshairs right behind his shoulder, I slowly squeezed that trigger, and as fast as he had ran away before, he dropped to the ground.
I can’t even describe the excitement that Craig and I shared because I honestly can’t remember. I think I blacked out with excitement! The next moments from getting out of the stand to walking up to Thud Butt laying on the ground, were so surreal that they are still a blur to me.
There, Craig and I stood over Thud Butt. The culmination of years of work lay at our feet in all his glory. It was a feeling that I will never forget in my life that no one can take away. We had taken down Thud Butt in true Lost Boys fashion, and this was the beginning of many great years to come on the lease that has finally started paying off for us.
This hunt was life changing for me. It taught me a lesson about not giving up on what’s important to you. One of my favorite parts of the story is that even though the other Lost Boys couldn’t be up there to share in this experience, they were literally blowing us up on our phones the whole time wishing us luck and rooting us on. That’s why what we have in the Lost Boys will never end. We all realize that we may never make it big or have a hit outdoors TV show, if that’s what motivated us we would’ve been doomed from the start. Its memories like this one and the million others that we have made together that shape who we are and what we stand for. I would like to dedicate this story to all of my fellow Lost Boys. Thanks for all the memories and some of the best times I’ve ever had in my life. I don’t know where I’d be without y’all. BANGARANG!