Deer Hunting | Big Buck, Big Story (Episode 425 Transcript)

This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.

GRANT: Throughout the past four years we've had our eyes on a buck we call Southpaw and this week we share the final chapter in that story.

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GRANT: As a three-year-old, Southpaw caught our attention. We named Southpaw because he had more points on his left side then his right and reminded us of a left-handed pitcher.

GRANT: During the summer months, Southpaw seemed to run with a bachelor group on the northern end of The Proving Grounds with the buck we called Handy.

GRANT: The next year, as a four-year-old, Southpaw was even more impressive and was on our hit list.

GRANT: During 2015 Southpaw visited several of the food plots on the northern portion of The Proving Grounds but we knew this through trail cameras. We never had a personal encounter.

GRANT: During the following summer, Southpaw was now a five-year-old. Southpaw and Handy followed the same pattern. Spending the summer in food plots in the northern portion of The Proving Grounds and Handy separated out during the late summer to the southern portion of The Proving Grounds. While Handy would make this range shift, Southpaw would remain in the same area.

GRANT: We had several Reconyx pictures and videos where it seemed Southpaw was pushing Handy away from Trophy Rock sites.

GRANT: We believe that Southpaw's dominance was why Handy would shift his range in the late summer and fall to the middle and southern portions of The Proving Grounds.

GRANT: At five-and-a-half, Southpaw's a thick-antlered, Ozark Mountain legend and we were putting a lot of effort into chasing him. We just couldn't find him during daylight hours.

GRANT: As a five-and-a-half-year-old, we started getting trail camera pictures of Southpaw a little bit further south in food plots we call Crabapple, Hidey Hole 1, 2 and 3 and we noticed this range shift but didn't know what to make of it.

GRANT: During the late winter and early spring, we got two more pieces to the Southpaw puzzle.

GRANT: Our spring intern that year, Jessica Wheatley, and Tracy and Tracy's dog, Crystal, were shed hunting in a food plot we call Crabapple when they found one of Southpaw's sheds.

GRANT: This was not surprising as Crabapple was our largest food plot at the time and had the most food that winter. Several weeks later while conducting a prescribed fire, very close to our office – like 200 yards away, we found the other Southpaw shed.

GRANT: Based on all this information, and that Southpaw seemed to be moving a bit more during daylight, going into 2017 he was at the top of our hit list.

GRANT: During the summer of 2017, we shared we put up a 15 foot tall Redneck overlooking a power line right in the core of Southpaw's range.

GRANT: Through the years we'd had several pictures of Southpaw in this general area. But it’s so steep, and so hilly, and thick bedding areas all around – it’s just not a favorable place to bow hunt Southpaw. But we thought we could hunt that power line and catch him crossing from bedding area to food or vice versa during rifle season. Our plan for Southpaw during 2017 was hunt this Redneck during rifle season or food plots on top of ridges in his area during the late season.

GRANT: With our summer work completed and the season was nearing, I had my first encounter with Southpaw.

GRANT: One afternoon before archery season, I spotted Southpaw feeding in a food plot I could see from my house.

GRANT: This encounter gave me even more confidence. This was the year we'd tag Southpaw.

RAE: (Whispering) Let me know when. One on the left.

GRANT: (Whispering) 37 yards (Inaudible).

GRANT: My daughter, Rae, spent a lot of time hunting this year with the crossbow and helped us tag several does.

RAE: (Whispering) You ready?

GRANT: (Whispering) In the (Inaudible); in the (Inaudible).Perfect.

GRANT: In October, Rae and Tyler were hunting a small food plot we call Gobbler Knob when they had a cool encounter.

GRANT: Just at dark, a large-bodied buck stepped out. It was Southpaw. Finally. One of our hunters saw Southpaw during daylight hours.

GRANT: Southpaw never offered Rae a good shot but that encounter lit a fire in Rae.

GRANT: Throughout Missouri's firearms youth season, Rae saw several good bucks but not Southpaw. She got to watch a lot of neat behavior but never pulled the trigger.

GRANT: Rae felt there was still a lot of season left and was following her own self-imposed guidelines to harvest a mature buck, preferably, Southpaw.

GRANT: Missouri's firearm season falls right during the prime of breeding season. So bucks aren't on a pattern. They're either bedded or locked up with a doe or seeking the next doe.

GRANT: Rae even missed a little school during firearms season – don’t tell anybody – put a big effort into it but season closed with no Southpaw.

GRANT: After firearms season, our trail cameras hadn't captured any pictures of Southpaw and we were curious if he survived the season.

GRANT: Finally, Southpaw showed up in North Field – one of our food plots – in the morning two days in a row. We call that a great pattern here in mountain country.

GRANT: With a southeast wind forecast, Daniel and I decided to hunt out of a Redneck in North Field to see if Southpaw would keep the pattern.

GRANT: Just as soon as there was enough light to kind of see around, Daniel spotted a large-bodied deer at the end of the plot.

DANIEL: (Whispering) Southpaw. (Inaudible)

GRANT: It was Southpaw.

DANIEL: (Whispering) (Inaudible) coming out (Inaudible).

GRANT: Unfortunately, Southpaw never offered a shot. But we thought if we were patient, hunted the food sources on the right winds, we'd have another encounter with Southpaw.

GRANT: We didn't see Southpaw on any of our trail camera pictures for quite a while but we felt confident given the drought and the cold temperatures he was using food sources in the area.

GRANT: A week later, Daniel and Tyler were hunting a food plot two ridges to the south of North Field we call Big Cave.

GRANT: During that afternoon hunt, they encountered several bucks and one of them was Southpaw.

DANIEL: (Whispering) Yeah, that's Southpaw.

TYLER: (Whispering) Yes, it is.

DANIEL: (Whispering) Are you kidding me?

TYLER: (Whispering) I’m dead serious.

UNKNOWN: (Whispering) That is Southpaw (Inaudible).

GRANT: We always seem to be about a day behind or just out of range. We just couldn't close the gap with Southpaw.

DANIEL: (Whispering) We get looking and we're like, “Man that, that buck’s a little bigger. That buck's a little bigger.” And it was Southpaw. Wow.

GRANT: Cold weather hit The Proving Grounds right as Missouri's alternative weapons season, or muzzleloader season, opened during late December. With temperatures in the low teens, bucks needed to forage a lot to regain body weight from the rut and generate enough body heat to survive the temperatures.

GRANT: When we checked cards after Christmas, Southpaw had been back in the North Field and we were all set to take Rae hunting, chasing Southpaw once again.

GRANT: So, Clay and Rae headed back to that Redneck Blind in North Field.

RAE: (Whispering) It is December 28th and tonight I'm over here at North Field. It's kind of chilly tonight so hopefully that will be good. Uh, we saw some deer on the way in. Saw some behind the house today and there's also some on the field across from here. And, so, hopefully they'll start working their way this way and come on into the field.

RAE: (Whispering) Hopefully we'll see a big buck tonight. I'm looking for a three year-old or up but considering that we've seen a couple of their antlers already off, I'll probably go ahead and take a shot with anything that makes me happy. So, hopefully tonight we'll get one.

RAE: (Whispering) I've hunted a ton this season and I have yet to shoot a buck. I've actually passed a big ton of bucks. Um, some pretty good ones, hoping, just waiting to get, you know, the big one. But that hasn't happened yet. So hopefully tonight we'll see a big one or a good one that still has its antlers on and I'll be able to take the shot.

GRANT: Once settled in the blind, they were confident deer would come from the south or southwest from a bedding area up to the forage to feed. It was a matter of waiting and see who showed.

GRANT: They hadn't been in the blind long when they saw antlers just over the ridge.

RAE: (Whispering) Aww, that's a nice one.

CLAY: (Whispering) Yeah, Okay. Careful, he's looking this way.

RAE: (Whispering) (Inaudible) You can see – one, two.

CLAY: (Whispering) Oh yeah, there’s, there's a little buck behind him.

RAE: (Whispering) Yeah. That's one, two, three, four, five, ten-point.

CLAY: (Whispering) Oh, there's another one behind him. (Inaudible)

RAE: (Whispering) Yeah, there's three.

CLAY: (Whispering) Oh, That's Southpaw all right.

RAE: (Whispering) That's Southpaw?

CLAY: (Whispering) Yeah, right behind it.

RAE: (Whispering) Dang.

GRANT: As several bucks popped out of the cover, they noticed one was significantly larger. It was Southpaw.

RAE: (Whispering) Okay. Southpaw is the big one?

CLAY: (Whispering) Yeah.

RAE: (Whispering) Okay. So, the one on the far right? Okay. The one stepping out?

CLAY: (Whispering) It's just the little one.

RAE: (Whispering) Yeah. So Southpaw's the one in the middle. Yeah.

CLAY: (Whispering) Yeah.

GRANT: The group of bucks fed into the field but it was obvious something had them on edge.

CLAY: (Whispering) They're running back.

GRANT: They hadn't been in the plot long when they trotted back into cover.

RAE: (Whispering) What the heck?

CLAY: (Whispering) There’s no way they can smell us. It’s coming right in front – it’s coming right across us.

RAE: (Whispering) What is?

CLAY: (Whispering) The wind.

RAE: (Whispering). Oh.

CLAY: (Whispering) There's no way they can smell us.

RAE: (Whispering) We weren't too loud, were we?

CLAY: (Whispering) No.

RAE: (Whispering) Think they'll come back?

CLAY: (Whispering) I don't know; they might.

GRANT: It's common, for this late in the season, for deer to be on edge, especially here at The Proving Grounds because they've been hunted hard for months and hungry predators are constantly cruising, looking for a meal.

GRANT: Not long after, they spotted more deer working toward the plot.

RAE: (Whispering) (Inaudible)

CLAY: (Whispering) Here comes a buck coming up over there.

RAE: (Whispering) Oh, yeah.

CLAY: (Whispering) That's good. Oh, yeah, that's a good deer, Rae.

RAE: (Whispering) Yeah, that's a nice deer.

CLAY: (Whispering) He's been all over here. He’s…

RAE: (Whispering) Yeah, do you think I should go ahead and shoot him?

CLAY: (Whispering) No, just let him come in, he'll come in.

RAE: (Whispering) Okay.

CLAY: (Whispering) As long as he leads other deer here.

RAE: (Whispering) (Inaudible) Let’s see, that's a nice one too, I think. I can't tell.

GRANT: Buck after buck filed into the plot. One's a nice wide eight that has a limp. He's easy to identify and Rae wasn't sure if Southpaw would return and she was considering tagging that buck.

RAE: (Whispering) There's another deer – back food plot. It's another small one. Oh, that's an interesting rack right there.

RAE: (Whispering) Do you think I should go ahead and shoot this one when he turns? And that deer behind him, he’s smooth, too. What do you think? Wait or shoot? I mean….

CLAY: (Whispering) (Inaudible) Oh, there's Southpaw coming up. Just wait. Just wait. Just wait. Just. ‘Cause if they start spooking.

RAE: (Whispering) Yeah. Okay, I'm just going to put my headphones on.

CLAY: (Whispering) Okay. Really slow because those other bucks are watching.

RAE: (Whispering) Yeah. Okay. You let me know when I'm good to go.

CLAY: (Whispering) Just wait.

CLAY: (Whispering) Ah-huh. Yeah, just wait till they – ‘cause they're still so close right now.

RAE: (Whispering) Okay, I'm just gonna find him in my scope.

RAE: (Whispering) Okay, he's the big one in the middle with his head down, yeah?

CLAY: (Whispering) No, that's the, he's right behind that front one you're looking at – that limpy one. The one with his head up.

RAE: (Whispering) Okay. I see him.

CLAY: (Whispering) Southpaw's behind him.

RAE: (Whispering) Alright, so he's behind the limpy one, yeah?

CLAY: (Whispering) Yep.

RAE: (Whispering) Okay.

CLAY: (Whispering) There's another good deer behind him but South…

RAE: (Whispering) Yeah, but Southpaw. There's no deer but Southpaw.

CLAY: (Whispering) (Inaudible) If that other deer will move.

RAE: (Whispering) Good gravy.

CLAY: (Whispering) Not too often do you have to wait for that many deer to get out of the way.

RAE: (Whispering) There's like 30 of ‘em. No.

RAE: (Whispering) Okay. He might come in, just a second. He might give me an opportunity here. No, move. Oh my gosh. Okay. It looks like he's gonna give me it, just a second. I'm going to move the hammer back. Yeah.

CLAY: (Whispering) Okay.

RAE: (Whispering) Okay. (Inaudible) Am I good?

CLAY: (Whispering) Hang on. Hang on.

RAE: (Whispering) Oh, that deer move. Move. Okay. Ah. Turn. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no…

CLAY: (Whispering) That’s all right. He'll, he’ll move.

RAE: (Whispering) All right, am I good?

CLAY: (Whispering) Uh.

RAE: (Whispering) Yeah?

CLAY: (Whispering) Wait, just wait. He'll move. He'll move. Just wait.

RAE: (Whispering) Okay.

RAE: (Whispering) Move. Move. Move you old man.

RAE: (Whispering) See where he's at? Oh, my gosh. There's so many deer. All right. Dang it. No, no, no, no, no.

RAE: (Whispering) No…no. Okay. Am I good?

RAE: (Whispering) Am I good?

CLAY: (Whispering) No. Hey, that other buck's walking in.

RAE: (Whispering) Okay.

CLAY: (Whispering) Just wait. He'll move. Take a couple breaths. You're good.

CLAY: (Whispering) There's Cactus Jack in front of him.

RAE: (Whispering) I don't want Cactus Jack. Am I good?

CLAY: (Whispering) No. There’s that (Inaudible). You're blocked.

RAE: (Whispering) Dang it.

GRANT: The deer fed slowly closer to the blind but there was never a clear shot at Southpaw.

RAE: (Whispering) Am I good?

CLAY: (Whispering) No. No.

RAE: (Whispering) Wait. There’s a deer…

CLAY: (Whispering) No. That deer’s behind him. Just wait.

RAE: (Whispering) Dang it. All right, how about now? You good? Are you good?

CLAY: (Whispering) Nah. No..he's…

RAE: (Whispering) Take it. Come on. Just a little bit more.

RAE: (Whispering) I think the other deer’s (Inaudible).

CLAY: (Whispering) Nah. No, he's just (Inaudible).

RAE: (Whispering) Right now, he just kinda sat down eating.

CLAY: (Whispering) No. He’s just eating.

CLAY: (Whispering) Okay.

CLAY: (Whispering) Wait…wait…wait…wait.

RAE: (Whispering) Are you kidding?

CLAY: (Whispering) Oh, my gosh.

RAE: (Whispering) Oh, my gosh.

CLAY: (Whispering) I don't know what spooked him.

RAE: (Whispering) Oh, my gosh.

GRANT: Both Rae and Clay's hearts sank when the deer cleared the field the second time.

CLAY: (Whispering) I don't know what.

RAE: (Whispering) It wasn't me; it wasn't you.

CLAY: (Whispering) No. No. They might come back, though.

RAE: (Whispering) Oh. We had so many bucks in the field. (Inaudible)

RAE: (Whispering) It's just – I could have shot Cactus Jack. I could have shot that one limpy deer. Waiting for Southpaw all season.

CLAY: (Whispering) It's like, it’s like one of the other deer jumped or something and they all take off.

RAE: (Whispering) Yeah. Maybe one of them, like, stubbed their toe and like they read it wrong or something.

CLAY: (Whispering) Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

GRANT: The light was fading quickly but there was still hope the bucks may return because they had no idea why the deer were spooking and leaving the field.

RAE: (Whispering) Oh, there's two.

GRANT: Amazingly, a few minutes later the deer returned to the plot and not far behind was Southpaw.

RAE: (Whispering) There’s one on the left.

CLAY: (Whispering) Oh. There he is Rae, there he is.

RAE: (Whispering) Southpaw.

CLAY: (Whispering) Yup.

RAE: (Whispering) Once I get a clear shot, he’s going down.

RAE: (Whispering) Let's get him out of this brush. (Inaudible) Uh.

RAE: (Whispering) Are you clear?

CLAY: (Whispering) He's got those deer behind him.

RAE: (Whispering) Yeah.

RAE: (Whispering) Give me a shot, buddy. Move. Okay. I'm gonna pull this back. Just. All right, you ready?

CLAY: (Whispering) Okay. Hang on, hang on.

RAE: (Whispering) Dang it. Okay.

CLAY: (Whispering) Hang on. Hang on. (Inaudible)

RAE: (Whispering) I gotta go. I don't want to lose him again. Oh, I’m gonna lose him. Okay. Just to be clear, he's got his head down in the middle.

CLAY: (Whispering) Yep. Yep.

RAE: (Whispering) Okay.

CLAY: (Whispering) Okay. He's closer now so just put it…

RAE: (Whispering) Right.

CLAY: (Whispering) …put it right at the top of his shoulder…

RAE: (Whispering) Okay. I just…

CLAY: (Whispering) (Inaudible) …the bottom, the bottom of his shoulder, then.

RAE: (Whispering) I may have to turn.

GRANT: The deer slowly fed and moved closer to the blind and Rae and Clay were just waiting for Southpaw to present a shot.

CLAY: (Whispering) Oh. There's a deer behind it.

RAE: (Whispering) Dang it.

CLAY: (Whispering) Wait. Wait. Okay, if you can shoot him.

RAE: (Whispering) I can't he's straight on.

CLAY: (Whispering) You can shoot him straight on.

RAE: (Whispering) I can shoot him straight on?

CLAY: (Whispering) Yep. Yeah.

RAE: (Whispering) You ready?

CLAY: (Whispering) Yup. Wait, wait, wait, deer behind him. Wait.

GRANT: As Southpaw finally separated from the group, Rae prepared for the shot.

CLAY: (Whispering) Once that little buck behind him clears.

RAE: (Whispering) Okay.

CLAY: (Whispering) Just put it where that little brown splotch is.

RAE: (Whispering) Okay. Is he clear? He's clear. You Ready?

CLAY: (Whispering) Yeah.

RAE: (Whispering) There's no way I missed that. Did I miss it?

CLAY: (Whispering) I don't know.

RAE: (Whispering) I thought I had it right on it.

GRANT: Based on Southpaw's reaction, Clay and Rae had a tough time telling if the shot connected.

RAE: He didn't drop in the field. I didn't like really see anything after he ran out because you know, smoke from the gun and whatnot. So I had no idea how I could have missed. I’m, I’m pretty sure that I got him so.

GRANT: I was visiting Pops and as soon as I got the call from Rae I hurried on home because I wanted to be part of the recovery. Rae and Clay knew exactly where Southpaw was standing because of videoing and seeing the vegetation in the field. So, after everything settled down, they quietly got out of the blind and went and searched for hair or blood where Southpaw was standing. Not finding any, they wisely decided to return to the office and watch the video on a larger monitor for more hints.

RAE: Yeah. That is, that is my breathing technique.

GRANT: I'd be breathing hard, I’d be breathing hard too if I saw all that coming out. Man. (Laughter)

GRANT: That's a pile of antlers right there.

RAE: I'll tell you what. There was even more before that.

GRANT: I'm shaking. I'm sitting here shaking and I wasn't even there.

GRANT: I'm seeing something happened right there.

RAE: Yeah, so, I saw it. (Inaudible)

GRANT: Even on the larger monitor, I couldn't see any sign of impact. I just wasn't sure. I watched a buck run out of the field; I re-watched it. But one saving grace, he ran right by a white rock – a distinct rock, which is tough to get because we have so many rocks – on his way out. And I was confident we could go over to that rock, pick up blood and find the trail.

GRANT: Even with knowing exactly where the buck was standing and where he ran, we couldn't find any sign of hair or blood or Southpaw.

GRANT: I wanted to do everything possible to recover Southpaw so we backed out, called the local game warden to get permission to take Crystal.

GRANT: Crystal's our dog that's mature and well trained in recovering deer. You've seen her recover several deer for us. In Missouri, you have to have permission from the Conservation Department to use a dog on a leash to recover a deer.

GRANT: Permission was granted and we went back out full of confidence Crystal was going to take us to Southpaw, if the shot connected.

GRANT: Clay worked the leash. Rae and I started searching the hill and we started searching and searching. Crystal was a little excited at first because there had been a bunch of deer standing there but it wasn't the normal “take you water skiing; I’m on the trail” reaction.

GRANT: We searched the hillside. We searched right. We searched left. We brought Crystal back to the white rock and where Southpaw was standing. But she never gave us that tug that told us she was on the trail. We walked all the trails below the white rock. Sometime during the night, I called off the search.

GRANT: I know, as most viewers of GrowingDeer know, Rae is a great shot. She's tagged a bunch of deer with a crossbow and rifle. Many of ya'll know, Rae's been a national champion or placed in national championships on the Branson Trap Team. No doubt about it, Rae's a great shot.

GRANT: In this case, I had to assume there was a case of buck fever. We just couldn't find any sign that she’d hit Southpaw.

GRANT: A few days later, while the guys were working on the ranch, I got a very emotional phone call.

GRANT: They had found Southpaw within a hundred yards of where he exited the field. In fact, Clay and Crystal had walked within mere yards where Southpaw expired.

GRANT: For those of ya'll who hunt mountain country, you understand this. You can be within feet of a deer but it literally be 10 feet below you or above you, behind a rock bluff, or behind a stump, or in tall grass. We simply missed him. There was no sign and our body search simply didn't pick him up.

GRANT: I'm not a very emotional person but with that phone call I had very mixed emotions. I was so joyful that Rae had made a good shot. The entry was right where she was aiming. I was so sad that we did not recover him that night. I never want to waste venison and I never want to not recover any deer – let alone, a deer like Southpaw.

GRANT: In hindsight, we learned several lessons. It was extremely cold that night and the humidity was abnormally low. There was little chance Crystal was gonna pick up the trail.

GRANT: We thought we made every effort that night but in hindsight we should have went back the next day and made another body search.

GRANT: Just because there's no blood – even on a large bullet like a 50 caliber muzzleloader – doesn’t mean the deer is not hit.

GRANT: Frontal shots have proven effective by several hunters but I prefer a broadside or quartering away shot that gives you a much better chance of a blood trail.

GRANT: Rae had a personal goal of tagging a hit list buck this year and I'm extremely proud of her. She hunted during warm days. She hunted cold days. She hunted on days when her friends were calling her to go do other activities but she chose to hunt. Rae had discipline; she stuck to it and she met her goal.

GRANT: It was a huge privilege to watch Southpaw mature and the lessons he taught us. He's a buck that's going on our wall with great pride and we hope another buck will thrill us just as much next year.

GRANT: I hope you join us during the rest of 2018 as we continue our habitat improvement work, learn and share new strategies and techniques, chase some turkeys, chase some hogs, and ultimately, get back to deer hunting this fall.

GRANT: If you wish to learn more about our habitat improvement techniques and hunting strategies, please subscribe to our weekly newsletter. During all these activities, I hope you’ll join me in slowing down and enjoying Creation. And most importantly, taking time every day to be quiet and listening to what the Creator says to you.

GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.