Martino: The Second Chance Buck

I love hearing of unique hunting stories that take place each season. Part of the reason is few memories are stronger than those forged outdoors and to the person recalling the episode, regardless of age, it is an impression not soon forgotten.

Area resident Steve Griffey is an avid hunter, collecting many beautiful bucks, yet this year an incident happened which is extremely rare.

Over the past several years he noticed a considerable decline in deer sightings. Because of this a self-imposed “no-doe” policy has been established in an effort to help increase deer numbers in the areas he hunts. For him the early archery season was long and at times, frustrating. He did see a few antlerless deer and a couple smaller bucks but wanted one with a little more age.

Since 2013 he had acquired trail-cam photos of a resident buck he nicknamed “Stubby.” “He was very photogenic,” said Griffey, who has amassed hundreds of pictures of the same deer. Seasons came and went and he watched the deer continue to grow. Last spring, the buck now 3 ½ years old, grew a wide and heavy eight-point rack. “But the buck had short tines which is how he got the name Stubby,” explained Griffey.

The pictures kept coming and the buck was predictable during the summer. Griffey, who runs the Freedom Hunt for handicapped children, was hoping one of the kids would have an opportunity to take him. When September rolled around the buck completely vanished.

Several months later on the opening day of the regular firearms season Griffey found himself in one of his favorite elevated stands and had made plans to spend the entire day nestled in his favorite tree. He watched several small deer and someone on the neighboring property ride his four wheeler. “I had seen very little and was a bit disappointed,” said Griffey. “I had a rough decision to make,” he noted. “Whether to eat my peanut butter and jelly sandwich or the roasted turkey with cheese,” he added with a laugh.

At 1:45 P.M. Griffey watched a doe being chased by a small buck. A short time later he heard another deer. Turning around to get a better look he couldn’t believe his eyes, it was Stubby, his nose to the ground trailing the scent of the doe which had passed by earlier.

The buck passed to within 60 yards, well inside the range of the Remington 870 Griffey cradled in his arms. He tried to stop the deer by imitating a doe bleat. To his surprise Stubby turned and ran directly to the tree Griffey was sitting in. “The sight of his huge body lumbering up the trail was spectacular and his 27-inch spread looked even bigger,” Griffey recalled.

As the buck closed the distance to a mere 25 yards Griffey took careful aim and squeezed the trigger. At the gun’s report the deer dropped. “I was so confident the buck was dead I didn’t even rack another shell,” Griffey said. To his amazement the buck jumped to his feet and disappeared into the woods.

Griffey spent the next three days looking for the deer and even enlisted the help of several friends and Ziggy the wonder dog. Still no buck. “I was as sick as anyone who has ever lost a deer,” he said. Griffey, who normally takes to the woods on a regular basis, did not hunt again until Thanksgiving morning. “My heart and head just weren’t in it after losing that buck,” he said solemnly.” I knew it was hit hard and I intended to continue looking for him even after the seasons closed.”

Several more weeks passed and Griffey was returning to his home office shortly after lunch. A ridge runs adjacent to the road where he lives and its routine for him to survey the area for deer, as most deer hunters do. As he scanned the ridge he was shocked. There stood Stubby.

“The woods on top of the ridge is wide open and studded with mature trees,” Griffey said. “I knew there was no way for me to get close enough to finish what I started over a month back.”

Instead, he decided to wait until the following morning and sit in a stand he had placed fairly close to where he had seen Stubby the previous afternoon. “I was extremely busy the next day but decided I was going to sit in my stand until 9 A.M. and at least give it a try,” Griffey explained.

Daylight found Griffey perched in his stand. He became preoccupied with a red fox he was watching. “I was using my cell phone to video the fox when something caught my eye,” he recalled. “I couldn’t believe it was Stubby.” Griffey watched as the deer stood 150 yards away feeding on acorns and honey locust pods. “I shoot a .50 caliber Encore during the muzzleloader season but wouldn’t dream of taking a shot that far,” he said. So instead he just watched.

With only 10 minutes left Griffey began trying to make an exit strategy to leave the woods without spooking the deer. “I had lost sight of him and wasn’t exactly sure where he was,” Griffey explained. Just before exiting the stand he heard someone on an adjacent property come out of their house and make some type of noise. “I was shocked to see Stubby trotting my way,” he added.

As the deer closed to within 50 yards, Griffey touched the trigger of his muzzleloader. As the smoke cleared he again watched the deer run over a hill and out of sight. Griffey waited nervously for 20 minutes before making an attempt to pick up the deer’s trail. It wasn’t long before he was able to put an end to the story. A short distance away he found his second chance buck and was filled with emotion and disbelief at the circumstances which eventually led to his success.

After a close inspection Griffey discovered his initial shot had hit a little too far forward and the slug did not penetrate past the shoulder blade. “Other than being a bit skinnier the buck seemed no worse for the wear,” Griffey said. “It was the luckiest turn of events for me to have a second chance like that.”