November 26: Bart Goins

All true hunters know that hunting can bring a rollercoaster ride of emotions …. Especially bow hunters. Within the last few days I have went from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs.

The story of Big Tex started two months ago when we acquired this new track of hunting ground in our home state. After a two week run of Reconyx cameras on the property, we were pleased with what we found. There was a good supply of two and three year old bucks. There were two different bucks that we concluded were four or older. There may have been more four year olds, but these were the two we found on the Reconyx.

“Big Heavy “ and “Big Tex” were our two targets for this years Alabama season on this particular farm. Big Heavy was a noted four-year old and “Big Tex” was at least a five year old.

Opening day of Alabama bow season found us on our ”secret spot” where the two Alabama bruisers frequented. Within the first hour of daylight, I had filmed big brother harvest “Big Heavy” with great footage. An hour after Big Heavy takes the fall, Big Tex walks right by our stand. Blair had already filled a tag that morning and it didn’t dawn on us to let me shoot Blair’s bow. Big Tex got a free pass that morning.

The next four days we sat in the secret spot trying to catch Big Tex moving through, but no luck. We left on our road trip on October 21. Big Tex was going to live in peace for about a month. We returned back to our home state on November 14. We immediately went to the farm to check the Reconyx. I was disappointed to find that Big Tex had not shown up since October 15 on camera. Where did he go? The next few days were warm and south winds. I was not going to push the fact with bad days. Thanksgiving week rolls around and the weather is still warm. We used a few of those days to go fertilize our food plots for January.

The day before Thanksgiving found us sitting in the secret spot. The weather was still warmer than I liked, but there was a huge front about to push through. At first light Big Tex walks right under our stand, but the camera lighting was too dark to pull it off. Unbelievable! After a full month of no sightings or Reconyx photos, he strolls through that ridge like he owned it!

The night of Thanksgiving, a huge cold front pushes through. Temperatures fell from highs in the 70s to highs in the 40s in 24 hours! That Saturday was going to be the day. It was going to be Blair’s birthday, 26 degrees, high pressure and light north winds. Conditions from heaven in Alabama in late November!

I picked Blair up early that morning and proceeded to the farm. The morning started out slow with a few does by our stand early. It was cold! Around 9 A.M, I looked behind us and here came a deer we call “Holy Rack”. He is a beautiful short tined heavy antlered 3 year old. Within a few seconds of seeing him, I noticed another deer coming down the ridge. I about fell out of the tree when I saw who it was. Big Tex was at 50 yards and closing distance! He gets to 22 yards and starts raking a tree with me at full draw. After holding full draw for about one minute, Big Tex looked up and skylines us (We’re 25 feet in the air!). This is where everything went bad. The deer took two fast steps to the left and proceeded to run. I let the arrow go while he was in mid run. This was a mistake and as an ethical bow hunter, I apologize. The rage went in him a lot further back than I wanted. Everything happened so quick I wasn’t positive at first where I hit him. We climbed down and went back to the house to review the footage. The conclusion was that the shot on Big Tex was a low gut hit. We decided we’re going in to look for him for at least 22 hours.
After a long, sleepless night we were hot on the trail Sunday morning at first light. The blood trail was thin and non-existent at times. With every passing hour … the reality of recovering this deer was not looking good at all. If you’re a bow hunter, you have had this feeling before. This gut wrenching, sickening, “what if” feeling that literally makes you sick to your stomach. I had shot a five year old Alabama buck with a bow during gun season and I couldn’t find him. Sickening. At the end of day 1 of searching, I was about as low as a hunter can get. I studied some aerials that night to try to figure something out. There was a chance he had made it into the water (lake). If he didn’t show within a couple days on land, I was willing to get a canoe and waders to look in the water. I was going to do whatever it took to recover Big Tex. Day two started out with rain. Rain delayed our morning search until the afternoon. I picked my buddy Jordan up around 2 and we were headed to the farm.

The first place to look was that thicket we had found on aerial photographs. Not too long after beginning the search, I saw a sight I will never forget. There was that big framed 8 point with a broke G3 named Big Tex that had stirred me so much in the last few days. The celebration began! I had killed a five year old buck in a very hard state to hunt with a bow during gun season. It can be done! Persistence paid off.

It was my duty to do everything possible to recover that magnificent Alabama buck. Thanks to Jordan, Jeb, Kevin, and my dad for helping us look for this deer. The Alabama boys have killed number four with a bow now! What a rollercoaster ride Big Tex brought us!