You just shot a huge buck. One you’d be proud to hang on your wall. The problem is, another hunter made the shot as well, on the same buck! Two deadly shots by two hunters, on one buck – so who gets the deer?
This isn’t a what-if scenario. It actually happened to me this season. After thirty years of having sole permission to hunt this piece of property, I now have to share it with the landowner’s granddaughter’s boyfriend. He’s a guy that likes to hang stands too close to mine. But, I guess that’s the way the ball bounces.
While hunting earlier this season, I had a deer approach my stand and I prepared for the shot. When I sent the arrow on its way, I could tell the deer was hit well. He took off into the bean field, right towards the stand the boyfriend was sitting in, just a scant 100 yards away.
As I watched the buck head towards his stand, I saw him slowing down. Seconds later, I heard the boyfriend shoot, followed by the deer crashing in the beans. “Cool,” I thought as I figured he must have finished the buck off for me. I gathered my stuff and made my way down and over to him.
He was visibly excited, claiming, “Man, I just shot a great buck!” “I know,” I said, “The one I just shot.” “He didn’t look hurt to me,” immediately came from his lips. Right then I knew where things were headed. “You mean you didn’t see him come tearing out of the edge of the woods,” I asked. “No, he just came walking right up to me.” I knew he wasn’t being completely honest. “He was getting ready to bed down, probably because there were does around me,” he stated. Sure, he was getting ready to lay down, he was mortally hit, not because there were does in the field. Bucks don’t do that, especially in October. He was just trying to lay the groundwork for what I knew was coming.
He claimed he had three arrows in the buck, I assume to try to correlate that the number of arrows in a deer somehow determines who the winner is.
The buck was lying dead in the ditch thirty yards away, so we went on over to him. He began proudly telling me about his shot as he pulled a broadhead out from behind the buck’s shoulder. Then he realized it wasn’t his arrow.
Then, he rolled the deer over and pointed to where he said he shot the deer. “Nope, that’s my entry hole,” I told him, as it was a little high above the shoulder. I was twenty feet up in the tree and the deer was about seven yards away. He claimed his shot was around thirty-five yards.
As he kept telling me that he shot the deer three times, he could only find where the deer had been shot twice; once by me and once by him. “I just know I hit him three times though,” he said.
Then he said something that completely shocked me. “Well, man, if you would have just hit him a few inches lower, you would have had him.”
And there it was. The final bold move I knew was coming.
I made it be known that I believed I made a killing shot on the buck. He disagreed again – and then asked if I would take his picture with the deer! In any other place, and a few years earlier, I likely would have reacted differently. But for once, I let rational thinking trump my emotions. Instead of dropping the dude where he stood, I again let him know that I believed in my shot, but ended up taking his picture with what was in fact, my deer. As upset as I was, I just knew that nothing good would come of it if I responded how I really wanted to.
To add substance to my decision to back off was the fact that I also have a parcel that I can hunt that joins the property where this incident happened. I need to access that piece via the one where this incident occurred, as the other piece is landlocked and accessible only via an easement on the property where this all went down.
I had never experienced anything like this before. I’ve heard stories of other hunters who have been in this situation, but until having to share the property with this guy, I had always been fortunate enough to have a couple of spots to myself. Now I can relate to those who have had this same problem before. It’s no fun.
So, I licked my wounds for a few weeks, crying about it to anyone that would listen. Most folks agreed that I did the right thing by not making a big scene out there. Some even said, “Hey, you might just kill a bigger one later on this season.” I wasn’t so sure about that. And even if I did make the right decision, it sure didn’t feel good. After all, how often do we get opportunities on a great buck? We hope to get one a year, so I felt as though mine was lost. But, I kept my head up and continued hunting. I guess sometimes showing grace puts a burden on the one who shows it and not on the one whom it is given. After all, sometimes the one on whom it is given likely doesn’t appreciate it anyway. That’s okay. Do the right thing anyway.
Doing the right thing worked out for the best for me. Instead of having an ongoing battle with the boyfriend that would only end in misery, we now at least try to halfway work together. Plus, a few weeks after this incident, I arrowed the biggest buck of my life. A behemoth that grosses in the high 180’s. Now, I realize that such an outcome is extremely rare, and the odds of going buckless for the season were higher than tagging a world-class buck. But hey, I’ll take it!
The question of who a deer belongs to when shot by more than one hunter can be a tough one for sure, and relies on where the deer is hit, and on both parties being ethical.
If a mortal shot has not taken place, and the deer is merely wounded, then it is pretty obvious that the hunter who put the animal down is the rightful owner. In a case such as mine, however, where both shots were likely lethal, it all boils down to ethics, not legality. The ethical thing to do is to surrender the animal to the first person who mortally shot the deer. When it comes to big bucks though, many won’t do that. That’s when another set of ethics come into play. Is it okay to argue over the deer? Or possibly even go to court over it? Sure, but is it right? Probably not. As hard as it is to do, perhaps the best decision for you to make is to show some grace when the other party chooses not to. Nothing good will ever come from a confrontation in such a situation, and you never know, showing someone grace – even if you believe they don’t deserve it – may just be the best decision you could make.