Would You Burn a Tag on a Sick Buck?

By Lindsey ZastrowOctober 9, 20197 Comments

In a year when drought, EHD and other diseases have plagued deer herds across the country, it’s not uncommon for hunters to encounter deer with illness exhibiting abnormal behavior. Encounters have taken place both in the woods, as well as neighborhoods and wide open spaces. One such encounter took place with Bowhunting.com friend, Lindsey Zastrow, when she found a deer wandering through her backyard. The experience raises the question, “Would you burn a tag on a sick buck?” Zastrow shares the story of what she found and how she handled the situation…

Being a conservationist is about doing what’s right for the game we are blessed enough to hunt, even if that means burning a tag on a sick animal. That is exactly what happened to me on a recent morning at my home in Iowa.

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What would you do if you encountered a sick or crippled buck in the wild?

I was doing laundry and happened to notice a buck wandering aimlessly in my backyard. I immediately felt something was wrong and that the buck was sick. After watching him stagger about and try to climb the bluff with no success, I knew I needed to grab my bow and put this guy out of his suffering.

As he walked back towards the house I could tell he was completely incoherent. The dogs were barking and I was on the deck in sweats and a T-shirt ranging him and he didn’t even flinch. It was almost as if he had no idea what was going on around him. For a brief second, I paused and came to terms with using my landowner tag on a buck I would typically never shoot. But I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do.

I drew my bow and sent an arrow 16 yards into his heart. He collapsed 20 yards away. It was a somber moment as I watched him take his last breath. I knew it was the right move, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t cross my mind that I had just punched my landowner tag on a buck this small.

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With a quick and clean shot, Zastrow put the sick buck down.

I called the Iowa DNR, and they arrived within 20 minutes. The officer was extremely polite and told me I did the right thing. He felt it was best to take the buck in his entirety in for testing. As an unexpected bonus the officer did not make me tag him as they would’ve ended up shooting the deer anyway.

I am grateful doing the right thing paid off. Even if I would’ve had to tag him, I wouldn’t have batted an eye. As a conservationist, I want what’s best for the animals, even if it means sacrificing on my end.

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Do you feel obligated to put a sick or crippled deer out of its misery?

What about you? Have you ever encountered a sick or crippled deer in the wild? Would you burn a tag on a sick buck or doe? Comment below and let us know your thoughts on how to handle a sick or crippled deer that you encounter in the wild.

Lindsey Zastrow
Lindsey Zastrow lives in Southwest Iowa where she works as a Senior Analyst at a stock brokerage firm. Outside of work, she spends her time in the woods bowhunting or on the water. She lives for fall and works year round on her property to enhance the whitetail habitat.
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