Lost and Found: Neighbor Finds Hunter's Huge Buck More Than a Year Later

Brow Tines and Backstrap

Lost and Found: Neighbor Finds Hunter's Huge Buck More Than a Year Later

Posted 2023-01-31T21:36:00Z

Wilson Royer was ecstatic when neighboring hunter called him with unexpected good news

This big buck was a product of managing for deer and having good neighbors. Image courtesy of Wilson Royer

Wilson Royer is a Hoosier State agriculturist who farms with his father and brothers. They purchased a property in 2017 and made some changes, and deer started frequenting the area. Eventually, Royer begun hunting the tract.

Two seasons ago, on Nov. 3, 2021, Royer shot a 153-6/8-inch Indiana buck. Unfortunately, despite significant efforts, he didn't find the deer. In fact, he didn't recover it until the first week of 2023, all thanks to a kind neighboring hunter.

The neighbors knew the buck well and had trail camera photos of the deer, which they later shared with Royer. But Royer didn't have much history with the 5-½-year-old buck. Still, when he arrowed the deer and couldn't find it, it was a crushing blow. Losing the buck haunted him for more than a year.

This deer was one Royer hoped wouldn't get away. But for a while, it did. Image courtesy of Wilson Royer

The Day of the Hunt

Of course, the memory isn't all bad. The hunt occurred on a calm, crisp, frosty November morning, with the temperature at 28 degrees. Sitting on stand, Royer scanned the flat terrain around him. His view consisted of hardwoods, soybean fields, cornfields and some tall, grassy cover.

As the morning sun burned higher and hotter, deer movement remained slow. Nothing stirred — until a big deer stepped out.

I gave a couple of soft calls on my Primos Buck Roar and immediately heard trees rattling behind me, Royer said. I got into position, and he walked past me at 25 yards in thick brush. I didn't want to call [again] while he was that close to me, so I waited.

When the buck hit 50 yards, Royer called a second time. A few soft grunts turned the deer around, and it walked to within 9 yards. Royer drew, settled in and took the top-pin shot. The arrow struck the buck's vitals, and the deer took off. It ran out of sight into a large cornfield.

After the shot, Royer climbed down and examined the arrow. It was covered in bubbly, bright-red blood. There was a lot of blood on the ground, too.

The massive whitetail went undiscovered for about a year. It was in a small patch of undisturbed cover. Image courtesy of Wilson Royer

The Recovery Effort

After giving the deer a few hours, Royer returned to blood-trail the buck. The initial blood trail was mediocre, but it quickly picked up. Then, about 400 yards into the track, it dried up. However, the soil was soft, and Royer followed the buck's tracks another 100 yards.

We thought we found his tracks on the other side of the road but decided to back out and get a dog, Royer said. I found a dog handler on Facebook. He said he would be there the next morning at 10 a.m. He didn't show up. I called another dog handler to get a hold of him, and he finally got to my place about 2 p.m.

Eventually, they started blood trailing.

After 20 minutes, the handler said his dog was saying the deer was still alive, Royer said. I didn't think that was correct, so he looked for another five minutes. Then we backed out.

Royer wasn't comfortable about the situation and didn't think the dog was on the right trail, so he started grid-searching the area. A neighboring landowner let him briefly check that property, too. The effort didn't produce a recovery. Royer spent months replaying the hunt in his mind. The situation was never resolved.

I know there are great dogs and handlers out there, he said. I have talked to several good ones since this experience. They all said I just had a very bad experience and that the dog handler I got was not professional.

Wilson Royer wishes he had located the buck sooner, but at least he found closure. Image courtesy of Wilson Royer

A Happy Ending

Fast forward to the 2022 deer season. Royer shot a great 10-pointer that field-dressed at 220 pounds. Still, he couldn't help but think about the giant buck from the previous season. Then, on Jan. 2, 2023, he was on the phone with a friend when an unknown number called him. It was his neighbor.

He told me he found a tall 10-point, and I was super thrilled, Royer said. He said they had just made a new path through a part of the woods they had never had trails through, and on the last day of the season, his son-in-law and grandson were walking that trail. They saw a rack and cautiously walked up and found the body and rack of my buck. They immediately said they thought it was the deer that I had been looking for and called me the next day.

Royer was extremely excited.

I ran into the house, and my wife asked me what was going on, he said. I told her the neighbor had just found my buck. She was super excited. My brothers and friends were very happy for me, too, and he was bigger than they had imagined.

Looking back at the recovery effort, Royer determined the deer exited the field and was only about 30 yards into the timber. Interestingly, Royer had gone right past this deer during the blood trailing effort. Further, the owner of the land where the deer died had been 8 yards from it when making the new trail. That goes to show how easily a downed deer can hide in thick cover.

I was very thankful to the Lord for giving me this opportunity to shoot this monster buck, Royer said. This buck is a buck of a lifetime for me. I always felt it was impossible for me to kill one this size. This deer means a lot to me, and I'll never be able to repay my neighbor for finding him. Ron, if you read this article, thanks again.

Overall, the deer ran about 710 yards. Royer believes the shot placement led to a one-lung-and-liver hit. Now, Royer hunts with a higher FOC setup, which will let him punch through the shoulder rather than aiming behind it on slightly quartering-to shot opportunities. You can see more about this buck and the hunt on Royer's brother's YouTube page.

Obviously, it pays to have good neighbors, as they can make your hunting life much better. A bad neighbor will do the opposite. And although you can't control how people behave, the quality of neighboring hunters is something to keep in mind when gaining permission, leasing or purchasing property, and otherwise managing hunting land. A good neighbor is worth a lot. Just ask Royer.

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