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Thread: TOO March Buck of the Month: The Saga of Splitter

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    *Co-Owner - Admin* bowhunter1023's Avatar
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    TOO March Buck of the Month: The Saga of Splitter

    saga [sah-gah] – noun: any narrative or legend of heroic exploit. Synonym: epic.

    There are hunting stories and then there are sagas. A saga is a truly epic tale that transcends the customary campfire story of “the one that got away”. These are stories that captivate us like no other. They draw us in with each passing detail and when the moment of truth arrives, we swear we were right there to witness it all go down. Each fall a select few hunters get the opportunity to transform their causal tale; they get the chance to bring the whole story full circle. Our very own Hortontoter (Dick) had just that opportunity last November. Like a seasoned pro, Dick was able to seize the moment and put the final touches on his own saga.

    What follows is a recount of the hunt, and the circumstances leading up to the moment of truth, as chronicled by Dick himself. I have read hundreds of stories about fallen monarchs and in my own humble opinion, this is arguably the greatest hunting story to ever be bestowed on a hunting community. Having met Dick, what follows could not have happened to a more positive, deserving outdoorsman. The Saga of Splitter is a tale of persistence, dedication, and triumph. It is a tale of epic proportions. It truly is… A Saga.


    “Yesterday was a day I've dreamed about for over three years.” – Hortontoter

    It all started over a Trophy Rock that I placed a camera over on my property in May of 2011. It had only been out a week or so and I pulled the card to see if anything would bother with the TR. On that first pull I had a buck with what looked to be a pretty good start to a rack. My wife noticed he had a split in his left ear. As we watched him grow that summer he developed a split brow and I named him Splitter. By September he had blossomed into a nice 12 point, but had spindly antlers. He was still the best buck I had on camera that summer and was my target for the 2011 season. In July I had moved my outhouse to near my TR mineral site, not knowing that minerals don't attract deer during the fall and winter. Lesson one had been learned. I hunted the stand all season and never saw Splitter.

    The spring of 2012 rolls around and sure enough he shows up at the TR. In April or May I decide new tactics need to be tried in the fall. I decided to abandon my outhouse to hunt from a one man chair blind. Now let me tell you, this is not comfortable hunting. I sat up the blind in August about 60 yards due west of my outhouse. I choose this spot because every year there is a distinct rub line going north and south. I was able to access it fairly easily and stay somewhat undetected. Splitter had blossomed into a heavier 12 point that year. I hunted him hard and never saw him.

    In the spring of 2013, I had a new plan, the barricade. I moved my TR in the area of the rub line. I then moved my outhouse stand to within 20 yards of the rub line. Then my buddy and I made a 60 yard long barricade from trees that had fallen the year before. We placed the barricade about 30 yards in front of my stand trying to force the deer to funnel in front of me in shooting range. By fall Splitter was a beautiful buck that sported 15 scorable points. The barricade worked for some does and a couple smaller bucks. But, Splitter was having none of it. Lesson two, you can't make them go where you want them to.

    By the end of the 2013 season, after having thousands of photos and never seeing this deer I thought of Jesse. I remember Tank and Captain Jack, he called them ghost deer and I figured out that I was hunting one of those ghosts. Even realizing I may be in for another disappointment I knew if he showed up next spring I'd be hunting him again the 2014 season.

    The winter of 2013 I found that many deer on my property were using a low spot in the neighboring farms barbed wire fence to access my creek bottom. Splitter used this crossing at times TOO. So in April I gather up my grandson we move the outhouse stand to set up on the trail leading to the fence crossing. I put a TR on the trail to try to get the deer used to traveling on that trail as they go to and from the creek bottom. The season opened and I had high hopes. Splitter and another buck that I called Junior were hanging around all spring and through mid-summer. I pulled a camera card in mid-August and it had Splitter on it on August the 8th. After that day he simply vanished. September passed, October passed and not one picture of Splitter on the three cams at the property. I feared the worst, a vehicle had hit him or maybe a poacher.

    I started the 2014 season hoping he was around but really thinking he was gone. My fence crossing stand was yielding sightings, including one of the best sits I'd ever had at my property. I figured I hold out for Splitter until my birthday on Nov. 5th. I hadn't shot an arrow in three long seasons and was determined to take a decent buck this season. I figured the guys on this site thought I really knew nothing about how to hunt deer and figured I'd better shoot something.

    October started out pretty good, but after the first week things really slowed down. I hunted hard, at least three days or more every week. I could see a deer no matter what I tried. My birthday passed and I decided OK it is time to kill a decent buck. The week of my birthday my buddy came down to hunt with me. We hunted Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday that week. Monday and Tuesday were a bust. Friday the deer popped up, I saw an eight and a small five point and my buddy saw two nice 8's and a BB. Saturday neither of us saw a thing. On my way out on Saturday I changed cards in my camera that monitors my creek bottom funnel. Sunday morning I got up and threw the card in my computer. That Friday as I sat up at the fence crossing six bucks had cruised through my creek bottom about 80 yards behind me.

    I wanted to hunt Monday the 10th, but I had promised my dad I would try to call some raccoons at his place. I couldn't break my promise so I missed Monday. I asked my wife to go down to the property with me on Tuesday and spend the night so I could hunt Tuesday and Wednesday. We left the house at 7:30 Monday morning, grabbed a quick breakfast at McDonalds in Carrollton and I was on my stool by 9:30.
    I had decided that I was going to hunt my creek bottom stand from 9:30 ‘til dark on Tuesday and all day on Wednesday. My wife brought a few paperbacks knowing I'd be in the woods all day.

    At about 10:40 I spotted a doe hot footing it through the creek bottom south of my position heading south. A few seconds later I see a deer chasing another deer on the hillside south of my stand. They disappear headed right towards my outhouse stand about 80 yards due west of me. I start to question if I picked the wrong stand to hunt. I made myself stay put figuring I may have a hot doe just to my south in the creek bottom. I sat in my stand eating a sandwich at 12:30 thinking that from 2-5 should get interesting. For some reason deer seem to move more mid-afternoon at my place than in the late evening.

    I remember looking at my watch at 3:28 and thinking "anytime deer, let’s get moving". Not a minute later I look west of my stand and couldn't believe what I saw. Standing just the other side of the barbed wire fence that borders my neighbors fence stood what I knew was a shooter. At that time he was about 40 yards away. He turned his head to look around and I knew this was the deer I had spent 3 seasons pursuing. I kept saying to myself "just jump it, just jump it" and jump it he did. I eased of the safety on my Horton Yukon SL raised it just a tad to be sure the limbs wouldn't hit the piece wood I used as a rest and watched him slowly come my way. I told myself "don't blow it now, aim small hit small". He went out of sight for a few seconds, I had my eye glued to the scope waiting for him to appear. I assumed I would be getting a 15-18 yard shot. But, he hugged the creek edge, so my shot was only 8-9 yards. He was actually blurry in my scope and aiming wasn't as easy as I had planned. I finally saw his shoulder move under his hair. I moved the crosshairs a bit to the left and pulled the trigger.

    I could see where the arrow entered him and knew it was a tad high, but I knew I had got both lungs. I watched him run to the north, cross the creek and go out of sight. It took a few seconds for me to realize what I had just done. I left everything in the stand and walked as quickly as I could to the cabin. I opened the door, my wife was sitting on the futon reading. I looked at her and said "I did it, I did it, I got him. Then I sat one the one bunk and cried like a baby. All the emotions you can imagine came pouring out. My wife brought me back to reality when she said "let’s go get him. I hopped on my tractor as she walked and we headed to the bottom.

    To be continued...
    "And a country boy is all I'll ever be..."

    Live to hunt. Hunt to live. It's just how I live...

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    *Co-Owner - Admin* bowhunter1023's Avatar
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    First thing I found was the arrow. My wife doesn't hunt so I have no idea what she is thinking about this whole scenario. I point to the arrow that is well covered in blood, I say "good blood". We pick up the blood trail and follow it about 80 yards. At that point, for whatever reason we lose the trail. I'm convinced the deer crossed the creek again, or went right up the creek. We search for half an hour or so to no avail. I told Norma to go back to the cabin I'm going to keep looking.

    At this point I fear the worst. I can't lose this deer. I decided to go up high and look down into the creek bottom. There is a small creek that comes from the west and enters my creek. I went to the head of that creek and checked it to where it meets the bigger creek that flows through my bottom. Just as I got to where the small creek enters the bigger creek I look across the bigger creek and see a bright white belly. I hurried to him and felt a great relief. I let my wife know I had found him and went to my neighbor for help getting him out. He gladly offered to get his ATV and flatbed trailer. We went down into the woods to retrieve him. When we got to it Jim jumped off the ATV and handed me a digital camera. He wanted pictures to show his brother. He took a few of me and we loaded him up. We took him up behind my shed and after another photo session Norma helped me field dress him. She and I muscled him into my truck headed for home. I called Big Holla and asked him to start the IKS thread. As I drove my wife called everyone she could think of.

    My wife knew hunting was a big part of my life. But yesterday she truly saw the passion that I have for it and understands where my drive and determination comes from.

    This will probably be the highlight of my whitetail hunting. But, deep inside, I'm hoping another deer shows up at my TR next spring to light my deer hunting fire.

    I am proud to have taken this deer in a 100% fair chase hunt on my own small piece of property. Having my wife, who stood by me through this obsession, there to see the raw emotion I showed that day is priceless to me. I have mixed emotions still today though. My wife and I will truly miss this deer we called Splitter. Sitting in front of the computer screen together to check camera cards will never be the same. I hope I did justice to such a magnificent animal.
    To all of you that have followed my ups, downs, trials and errors. I just want to say thanks for riding along. And if nothing else, this proves that one magic minute changes everything.

    A look at Splitter through the years…







    The last photo of Splitter alive. Look closely and you can see the writing on the limbs of Dick’s Horton Yukon in the window of his blind as he readies for the shot.



    Dick with his neighbor, who helped recover Splitter.




    Dick with a lifelong friend and hunting partner…



    The icing on the cake. A beautifully displayed European mount of a true monarch.

    "And a country boy is all I'll ever be..."

    Live to hunt. Hunt to live. It's just how I live...

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    *Supporting Member* aholdren's Avatar
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    Well deserving of BOTM, thanks again for a great story and buck.

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    *Supporting Member* Boarhead's Avatar
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    Awesome read !

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    <span style="color:green"> <b> *Supporting Member* </b></span> Bigslam51's Avatar
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    Awesome story, I hope that someday I can do what you did! I like the picture of his final moments.

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    Senior Member twireman's Avatar
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    Just fantastic!! Congrats again!!!
    There is a hunter in all of us. When you let it out your life will make more sense"

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    *Supporting Member* xbowguy's Avatar
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    Great Story and Buck. Will be my favorite for a long time to come. Congrats Dick~~Awesome Deer Buddy!
    One good minute....can change your whole season.

  9. #9
    *Supporting Member* Mike's Avatar
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    Excellent! Congrats again!

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    Senior Member giles's Avatar
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    THAT'S how to write a story! I feel like I was along for the hunt.
    "There's nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer." -Jimmy Doolittle

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    *Supporting Member* cotty16's Avatar
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    One of the best stories ever.
    Fun how ev'rything was roses
    When we held on to the guns.

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    Great buck and great read. Congrats.
    "Life is tough! It's even tougher when you're stupid."-John Wayne

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    *Supporting Member* finelyshedded's Avatar
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    Awesome read and heck of a ride Dick!!!! Couldn't have happened to a more deserving person! Congratulations and I hope you do it again this season!
    Carrying a shed or two for several hours while you continue to look for more early in a hunt is a burden but I'll try to work through it.....

  14. #14
    *Supporting Member* CJD3's Avatar
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    What a wonderful story! A well written chronicle of several years of perseverance. Congratulations and thank you for the write-up and pictures.
    There's Plenty Of Room For All Gods Creatures. Right Next to The Mashed Potatoes.

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    Senior Member Hortontoter's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the great comments fellas. You guys are part of what kept me going in this quest. Thanks to all of you for the words of encouragement along the way. Most guys on this site hunt just as hard or harder than I do and deserve exactly what the deer Gods sent my way. I can't wait until fall when I get to read a post like this that one of my fellow TOOzers writes.
    IT ALL CHANGES IN THAT ONE MAGIC MOMENT

  16. #16
    Senior Member Big_Holla's Avatar
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    By far the best and most memorable Saga that I have ever followed!! Thank you for taking us along on the journey over the years Dick, it truly could not have happened to a better or more deserving person than you!! Congratulations!!!
    Sometimes you have to burn the bridge behind you so there is no place to retreat!
    -Mike Barwis

  17. #17
    *Supporting Member* JD Boyd's Avatar
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    Heck of a buck and congrats again!

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    Senior Member Full bore's Avatar
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    A very enjoyable story with an awesome end. Congrats Dick and "Splitter" couldn't have been harvested by a better fella.
    All Day, Every Day , daylight till dark! Just saying!

  19. #19
    Loved it all over again. Well deserved BOTM! Congrats again Dick.
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  20. #20
    Senior Member GoetsTalon's Avatar
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    Congrats again on a beautiful deer!!!!

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