An old whitetail is truly a remarkable animal. In their lifetime they have beat the odds time and time again, outsmarting predators such as hunters and coyotes, and beating everything that mother nature throws their way- tough winters, hot summers, disease, famine (at times), etc. Old whitetails are a special creature. Sure, luck was likely on their side at times, but more importantly, they learned how to beat the odds. Time and time again, year after year, they survived to see another sunrise. Many of these old weary whitetails die of old age, however, once in awhile…..one will get caught off-guard, or just have bad luck. One such whitetail named Popeye fit this description to a ‘t,’ and this is his story;
In the summer of 2009, I acquired permission to hunt a new farm. I immediately put a trail camera up on it. Upon checking the card a week later, the first buck to show himself was a giant bodied muscular whitetail with a blind eye. Hence, the name Popeye came to mind. It was immediately noticeable that Popeye was an old whitetail (I was guessing 6.5+).
In 2010 he spent the majority of his time on the neighbors farm, and I never received one photo of him. The neighbor did however capture some pictures of him, and has sent them to me, but I don’t have them on this particular computer.
In 2011 I believed Popeye was 8.5years old, and he once again started to frequent the farm I hunted on a much more regular basis. In late October, he actually hit a scrape in front of my trail cameras during daylight hours. This was the first time that I had personally documented this whitetail on his feet during daylight hours. In the photo below, look at the size of his head. He truly was a huge animal.
It was right around this time period that I received a phone call from the neighboring landowner. He explained to me that he had placed a poor shot on Popeye, hitting him in the rear right leg. Due to the large amount of blood, he felt like there was a good chance that Popeye had succumbed to his wound and was likely laying dead somewhere. I promised to keep an eye out for him, and if I found Popeye to give him a call. The next 3-4 weeks went by without any sightings or trail cam pictures of Popeye, which led us to believe that he was indeed dead.
Then, like seemingly out of nowhere and completely unexpected, Popeye again showed up on the neighbors camera. The wound was as bad as originally expected, and his leg was literally rotting off and barely hanging on.
Popeye continued to hang around, and it wasn’t too much longer that he showed himself on the camera…..without a leg.
Now, I’m not sure if any of you have any experience hunting a wounded whitetail, but I have noticed a few things in my day about their behavior after they have been wounded; they tend to turn into day walkers and do things that they normally wouldn’t even consider doing. I feel like it is likely due to the stress they are going through, and their need to feed, although that is only an assumption of mine and I could be wrong.
On the afternoon of December 23rd I made my way to an elevated box blind overlooking 2 acres of standing corn. The weather was cold, but it was also very windy so I wasn’t sure what to expect for deer movement. I took the camera and tripod along to self film.
Here is what took place- POPEYE HUNT VIDEO
Popeye only scored 141 1/8, but it wasn’t the score on this particular whitetail that made him a trophy to me; it was his age. This buck was an old ghost, that had fooled a lot of hunters in his day. I still doubt that I ever would’ve killed him if it wasn’t for the fact that he has been previously wounded by my neighbor. I feel as if my neighbor was lucky to catch him at last night, and that if it weren’t for that encounter, Popeye would’ve likely have died to old age.
Regardless, he will now be proudly displayed on my wall, and although not even close to one of the largest whitetails to hang on it, he will be one of the whitetails that I am most proud of. There is just something special about killing a extremely mature whitetail that gives me a sense of pride that is hard to explain. *Rick Whitaker did the taxidermy work on Popeye
In this photo you can get a better view of Popeye’s blind eye, and gray face.
In my next post, I will share with you photos of Awol, as I recently picked him up from Brian Reinertson Custom Taxidermy. Brian did a superb job as usual, and I’m very happy with his final product.