The 2022-2023 Season - Closed With A Ghost Buck


5 year old buck +
The older I get, the more the memory cells are becoming a bit suspect so I'm using this thread to help me clearly remember the 2022-2023 season... only one to date where I've bent my general rule of only harvesting 2 bucks off my land, instead shooting 3.

First two of the season were the only two I had on my hit list going into the season. I called one Double Brow, as during the velvet he had double brows on both sides, and the other a buck I had followed for years that I called Mini Split due to small splits in one of his ears. Mini Split was the subject of another thread about promising bucks not living up to potential, as he was a really nice 8 point for our area when young but didn't change much in the next two years. Turns out he he had a fairly serious leg injury, one that obviously was bothering him more and more as time passed. Below is a video of both of them leading up to the season.

Can even see the constant joint issue Mini Split was dealing with in this screen capture from the video.

Mini Split Swollen Joint.jpg

Back to Double Brow, he showed up on the eve of the USMC Birthday and I actually recovered him at first light the next morning. Close to last legal shooting light, he chased a doe across the plot I was hunting and was so fast in doing so that I didn't take a shot. Felt certain I had missed what might be my only chance at him when minutes later I noticed he'd walked back into the edge of the plot but stopped at the far corner where some hanging vines left only a small window clear. When he inched forward into the small window, I took the shot but after waiting 10 minutes to get down I couldn't find a drop of blood in the plot, and I mean not a single drop. The very next morning I was out at first light and walking along the thick edge where the plot turns to woods I found blood on thick brush entering into a thicket. He hadn't run more than 60 yards total and the shot I'd made proved true. I was very thankful he hadn't suffered and that coyotes hadn't found him.

Picture below shows the shot window I chose to use to the far left... admittedly marginal at best. Photo being from the same early November timeframe also shows the plot hadn't really taken off yet due to drought conditions throughout October and intentional late planting (with LONG season, prefer to have browse young early to be palatable as long as possible through the season).

Double Brow Shot Window.jpg

Lost one of his double brow tines in the days leading up to our meeting.

Doublebrow Post Harvest.jpg

Quite a bit of time between Double Brow and the harvest of Mini Split -- just over seven weeks. I hadn't made too many sits, as I'm pretty disciplined waiting for cold fronts both for favorable winds out of the north pushing my scent away from the plot and to help daytime traffic, as in Florida really warm spells tend to push deer to prefer the cooler temps of dark for travel.

Mini Split showed up just before the New Year on the heels of an especially strong cold snap, bringing us 3 straight evenings of temps in the mid-20s. I noticed with interest that the traffic wasn't as heavy as I thought it would be with the coldest temperatures -- instead with the traffic EXTREMELY heavy the first day after the cold front that was more mild. Won't lie, with Mini Split offering a perfect broadside shot close to the middle of the plot I still hit the pause button a few seconds as I'd been tracking him by cameras for years, had given him a pass under similar circumstances the one time I'd seen him the previous season, and had been about as much on the fence regarding harvesting him as one could be. Nice thing about the clear broadside shot is that his harvest was done quickly and with a fair amount of daylight still remaining.

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And that's where I thought the story would end... but... shortly after I harvested Double Brow a new buck I'd never seen before showed up on the scene. I first saw him from my house, and subsequent camera captures were almost all at night.

Ghost Buck 1.jpg
Ghost Buck Night Cam Capture.jpg

His harvest proved the most dramatic.

With only a week of season left, and a pending out-of-state business trip on tap I made what I knew would be my last hunt of the season. With another cold front having hit us, I put in a long day in the stand. I had suspected I'd see lots of movement but didn't see hardly anything until 45 minutes before dark. A set of does moved into the plot making me hopeful, but they quickly were being chased by a young spike buck. The does completely cleared from the plot but were followed by two more very young bucks. By this time, the temps are entering the 40s, sunset is approaching, and I'm cold, tired, and hungry from a long sit. The wife and I are texting each other, I'm asking her to put some wings in the convection oven, and I'm weighing whether or not to spook the small bucks out of the plot so I can get down... but I tell her with it being my last sit I'll wait them out until it's past legal light.

Two of the yearling bucks scoot out and I'm mentally trying to wish the lone spike out... when all of a sudden a train of 4 or 5 more mature bucks follow one another into the plot, and I see the back one entering is the Ghost buck. Go from mentally being down to heart racing in less than a second, slowly lift my rifle to find him with the cross hairs and though he's close to the center of the plot he's standing just inches behind another mature buck, literally differentiated by just a few inches of the height of his back that is higher than the buck in front of him due to the angle I've got from my elevated tree stand perch. They're feeding and stay that way for what seems forever. Finally, the buck in front angles ever so slightly towards me with the Ghost buck angling away from me to the point about 2/3rds of the Ghost buck's body is no longer blocked. First time I've ever shot over the back of one deer to hit another, but that's exactly what I do... and with fading light I see mature bucks running every direction out of the plot. I hear one buck crashing into the wood line directly in front of me, and it only makes sense to me it's the Ghost buck. But at the same time one of the bucks I followed running off looks really nice and I'm starting to second guess if I somehow shot the wrong buck. Wait for darkness to fall full of anticipation, and not even worrying about stealth being the last hunt of the season walk hurriedly to the spot I last heard crashing... and the Ghost buck is down.

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The Ghost buck is only the 2nd Florida buck I've harvested to gross over 130 (hasn't yet been officially scored, but I got around 134 with my quick tape check).

Ghost Rack.jpg

Finished euros on Double Brow, Mini Split, and several smaller dead head finds I had taking up deep freezer space for longer than I'm willing to admit in writing.

Euros 1.jpg
Euros 2jpg.jpg

Between 78 hogs and 3 deer over the span of 2022 and January 2023, I need to put a real hurting on the meat I have frozen, give as much away as I can (did my best with so many hogs), or eat tag soup the next season or two. Happy to turn my attention to habitat focused work for the foreseeable future.
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Your really consistent on those big Florida deer. I’ve said it before but a 130 in Florida has to be equal to a real monster in the Midwest.
Your really consistent on those big Florida deer. I’ve said it before but a 130 in Florida has to be equal to a real monster in the Midwest.
Bill, appreciating not every hunter gets racks scored for Florida's "trophy buck" registry where only 100 is required to receive certification, if memory serves one I shot in 2016 that netted 130 2/8 was in the top 30 statewide scored that year.

One of the top 3 the very same year was a buck killed on a neighboring property that netted 145. I share that as I think it speaks to our "red hills" soils being about as good as Florida gets where the vast majority of the state is more sandy, versus speaking to anything special I'm doing beyond working with neighbors to let younger deer walk as much as possible. 👍
BB ... great work and way to stick out the season. Often times its patience that wins the race. Nice buck!
Great stories, I appreciate you sharing along with the pics. Really paints the whole picture. Congrats on a wonderful season, those are some great looking deer!
Last day big bucks are especially sweet. That's when I shot my biggest. Thanks for the pics and the accompanying stories. Congrats!!