Dennis Young couldn’t believe his eyes.
The trophy buck he had shot a short time before lay before him in the tall grass — or at least most of it did. Its head and antlers were nowhere to be found.
In a flash, Young realized what had happened. Someone driving on the nearby highway had seen the deer, climbed a steep hill, cut off its head and made off with its impressive antler rack.
“I had heard of things like that happening before, but I’d never had it happen to me,” said the Marmet resident. “I still don’t know who did it, but I guess things worked out all right in the end.”
What rankles Young is that he had he had put more than a little effort into hunting the buck that was stolen.
“I had been getting trail-cam pictures of this particular buck all summer long. It was a big nine-point with really long tines — one of the highest-racked bucks I’d ever seen.”
From opening day through the middle of October, Young hunted the buck to no avail. On Oct. 13, he finally got his chance.
“On that morning, right after daylight, it came by my stand and gave me a nice 20-yard shot,” Young said.
The buck bolted when it felt the arrow, and like any seasoned bowhunter, Young waited a few minutes for the arrow to do its work before beginning to track his quarry.
“It started to sprinkle a little, so I decided to go back my house to get better rain gear,” he recalled. “I came back up the hill and started looking for the buck.”
The blood trail proved hard to follow. At one point, Young estimates he came within 15 feet of the fallen buck, but couldn’t see it because of the high grass.
“I went back up the hill and continued searching,” he said. “I finally figured I must have missed something, and I backtracked to the place where I’d turned back uphill. I decided to look over the hill toward the [West Virginia Turnpike]. That’s when I saw the back end of the deer.”
The closer Young came to the buck, however, the more he realized something was amiss.
“I realized its head was gone,” he said. “It was a sick feeling. I guess someone saw the antlers, pulled off the [Turnpike], climbed the hill and cut the whole head off. I couldn’t believe someone actually had the tools on hand to do that.”
Young asked around to see if anyone had seen who did it, but never came up with any solid leads. After a few days of fruitless detective work, he resigned himself to the fact his season had been ruined.
Or so he thought. Close to a month later, at the height of the whitetail rut, fate handed Young another opportunity.
“It was around noon or so. I’d been in my stand all morning, and I looked up and saw a big buck coming around the hill, accompanied by a doe,” he said.
“I waited until it came within 20 yards, but as I pulled the bow back the buck jumped and ran away a few yards. The doe had jumped, and that made the buck jump too. Fortunately he didn’t go far. I used the 30-yard pin on my bow sight and made the shot. It hit him perfectly.”
The buck’s antlers, eight points on the main frame with a few small odd points on one of the long tines, turned out to be even more impressive than those of the deer whose head was stolen.
“The second buck had a high rack with long tines, too, but its rack had more mass than the first one. I haven’t had it officially scored yet, but I’ve had guys look at it and tell me it should score in the 140- to 150-inch range,” Young said.
The larger trophy helped take some of the sting out losing the first buck, but Young still hopes to track down whoever made off with the animal’s head and rack.
“I’d like to see whoever has those antlers to try to justify to law enforcement why they don’t have a game-check tag to go with them,” Young said. “I still can’t believe someone would do such a thing.”