“Leaving by 1:38 is early enough, right?” I asked as I hastily threw my junk in the back of a dusty truck. “Yeah. If we get out of town pretty quick, we will be in the stand by 3:30.” Tyler said with a mouth full of apple.
After an hour and a half of random whitetail chatter paired with scanning every tree line along the way, we put the truck in park. Get out. Strip down. Button up. Spray down. Strap up. Roll out.
My foot had just left the peg as I asked, “How’d we do?” Tyler looked at his phone and stated “3:28.” Perfect. Still over 3 hrs. until dark. I hung my pack on a Wal-Mart special gear hook, adjusted my harness, and reached to my left to hang my bow until magic hour. As I turned to ensure proper placement of my weapon, a sight that we all train ourselves to detect drew my focus. Antlers at 45 yards! “Buck” I aggressively whispered, frozen mid reach.
This was a deer we were familiar with from trail cam recon. A strangle looking buck with a non-typical but smaller rack, an over-exaggerated Roman nose, but his strangest feature of all, the inability to contain his tongue in his mouth! Automatically this buck had a name, ‘Lickey.’ Lickey made his way across our area for 5 minutes, gaining a pass from us as hunters, but we were very intrigued as wildlife observers. The plethora of questions: What had caused this? Will he be all right? Is he in misery? Should we shoot him as a management tool? Is his condition contagious or dangerous? As we observed him, he checked a scrape, smelled for does, and hit a signpost rub on his way out.
Through a little research, we’ve deducted that he most likely had a close encounter with a vehicle and damaged his jaw. Luckily he made it and went through the rut as a seemingly healthy buck.
Lickey continued to show up on our cameras the rest of the year. I cannot wait to see if we can get a look at him this year. Even if we don’t, the story of Lickey will always be a tale we tell and a fond memory of the 2016 season.