Everyday Outdoors: Bucks I have known: Part XIV

This is the latest in a multi-part series of columns about memorable deer that stand out from decades of whitetail hunting.


In the late 1980’s, my buddy Austin “Dump” Brown and I were regularly hunting a property owned by a friend near Paw Paw. In early Fall, while scouting, we saw a buck with a very pronounced limp. After getting a better look at him, we realized he was missing his left front leg below the knee, probably from being shot the year before, or having been struck by a vehicle. We immediately decided that we would try to take this buck.

A short time later, the first week of West Virginia bow season in October, I had a chance at him. I was hunting with another of our friends, Phil Guard, in the same area where Dump and I had seen the three-legged buck. Phil and I were hunting about 40 yards apart on a ridgetop where deer often crossed in the morning when they left a nearby orchard. This was a technique we used quite a bit back then. With two hunters set up 40 yards apart, a deer was not likely to pass between us without offering a shot at 20 yards or less to one of the hunters. We also tried to make sure we could shoot 20 yards off to either side of our positions. That way we could cover 80 yards of a good crossing area without anyone needing to shoot more than 20 yards. It was a method that had paid off for us many times.

On this morning, we could see a group of does coming up the side of the ridge. As planned, they passed between us, unaware of our presence. Following a short distance behind, was the injured buck. Instead of following the does, he stopped, looked around, and calmly turned to his left, heading down a trail running parallel to the ridge instead of crossing over it.

He came into an open area through the trees and paused. I estimated him to be at about 30 yards from my position. I drew my bow, settled my sight pin right where I wanted it, smoothly released an arrow…and missed.

The open area through the trees had fooled me on the distance. I had estimated him at 30 yards. He was closer to 40. My arrow sailed harmlessly just under his rib cage right behind his right front leg. He bolted away down the ridge. I noticed that he did not limp when he ran. We hunted the property a lot through the rest of October and early November. We never saw him again during that time.

The first day of rifle season, the Monday before Thanksgiving, he was sighted again. My Dad was driving out just before first light to watch a powerline right of way on the same property we had been hunting. Before he got to the property, Dad saw a buck that was missing a front leg, limping back across the orchard, headed the other way. With all the hunters in the woods for opening day of gun season, the buck had likely seen, heard, or smelled people in the woods he normally travelled through in the morning. He simply turned around and slipped away. We never saw him again during gun season.

Then, in December, Dump and I were hunting West Virginia’s muzzle loader season. By this time, Dump had started calling this cagey buck Tripod. He didn’t say a whole lot, but I knew Dump was hunting for this buck. It was brutally cold, with snow on the ground. Dump was in a stand very near to where I had missed Tripod during early bow season. Shortly after daylight, a doe came by the stand and headed down the ridge. A few moments later, Dump could see a deer coming with a distinct limp. With one well-placed shot from an  old side hammer muzzle loader, the saga of Tripod was over.

Austin “Dump” Brown with Tripod.

Although he didn’t have a huge set of antlers, this buck was a true trophy to take under those conditions. He had managed to survive through bow and gun seasons, in a heavily hunted area, without even being seen for long periods of time. He earned our respect and finally met his end at the hands of a good hunter, hunting in very harsh conditions, with a primitive weapon. He lives on in our memories as Tripod, a true survivor.

Wade Shambaugh has lived in Morgan County his whole life and is a lifelong outdoorsman.