For a deer hunter, there are few feelings as low as when a blood trail begins to peter out, and then the next drop can’t be found. It’s even more gut wrenching when a hunter dedicates 18 hours of intense effort, including two different tracking dogs, only to finally have to give up the search.
Lamar Davis, of Rome, went through an ordeal last season when he lost the blood trail on a good buck. Then an unlikely string of events—and some good-hearted folks in Thomas County—brought the rack of that lost buck into Lamar’s hands more than four months later.
Lamar was hunting at River Creek WMA in Thomas County during the first-ever firearms, quota deer hunt on the area last Dec. 8-11. As is often the case, his dad was along for the hunt.
“We had some rejection notices saved up, and when we saw this area was bought, we thought we’d try it out,” said Lamar.
The first day of the hunt it poured rain, but on the way out of the woods at lunch Lamar found some huge rubs. The second morning of the hunt he was in a climber near the big rubs.
The new WMA was long operated as a private plantation, and for the past two decades it was quality-managed for deer. Lamar knew the area had the potential for a good buck.
It was just before 8 a.m. the second morning when Lamar saw the white rack of a good buck. At the shot, Lamar felt good about it. When he climbed down and went to the spot, he felt even better.
“I had a good trail, it blew blood for 30 yards,” he said. “Then it just started getting less and less. I don’t know what happened. I started thinking maybe I had a gut shot, so I left it and went back to the truck. I went back down there at lunchtime, and it was just spotty blood. I left again and got my dad, and I ran into some guys who had killed a 12-pointer that morning, and they helped out.”
They stayed with the trail until almost 5 p.m., but finally they lost the blood and headed back to the truck.
“I saw the game warden, and he told me about two guys, Randy Vick and Ken O’ Neal, who had tracking dogs,” Lamar said.
The game warden called Randy and left a message, and then called Ken, who said he’d come right over. Randy quickly called back, and since Ken was already on the way, Randy asked if he could come along to watch.
Ken, a former Truck-Buck Shoot-Out Finalist, was the long-time plantation manager for the River Creek property before the state bought it, and he knows the property better than anyone. Randy is on GON’s Dial-a-Trailing-Dog list. When they arrived, they agreed to take Ken’s dog in first.
“Lamar had done an excellent job of tracking,” Randy said. “He had followed him way back in there with just a little bit of blood.”
Ken’s dog followed the trail all the way down to where Lamar had lost the deer, but at that point they couldn’t make any progress. Lamar’s dad had some recent health issues, so he stayed at the truck, and at that point everyone went back to check on him and to regroup. By now it was dark, but the group decided to let Randy’s dog have a go at the trail.
“We went back down in the woods with my dog on the tracking rope,” Randy said. “We got to where we had stopped before, and Bob, my dog, finally struck the trail after what must have been 20 minutes. It was on again.”
Following a tracking dog through the woods at night is not easy going, but they stayed after it even as the dog led them farther into the swamps along the Ochlocknee River.
“It was after midnight,” Randy said. “We got down to the Ochlocknee River, and we going in and out of the little oxbows, going through water. Finally we got to what I think was the main part of the river. It was up and flowing pretty good. We couldn’t hardly find a place to get across the river. We just couldn’t find anything. It was so late, we had to quit. It was about one in the morning.”
Randy keeps a log of each tracking job, so he wrote down Lamar’s name and address.
“About six weeks ago, more than four months after that night, I happened to go with a friend to a place called Auto Doctor, trying to match up a muffler with an old jeep,” Randy said. “I got to talking to Phillip Wilson who works there, talking about hunting, and the talk got around to River Creek, and he mentioned they had found a deer out there. I said, ‘I bet I can tell you when and where.’ I was right on it. They found it about two weeks later right in the river bed. The water had gone down.
“I called Lamar and told him someone had found his buck, and he asked if I could get some pictures of it,” Randy said. “I went back out there, and Montie Ott, who owns the place, had the rack. I asked Montie if I could get some pictures, and he thought about it for a minute and said, ‘Heck, he can have the rack.’”
Lamar was soon heading for a cruise out of Tampa, and he arranged to swing by Thomasville on his way. Lamar and his wife, Montie and his wife, and Randy and his girlfriend all met for supper, and Lamar finally put his hands on the rack of the River Creek buck he had worked so hard to find more than four months before.
“It was great of Montie to give him the rack, and it was just a coincidence that I went in there and we got to talking,” Randy said.
Makes for a happy ending.