Dustin and 8 Plus

This deer hunter saga started several years ago, although only rarely did the buck know what was going on. It took place on a fairly large, open Henry County farm where the hunter has exclusive hunting rights. The area on the farm is relatively flat with some trees, ditches, weeds, a wetland and a large thicket, but no real timber. This was a great place for “glassing” with binoculars.

“I first saw the buck both on trail cam photos and live in 2010,” Dustin Specht, of Hooppole, recalls. “He was a perfect (symmetrical) 8-pointer that would score maybe 130. I saw him many times that year, but up close only once. It was bow season and he was with a doe just 20 yards away, but I didn’t have a shot opportunity.”

One thing Specht could tell from his sightings was that the buck spent much of his time in one “core area” of that farm. Later that summer, the buck left the farm.

The next year the buck was back on the farm and his antlers had really “blown up.” He was an 8-pointer, but had grown to 140 inches or so with a noticeable “kicker.” So, he was then aptly named “8 Plus.” Specht saw him many times that season and had a couple of close calls while bowhunting, but again, no shots. He did make a couple of unsuccessful stalks into the wind and had no proper shots during the gun seasons.

“In 2012, I had many photos of 8 Plus,” Specht said. “He was a perfect 8-pointer of about 140 inches with a small drop tine and early on I was able to rattle him in fairly close twice—but could not get a shot. Once I saw him bedded with a doe, I made a stalk and had a quick shot, but missed. A couple weeks later I saw him limping and did not see him again. Was he injured or even dead?”

The deer 8 Plus was very much alive in 2013. He had grown to 150 inches, but was yet still an 8-pointer, but now with two small kickers. Specht was impressed with its unusually heavy mass with the bases of the antlers in excess of 6 inches.

Specht even invited a couple of his hunting buddies to make a small drive after seeing 8 Plus go into a willow thicket. When the targeted buck came out, both friends had running shots but both missed. Specht watched his buck escape the farm. Later on, Specht saw 8 Plus run from a drive on another nearby farm and return to his original farm.

The year of 2014 was somewhat of an event regarding 8 Plus. He had then turned into a 7-pointer and was reduced in size to about 145 inches. Most sightings that year and season were when he was with does, so no shot opportunities came.

The next year saw the deer have a rebound in its features.

“I had camera problems in 2015, so no photos, but I saw him during the first firearm season and he was again an 8-pointer with some kickers,” Specht says. “In the second gun season, I saw him go into a thick area to bed. I got in a stand where I could see the area. When it was close to evening he came out and stood about 130 yards away. I took the shot with my muzzleloader, and he ran. I waited then I went to where he stood and could find no blood or hair. The next morning I looked and found nothing, but later on I saw him twice.”

The current season came, the rut was on and Specht had not seen 8 Plus.

Was he alive?

“I finally saw him on November 10—he was alive!” Specht exclaimed. “He had turned into a perfect 6-pointer with huge mass. Then came more sightings and then photos, but with no sightings in the first gun season or the bowhunting period between gun seasons.”

However in the morning of the first day of the second gun season, Specht saw him go into a thicket to bed. Having watched 8 Plus for seven years, the hunter was now pretty confident what the buck would do later that day. He even communicated to his friends that that evening could be best time he’d been waiting for.

“I was in a wind-favorable stand. An hour and a half before shooting hours were over I saw him come out of the thicket. He was about 120 yards away. I was so excited; my blood was pumping. He was moving toward me, came into my shooting lane, and then stopped, just 35 yards away. He then moved a few steps and I mouth-grunted for him to stop. He did. I then pulled the trigger on my 20 gauge.

“I watched him run about 100 yards with a front leg limping, and then stop and lay down. I waited about 45 minutes and went to my truck. Then I went upwind to where the buck had stood and looked for sign. I found no blood or hair.

He said he then called his hunter-sister and two other hunting friends to come and help.

“We waited two hours then slowly in the dark started looking for the downed buck He lay dead where he had been down.”

It was time for elation, excitement and high fives.

For the record, 8 Plus was a 6-pointer that scored about 133 inches with 6 1/2 bases, weighing about 210 pounds and was thought to be 10 1/2 years of age or older. It’s interesting that his teeth were nearly worn to nubs and that he had a nasty infection under his tongue.

Specht has trail cam photos of him from six of the last seven years, and at least one side of a shed antler from all seven.