The Hunt for Cross Toed Joe
By Fletcher "Butchwax" Ferguson
Climbed up, Monday night, into the ladder stand that overlooks the Christmas tree plantation at Sugar Bay for an evening hunt. Had had seen tracks of a buck that had eluded me for three years. His tracks are distinct as his fore feet have crossed toes. My buddy Scott wanted to move the stand but I resisted because I knew Cross Toed Joe was using that area. Old crossed toe had done over twelve thousand dollars in damage to the Christmas tree farm. Time for him to go. He has a nice copper colored helmet. Only an eight point. This was no trophy hunt. I was going to get no matter what it took; didn’t tell Scott any of that. Told him I wasn't moving any more stands. He could move it if he wanted to, knowing he wouldn't want to do that much work. Besides, I didn't want to tip my hand as to what I was on to. I study these deer, their movements their patterns, identify them by their chest patterns and face markings. I study their sign all year long. Scott thinks I am full of it, accuses me of not shooting deer because I got them all named. I am just a little picky.
At five o'clock he comes straight at me from the west, stopping behind one of the Douglas firs he has nearly rubbed to death and raising his nose. The wind was 15 mph out of the south. He must not have liked what he smelled and took off to the southwest at a quick trot. I shot him with the bow at 40 plus yards. I thought I had gut shot him on his left side just back of the ribs, not leading him enough. I looked and looked but could not find the arrow, I knew I had hit him. Went back to the bunk house for an hour and a half, got out of my gillie and loaded up on flashlights and batteries. It was going to be a tracking night.
The deer had bolted back to the west towards the bass pond after I let the arrow fly. I went in the timber on the west side of the tree lot where I had last seen him. No blood. Worked systematically for an hour and a half finding just a single drop of blood. To my surprise the deer was just the other side of a little quarter acre opening comprised of tall native grass where on the south edge is a small silt pond.an ATV trail to the north. He jumped out of a dense thicket, bounding back west towards the base of the bass pond. I waited another hour, standing still in the dark, taking good measure of where he had jumped out from.
Started the search again and found where he had been standing in a thorny thicket. Good blood pool there. Searched and found a blood trail. It wasn't much of a trail but I was on it. The blood trail was hard to follow because old Cross Toed Joe was really moving but by 8:30 I had tracked him to the west side of the middle pond where the water backs up to the base of the bass pond dam. Lost the blood trail. I kept looking for sign, tracks, and disturbances in the leaf litter anything that might point me in his direction. Then I found my arrow, all covered in blood at the base of the tall fence that runs north and south between the two ponds. It was missing two of the razors from the broad head, I pondered how the arrow got worked out. Did he jump this fence? Lost the blood trail again. I went back to where I had last seen blood. Studied the blood drops closely. I could tell that direction of the splatter meant he'd back tracked. On the trail again until 9:30, hunger took over. I stuck the yellow and red arrow in the ground to mark the spot and went to eat. After a venison burger I started up tracking him again. The deer took me through more thorny thickets, under low hanging cedar limbs and heavy buck brush. Stayed on him until 12:30 AM and quit. Just too tired to continue, started back to the bunk house. Suddenly, I saw him, still standing, at the edge of the middle pond. He had been leading me around in circles. I had slipped up on him while he was taking a drink. He bolted again, this time with a series of warning snorts. I don't know if he was warning me or something else. In the dark I never saw him, nor heard him moving around as I tracked him. I figured I would find him in the morning. I was dead tired and dripping with sweat.
I suffered from severe leg cramps overnight. It scared me. Miserable pain due to all the walking, squatting and contorting. Thought about calling 911, as the cramping had spread to my gluts and abs. Cramps stopped about 4 AM. Slept till 7 the next morning. Normally I am up at 5. Not this day. Ate a bite then set out to find him. Looked all over for him thru the morning. At 12:30 PM I was about to give up when I saw him, he was still alive standing in an area east of the middle pond dam. He had been ducking me all morning as I had searched that area twice. Alive but barely strong enough to stand much less run. He just stood there frozen with anxious, labored breathing. I had out lasted him. I was twenty yards from him. He finally just died, died on his feet, and then fell over. Dandiest thing. He gave up at 1:00. Truth of the matter was I shot him low in the neck. The arrow had not passed through but had eventually worked out of his neck. I guess because of the distance and because he was moving away from me the arrow did not pass through like it should have. Must have barely clipped his neck artery. I could see only a trickle of blood coming from the wound but he had been bleeding for nineteen hours. Most of the blood I had seen before I found my arrow, had drained down the arrow.
Hung him in the barn. His name was Cross Toed Joe, A.K.A." The Christmas Tree Villain." Wanted for destroying Christmas trees and doe harassment. Been after him for three seasons. What a great hunt and a thrilling tracking adventure. Bounty paid in back straps and summer sausage.