View Full Version : Grave Digger- 3 years in the making w/video

10-11-2011, 09:41 AM
In 2009 I leased some property near Del Rio in the Carta Valley area. After being excited and setting of feeders, fixing up trailer and camp area, I was told by the owner just before season that he sold the property. Little did I know at the time this was the best thing that could have happened. When I went to get my stuff off the property and take down the new feeder pen I has just hammered into the rocky ground, I also pulled my camera for a first look of what I would be missing. To my surprise there was not a deer one out of hundreds of pictures. Plenty of hogs of all shape, size, and color and raccoons but not a deer one- not even a doe. The owner felt bad for the deal happening this way so made us an offer to come hunt his private ranch just down the road in the heart of Carta Valley. Instead of refunding our money we worked out a nice deal to hunt there. So…instead of a ratty old travel trailer, we now had a nice fully furnished mobile home all to ourselves. The culls we would be allowed to shoot had more potential than a trophy down the road anyway. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.

October quickly came and I hunted the bow season targeting specific culls the rancher wanted taken out. One of the first bucks I saw that caught my eye was a young buck that had a lot of character. While he didn’t have a lot of mass, he had decent tine length and something about him caught my eye. I took several photos of him and video, but knew he wouldn’t be a cull I could shoot and never thought any more about him


I ended up killing two culls with my bow in October and the rancher was convinced how deadly a bow was and also my ability. Anytime anything needed to be done at the ranch we made sure and help. There was a group of three other hunters that trophy hunted the ranch and they had for years but were at the end of their contract. They didn’t stay on the ranch but had a place down the road they camped with other friends that had a place. They never came around the ranch house where the rancher was nearly every weekend. While nothing was “wrong” with this, it ultimately cost them. The more we did with the rancher and got a long with him the better relationship we built. One night around the campfire grilling steaks, a deal was struck and we would sign a three year agreement with the rancher for sole hunting rights. I even was allowed to write the contract per our campfire conversation. I say all this to preface what looked like a messed up situation, turned around through patience and perseverance.

2010 found us getting ready for season. My father in law and I were the original lease members for other property. We added a third person- my cousin Jim for new deal. Trail cameras were put out the first work weekend we were there. The very first buck on trail camera that weekend while still there was low and behold the same buck I saw first the prior year. While I saw other much larger bucks, this buck still had so much character and really caught my eye again. I would have guessed him to be a four year old at this point and he was not going to be shot by rules anyway. The stand location and camera he was caught on was near the cemetery located on the property. Because of this and his crab claws on the front, I named him Grave Digger. Grave Digger was a typical 12 pt frame with a sticker off his right G2 for a total of 13pts. He was a “trashy” buck and again while not the biggest on the property, he had my attention.

October rolled around and the second weekend of the season, our first trip to hunt, I killed a nice cull buck with Grave Digger present. The cull buck I shot was always with Grave Digger and they were side by side when I shot him. They had very similar characteristics on their headgear. In the video you can see Grave Digger there ..

2010 Video When killed twin Cull :)


The rest of the 2010 season I hunted with my son and was honored to help him get his first archery deer. I also gave my second cull to my wife. We hunted hard to finally get the 6 she was after, all weekend Grave Digger was there, two different hunts less than ten yards away. My wife and I enjoyed watching him knowing that the next year, he would be possibly bigger and more importantly available. Wife got the big six on the last hunt of trip and another successful family season came to an end.


2011 Season was getting near and once again cameras were set out. First buck to show up again for third year in a row was Grave Digger. During velvet and summer it was obvious that he hung out near cemetery each year and then moved to middle of ranch once we stopped protein and switched to corn. First trip, first night of cameras this is what I found.


Excitement to immediately recognize Grave Digger also turned to somewhat disappointment to see that he was not the 13 point he was the year before. He did however look like he had more mass and still an amazing buck that I personally had become attached to. I knew I wanted him…. regardless of other bucks that were taller, wider, just as nice, I wanted Grave Digger and had know that for last couple years.

For the last many years I have not hunted opening weekend of bow season due to the local county fair and always being there as a sponsor/buyer for the youth. I have many photos of all animals lining the wall of my office from the support to the kids, however this year as guilty as I felt about it, I was going hunting and would miss the fair. Jim, my son-Trey, and I left the Friday before opening morning. We arrived after lunch and unloaded and immediately set out to pop up a blind in an area we knew would be good. We brushed in the blind and let it rest that evening in preparation for opening morning.
While checking feeders and brushing in the blind, Trey shot a jack rabbit with his bow. That was his goal for the weekend and knew he wouldn’t be hunting much so he was first to get his trophy.


Opening morning found Jim in the ground blind and me at the “hillside” in a short tripod. I had killed several deer at the tripod including my buck the year before. I knew it was one of the best areas of the ranch so didn’t care that Jim wanted to hunt the ground blind. That morning Jim saw Grave Digger and had him broadsided at less than 15 yards. Out of nothing but pure respect for knowing I wanted that deer he passed on him. There were as good or better bucks in the area so it was not that hard of a decision but one I great appreciated and respected. The buck that Jim was thinking about shooting we called the tall ten and ironically cameras showed hung out mostly all at the hillside. We decided to swap places after reviewing the photos and seeing “his” target buck was there and often and Grave Digger was near the pop up every day that week on camera.

Saturday evening of opening day, an hour before dark Grave Digger came in and I shot at him. I broke every self-set rule I had and had tried to pass to my son. I rushed the shot to start with shooting at him the first minute he showed up. I didn’t have it on video, he was out of the frame when I shot. The worse mistake was I didn’t calm myself and make sure all the above happened. As the arrow flew I watched it go right under what would have been a great shot. The arrow was recovered spotless and I was disgusted and disappointed in myself so much- opening day or not. My weekend was ruined. Had I took my time, I could have shot him opening day and on video, I would bet on it. He wasn’t going anywhere and had he left he probably would have came right back. Sunday morning he didn’t show and after an eventful morning with Jim, we headed home late.

All I thought about was missing him the next couple days. I was literally losing sleep over it thinking about it. I met with the rancher that lives locally and showed him video of two giant axis. We ended up making a deal above and beyond our lease agreement over an axis. That’s all I needed to make the long trip back to the lease. I was so excited that I left that night- Wednesday. I arrived at 10:30pm after the six-hour drive. I unloaded and jumped in my jeep to go pull cards from cameras only to come back an hour later to find no power on and a dead laptop. I really wanted to see photos and see if Digger had been back in area since miss, so I was pretty disappointed to say the least. I also sleep with a bi-pap breathing machine and cannot sleep without it. I take it everywhere! I called the power company to report the outage and she said it had been reported so I lay there sleepless till 2:30am. Blinding lights above the bed suddenly interrupted pitch darkness, I jumped right up and fired up the laptop. As I hoped, the two bucks I was after were in the area still. It was now 3 am and I was pumped, so much that I went ahead and started a “Live Hunt Thread” on Texasbowunter.com :)

5:45 rolled around after what felt like minutes of sleep, but it didn’t matter for I was ready to go with high anticipation. After a quick shower using scent away soap and a good spray down of my clothes I headed to blind in sami. I walked in last couple hundred yards and quickly put out hand corn and alfalfa in my two shooting windows at 15 yards. I don’t know why but to me sitting in a ground blind always makes 15 yards look like 25 to me as compared to standing in yard and shooting. Within minutes of getting into blind and sitting quietly in the dark, I heard the unmistakable sound of deer eating the corn. Waiting on daylight for thirty minutes feels like an hour, especially the last few minutes. You can just start to see the deer and tell the bucks by the body size, with a little help from decent binos its possible to start making out the racks. As it became light enough to see, I was able to make out all the deer. Amazingly enough, the two large axis came in head on and fed at first light. It was amazing to watch such magnificent animals head on at fifteen yards. About the time I thought I was going to get a shot, the nearest feeder went off about 50 yards away. The axis spun around and left without a shot opportunity, I wasn’t too let down since first few minutes of first hunt. Little did I know, they would never come back within shooting distance rest of trip. That’s ok, leaves something to look forward to next trip back!

Without going into great details that were covered in the Live Hunt thread, I basically had a lot of good deer show up Thursday morning and evening, but not Grave Digger. At one point I had a nice twelve point with split G2s, the Tall Ten, and the Wide ten… all amazing bucks, but just not the one I wanted. Friday morning still no sign of Grave Digger, I hunted till 10 am and was starting to doubt an encounter. Friday evening I was hunting and received notice that a friend and fellow bow hunter was tragically killed in an auto accident that morning. David Warren (sq2shooter on TBH) and I almost got on a lease together a couple years ago. He was a great guy and left behind a beautiful family! I was sad to hear of his death and vowed to make a good shot in honor of David. Shortly after all this at 7pm, Grave Digger made his first appearance of the trip. He stood feeding quartering toward me for a few minutes. I refused to take a head on shot even though I have done it several times at close yardage dropping every deer prior in sight. My heart was pounding and I thought it was all about to happen when he spun around and left as fast as he showed up. Light faded and so did my hope of taking Grave Digger on this day. I felt confident that he had now found corn and alfalfa and would be back next morning. I was so excited that night that I didn’t eat dinner and went to bed early. It had only been two full days, but felt like I had been there a week.

Saturday morning rolled around with the same quick shower, spray down and packing in a feed sack a quarter way full of corn and a flake of alfalfa. Within minutes of settling in the blind, deer were there. A storm was also rolling in, lightning and all. Surprisingly to this point I have failed to mention the constant wind that occurred the entire trip. Wind that was miserable and unlike any I have experience there before. Wind that at one point had me considering packing up and leaving. As the storm got closer the wind actually died down a little for the first time in 3 days. In the darkness I was able to immediately make out Grave Digger eating in front of me. His sweeping beams that nearly touched in the front were unmistakable. It was a waiting game, the next few minutes felt like forever. I updated the live hunt thread and had a lot of guys on the edge of their seat, just as I was. The darkness gave me a chance to calm myself and mentally prepare for making this shot on my buck of a lifetime. Any archer could make a 15 yard shot on a 3D deer or foam target, but put in a huge racked live deer and emotions and nothing is a given. Suddenly all the deer spooked and ran off. To my surprise in the early light I could see the largest wild hog I have ever seen walking about 50 yards away. It looked to be waste high and solid as a steer. We have killed a few hogs, but very few on this property. As fast as the deer left they were suddenly back. Grave Digger was standing in the video frame with shooting light. I was ready to end this quest

Grave Digger decided he didn’t like the corn at my South window so he eased around to the East window out of the video cameras view. The way I had the tripod leaning into the blind with the camera tucked against a window I cut out, it was impossible to move the camera without making noise. Grave Digger was broad sided and I was ready. I relaxed and went through everything I had taught my son- anchor, aim, release! I amazingly even withheld until he took a step forward and had leg forward slightly quartering away. The Beeman ICS hunter was on its way and the Rage 2 blade did exactly as all of them in the past had performed for me. Clean pass through and blood spraying every where. I exhaled loudly and gasped for air and leaned out the tiny window opening to see Grave Digger trying to run away. I could tell he was hit and hit hard. Blood was visible from the blind as far as twenty yards away and I heard him crash just out of sight. I immediately grabbed my iphone 4 and posted on the live hunt thread keeping it “live” as possible that arrow was released! I txt a few close friends and family and with the storm and rain coming, I went ahead and exited the blind to look at sign. Arrow was enough proof alone with the blood everywhere to know that was for sure him I heard crash.


I walked about 10 yards following blood spray everywhere and could already see Grave Digger out for the count about 40 yards away. I was so pumped and couldn’t wait to get my hands on the buck. I thanked God and then out loud said, “that shot was for you David”. Here is what I saw as I approached-

The shot was true as could be and later discovered that the arrow passed center of heart. Here area couple graphic photos of the damage!



Once again I updated the “live hunt” thread on TBH with a couple photos and got busy. Since the storm was hitting and I had lots to do if I was going to get out of there, I began to rush as quickly as possible. The ranch access roads have creeks and low water crossings that can trap you in the area for days after a heavy rain due to the run off. I was able to get out of there by 1:30 and heading home with my new passenger iced down.


Monday morning the rancher told me that Juan made it back after I left and drove through water up to his floor boards to get back into the ranch. It continued to rain even more after that and I may still have been there. The timing turned out nice, thankfully!
I later at home scored the buck and was amazed to come up with 158 . With over 35 inches of mass and 24 inch beams, his scored added up a bit more than I hoped or expected- not that score really matters to me. I am still pumped and excited as ever. I can wait to go back after the axis and black buck as well as get Trey on his first bow buck!

Thanks again for following along on the live hunt and also for reading long drawn out story if you stuck through it all- it was only 3 years in the making ;)b


Here is some video footage

http://www.bowhunterhoward.com/videos/Grave Digger.wmv

here is link to awesome Live Hunt Thread I had going


thanks again, Im still pumped!;)

Brazos Hunter
10-11-2011, 09:43 AM
LoOoong write up but well worth the read. Congrats on the awesome harvest!!!


10-11-2011, 09:54 AM
Very happy for you JT. Awesome story and an awesome buck. Congratulations

10-11-2011, 10:07 AM
congrats again!

10-11-2011, 10:09 AM
Great story and awesome buck. Thanks for bringing it to us live.....

10-11-2011, 10:10 AM
Awesome write up bud.

I was on the edge of my seat the entire live hunt and couldnt be happier for you.

Congrats again!

10-11-2011, 10:24 AM
Awesome write up and buck!

10-11-2011, 10:24 AM
Great buck! Congrats again JT!

10-11-2011, 10:25 AM
Awesome buck!! Congrats!!

10-11-2011, 10:33 AM
Awesome JT! It was a great hunt, thanks for sharing!

Bone Thug
10-11-2011, 10:34 AM
Congrats again!

Great story and one heck of a buck.;)b

Johnny Dangerr
10-11-2011, 10:40 AM

10-11-2011, 10:53 AM
Man great story and a serious west Texas buck. Good job.

10-11-2011, 10:55 AM
Nicely done Howard.

10-11-2011, 10:57 AM
Great write up and congrats on an awesom buck.

10-11-2011, 10:57 AM
Very cool buck! Congrats and thanks for a quality report!

10-11-2011, 11:00 AM
awesome congrats!

10-11-2011, 11:10 AM
now thats a good hunting report.....thanks for letting me read that and high five for a great pursuit

10-11-2011, 11:14 AM
Congrats again JT. He is an awesome buck! Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us. Looking for ward to following along again on your next one.

10-11-2011, 11:18 AM

10-11-2011, 11:19 AM
Great write up. Congrats on your buck! That is what it is all about!! Congrats again!

10-11-2011, 11:20 AM
thanks all...sorry about all the typos I rushed to get it loaded and photos and never proof read.... things like Waist vs waste :) When just now got back from funeral cant fix them...

10-11-2011, 11:20 AM
Congrats on a great buck. Great write up as well.

10-11-2011, 11:21 AM

10-11-2011, 11:30 AM

10-11-2011, 11:39 AM

10-11-2011, 11:40 AM
Awesome coverage, congrats on earning that deer.

10-11-2011, 11:46 AM
Maybe a submission to The Journal??

Congratulations again JT WELL DONE!!!

good call on getting out of there before the rain also!

10-11-2011, 11:53 AM
Awesome write up! Congrats on gettin that dude! Thats a heck of a buck!

10-11-2011, 12:04 PM
Awesome story bud! Congratulations on a heck of a buck!

10-11-2011, 12:08 PM

10-11-2011, 12:38 PM
Awesome story, congratulations

10-11-2011, 12:40 PM
I followed the Live hunt but still enjoyed the story. Congrats.

Deathrow Jethro
10-11-2011, 12:48 PM
Awesome recap and congrats on such a fine buck...

east texas boy
10-11-2011, 12:53 PM
Nice deer

10-11-2011, 02:39 PM
Great writeup Howard. Congrats on a fine looking buck

chief longshaft
10-11-2011, 02:40 PM
congrats great buck.

10-11-2011, 02:45 PM
Again, congrats!
Now I can't wait to follow along on your Axis quest

Double L
10-11-2011, 02:54 PM
Congrats again JT. Awesome buck.

10-11-2011, 03:01 PM
great story, fantastic buck

10-11-2011, 03:13 PM
Overachiever!! Congrats on a fine buck for a good man!

10-11-2011, 03:35 PM
Enjoyed the story and pics... Thanks for posting and congrats on the buck

10-11-2011, 03:37 PM
Congrats. That was the best "live Hunt" I have followed. I am glad you stuck with it and got him. Good luck on one of those huge Axis.

10-11-2011, 03:37 PM

10-11-2011, 06:01 PM
It was a blast following your live hunt. Of the other bucks you posted pictures of, I think you got the best one, score be darned. Congrats on an amazing trophy!

10-11-2011, 06:29 PM
very nice

10-11-2011, 07:17 PM
great buck!!!

10-11-2011, 08:28 PM
great buck and great story, thanks for taking us along in the blind with you

10-11-2011, 08:44 PM


10-11-2011, 09:02 PM
Congrats. Thanks for the write up.

10-11-2011, 09:11 PM
Congrats! Great Buck.

10-11-2011, 09:37 PM
sweet buck!

10-11-2011, 09:43 PM
Tremendous story, Howard . . . .a true testimony to the statement that good things happen to good people. I applaud your diligence and patience. I have to admit that when I read your story, I got more caught up in remembering that video of your son when he shot that deer. I'm a dad now, and can't wait until I can post something similar about my son. You're a good dad.

Congrats on a helluva deer and heres to many more down the road . . .for you and your family!

10-12-2011, 07:53 AM
Congrats again, awesome story and incredible buck.

10-12-2011, 08:40 AM
Congrats on an awesome buck! Great writeup. Thanks for taking us along!

10-12-2011, 08:46 AM
Awesome story and buck to go along with it.

10-12-2011, 10:25 AM
Great buck, great write up, great video. Glad you made it out in time. Congrats and nice job.

10-12-2011, 10:34 AM
Good shooting.

10-12-2011, 11:24 AM
Five stars..
Congrats JT, thats a beautiful buck!

10-12-2011, 12:15 PM
Well done, Congrats!

10-12-2011, 01:29 PM
Wow awesome write up and way to be patient:D

10-12-2011, 01:54 PM
Nice story and buck!

10-12-2011, 02:45 PM
Congrats on a great deer.

10-12-2011, 03:16 PM
Great kill

10-12-2011, 05:29 PM
JT, congrats on getting your target buck and thanks for the great writeup.:)

10-13-2011, 07:57 AM
Congrats again Howard. Great story, bad situation turned out to be a blessing.

10-13-2011, 10:10 AM

...for some reason video not working for me though. Maybe your site is down?

10-13-2011, 12:24 PM
That was the best live hunt i ever followed. GREAT JOB.

10-13-2011, 12:46 PM
Great buck and great and detailed write-up. Congrats!

Death from Above
10-14-2011, 08:34 AM
Congrats JT

10-14-2011, 10:17 AM

...for some reason video not working for me though. Maybe your site is down?

I checked it out and appears to be working now...probably site down or something when you tried.

Thanks again all- I picked up antlers from shop a few minutes ago and keep playing with them and scored em again,etc... Smiling still!

10-14-2011, 11:08 AM
Good story. Congrats!

10-16-2011, 09:52 AM
nice buck

Team me
10-16-2011, 10:54 AM

10-16-2011, 12:30 PM
Great story and nice buck congrats.

10-16-2011, 12:36 PM
Congrats again Howard and I really enjoyed the write up. Thaks for taking us along with you on the hunt of a lifetime. Awesome buck man and looking forward to your future hunts there the remainder of the season.

10-16-2011, 01:32 PM
Awesome buck and writeup!

10-16-2011, 02:18 PM
That is an Amazing place you have there. Great buck!!

10-18-2011, 02:18 PM
Thanks again guys- Stay tuned this week for Axis Quest- Carta Valley :)

10-18-2011, 02:20 PM

10-18-2011, 02:32 PM
Thanks again guys- Stay tuned this week for Axis Quest- Carta Valley :)

Will be tuned in!!!!!!!


10-18-2011, 02:44 PM
Heading out tomorrow or thursday :) Cant wait!!!

going to miss my oldest neices sweet 16 party, and two nephews parties :( Wife isnt too happy!

10-18-2011, 02:45 PM

10-18-2011, 02:47 PM
she will be if you get a couple nice axis pillows made ! ;)

good luck!!

10-18-2011, 04:08 PM
Congratulations, JT, great buck and super write up! Thanks for taking us
along and looking forward to the Axis saga.

10-18-2011, 04:52 PM
Awesome buck, thanks for the write up.

KC Huntin
10-18-2011, 08:38 PM
Nice story thanks for sharing and congrats on your buck!

10-24-2011, 02:46 PM
update:--- If you didnt see my newest live hunt thread... We went back this weekend and Jim killed Tall 10 . All worked out in the end!

10-24-2011, 02:49 PM


10-24-2011, 10:59 PM
Awesome post and great pics...congrats

10-25-2011, 02:47 AM
WOW..............that was an AWESOME wrtie up. Way to go on an outstanding buck!

Little Long
10-25-2011, 03:05 AM
well worth the long read!! thats a great deer! congrats on the kill!!!

10-26-2011, 12:54 PM
Here are the racks from mine and Jims deer....Picked em up from taxidermist for a couple days.


10-26-2011, 12:58 PM

These deer I both assumed scored the same or close..... Amazing what mass and beam length do- Gd scored 158ish and tall ten 137ish. Amazing the difference- i guessed em both to be mid to high 140s

04-17-2012, 08:15 PM
Put him on wall today




04-17-2012, 08:31 PM
How did I miss this the first time around? Great story and mounts.;)b

04-19-2012, 12:08 AM
Congrats! Great buck and great read!

04-19-2012, 01:55 PM
very cool hunt....

04-23-2012, 09:07 PM
One of my favorite TBH bucks of all time Sir, enjoyed the write up

08-20-2013, 02:01 PM
ttt for guy I met with this morning and was telling about this :)

08-22-2013, 08:31 PM
Great write up, I miss hunting the del rio area. I hunted near Loma Alta in my early years of college.