The Baliva Buck
Monroe County 13-Point

By Bob Yax (Featuring his tracking dog "Thor")

Carrie Baliva Buck 3Carrie and "Thor" with her buck

It was November 8, 2022 at about 3:30 pm. I got the call from Carrie Baliva and her husband Marcus. Carrie had hit a nice buck at 8:30 am and they had lost the trail after waiting six hours and tracking good blood for 200 yards in standing corn. Evidence at the hit site pointed to a stomach hit. They needed Thors help.
Carrie had done an awesome job coaxing the buck into range. She first spotted the buck 300 yards away as it headed into the bottom corner of a big standing corn field. With a combination of grunting, rattling and a snort wheeze she ended up with the buck beelining straight towards her through the standing corn.
Carrie was perched high up on a tree stand, in a wooded hedgerow, at the upper side of the corn field. As the buck got closer, half hidden by the tall corn, she decided it was definitely a shooter and got ready. After watching the buck for about 15 minutes, he finally popped out of the corn 25 yards in front of her. He started walking, quartering towards her, between the edge of the corn and the edge of the brushy hedgerow she was in. With her tree being uphill from the field, the buck was probably 30 feet below her. The buck kept walking closer and when it stopped, almost broadside at 18 yards, she let the arrow fly.

Immediately, the buck jumped back into the corn, where Carrie could see it running/trotting for 60 yards or so before losing it. Carrie knew she hit the buck, but maybe low and a little back (she told me D8 on the chart, right side, a little quartering to). Based on the hit location, Carrie waited an hour to get down and check the hit site.
Back on the ground, Carrie immediately found her pass through arrow with three blade fixed Wasp broad head. It had light blood the full length and what looked like stomach particles. Closer examination showed definite stomach contents on the ground. At that point Carrie and Marcus made the right decision to back out until later in the afternoon.
After about six hours, Carrie, Marcus and a friend got on the track entering the standing corn. Almost immediately, they spotted pretty obvious blood about knee high on the corn. They continued tracking good blood that dwindled down to specks for a little over an hour. After about 200 yards, in the middle of the corn field, they found last blood. Marcus tied a green flag high on a corn stalk to mark it. The friend, went further down the hill grid searching for more blood sign, he was heading towards the lower corner where the buck originally entered the corn. Marcus just wanted to back out, and they finally did, also heading kinda back towards that lower corner before heading back up to Carrie's stand. Then they called Thor for help.
On the phone I told Carrie and Marcus that with a stomach hit we should wait at least 12 hours to track. Longer would be better. We decided to meet up at first light (6:30am) on Wednesday morning. A sleepless night for poor Carrie.

The Track - Part 1
Wednesday morning started cold and clear, 27 degrees with a heavy frost on everything. At the hit site I got to see Carrie's arrow. It had some light blood and what could be some stomach particles - that was hopeful. Marcus showed me a leaf with a tablespoon size glob of stomach stuff. After a quick glance I said, "Sure, great." I later regretted not looking more closely.
While we were examining stuff, Thor was itching to head down the bloody trail. Off we went, seeing bloody corn stalks along the way. Within about five minutes we were at the green flag on the corn stalk, 200 yards from the hit and last blood. I heard Marcus say, "It took us an hour and a half to get here."

From here on, it was all on Thor to show us where the buck went. After a little circling of the flag area, he headed down hill towards the lower corner of the corn, the same way the friend had done some grid searching and also the way the three had walked out after losing he trail. Uggh! My worry warning lights are now flashing. Could Thor be getting messed up by people with bloody boots and pants? Sure enough, finally down by the lower corner, still in the corn and 200 yds from the green flag, Thor got into his circling search mode. Working really hard with his nose glued to the ground. We spent about 10 minutes in a 50 yard area, just following Thors circling. We eventually came out of the corn and into a wooded/brushy area. Thor circled in there awhile and then Carrie said, "This is right where I first spotted the buck yesterday." Uggh! More worries for me.
We were then about 300 yards directly down hill from Carrie's stand, but wouldn't be for long. In a minute Thor was jogging up the hill, not tracking at all, he just wanted to go back to the start again... Uggh!
Back at the hit site, I stopped and got on "OnX" to delete the 1600 yard stroll we'd just been on and start over.
Now Thor ran down the blood trail. Forty yards from the green flag Thor turned and pulled me down towards the lower corner, but I pulled him back to get him on the blood trail to the flag. He wasn't having it... and again pulled away from the known blood trail. I reached down to get him headed in the right direction and he snapped at me... luckily biting my gloved hand.
Ok, ok... We'll follow you!
In a minute we were again back in the lower corner of the corn, Thor made a beeline there. This time however he didn't dawdle there making a quick turn and heading down a trail out of the corn and into some woods and brush. He was back on the bucks track... I was sure of it.
The next 700 yards of the track are a blurr to me. We just followed Thor on a steady pace through a mix of woods and brush. I knew he was on the track even though the last blood sign was about 1000 yards back at the green flag.
Now we began heading into a dried up swamp. I love swamps, especially dry ones, because they are easy to find blood in. Deer often leave blood on the grass and stems along their tight trails. Sure enough, after only 25 yards into the swamp, I spotted dry blood on a grass stem. I stopped and asked Carrie, "Do you think we're still on the track? Before she could answer, I broke off the grass stem and showed her the blood.
Thor was pretty hot going thru the swamp. More moisture always makes it better for tracking and Thor had no doubts about this bucks trail. Seventy-five yards past our blood sighting Thor stopped and put his nose down in a bed. Carrie and I both got down to look and there it was... blood!
The bucks first bed was about 1,250 yards from the hit... really didn't appear to be a stomach hit. On we went through the swamp, and eventually came out about 75 yards past the bed.
Here, Thor circled on a grassy road for a minute or two and then headed straight down the road, first jogging, then running with his head up high looking into the thick brush along the road. (This is his, "The deers right here posture").
I ran maybe 30 yards and stepped on his leash. He had already headed down a trail into the thick brush. When I finally grabbed the leash, he was pulling hard. For us humans the going was tough, crawling under, over and through the maze of stems. Once we got about 40 yards in Thor did a 20 yard circle then turned it up another gear, trying to tear my arm off. Ten seconds later, he started barking. A sure sign that we had just bumped the buck. It was now 24 hours after the hit.
Now the chase was on. That live buck was only a few minutes ahead of us... and Thor knew it. At that point, we started seeing blood again... fresh blood! Thor dragged me hard through another fifty, or so, yards of brush until popping out on a four-wheeler trail. The buck decided to take the easy route and we followed down the open trail for 150 yards. Carrie was calling out, "Blood!", all along the way.
Eventually Thor stopped his run down the open trail, and back tracked a few yards before plunging down a deer trail into more thick brush. Five yards in, standing on fresh blood with Thor pulling and barking, I told Carrie, "We're gonna stop here and come back later this afternoon, the deer needs more time."
We backed out and I hung a flag where the trail entered the brush. We had logged 1600 yards since the hit. On the way back to our vehicles Carrie, Marcus and I discussed the track and the buck. They then told me about, and showed me pics of, a true trophy buck they had in the area. One with double drop tines. Carrie didn't think it was her buck, but then again, she remembered seeing only part of one side of its rack before deciding it was a shooter and focusing on the upcoming shot. We made plans to meet back up at 4:00 pm to continue the track. Thirty-two hours should be plenty of time for a stomach hit.

The Track - Part 2
Wednesday afternoon at 4:00 pm it was sunny, 64 degrees, breezy and dry... not really great tracking conditions.
Back at the flag, we headed down the trail again. It was now an 8 hour old trail, so Thor was no longer barking, but still hot on the track. Especially because we still had a little blood sign after jumping him. That blood didn't last long, but Thor was still tracking strong. With the trail being only 8 hours old, it should be easy peasy to stay on this buck until we find him dead and hopefully not jumping him again. What could go wrong?
Nothing did for 700 yards through brush, blow downs and woods. Thor was moving at a good clip in a pretty direct path. Things were going great until we came out of the woods and into the bright, warm sunshine and the dry dirt farm road around another corn field. Thor got on the road and headed up a hill for maybe 50 yards, then he stopped and turned back. We had a narrow wooded hedge to our left and a big standing cornfield to our right.
Well, for the next 15 minutes, it was pure hell for old tracker Bob (and probably worse for Carrie and Marcus) as I watched and followed Thor back and forth and round and round over the dry dusty road and the dry crunchy leaves of the hedge row. We spent that entire time in a 10 x 40 yard area, with me saying out loud, "You're killing me Thor."... who had his nose glued to the ground trying to figure out the bucks path out of the area. Warm dry conditions are the worst for scenting and I knew that was what Thor was fighting through. But I had faith, I'd seen him figure these things out hundreds of times in the past.
After logging almost 250 yards of circling in that little area Thor headed into the corn. Once he got about 10 yards in, my hopes picked up when I saw shady damp dirt. Sure enough, Thor up shifted a gear and started jogging down between the rows. Soon after, he was going faster and I had to run to catch his leash.
Thor continued pulling me hard until we got to the far side of the corn field, about 150 yards past the dry spot. We were still about 20 rows into the corn when Thor suddenly stopped and made a 90 degree turn deeper into the corn. He put his nose high in the air and went into his frantic "deer alert" mode. I turned and told Carrie, "He's close." Just a few steps later the corn exploded 5 yards ahead of us. We jumped the buck again! We found his bed with just a few specks of blood in it. After only a few yards down his getaway path, we again found a little fresh blood. Time to back out again. I hung a flag at the bed and we snuck out. We had logged 1,050 yards since we started part two of tracking.
On the way back it was obvious this track was really hard on Carrie. So much hope and excitement, but also so much disappointment. And now, she had to go through another night of wonder and worry. Many hunters can relate to what she was going through. I felt bad for her, but was still optimistic that we could recover this buck. I'm sure I saw stomach stuff at the hit, but a stomach hit deer shouldn't still be running. Nothing is for sure, but we'd give it another try on Thursday morning... 46 hours after the hit.

Baliva Buck 2022

The Track - Part 3
Back at it, Thursday morning at 6:30 am. Beautiful morning, but still too warm. Fifty degrees and the sun coming up. I was puzzled about this track, but still pretty sure we'd find the buck again. Whether dead or alive... I didn't know. Carrie had been through hell and I think just wanted it over with. She needed closure, even if it meant we jumped it again and it kept on going or it became Coyote food... that's nature.
Carrie and I headed back to our flag at the bed in the corn field. Again, I was hoping that the initial blood I saw would continue for awhile. At the bed, Thor again started hot on this buck that he knew well by now. I saw blood sign for maybe 20 yards, then none. On we went back through the corn with Thor firmly on the trail. For 300 yds we went diagonally through the corn. Along the way Carrie spotted a few comforting blood signs and after a short time we were at the opposite corner of the corn field from where we started. Then, we came out back onto a dry dirt road.
This turned out worse than the first. We spent 20 minutes, logging 400 yards in a 40 yard diameter that consisted of the dirt road and open wooded hedgerow with six inches of dry leaves. Thor was killing himself with nose to the ground, again trying to figure out the bucks path.

Eventually, he again caught a track straight into the nearby open hardwoods. He was doing good, but what lay ahead looked even better... thick brush that was nice and damp and also a great place to bed. Sure enough, when Thor got into the thick stuff he picked it up a notch. We were in a mix of dense brush, hardwoods and lots of fallen trees, a perfect place to bed. After a few hundred yards in this stuff Thor stopped at a bed and sniffed. Back on hands and knees we again found blood! But, why wasn't our deer here? We were 1,200 yards from our last bed! On we went and shortly came upon another bloody bed. This might be good or Bad.
With all the bucks scent in this area, Thor was pretty wired and I was just trying to follow him as he went through brush and over logs. Luckily Carrie was right behind me to hold the leash as I tried to find ways to stay with Thor. Thor wasn't giving up and neither were when suddenly we came around a corner and I spotted a monster white rack just glowing 20 yards ahead!
The buck was bedded, facing directly away from us. His body was completely hidden behind a big fallen tree, but his rack sticking above the log as bright as a neon sign.
I stopped Thor who was only five feet ahead of me. He couldn't see the buck, but would soon sense it was there. I turned to Carrie and gave her the shush sign and pointed frantically to the buck. When she saw it she had to work hard to hold back a scream... it was the drop tine buck 20 yards ahead, but probably still alive !!
We were close, but it wasn't over yet. I couldn't get a shot at it from where we were. I couldn't see any of its body and we were in thick brush. I gave Carrie Thor's leash to hold and hoped he would stay quiet. Then I kinda saw a semi-clear place I could get to for maybe a quartering away shot. Thor started barking and I told him, "No!"... he actually stopped! I made my way to a log as I pulled the hammer back on my 243. I walked on the log till I got near the clearing. From there I could see the bucks bedded body, quartering away. His head was up, but he had no idea we were there... he had to still be alive. Now, only 15 yards away, I pulled up and put my red dot on the back of his rib cage. At the hit, he lurched towards the shot and tipped over.
It was over! Carrie could finally let out a scream with all that emotion from the past 47 hours. I was so happy and relieved for her. I told her to let Thor go, and he was the first one to put hands/teeth on the Trophy 13-point. I walked up, pulled Thor off, and just sat on a log admiring the buck.By the time Carrie got to it, Thor was the only one without tears in his eyes.
Seeing Carries joy and relief at recovering this buck was the high point of my tracking career. I can't possibly see how it can be topped.
Now the real shocker! Her hit was Liver and stomach, and it was still alive 47 hours after the hit. She hit just where she said and with the steep angle it came out right at the bottom of the deer. Distance logged in part 3 of the track was 1,600 yards.

Carrie's 13-Point was taken on 11/10/22 in Monroe County and gross scored 170

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