NAME: David Powell
SADDLE GEAR: Phantom, Predator Platform, Tethrd One Sticks
I will begin by apologizing in advance for my lack of brevity in recounting the following events.
I first saw this deer in the summer of 2017. It had a very unusual rack. I believe it was three years old at the time. Because of its unmistakable antlers, it certainly stood-out among the other deer on the property. Shortly after first seeing the deer, I gave it the nickname of Bootsie. I watched the deer throughout the years. The Bootsie seemed to disappear every year after the third week of October. During the years of observing the deer, on two occasions I saw it urinate and it did so in a manner consistent with that of a doe. As a result, I became convinced that Bootsie was an antlered doe.
As time passed, the deer’s body and antlers continued to fill-out. However, the neck and head, but for the unusual antlers, remained long and slender, like that of a doe.
In 2019 I acquired access to an additional ranch to the north. It was then that I began to see Bootsie on a more regular basis. Obviously, in prior years I was observing the deer at the
periphery of its home range. Now I finally had access to Bootsie’s core area.
I continued to watch the deer in utter amazement. Each year I would start running several trail cameras in mid- to late-summer and each year I was always anxious to see Bootsie and the latest developments to this very special deer. In 2021, as usual, I was looking forward to seeing Bootsie and its latest developments. In late August I began to get some night-time photos of Bootsie and, though its neck and head were once again long and thin, the antlers had developed into its biggest yet!
During that same time, I also had photos of a legitimate 190’s class buck on another part of the property. Several of the photos were during the daytime. I continued to get photos of Bootsie, but all of them were at night. As a result, I decided to target the 190″ buck. I was getting very close to unraveling the puzzle of the 190″ deer. However, one day I needed to take care of some chores on the north ranch. As I was attending to my work, I saw a big-bodied buck standing on a ridge about 700 yds away. I grabbed my binos and was watching a nice 10-point as it worked along the ridgeline. In my peripheral vision I noticed another deer just over the crest of the
same ridge. I was hesitant to take the binos off the 10-point for fear that I might lose track of him while I was looking at the other deer at the edge of my vision. However, curiosity got the better of me and I took a quick glance at the other deer. When I swung the Vortex Razor 18×56 UHD binos to the west, there stood Bootsie, in the daylight and in all his glory. At that point, the nice 10 point and for that matter, even the 190″ buck, could not have been further from my mind. I watched Bootsie moving west along the distant ridgeline and in my excitement, even managed to get a few seconds of herky-jerky digi-scope video of the deer.
From that moment forward I bow hunted Bootsie at the exclusion of all other deer for the next 54 days straight. I was close a couple of occasions, but each time no ethical shot was offered, so I didn’t release an arrow. Also, during this 54-day marathon, I passed on 18 other shot
opportunities at 140″ class or better bucks. As a result, the 2021 season came to a close and for the first time in a long time, I did not fill a tag.
Something else happened in 2021 during this odyssey. I discovered Tethrd and saddle hunting! I have hunted from a certain brand of tree stand for the last couple of decades. I will also be 60 years old on my next birthday. Therefore, it’s fair to say that I am likely outside of the typical demographic of the young, aggressive, mobile generation of saddle hunters. However, during my quest for Bootsie, I found myself needing to be in a certain location in a very specific tree. That tree was not at all conducive to me using my tried-and-true tree stand, but that was exactly where my scouting told me I needed to be. I had heard of tree saddles, but had never
considered using one. Right then, while I was still in the field scouting I got on my phone,
started researching tree saddles, discovered Tethrd and ordered a saddle. I hunted in another location for the next two days until my new saddle arrived. That afternoon I grabbed my bow and my newfound tool. I added the climbing sticks I had used for years with my former tree stand and headed for “the spot”. The wind was out of the south and just strong enough to mask my approach. When I was about 40 yards from my chosen tree I stopped and stood looking and listening for nearly 10 minutes before approaching the tree. Finally, after I was convinced that nothing was moving near the tree, I took a slow and methodical step toward my intended
destination. At that step, Bootsie quickly stood-up from a small, dense clump of pin oak brush less than 20 yards to my right and bounded away!
I took a few things away from that brief encounter; I was dejected at being so close to a shot opportunity at Bootsie, without even knowing it, I was concerned that by bumping Bootsie from its bed, I might never see the deer again, I WAS spot-on with my plan after interpreting the
scouting data and finally, this saddle hunting thing was FOR ME! I could quickly and quietly get into and hunt from any tree that I needed to in order to close the deal on whitetails. I was also convinced that, had I not stood for so long in such close proximity, Bootsie would likely have lain there and let me walk right by. I could not help but wonder how many other times that scenario may have played-out over the years. I continued to hunt from my saddle for the rest of the
season. I found it to be safe, comfortable and as I have said previously, I could hunt from
virtually any tree that I needed to. Throughout this process, my friends John Hite and Ryan Springer, both very accomplished
whitetail hunters, were giving much needed advice when asked for and encouragement along the way.
In the Spring of 2022 both John and Ryan were in Kansas to shed hunt with me. During that trip, I took them to the north ranch to get their first-hand perspective on my pursuit of Bootsie. At that time of year, the trees were just budding, but green-up had not taken place yet. Therefore, the sign from the 2021 season was still very visible.
At one point, the three of us were standing in an area when Ryan said, “David, right here is where you’re going to harvest Bootsie. Look up into the bare trees. You see that thick place in the canopy, that would make a great place for you to set-up. That ravine will allow you to access this place without being seen and you can pop over the ridgetop and jump into the tree when the wind is right.”
I was actually embarrassed. What Ryan said was so right. The location was perfect. It should have been very obvious to me, given all the years that I’ve pursued whitetails with a bow.
However, after unsuccessfully hunting Bootsie for 54 days the previous season, my view of the situation was so myopic, I could not see the forest for the trees, literally!
Over the Summer of 2022 I participated in seven Total Archery Challenge events. During one of those early events in Tennessee I was looking at the vendor tents and met Greg Godfrey and several people from his team at Tethrd. The subject of Bootsie came-up. Greg and his guys were so very encouraging and throughout the rest of the Summer whenever I would see them at the other TAC events, they seemed to always make a point of asking me about the latest intel on Bootsie. By the time 2022 Kansas archery season rolled around, I had added a Tethrd
Predator platform, a set of Tethrd One Sticks with aiders, a Madrock ascender, a Tethrd HYS Strap and some Tethrd pouches. I was truly a saddle hunter at nearly 60 years old! I would have never dreamed of giving-up my favorite tree stand, but I did, and I haven’t looked back.
The season opened on September 12th this year, and even though I wanted to put my new
Tethrd gear to use, the wind was not right to hunt the spot that Ryan suggested until September 22nd. Early that evening I eased up the previously mentioned ravine undetected and in the
process of putting my first Tethrd One Sticks onto the tree, I made a little bit of noise. Bootsie immediately stood-up from its bed about 70 yds away! I was still on the ground, and I was able to keep the tree between the deer and me. To my surprise, Bootsie began to approach! As the deer walked, I quietly nocked an arrow. I was thinking to myself, “This is about to happen!”
Bootsie stopped and stood motionless. I eased around the tree just enough to range the deer at 42 yds. Unfortunately, the only shot I had was head-on. I know this can be a very lethal shot,
but this deer was too special to me to take the chance that something unfortunate might happen.
I passed on the shot! Bootsie continued to stand there for what seemed like an eternity then calmly walked back along the same trail, passed over its bed, then turned to look back before melting into the timber.
The wind was not right for the next few days. I also had to fly to L.A. for work. On September 28th while in the Los Angeles airport waiting to board my flight back to Kansas, I received a photo of Bootsie on my phone from one of my Exodus Render cellular cameras. I was ecstatic! I’m sure other travelers must have thought what is this crazy guy so excited about.
By the time my flight landed and I drove home, it was the early morning hours of September 29th. I had to be up early that morning for work related things. I also had a Teams meeting with my boss that afternoon that seemingly would never end! Finally, when I got off the call, the wind was still right so I headed for the woods. I placed my One Sticks onto the tree and set-up my Predator platform then hung my Mathews from the HYS Strap’s bow hanger.
It was a beautify evening. The air had cooled just a little and the sun hung low in the Kansas sky. The tree was a pin oak that was holding lots of leaves with some Fall color. If a shot
opportunity presented itself all I had to do was extend my legs against the Predator platform to move from a seated position to a standing position that would give me a stron- side shot just over an adjacent branch at the intersection of two well-used deer trails.
At 5:56 pm I caught some movement through the timber to the southwest. A moment later I glimpsed a small part of Bootsie’s very distinctive rack carefully moving my way through the woods. With shaky hands I took the Mathews from my HYS Strap bow hanger and clipped-on my release. Bootsie closed to around 30 yds and stopped in a thick spot where he was partially obscured and afforded no shot. It reminded me of the encounter I had nearly a year before when Bootsie was bedded less than 20 yds away from me as I stood there watching and
listening. Nine minutes later, at 6:13 pm Bootsie shook its one-of-a-kind rack along with the rest of its body, then calmly began to move forward. At 20.5 yds Bootsie was broadside in an
opening at the crossroads of the two deer trails in front of me. By this time, it was almost more than I could do to calm my nerves, draw my bow, anchor, bend at the waist and settle my pin.
The shot broke cleanly with a surprise release sending my Exodus MMT arrow on it way. The razor sharp single-bevel broadhead found its mark an instant before the arrow’s fletching
disappeared. Upon impact, Bootsie lurched forward then stopped about 15 yds from the point of the shot and then stood there flicking its tail, all the while leaving a puddle of blood collected on the ground below. A second or two later the deer began to calmly walk away, still quickly flicking its tail from side to side as it walked out of my line of sight. Moments later everything was quiet once again.
I stayed in my saddle for a little over an hour. At 7:15 pm I climbed down, inspected my arrow, and walked to the spot where Bootsie stopped. Just then a group of coyotes sounded-off
nearby just to my southeast. Another group answered them a short distance away to the west. I scanned the woods with my Vortex 10×42 Fury range finding binoculars and didn’t see any sign of the deer. Because of the nearby presence of the coyote packs, I didn’t want to take any
chances. Before going any further, so as not to contaminate the trail with human scent, I
immediately call for a tracking dog. Lucas Mott told me that he and Baxter, his blood tracking dog would be rolling my way shortly.
A few weeks earlier I had run into a Game Warden while eating lunch at a local cafe. I told him that I was hunting a very unusual deer and that fair chase and ethical hunting is very important to me. I asked the Game Warden if I was somehow able to harvest the deer, would he consider accompanying me on the recovery to help document that this deer was in-deed a free-ranging, low-fence, and ethically harvested deer. He graciously said that he would if his schedule would allow it at the time. Therefore, my next call was to the local Game Warden. He had just
returned to his home after, what I am sure had already been a very long day, but he said he was more than happy to accompany me on the recovery and like Lucas and Baxter, he would be rolling my way shortly.
45 minutes later, I met both men and Baxter at one of the ranch gates and drove to the area of the evening’s hunt. By then it was completely dark. After some brief formalities were out of the way, I led the group to the small ravine where I had accessed my saddle location in the very same tree that Ryan had suggested months earlier. Once there, I showed them the recovered arrow and the spot where Bootsie had stood after the shot and left sign on the ground. From there, it was Baxter’s time to go to work. The dog headed in a northwesterly direction with the rest of us in tow. Baxter is a very mild-mannered dog, and he went about his business in
workmanlike fashion. Within a couple of minutes, we were standing over Bootsie. The deer had only gone about 70 yds after the shot. I stood there rather dumbfounded with a full range of thoughts and emotions. I just wanted to look at this very unusual deer that had occupied so much of my thoughts, time, and efforts over the last six years. Bootsie quietly lay there with its unusual antlers illuminated by the beam of my headlamp. It appeared to me as though Bootsie had walked to this location and henturned to watch its backtrail t simply laid down and expired.
Though I wanted to touch the deer and its antlers, I was very hesitant to do so, because I was keenly aware that, in all likelihood, I would be the first human to every touch this special
creature. So much was racing through my mind as I thanked God for the opportunity to even see this animal, much less watch it for six long years, hunt it and ultimately harvest it. I thanked the Lord for allowing my aim to be true and my efforts to be efficient and humane. Moments later I felt the odd sensation of Bootsie’s velvet on my fingertips and the gravity of that special time. I was in amazement. However, that was soon to be overshadowed by what came next.
The reader should keep in mind that up to this point, I still believed that Bootsie was an antlered doe. As I began to make preparations to field dress the deer, it became obvious that instead of an antlered doe, Bootsie possessed male genitalia, though somewhat underdeveloped. Shortly thereafter, I became aware that Bootsie also possessed similarly underdeveloped female
genitalia! Bootsie was a hermaphrodite! As if an antlered doe was not rare enough, I had
apparently harvested an even rarer specimen! From that point forward, the field dressing
process became more of a necropsy with the Game Warden capturing the events with his body camera.
After the field dressing/necropsy was complete, things became something of a blur. As word began to spread of what I consider the crowning achievement of my nearly 50 years of pursuing whitetails with a bow. As of the writing of these words, Bootsie is undergoing the 60-day drying period required before an official score can be determined, but for the reader’s insight, Bootsie appears to have 21 scoreable points. The bases of the antlers almost touch in the middle of the forehead. Each of the bases of the antlers are approximately 14″ to 15″ in circumference.
Beyond that, I have no idea what this deer will score. The score really does not matter
compared to the overall chain of events that took place during my six years of encounters with the deer. A day or so later after the flurry of local interest began to subside, I reached-out to noted whitetail researcher, John Ozoga, author of over 300 technical papers and articles who has some experience regarding hermaphroditic deer. Though now retired, Mr. Ozoga was kind enough to speak with me at some length about the deer. At the time, he was unable to site the exact statistics but said, “David, suffice to say you have harvested a very, very rare whitetail.”
As I have told many people in response to their congratulations, “Thank you, but I’m just an old bowhunter that is too driven to quit!” Maybe I should amend that statement to, “I’m just an old saddle hunter that is too driven to quit!”
Thank you Bootsie!