Joey Hayes and The Pursuit of The Ten Mile Buck

By Alex Comstock 

Last year, I did a blog post where I covered the topic on how far a whitetail buck might travel throughout the year. What really got the gears turning in my head on this topic was when my buddy Joey told me of a buck he had been hunting called the "Split Four", and he documented him traveling over ten miles. Well this season, Joey was able to write the final chapter of the buck's life, and I was able to catch up with him on how he was able to do it. 

Q: How long had you been hunting this buck? Was he one that was on your radar going into this season?

Joey: This would have been my second year hunting this buck and yes he's been the number 1 buck on the hit list since the day I've laid my eyes on him.

Q: How far would this buck actually travel from the summer to the fall, and then into the later part of the fall?

Joey: From summer to late season, he would travel about 10 miles. He did the same exact thing this year as he did the year prior. 

Q: Knowing what you did from previous seasons, and his travel patterns, did that play into your plan to hunt him this year?

Joey: A liltle yes.. my plan was to hunt him late December in his winter spot. I just kinda got lucky and found him earlier than I expected as he was transitioning from his summer home range through his fall range, and into his winter range. 

 Q: Did this buck stay on the same pattern as years prior? If so, how similar was it in terms of distance traveled, and the areas in which in moved in?

Joey: He was pretty much on the same exact routine as last year. A buddy of mine had captured his velvet pics in the same place where I did last year. I eventually stuck him a mile from where I found his sheds last year. From where the trail camera pictures were taken and where I found his sheds last year were 10 miles apart. 

 The "Split Four's" sheds from last year. 

The "Split Four's" sheds from last year. 

Q: Before the day you ultimately harvested him, how much had you hunted this buck this year? Did you have any encounters with him at all?

Joey: I hadn't had any encounters with him before the hunt I ultimately harvested him. I've been working all over the states this year, so I only had sat 3 times before my successful hunt.

Q: Take us through the hunt when you were finally able to send an arrow through him. How was it all able to come together?

Joey: I actually had seen a stud 145" 4x4 while scouting the day before and it was a spot I've hunted many times. Since this year my time was very limited I decided to go after him the next morning. After getting set up I did a few doe bleats followed by a grunt and had the 4x4 closing the distance, but he spooked after getting to about 20 yards. I thought the hunt was over, but I looked up to see a giant closing the distance from 500 yards out at a mild pace. I think he was coming to do some damage to the 4x4 I was initially going after. The buck came right to me and I let the arrow fly at 12 yards and made a great shot. He only went 150 yards and fell.

joey-buck

I didn't realize it was split four whom I had been after for so long until I walked up to him. I'm still in shock on how everything came together like it did. I immediately called my buddy Mike and broke the news that I harvested split four and he came to help with the recovery with our other buddy Jeff (Jeff had the trail cam pics of him in velvet early season this year and had a 20 yard encounter with him earlier in the season). They helped me load him in under 20 minutes.

Q: Explain the moments after the shot. The feeling of finally punching a tag on a buck you had been after for multiple years must have been pretty unreal?

Joey: I'm still in shock, it hasn't fully sunken in yet. It seems like it was just meant to be. So many variables happened to have him end up falling to my arrow, it's unbelievable to just think about. I'm very grateful to say the least.

joey-buck

Q: Now that this buck is gone, what would be the number one thing he taught you while you were in pursuit of him?

Joey: Never give up, run cams anywhere you can and scouting non stop pays off. I never leave home without my binos and spotting scope, and this definitely helped me in the pursuit of this buck.