Tolman Burbage knew the 8-point buck he and a friend spied last Sunday on the banks of the Keowee River in Upstate South Carolina was a prized trophy. And the 21-year-old Summerville resident, an avid deer hunter himself, knew the hunter who had shot it would want to find it. With the help of Facebook, Burbage was able to locate the hunter who several days earlier had shot the deer but had been unsuccessful tracking it down.
Burbage, a sophomore at Southern Wesleyan University and the son of Hugo and Gwen Burbage, was participating in an online fishing tournament with his friend Parker Pillsbury. They were fishing the waters below the Lake Keowee Dam when they spotted the deer. They pulled over to the bank and Burbage got out to examine it.
“Being a deer hunter, I know how gut-wrenching it is to lose a deer, especially one like that,” said Burbage, whose best deer is a 10-pointer. His hunting time this year has been limited but he has taken a 7-pointer.
“I was thinking it would be an awful waste to leave this deer here. What I wanted to do was take the horns and track down the hunter and give him his horns back. But I didn’t have a saw or anything. And being a college student, I didn’t have a place to put the horns if I did take them,” Burbage said.
So he did the next best thing. Burbage took several photos and posted them on the Facebook group South Carolina Deer Hunters, asking if anyone knew the person who had shot the deer. The post was shared by many, including South Carolina Deer Hunters members and folks at Westcreek Waterfowl Outfitting and Apparel (westcreekwaterfowl.com) in Batesburg. Burbage got a reply on Monday afternoon.
“I got in contact with the guy who thought it was his deer and he described to me how it was shot. Then he told me where he had shot it location-wise and it was only a few hundred yards away from where I found it,” Burbage said.
The hunter who contacted Burbage was William Dickerson of Central. Dickerson’s son Joseph saw Burbage’s Facebook post and sent copies of the photos to his dad, who immediately knew it was his lost trophy deer.
“I’ll be honest. It was pretty awesome that he found my deer. That was my first buck with a bow. I was pretty heartbroken when we lost the blood trail. I had seen it in my dreams and nightmares ever since I shot it, over and over,” Dickerson said.
“(Burbage) was pretty smart about it. We had to give him some information about the area where I shot it and how I shot it and it all lined up. He then told us where it was. I left work, met my buddy and son with the boat and we were there within a half hour. It was pretty exciting. We thanked him up and down and told him if we could ever do anything for him to let us know.”
Dickerson said several friends had seen Burbage’s post earlier but didn’t make the connection because Burbage used the term Keowee River and locals know the area as the Florence Bridge River.
“It was my first deer with a bow, on Game Management Land that is bows only,” Dickerson said. “We had hunted there last year and saw some good scrapes and a couple of big trees that were rubbed. I saw the deer twice last year but it was out of bow range. This time he came out 15 feet from me, out of a thicket and was facing head-on. By that time he had seen me and was ready to bolt. I took the shot and shot a little bit low.”
Dickerson said his first deer with a bow and arrow will join three other 8-pointers he has harvested. But the latest deer definitely has the biggest mass.
“It was awesome,” Dickerson said. “It just goes to show you that most hunters and fishermen out there are really good people.”
“I didn’t expect much of it,” said Burbage, who has received a lot of praise from hunters who have heard the story. “I was just trying to do something for somebody. I have lost a deer and I’ve had someone find it for me. To lose one is absolutely gut-wrenching. To be on the side of someone who’s been helped out in recovering a deer, it’s a great feeling to have that closure.”
As for the bass tournament Burbage and Pillsbury were fishing, they ended up finishing 12th.
America’s Boating Club
America’s Boating Club Charleston will hold a boating safety class on Nov. 7 at 1376 Orange Grove Road, Charleston. The class begins at 9 a.m. and ends around 4 p.m. Successful participants earn the S.C. Department of Natural Resources Boater Education Card. The cost is $25 for adults (no charge for ages 12-18). Call 843-312-2876 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.