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Wow!!!!! Incredible story & buck!!!! No worries on tagging out early on a big boy! Congrats!!Sorry for the long post, I meant to keep it short, but just kept typing. Just read the last couple paragraphs unless you are bored.
This past Saturday 10/30 was my first hunt of the season. In the morning I went out for the pheasant opener and it was a bust, as was the Hawkeye game afterwards. I finally got round up in the afternoon and headed out to a small property I've had permission on for probably 12 years or so for my first hunt of the season.
With a slight wind out of the northwest and the entrance to the property from the east I entered from the southeast corner, parking at the landowners house, walking along the pasture edge, crossing the creek, and into the timber. Being the first hunt I didn't want to push in to too deep and stayed near the creek. I bought a saddle last year so I had no stands set and I planned to just find a decent tree in that southeast corner and get set up.
Its picked corn to the south of the timber and west of the timber block with small brushy treed creek banks to the south. To the north the same creek winds along with brush/timber with some acreages and big ag field to the west. Not a lot of cover in the section and this small little 8 or so acre timber/brush chunk that I can hunt is sort of the hub in the entire section expect for a bigger timber section way up to the north end. Deer will travel along the creek to the north and south and the place that I have permission and the bigger cover to the north really the only timber. I've learned to stay out until the rut starts up or i can burn it out really quick. Often I will see deer bedded way out in the ag on the terraces once to much pressure is put on. There are at least a couple other hunters in the section too.
Anyhow, I found a tree that looked good and easy to climb where a few deer trails converged in the southeast corner of timber patch. By the time I got set up it was about 5:15. Little later than I would have liked, but this hunt was more just to get the bugs out and be sure everything's ready and arranged, you know how those first hunts of the year go. It was a beautiful evening with comfortable temps.
About 30 minutes later I see a doe moving through along the creek bank. She gets near where I entered the timber and I could tell she smelled something, me where I came into the timber, but didn't spook. A few minutes later I do some light grunts and light rattling. Nothing comes in. I was content just enjoying the first sit and still trying to learn how to get comfortable with a saddle, its a learning curve. By now the sun is not shining through trees so i can see a lot better without all the shadows, I am down a bit lower near the creek. Few minutes later I hear something to my west, my left, through the timber/brush. I look over and I can see white antlers in the saplings and brush and know its buck right away. He had his head down so I couldn't tell for sure how big. He lifted his head and I went on autopilot grabbing my bow, I didn't have to think about it or get my binos to look closer. He was walking on a trail that went literally directly under my tree. I knew that trail wouldn't be ideal if a deer came down it when I set up, but with a few trails all converging near that corner no tree was really perfect and that would be a risk no matter which tree i picked. He was probably 30 yards away when I saw him. He walked down the path and i could hear my heart beating in my head and my heart rate increasing. Instant shooter, no hesitation. I even thought to myself that's a dang near 200 inch buck, 170s for sure. I was trying to decide what I was going to do. I didn't want to draw yet with him walking straight at me. He would see me or i could potentially be at full draw for to long and have to let down and risk being seen. I was thinking for this to work he was going to have to walk down that path and go directly under me and pass by which would then allow me to rotate to my right and try to get a shot off. I knew that the odds of that working were not going to be good, he would surely smell me if he got under my tree from when i set up, spot me, or once he made it past me he would hear me or catch my movement rotating to my right for a shot. Luckily he cut me a break. He stopped and made a scrape about 15 yards from me. There was no scrape there, he was making a new one. He pawed the dirt, hunched up to urinate on his legs, and lick a little branch that was hanging down. As he was hunched up in scrape licking the branch it seemed like he was looking directly at me. My heart was beating, I could feel it in my head and and hands. He noticed something wasnt quite right in the tree and moved his head to the side. He wasn't real spooked, but just started for a second and slowly turned to go back the direction he came from. I knew as he turned that was my chance. Still on autopilot I came to full drew and merped twice really quick. He paused and I was able to squeeze of a shot that looked good. It entered the back of the rib cage area and I knew with the angle it would go into his offside shoulder. He took off quick running a bit zig zaggy to the north up a slight rise and out of sight after about 50 yards. I listened hard, but did not hear him go down, to much road noise and a mower running off in the distance. I waited a minute and then called my dad. It was only 6:18.
I had only been set up for maybe an hour and only had one deer come in range, just the second deer I had seen and it was probably the biggest deer I have ever seen in person. I felt good about the shot. Since he ran out of sight over a rise in the timber I slowly climbed down and got packed up. I walked over to where the shot was and I didn't see any blood or my arrow. I decided to head to my parents house a few miles away to get my dad and brother to help. I debated a bit on if we should go back in around 10:00pm or so to give him a few hours or if we should just wait for morning. I decided to just wait for morning, if he is dead he is dead, no need to go back and potentially bump him. Sunday morning we got up and go there about 8am. There was only a few specks of blood maybe 30 yards from where I shot him and then nothing. I really had no idea where he went after the rise where I lost sight of him. We searched some of the low timber and near the creek for probably an hour. Then my dad found the arrow. It definitely was not a pass through, no blood on the fletching. I'm thinking the arrow went in and hit that offside shoulder and stopped and it fell back out as he was running. Right by the arrow was a couple spots where either a deer had bedded recently or him, but there was no blood. We just continued to search along the creek and the low arrows not thinking he would want to run up the hill. Maybe another 30 minutes or so and another 100 yards my dad started finding some blood on a path near the creek. The path lead up the creek and I found a spot on some sand where you could see heavy running tracks and some blood. He had jumped up a 5 foot bank. As my brother and I were trying to climb the bank my dad walked around to an easy spot to get up and when my brother and I got up my dad was standing over there smiling, he had found him. Wow, you talk about the swing of emotions, that was crazy. I was feeling that we were not going to find him and I was not looking forward to hunting the rest of the season. No one was going to believe me when I would try to describe the size of this buck that I couldn't find, no, actually I wasn't even going to tell anyone because I wanted to forget it. Then walking up on him was the highest of highs, I was so happy and pumped up.
He had probably gone about 150-200 yards I would guess from the shot. I'm thinking it was a one lung shot, maybe liver too? Unfortunately coyotes had gotten to him overnight and the hind quarters and most of the backstraps were gone. I'm guessing those couple beds near the arrow was where he had bedded and the yotes and pushed him. Probably a good call to come back in the morning or we likely would have pushed him. I was still able to get 15-20 pounds of shoulder meat fortunately. Taxidermist scored him at 186". Definitely my buck of a lifetime.
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