Diary Of A Season

Diary Of A Season

Highs, lows and everything in-between

Last year I took off the last week of October and all of November to hunt whitetails in the hills and valleys near our home. Those weeks are the highlight of my year. I point toward them from the time the season ends until it starts up again. I also hunt the late season, which in Iowa is roughly the last two weeks of December and the first 10 days of January. That is the timeline for this article--the diary of my 2007 season.


Scott Prucha with the shed from the broken G3 buck that came past the author's stand seven times last season. Obviously, it was the other beam that had the broken tine.

Last Week Of October
Nick Mundt arrived at our home the evening of October 25 so we would be ready to start hunting together the next morning. Nick was filming me as I hunted near our home for the third year in a row, hoping to get something to use on Realtree's Monster Bucks video series.

October 27: That evening, an old buck popped out along the edge of the tree line 60 yards away and started eating thumbnail-sized shingle oak acorns. Every deer that came out that evening stopped to munch acorns under that tree before moving on. This buck was built like a bull. He wasn't particularly big of body, but he was all shoulder, chest and neck.


As soon as I saw him, my heart jumped and I started breathing hard. He had several stickers coming off his brows and decent mass--10 long points. I would shoot this buck. However, after studying him a little closer through the branches of the intervening trees, I noticed that he had broken off his third point on the right side. It was decision time. I don't like shooting busted-up bucks and it was only the third day of what was going to be 35 consecutive days of hunting. I just didn't like the fact that he was already busted. Nick urged me to shoot, but just as the buck began walking past, I decided to wait. He looked awfully good though. I remember telling Nick, "We'll probably see that buck all over the place."


He said, "I have a bad feeling that was our buck."

October 28: The next morning, Nick and I were hunting from a stand I had put up only a few days before his arrival. It was located on the end of a narrow one-acre food plot located in a natural opening in the woods.

I love this stand. It is now among my favorites. It is located just 90 yards off a county road that gets very little traffic. You can't see the plot from the road because it is on top of a ridge, but it is close enough to the road that I can slip in to the stand very easily and quickly for a morning hunt. I hunt it when the wind is blowing off the ridge top toward the road and deer rarely smell me. It is fun to sit in a stand and watch deer feeding nearby as a car whizzes past a short distance away. The deer don't even lift their heads.

We were in that stand at daybreak. An hour later, who should come in to a grunt call, but our old buddy. This stand is about one half-mile from the one we had hunted the night before and the buck came right in and nosed around for 10 minutes at close range before drifting off.

Don't cut corners. If you do, you will most certainly pay for it somewhere. Winke feels that not wearing his Elimitrax boots one morning cost him a possible chance at a 180-inch-plus buck.

We hunted that stand one more time during the next several days, but we didn't see that buck again. Interestingly, some neighbors who shed hunt our farm found a big single side in late February at the south end of that ridge where it plays out into a corn bottom. The antler scored 84 inches. That would put the buck in the mid-180s if he matched. I e-mailed Nick some photos of the shed and he is certain it is the buck we saw that morning in late October. Boy, I sure wish we had worn those scent-free boots.

November
My aunt, Joyce Hangartner, died of cancer in late October and her funeral was set for November 2. Nick planned to leave on November 3 for Illinois, so our hunt together was drawing to a rapid close.

November 2: While I was at the funeral in Cedar Rapids, I arranged for Nick to film a friend of mine, Joe Democko. Joe is a good shot and likes to fill tags so I knew this was a perfect combination. Cameramen love guys who like to shoot.

Joe and Nick enjoyed a dream rut hunt that started even before they got into the stand. Apparently, the first deer to come past in the semi-light of predawn (while the two hunters were preparing the camera stand) was a hot doe. You know what that means. The area was crawling with bucks for the next two hours. More than a dozen came past and Joe shot a dandy 150-inch 10 pointer at close range. While they were doing the cut-aways for the video after the buck fell, Joe shot a doe. Then to their amazement, a smaller buck came up to the doe and began mercilessly goring her lifeless form. Nick got it all on film.

November 5: One of the best hunts I have heard about took place for a friend of mine hunting on a different part of our farm. Mike Sawyer and I grew up together. His brother was my best friend and Mike, four years younger, was always a tag-along until he became my number one hunting buddy.

While Mike was sitting in his evening stand on November 5, he heard a chase nearby. From the deep grunting of the buck, he reasoned it was a mature animal. Allowing himself 20 minutes to sneak closer, he climbed down early and began his stalk. Using a slight rise for cover, Mike edged ever closer. Nocking an arrow, he knelt down behind the rise and grunted softly into his call. The chase abruptly stopped and soon Mike heard the sound of steadily approaching footsteps. The buck was coming right up the rise and would soon crest at just five yards! Mike drew his bow and waited breathlessly.

When the buck stopped at the top of the rise, Mike aimed for the center of the buck's chest and pulled the trigger. The deer bolted and made a half circle before the forest fell silent. Mike came unglued and began to shake uncontrollably. He was still shaking when I got there 40 minutes later to help him pull the buck out to the field edge.

The basic eight pointer had a long drop-tine, heavy mass and gross scored about 150 inches.

November 7: I usually don't hunt down in ravines unless the wind is perfect for obvious reasons. It was perfect the morning of the 7th and shortly after daybreak, the broken tined buck walked acro

ss the field in front of the stand--a one-acre soybean plot. An hour later, he reappeared and walked by at 30 yards.

We hunted that stand one more time during the next several days, but we didn't see that buck again. Interestingly, some neighbors who shed hunt our farm found a big single side in late February at the south end of that ridge where it plays out into a corn bottom. The antler scored 84 inches. That would put the buck in the mid-180s if he matched. I e-mailed Nick some photos of the shed and he is certain it is the buck we saw that morning in late October. Boy, I sure wish we had worn those scent-free boots.

While with Winke last November, Mike Sawyer shot this drop-tine buck by sneaking close to a rut chase and then using his grunt call to coax the buck into the open.

November
My aunt, Joyce Hangartner, died of cancer in late October and her funeral was set for November 2. Nick planned to leave on November 3 for Illinois, so our hunt together was drawing to a rapid close.

November 2: While I was at the funeral in Cedar Rapids, I arranged for Nick to film a friend of mine, Joe Democko. Joe is a good shot and likes to fill tags so I knew this was a perfect combination. Cameramen love guys who like to shoot.

Joe and Nick enjoyed a dream rut hunt that started even before they got into the stand. Apparently, the first deer to come past in the semi-light of predawn (while the two hunters were preparing the camera stand) was a hot doe. You know what that means. The area was crawling with bucks for the next two hours. More than a dozen came past and Joe shot a dandy 150-inch 10 pointer at close range. While they were doing the cut-aways for the video after the buck fell, Joe shot a doe. Then to their amazement, a smaller buck came up to the doe and began mercilessly goring her lifeless form. Nick got it all on film.

November 5: One of the best hunts I have heard about took place for a friend of mine hunting on a different part of our farm. Mike Sawyer and I grew up together. His brother was my best friend and Mike, four years younger, was always a tag-along until he became my number one hunting buddy.

While Mike was sitting in his evening stand on November 5, he heard a chase nearby. From the deep grunting of the buck, he reasoned it was a mature animal. Allowing himself 20 minutes to sneak closer, he climbed down early and began his stalk. Using a slight rise for cover, Mike edged ever closer. Nocking an arrow, he knelt down behind the rise and grunted softly into his call. The chase abruptly stopped and soon Mike heard the sound of steadily approaching footsteps. The buck was coming right up the rise and would soon crest at just five yards! Mike drew his bow and waited breathlessly.

When the buck stopped at the top of the rise, Mike aimed for the center of the buck's chest and pulled the trigger. The deer bolted and made a half circle before the forest fell silent. Mike came unglued and began to shake uncontrollably. He was still shaking when I got there 40 minutes later to help him pull the buck out to the field edge.

The basic eight pointer had a long drop-tine, heavy mass and gross scored about 150 inches.

November 7: I usually don't hunt down in ravines unless the wind is perfect for obvious reasons. It was perfect the morning of the 7th and shortly after daybreak, the broken tined buck walked across the field in front of the stand--a one-acre soybean plot. An hour later, he reappeared and walked by at 30 yards.

That buck became a consistent companion. I saw him four more times during the next week, seven times in all, from five different stands spanning a total distance of more than a mile, always in broad daylight. For an old buck, he sure was making himself vulnerable.

That buck made it through the season because Scott Prucha found one of his sheds in early March. I hope he is just as reckless this year.

November 13: I continued to see mature bucks during the rut, but none had truly outstanding antlers, not like you would expect given their age and the genetics that Iowa offers. It shows that not all old bucks are big, even in the best areas. In fact, most old bucks are not big. When you see a truly big deer, it is a privilege not accorded most archery hunters. Never take those moments for granted.

On the afternoon of November 13, one of those old but not giant bucks came past. I was in the stand at the open gate where Nick and I had encountered the double drop-tine buck two weeks earlier. Things were a lot different now. The clover had frosted down, most of the leaves were gone from the trees and the days were decidedly colder. The buck presented an easy broadside shot at 15 yards as he made his way from the clover toward the gate and into the corn.

In keeping with tradition, I got our nine-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son to help me track and recover the deer. I have come to enjoy that part of the hunt just as much as actually shooting the deer. With those two, nighttime blood trailing is high adventure.

The rut waned quietly without any giant buck sightings.

December
I love the late season. It is just as good as the rut because I make every effort to maintain a few prime food plots that attract the deer when all the local fields have been harvested and covered with snow.

December 18: I was still seeing mature bucks having average or smaller antlers. I had passed up a buck in late November, before the gun season came in, that I wished I had shot. He was a wide 10 pointer with short tines and poor genetics. I had seen him on the same ridge for the past three years and he has not gotten an inch bigger. He was the perfect cull.

When he shuffled out into the soybean plot in the stiff-legged gait of an older buck, I didn't hesitate. Just the fact that I was now hunting for him increased the excitement level when he showed up. I made the 40-yard shot and he was quickly on the ground as I started to shake.

Wrap-Up
That was it. Still carrying my second general bow tag, I hunted every evening for the remainder of the late season, but I never saw a whopper.

There are two deer that made it through the fall and winter that I will be hunting with a vengeance this fall. The first is the big 10 pointer with the split G2s that caught our ground scent near the house. The other is the buck that had the broken G3 last season. Either one will cause an unusual amount of adrenaline to dilute my blood flow should he show up this fall.

That is the perpetual joy of bowhunting. There is always the one that got away to keep us coming back.

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