Like most, I’m simply amazed with the number of giant whitetails taken each season in the Midwest. Occasionally, I get the chance to interview the hunter and write their “hero” story for a national magazine, one noted for publishing only the biggest of the biggest. As a result; only a handful of those ever hit the “big time.” Unfortunately, few of us ever hear or read about the majority of those that didn’t make the initial cut.
The following are the exciting stories from two Iowa bowhunting enthusiasts detailing their hunts that ended with some impressive results. They hadn’t made it big, at least until now anyway!
“They Call Him Lucky”
Greg Richards doesn’t come from a hunting family, nor did he have a mentor to guide him along in the hunting sport. In fact, the 30-year-old insurance agent from Nashua, Iowa learned the ins-and-outs of hunting whitetails on his own! He began hunting just 12 years ago, and has since taken several nice bucks, four of which qualified for the archery record book.
In 2002, Greg raised the goal post and set his sights on shooting a deer that would qualify for the prestigious Boone & Crockett Club record book. He came close a couple of times, but his dream didn’t become reality until this past November, that’s when he arrowed a giant 23 pointer in Chickasaw, County.
“Unlike some, scouting for me begins during the summer months, glassing and running trail cameras on the different properties I hunt, begins Greg. “For the most part I try to get a picture of a good buck, or spot one glassing first, then turn my attention toward locating his core area, and a stand site that offers the best odds of intercepting the deer.
“When I first started hunting the different properties, I spent a lot of time going over aerial photos trying to locate all the nooks and crannies where I felt a mature buck might go to find sanctuary. As I scouted those places for sign and likely stand sites, I also looked for ways to get in and out with the least amount of disturbance.
“Back then I started keeping a spreadsheet that contains all my stand sites on the various properties. The stands are categorized for a specific wind direction. From that I can determine my best stand options for a given day.
“By the time the season rolled around I had two nice bucks located, and set my sights on hunting them exclusively; that is until a landowner told me about the big non-typical seen on his place. He also said that his neighbor had trail cam photos of the deer, and claimed it had at least 21 points. Needless to say, I was pretty excited after hearing that.
“That particular farm is maybe 200 acres, and consists of crop ground, pasture, and probably 40 to 50 acres of timber. The one place where I felt the buck would be most vulnerable was a thick strip of timber paralleling the river. Problem was; the timber was surrounded by standing corn. Knowing there was little chance of slipping through the cornfield without bumping the buck, I decided to keep my distance until after the corn came out.”
“Opening day found me hunting a different farm where I spotted a big buck crossing a field early that morning. From what I could tell he had 18 points and was definitely a shooter. I hunted the deer for about a week, but didn’t see him again. To avoid burning out the area, I decided to back off and let the area cool down for a while.
“For the next two weeks I rotated between properties, but hadn’t seen a buck that I would consider shooting. Normally I refrain from hunting my best stands until the last week of October. And it was getting about that time.
“Over the course of the next week I had seen five or six nice bucks. On two occasions I had a 140-class buck within range, but opted to pass both times.
“There had been a sharp increase in rutting activity the first few days of November, and the corn had just been taken out on the farm where the big non-typical had been seen. I only got to hunt the place twice before the wind switched direction. ”
“On the sixth of November the wind changed direction again, so I seized the opportunity to sneak into the stand before sunrise. There hadn’t been much movement until around 8 a.m., that’s when a big buck suddenly appeared cruising through the timber. He had at least eight normal points, and a bunch of stickers. I tried grunting, but he simply wouldn’t respond. Based on the landowner’s description, there was no doubt it was the same deer. Unfortunately, the wind shifted overnight and I couldn’t hunt the stand the following morning.”
The Moment of Truth
“Two days later I got a break when the wind switched back to a favorable direction. When I arrived at the stand the next morning it was still dark, but I could hear deer running and bucks grunting in the distance. I had a gut feeling it was going to be a good morning.
“As anticipated the first hour was absolutely chaotic; bucks and does were running every which way. Unfortunately, the majority of deer hadn’t used the trail I expected them to. Instead, they had been following a trail on the other side of the field. I tried calling, but nothing seemed to work.
“By 7:30 I’d had enough and decided to climb down and try something different. I’ve had good success spotting-and-stalking whitetails before; so I had no reason to believe it couldn’t be done again.
“I snuck to the other side of the field and set-up in a shallow depression near the brush line. I hadn’t been there more than a half-hour when it got quiet. At that point I began thinking; maybe I should have stayed put. Long story short, I began sneaking back toward the stand.
“I was probably no more than 50 yards away when I spotted a big buck coming over the ridge and heading my way. The buck was soaking wet
and panting like crazy, apparently he had just crossed the river. When he got within range, he came to a sudden stop, and his head was behind a tree. Knowing he couldn’t see me, I took the opportunity to stand up and draw. With the upper half of the vitals exposed, I settled the pin behind the shoulder and punched the release. Upon impact the arrow melted into the ribcage. The buck charged forward, but only went 25 yards before going down.
“I normally don’t get too shook up, but when I approached and grabbed hold of his antlers, I got excited to say the least. I remember thinking out loud, Holy cow, this thing is absolutely huge!
“The first person I called was my wife. Next was my friend, Kenn Deike. For whatever reason, some years ago Kenn started calling me “Lucky.” When I told him about my deer, he said; “I just knew it. I’ve always said you were lucky, and this proves it!”
The Halloween Stand
Most have likely heard or read about the “hot stand,” you know the one I’m talking about. It’s the stand that always seems to produce multiple opportunities in any given season. In some cases, hunters have been known to kill more than one big buck from the same stand.
Granted they’re far and few between, but this happened to be the case for Robin Schneider, a hardcore deer hunter from Calamus, Iowa. Not only did Robin shoot a giant non-typical in 2005, but last year he anchored one of the states top typical bucks. Let’s hear how he did it. Locate Funnels
“I’ve been hunting in this part of the state since the late ’80s and have been fortunate enough to take several nice bucks in the process,” begins Robin. “There’s no doubt I know the general area fairly well, but I utilize the late winter and early spring months to get out and scout new ground. Sure I look for sheds, but my primary objective is locating the natural travel corridors that mature bucks are most prone to use during the rut.
“While shed hunting in March of 2005, I came across an old dilapidated fence line overgrown with hedge (Osage Orange) trees on a ridge top riddled with old rubs, and scrapes. The surrounding hillside was a large bedding area and the hedgerow created a natural funnel along the edge. At the time I remember thinking that it would make the perfect spot for a rut stand.
“In August I hung a stand near the junction of three or four trails at the end of the hedgerow. Knowing the bucks would probably open up their scrapes in late October, I elected to stay clear of the area until then.
“Like always, I took vacation during the last week of October. I had high hopes of hunting the hedgerow stand that week, but the wind didn’t cooperate until the afternoon of Halloween Day. The wind had switched to an easterly direction that morning and it started raining. Nevertheless, the wind was perfect, so I made way to the stand shortly after lunch.
“It rained all afternoon and not a single deer came through. Around 4:30 the rain stopped, and not long after I spotted a big buck walking the ridge top to the east. I grunted a couple of times hoping to get his attention, but that didn’t work. I decided to try bleating. Almost the instant I did his head popped up and he looked in my direction. I had his attention, so I bleated again and followed up with three short grunts. That’s all it took for the buck to commit.
As he made his way through the thick brush, I lost sight of him. Shortly after, however, a clattering noise drew my attention toward the buck attempting to bust through the branches of a hedge tree. He made a couple of attempts, but eventually gave up and started walking along the hedgerow on the opposite side. As the buck got closer, I realized just how big he really was.
“When the buck got to the end of the hedgerow, he took a hard left and walked straight toward me. I had one small opening at 25 yards, so I drew and waited. A grunt stopped the buck long enough to settle the pin and hit the release. The instant the arrow hit he whirled around and charged off, but only went 50 yards, then stopped. He stood there for a couple of minutes looking back, apparently confused. His tail was flicking and I figured he would go down right there, but instead he walked down the ridge and disappeared into a cedar thicket.
“At that point I was questioning the shot, so I sat until dark. Everything I’ve ever read has said; ‘If in doubt….back out,’ so that’s exactly what I did!
“I hooked up with my friend, Glenn Kendrichs who was hunting nearby and explained the situation. We both agreed it would be best to wait until morning. Let me tell you, it was a long and sleepless night!
“The next morning I arrived around 7:30 and found the arrow right away. It was covered with blood and stomach matter. I found blood near the cedar thicket, and 30 yards from there I found the buck stone dead. Interestingly, he had died facing his back trail.
“Words really can’t explain how I felt at that moment. To say I was just happy would be an understatement. I’d just killed my biggest deer ever.
“I called my son, Zachary and then a couple of friends. It took until noon to get the deer out, but by then the news had spread. The rest of the day was totally crazy with people who were stopping by at all times to see the deer.”
Obviously the 2005 season is one Robin will always remember, but his success didn’t stop there. In 2007 he was back hunting the same stand again on Halloween Day. So, let’s fast-forward to that day…
Robin continued; “The 2007 season was almost an exact repeat of 2005. I had gone in and hung a stand in the same tree sometime in late August. The early part of the season I spent hunting elsewhere and took a couple of does.
“Again, I took the last week of October off of work. The wind hadn’t cooperated the first few days, but on Halloween Day it switched directions and came out of the east. “That morning I arrived at the “Halloween Stand” a good hour before sunrise and settled in. The morning was pretty quiet, and around eight I
made a couple of soft grunts. Much to my surprise, only a minute or two later I spotted a buck to the east coming toward me. At first I didn’t think he was very big, so I didn’t even pick up my bow. However, the closer he came, the bigger he got.
“When the buck got within range, one look at the wall of tines pretty much confirmed he was a shooter. I grabbed my bow and came to full draw. As he stepped out from behind a tree, the arrow zipped through the ribcage and sent the buck bounding off and out of sight. I didn’t see him go down, so I waited an hour before climbing down to recover the arrow.
“The sign looked good, but nevertheless I backed out and gave the deer time to expire. Two hours later Glenn and I found the buck piled up not far from the stand. As I approached I realized he was much bigger than I thought.”