It was the 2009 Iowa bow season, the second week of November, and I was hunting with IMB Outfitters in Ryan Shankland’s camp near Centerville.
As daylight permeated the bottom where Shankland had placed a ladder stand for me, I began a short rattling sequence, interspersed with some grunt calls. It did not take long for things to happen.
First a spike buck appeared, then a 2-year-old 8-point walked in as if on an early morning stroll. Next I heard the sound of footsteps in water from the other side of a cattail marsh to my right. I soon spotted a heavy 10-point frame with some unusual points weaving through the cattails. The bad news was that he was taking his time as – big bucks often do. The good news was that he was headed my way.
Due to serious damage to my rib cage and lungs during two surgeries the previous year, I can’t stand to shoot. Worse, pain dictates that I cannot shoot to my right. Where did the buck stop? On my right side at 25 yards.
As I tried to twist and draw my bow, the buck continued on. Then he stopped behind me at 50 yards and made a scrape. It was time to go for broke. I grunted, then snort-wheezed. It got his attention and in he came, from behind, heading to my left.
Which brings me to the poor shot. As the buck came in from behind, he turned broadside, walking very fast right into my scent path. I drew, grunted to stop him, and released a bit too quickly. There were still some small twigs blocking his vitals. I hit two, deflecting the arrow well back of the buck’s vitals. He hunched up, walked slowly away and bedded at 80 yards in the thick brush. After watching him for thirty minutes, I snuck out and grabbed the cell phone to call Shankland.
We decided to wait all day and then went back, quietly walking into the area. We spotted the buck standing, then slowly following a doe, right where I left him. He could barely move. We agreed to come back in the morning.
However, when we returned, we found nothing. A discouraging all-day search was fruitless. We watched that area the next two days, hoping to see crows or hear coyotes, but there was no sign of the buck. I shot a doe the last evening and departed for home, dejected for making such a poor shot on a great buck.
I thought that was the end of the story, until early April when Darrin Bradley, owner of IMB Outfitters, gave me a call.
“Dave, my guide who now runs the Iowa camp was up there moving stands, and found a buck very close to your stand,” Bradley said. “I’ll email you a photo.”
With anticipation nearly akin to opening morning, I waited for that email. When I opened it, I felt a rush all over again. There he was. The unusual points I had seen that morning turned out to be shorter tines located on each side between the G2 and G3 tines.
The buck had died along the stream beside my stand. I have no clue how we missed finding that deer. I walked that small stream three different times. However, my taxidermist already found a cape and I can now rest easier knowing exactly what happened to that deer.
This fall, I’ll return to the camp to hunt and see exactly where that deer was hidden.