Today’s wind is CRAZY! The weather forecast showed it changing back and forth every hour and in the tree it really came from every direction at some point. I chose a stand that deer can be expected from any direction so the wind isn’t as huge of a factor as most tree stand set ups. This is my second time ever hunting this stand on top of a ridge and at the edge of a grass field. I last hunted it on October 20th.
It’s a decent hike to this spot so I went into the stand cold knowing that I’d be close to overheating by the time I reached it. Unfortunately, five deer were already in the field so I ended up scaring them off. I had no choice since a doe was standing not even 10 yards from the stand.
The sunlight started with two fluffy coons waddling by and soon two younger bucks fought out in the field. A little six scented near the stand and another doe came out. Down in the timber side, 10 toms walked further down the hill going toward the pond.
I didn’t have much happening for a little while, and then way below at the bottom of the hill, approximately 120 yards away, I caught a buck walking between a small gap in all the trees and immediately said “shooter.” I grabbed my grunt call and threw a small sequence over my shoulder. This is an excellent calling situation because I am on top of a ridge so by calling over my shoulder it sounds like a buck is on the other side of the hill that he can’t see. I waited, looking to spot the buck between any trees again. Once I saw him again and that he was still walking his same path, I grunted a sequence over my shoulder once again. Here he comes!
He walked all the way up the hill directly on the path I took in to the stand. Luckily he didn’t smell anything suspicious and I glassed him with my binocs as he came… yes, shooter. Then he starts coming into range and I am looking him over and ERRR… instead of preparing to pull back I have to pull up my binoculars again. What an impressive, tight but high-racked, tall-tined buck with main beams that wrapped almost completely together but I just didn’t think he was showing enough mass and I couldn’t spot one of his brows. I zoomed to his belly… mature. Zoomed back to his rack… mature length and beams, but yes, not enough mass… ? Still can’t spot both brows… I think his right one is missing. In my head, I actually told myself, “Don’t you dare talk yourself out of this buck, Jen” … but I did. He did a complete half-circle around me at 25 yards and as I watched him walk away I really doubted what I had just done.
I thought over what just happened in my head, replaying the buck’s rack and body. He reminded me very much of the buck I shot last year… tight racked, tall tines, beams that wrapped almost together, both main-frame 9s, but my buck was definitely bigger and he would have grossed mid-150s if not for a broken tine so I guessed this buck at low 140s (and without a brow, maybe not even cracking 140s). I thought I did the right thing, but either way, this was an impressive buck and it was a bittersweet moment for me. I then started wishing so bad that I at least had a photo of this buck to remember him by.
Time will only tell if I’m rewarded by this decision or not. I told my husband he’s one of those good bucks I have to pass in order to get to where I want to be someday. Like my brother and dad for instance… my brother has 160-inch to 180-inch bucks hanging on the wall because he passes 140s every time. And I believe someday he will get rewarded by much more than that. But my dad won’t hold out and will shoot those younger bucks at 130s and 140s so he has a wall full of skull mounts and his largest deer is in the low 160s. Still awesome, but after a lifetime of hunting in the area of Iowa we are, not what I believe his potential could be. I’m also not one of those hunters that feel I have to fill a tag. I will wait for the right shot at the right buck or otherwise I won’t shoot. And the right buck doesn’t have to necessarily be a certain score, but I guess the buck just has to trip my trigger and I’ll know I want to shoot or not. This year, I’d like to hold out for a 150s, but as time goes on, I would still be absolutely thrilled for a 140s. I would also like to do my best at determining that it’s a mature buck or otherwise I’d like to let it reach it’s potential. AND every buck I’ve harvested so far has had some broken tine, so I’d love to shoot something with a complete rack! Also, I have a good number of vacation days off work coming up soon so maybe I just wasn’t ready to give it up yet – ha ha!
I will admit, I shed a few tears afterward in the stand (yes, I am that emotional when it comes to hunting – I pour myself into it so I can’t help but be) and continued to mull over my decision the rest of the morning. And I WAS NOT going to smile for the camera this time! Ha ha! I ended up seeing two other young bucks and three does. Then I spotted another buck and doe 60 yards away on the edge of the field behind the “famous” hedge apple tree that every buck likes hitting the licking branch and making a scrape. Looking through the binocs, I first thought it was a young buck with a funky rack. His rack went straight up with no width like a basket rack, but then just had weird little fingers for tines and he had surprisingly good mass and brows! I never got a really good look at his rack but another time I was able to see his body clearly and he WOW! I think he’s an old buck! He wouldn’t score anything, but if a mature deer, I would think of taking him with a unique rack. I’d have to really get a good look at him though before deciding that. I don’t think he is a shooter though.
I watched the funky-racked buck with this doe for nearly an hour and even though it is early, I determined they were in fact “together.” A very small percentage of does go into heat about two weeks early and I don’t think they were breeding yet, but she could be getting close. I made sure to slip out of the stand without scaring them.
*Note – back at the house – Matt looked through the trail camera photos and WE HAVE A PHOTO OF THE BUCK I PASSED! It made me SO HAPPY! It’s not a good photo of him and blurry, but it is the only one we have! Looks like in this photo too that his right brow is missing so I think I saw it correctly and judged his characteristics pretty well. Matt and I both think I made the correct decision to pass him. However, not surprising, my dad said that buck better not walk by him (oh geez!) ha ha! Also – we don’t have a photo of the funky-racked buck, but my brother did spot a similar buck last year and we wonder if it’s him.