2014 Rut Recap: The Marsh

20 Nov

Sorry it has been a while since the last post, as you can imagine I have been kinda busy. I am going to break down Ryan and I’s vacation in to three different blogs by the three different location we spent the most amount of time in.  Not really sure where to start… so I guess I’ll just start at the beginning.

For those of you who didn’t already know, I was giving up a majority of my two week vacation to repay a favor to my good friend Ryan who had given up the first two weeks of November the past 4 years to come film me in Iowa. The deal was, that when he would finally draw an Iowa I would film him on the Iowa farm that I have access to. So needless to say Ryan was excited to not only have drawn a tag, but that it was November 1st and his dream of hunting Iowa was finally coming true.

 

Ryan

Staring aimlessly into the woods Ryan was focused on one thing… whether or not there was an extra Mt. Dew in the truck.

 

Our plan was to dive in head first as soon as he got in to town Saturday morning and to hunt as hard as possible until both Ryan and I both had bucks on the ground. There was just one hiccup… Ryan was a pallbearer in a funeral back in his hometown the next day. I filmed him for both the morning and evening hunts that day where we has a couple encounter with three rambunctious spikes and a 120″ two year old with good potential. As soon as the hunt was over he hopped back in his truck and hit the road planning to return late Sunday night to start back up again first thing Monday morning. This meant that I had all day Sunday to hunt by myself where I set up an observation stand (1.) to check the movement coming in and out of the a marsh between two crop fields. The trail cameras were showing that a three shooters were visiting this particular piece of the property on a regular basis so we knew we had to put in some time in this area. Right off the bat Sunday morning I spotted a decent 130 class three year old showing interest in a doe that was making her way back to a bedding area along with a couple younger does and a two more spikes. On a south wind the does were cutting right through the middle of the marsh and the bucks were popping out of a finger of timber  and working the north side fence line which gave them the ability to scent check the entire marsh then return back to the timber through another finger on  the opposite side of the marsh. Basically making a big circle.

 

Here is a trail camera picture of No Show at the fence crossing on the west side of the marsh.

Here is a trail camera picture of No Show at the fence crossing on the west side of the marsh.

 

Because we had a trail camera located on each side of the marsh we were able to get a pretty good idea of what deer were coming through the area and what time of day they were doing so. We realized that there was no real pattern to the time of day the movement was happening, but that they were visiting the area at least once every 48 hours. This meant that we may have to not only sit in one stand location for more than three sits, but make minor stand adjustments along the fence line to ensure the best possible location for a kill shot. And, because we had deer coming from several directions we also needed to make sure that our south wind wasn’t spooking anything coming towards out location.

 

At the beginning of the season we were noticing that there was a lot of deer moving through this marsh using it as both a bedding and staging area.

At the beginning of the season we were noticing that there was a lot of deer moving through this marsh using it as both a bedding and staging area.

 

After a couple days of hunting the marsh then having a hunt in a different location on the farm the wind finally switched out of northwest. We knew the biggest buck on the property was still in the area and the trail cameras we telling us that he was working through on a southeast wind. So the night before the wind shifted to the southeast we set up the stand (2.) on a northwest wind with any scent blowing in to a neighboring cornfield. The goal was to hunt that night and watch the deer movement coming out of the timber to the crop fields and as the wind switched to the southeast overnight go back to the same location the next morning with out scent blowing into a horse pasture. This meant that the buck we were after would hopefully feel comfortable coming in to the marsh with the wind in his favor. Or so he would think. Depending on his route through the marsh we would hopefully cut him off either during his loop through the area or if he wanted to head back to the timber through opposite finger he came from.

November 7th

The night before we were covered up in deer. We had several does working their way out of the timber to the north and moving towards the cut corn. This made for some interesting encounters. I know we like seeing deer, but there are times when they stick around a little too long and all you want them to do is get the hell out… the evening of the 6th was one of those night. We had an encounter with a nice two year old and a unique looking three year old that we had trail camera pictures of from this summer. Hope he makes it at least two more years. The morning of the 7th we had pretty high expectation as all of the so-called experts were calling for it to be the best day of the year as far as movement was concerned. At first light we has a pair of young bucks and a couple more button bucks work their way from the fields into the timber while another two year old came from the north worked his way into in to the CRP then walked with the wind to the west. All this activity happened before 7 a.m. so we were pretty confident that at some point that morning we would have an encounter with a mature deer.

 

Nice rub near a fence crossing leading in to the marsh.

 

Over the next hour and half the movement died down with only yearling making an appearance right next to our stand. Those deer are so dumb they don’t even run when they see us moving in the stand.

It was somewhere around 8:30 a.m. when I heard loud “Oh my god!” whisper from Ryan. As soon as I heard that I looked to my right and it didn’t take me long to get a visual and then realize what deer had stepped out from the fence. It was a deer we have given the name No Show Jones. He was a high 170’s, maybe a low 180’s class six or seven year old (best guess) that showed up on the farm in late September right before the the season opened. Either way, we knew who he was and that he was a shooter. At first we thought he was going go work his way through the center of the marsh to the opposite corner but about have way through he turned 90 degrees and headed to the corner that we were in. Every step he took closer to us made his rack look bigger and more impressive. When the buck was about 60 yards from out location Ryan decided to sit down to get a better shot and to help him become more stable  because the heavy wind. At about that time I whispered to Ryan, “Stay calm.” He whispered back, “I’m calm, mother fucker!” That put a mile on my face. We both knew that a shot opportunity was going to happen, so Ryan quickly ranged an area where the buck was headed and then waited for him to cross that path. No Show was in no real hurry, stopping at about 45-50 yards to smell where a doe had peed the night before. Now No Show was walking straight to us. Focused on the LCD screen of the camera I noticed Ryan draw back. No Show made a couple more steps towards us and then took a hard left as if to cross the fence into the pasture. This gave Ryan a good quartering-towards shot opportunity. He settled his pin and the arrow was off…

 

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“God dammit!” were the next words out of his mouth. He missed. From my point of view the arrow sailed high and a little to the right hitting one of his antlers. The buck bound off and basically started running in circles, looking in to the pasture and blowing. He looked and acted more pissed than spooked, and from the looks of it he didn’t know we were there. At one point he even started heading back towards us and I told Ryan to knock another arrow. A couple moments later he trotted off in the same direction that he cam from. It’s not very often bowhunters like us get to have an encounter with a deer of this caliber, or even see one for that matter. 20 feet up in a sycamore we both sat speechless. I’m not real sure who broke scilence first, but it didn’t matter. No words could comfort Ryan and there were no words that he could say turn back the clock and rewind time.

After the miss we spent another two hunts near that location hoping that he would make another appearance, he did not. But… a day later when we checked a trail camera over a scrape on the back side of the farm, Mr No Show had showed up and not just one time…

 

Here is a still shot from the footage of No Show Jones coming in to our location.

Here is a still shot from the footage of No Show Jones coming in to our location.

 

In Ryan’s Words:

“It was literally the stuff that dreams are made of. I had waited 5 years to draw an Iowa bow tag. The first year I had just missed the deadline so I guess you could call it 4 years but nonetheless it was a long damn time! I had spent every year leading up to my actual hunting season behind the camera filming for Dan. We had made a deal; I would film him every year until I drew my tag and then he would film for me. Another caveat to this whole situation was the fact that I have a wife and two girls (26 months and 8 months) back home that I will be leaving them for sixteen days! I am very fortunate to have a wife who understands my need to hunt these animals and puts up with me investing more time, money and thought than is worth mentioning.

We had been at it for six consecutive days runnin’ and gunnin’, in and out, up and down the hollers and hills of southeast Iowa when it finally happened…one of hit-listers showed up during daylight hours. This deer was not one we were well acquainted with but he was the largest racked deer we had on trail camera. It was the one and only No Show Jones. Aptly named because up until this point, one we had never laid eyes on. I first saw him approximately 150 yards away and without any hesitation knew who the deer was. I abruptly said to Dan “It’s No Show!” There must have been some degree of excitement in my voice because soon after Dan started rolling the footage he told me to be settle down and I quickly lashed back at him to do the same! This wasn’t he first time I had seen a Booner in the flesh; I was the lucky SOB behind the camera when Dan shot Shipwreck. I can tell you, when you see deer of that magnitude, I don’t care who you are, it gets you a little jazzed up. No Show was no different. He had just stepped out into an area we referred to as “the marsh” and it just happened to be exactly where we had a stand set up the previous day. At first I was thinking if we had only left our setup there…but as he started heading in our general direction my thoughts quickly shifted to this might actually happen! He milled around a pond but quickly started heading towards a well used path that lead directly to us. I’m pretty sure I sat down and stood up at least twice trying to figure out what would be the best position to take a shot (yes, I do practice sitting, standing and kneeling when shooting). The wind coming out of the south but was shifting to southeast at times. It was around 9:00 a.m. and by this point our Ozonics had been on for almost 3.5 hours and the batteries were starting to dwindle so shifting/swirling winds were on my mind. Let’s face it, Ozonics is awesome and has gotten us through some sticky situations but this was at least a 6.5 year old deer and he didn’t get that old by being anything less than careful. I had ranged a spot that I thought was 30 yards and he was heading right to it; as he lumbered closer and closer all I could think about was “Holy shit, this could happen!” This buck is huge! And that’s when it happened…on the outside I was cool as a fan but on the inside my mind was going haywire. Buck fever had set in and had a strangle hold on the one advantage that as a human I had an over this deer…reason. The mere presents of this deer took away my ability to make a reasonable decision about when to take the shot. As he closed in to somewhere around 45 yards, I drew my bow (which felt like I was pulling back 100lbs). By this time he was around 30 yards and I started to run the “what if” scenarios through my head and truly started to think he was going to either head south through an area that had not been trimmed for shooting lanes or head north into our wind. I did what at that point in time felt like settle the 30 yard pin on his shoulder. In hind-sight what I did was put the 40 yard pin on his shoulder. Not that it’s an excuse but the wind was gusting to 25mph that day. I also likely tried to look at the shot placement right as I pulled the release trigger. All of this combined lead to my arrow finding its way on a path straight for…..his antlers? You have got to be fucking kidding me! I said some real choice words and for some reason I had my wireless mic on mute so they are barely audible through the camera mic with all of the wind howling by. My heart instantly sank and I knew I had just completely botched the opportunity of a lifetime. I had a visceral response to throw-up. I didn’t but man did I feel like it. I have not had an emotion like that overcome my mind and body in quite some time. I was so mad at myself. I had let my wife, family, Dan, and anyone else who had been following his blog down. I had completely failed. Anyone who knows me knows that I hate to fail at any level. I had reached an all-time low in my hunting career. I knew the moment was big for Dan too. As the deer ran off like a scolded dog, he stopped at about 80 yards and ran to the fence line and then ran back to the marsh and blew as to almost say “Hey! Who the hell hit me in the head?! Come on, do it again, I dare you!” Then he ran back to the fence and back to the marsh again and repeated himself. The best way to describe how I think No Show felt after being slapped in the head by an arrow would be the way you may feel when someone comes running up to you and slaps you in the head out of the blue. You know, kind of pissed and surprised all at the same time? Nonetheless, he turned around and trotted of into a draw looking for some more hot tail. I would have two more encounters with him but a shot opportunity would never present itself. By the time I can draw my buck tag again it is likely that No Show will be killed, but I can always dream. Even if he’s not around when I do, I passed enough 3.5 year olds that there will almost certainly have to be some mature up-and-comers roaming around that farm.”

Stay tuned for next weeks post where I will talk about the Two-Track where we had two more encounter with No Show and several other bucks.

Until then, thanks for reading!
Dan (DFW)

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