5 degrees never felt so hot

I look forward to late season hunting probably as much as any other phase of deer season. No longer are the bucks distracted by every single doe that walks by and its much easier to pattern mature deer now than at any other time of the year. I’ve found through the years that it’s much more about observation than actual hunting. It’s as much about what we call MRI – Most Recent Information – as anything else. You can gather this information in a variety of ways. I prefer to do it the old-fashioned way – watching food sources and see which buck goes where.

I went into this December hopeful to find one of about three different deer that I knew where frequenting the Iowa farm. One buck in particular had my interest because he started to become very regular on one of my destination feed fields. This field provided me a good view from a distance of about half a mile, so the deer never even know I’m there. I probably watched that field on ten different occasions as I prepared for late season. One particular deer was coming to this field with regularity when winds blew from the north. A giant named Chiquita. (For those who follow the journal, you know who I’m talking about.) So now the most invisible deer from the past was becoming quite visible now, probably because he’s 7 ½. Typically I wait until the late muzzleloader season to buy a gun tag in Iowa. This year highs were forecasted in the single digits with snow every other day, so I accelerated that process because that deer was coming with regularity and I bought a second season gun tag instead. As I purchased the tag and left the store, I was a little nervous because I was purchasing a tag that only allowed me nine days of hunting as opposed to three weeks for late muzzleloader. At this time of year it's all about cold fronts so the more time you have, the better your odds, but the forecast looked good.

My season would be cut down even more because of our annual doe hunt with sisters Barb and Linda. I missed the first day of the season, but I had the best time ever. We laughed until we cried and both Barb and Linda killed two does each on Terry's farm. My spirits were high as I headed to Iowa. The first two nights I hunted proved to be quite eventful. I saw a tremendous amount of movement, including some big deer, but they weren’t the ones I was looking for. Where was the ten point giant I had seen in all my scouting? The third night again brings some awesome movement. Finally, out pops a mega giant I immediately recognized from all the pictures I had of him. For eight agonizing minutes he creped closer and closer through a field full of deer. He makes it in range and all I need now is a good broadside shot. Suddenly a doe catches something she didn't like and goes screaming through about 30 deer. Tails were flying, bean pods were rattling and deer were exiting the field in rapid fashion. It’s a hazard of hunting late season. When you have that many deer your bound to get picked off by one every once in awhile, but why does it have to happen now? The giant popped his head up, and I said to Aaron, “it’s now or never.” Aaron said he was on, and the Thompson Center Endeavor found its mark at 75 yards.

The interesting thing about having Aaron Bennett there to film me take this deer was when he came to the shed hunt in the spring he was the only guy not to find a shed. He ended up finding the biggest shed of the year though on his own in May while disking up a destination feed field. I nicknamed the deer the Aaron Bennett buck. Aaron was out for a majority of the fall with a knee injury from playing softball. After rehabbing from ACL surgery, he came back to work on December 15. Coincidentally, the buck he found the shed to walked out the next night. It was very fitting for Aaron to be there and we celebrated and high-fived accordingly.

We recovered the deer after 100 yards. He’s a main frame 5x5 scoring 170 7/8 with nine extra points totaling 19 3/8 for a total score of 190 2/8! What a beautiful evening with light snow falling and a temperature of five degrees. A late season hunt made to order. I feel really fortunate this buck walked out. It was the first time anyone laid eyes on this buck.  I still don’t know what happened to Chiquita – he stood me up!