This makes the 4th Buck in four years harvested on my property since purchasing the property in 2006. The pieces came together on November 13, 2014, exactly one year plus one day after the '13 buck. My vacation time started on Thursday, November 6th and I was on stand seven full days before the morning of the 13th. This buck was initially named The Trident Buck. This was because his left G2 had awesome mass and was in the shape of a spear. For this season, the buck first appeared in front of the trail cameras on October 19th. I first thought I had never seen this buck before, but upon reviewing '13 camera photos learned differently (see at the bottom of this page). As in past years, this was about the time for bucks to take up residence. He definitely became a regular with seven different visits documented on all four property trail cameras. Although the photo wasn't a good one and didn't depict how much mass, I had an idea it was a solid buck and possible shooter. As time went on, more camera photos poured in. It was obvious that he was fond of our property and all I needed was an opportunity within bow range. That opportunity came on Nov. 13th and he proved his name needed to be changed. Meet The Iron Buck!
Patterning the buck wasn't complete until I pulled the video on November 10th. That told me he was heading north from the water hole and most likely running the North Ridge that runs East and West. I had 3 stands along this ridge with one down in valley of the NW Corner of the property. More time on stand in this area would hopefully get me a shot. Again, bucks traveling in a circular pattern on our property provided the opportunity needed. Below is a slide show of all of the trail camera photos of this great buck, later determined to be 4.5 years old by Deerage.com.
It took me several days to piece the puzzle together using the trail camera photos and the video. The video was critical. Once I saw this one, I knew I needed to target the North Ridge of the property. This is the same area I shot the '13 Buck and is hot every year. The video told me I needed to be on stand extra early. I targeted no later than 6:15 am since the video time stamp was 6:20 am.
Let me back track just a moment. After day three on stand, it was evident that I needed to set a new stand on the north side. I had witnessed from the North Large Oak Stand several younger bucks traveling along the tractor trail that crossed the newly formed connecting trail Jim Ward had put together earlier in the year. This was a major intersection with three trails crossing. Tree options were limited so I chose a large Tulip Poplar just 12 yards off of the main trail and 10 yards north of the small trail they were using to come up out of the East to West running valley. Since the area was somewhat open, I elected to set the stand at an approx. 30' height to avoid line of sight of both bucks and does. This would prove to be a problem on Nov. 13th.
Setting a new stand in the middle of this critical week of hunting isn't something I prefer to do. However, this tactic is often necessary given what the deer are telling you from the stand. When setting this stand, I used the tractor and left it running. This gives me the cushion of setting the stand without bumping the deer in a manner that will render the stand useless. I later cleared my in and out trail using a leaf rake. I love this tactic because it allows me to access the stand without making a noise in the morning or evening. No deer were bumped using a clear trail the entire eight days I hunted this year. See photos below.
Now the stand was set. The evening of Nov. 12th, I talked with Jim Ward about the strategy and how to get an opportunity at this buck. He looked at the photos and video and agreed this was a nice shooter buck. He also agreed with my tactic of sitting on the north side. Since I now had four stands on the north side, the question was which stand. The NE stand was excellent last year and I was seeing multiple bucks each sit at this location. However, we both agreed that the new stand would be the best option given the travel patterns. As a result, I planned on sitting in the North Center Stand all day of Nov. 13th.
I arrived promptly at 6:15 am. The trail camera time stamp is off 33 minutes, so disregard the time. It was by far the coldest morning since I started hunting on Nov. 6th. The wind was out of the NW at 5-10 mph and forecasted to shift from the WNW. The first deer to approach the stand was before dark, at approx. 6:45 am. It was still dark, but I could make out the outline in the brush. The deer approached from the SE heading right into the wind. I was certain this was a buck, and he turned, flagged, and went the other way. Did he smell me, or simply see my outline in the skyline? I feared this was my missed opportunity, but I was clearly wrong.
The morning started slow, with very little traffic. Then at about 9:30 am, I heard a noise over my left shoulder and spotted a nice buck to the NW of my stand location. It was the Iron Buck. He was bird dogging a doe moving left and right with his nose to the ground. Although a doe had not passed through, he was trying to pick up a trail heading east. I picked up my bow off of the hanger and prepared to get a shot. The buck crossed my in and out trail and stopped at about 40 yards just east of the trail. There was not a clear shot at 40 yards and I had to let down the string. The buck walked NE of my location towards my truck and into the brush. The adrenaline kicking in about shook me right off of the stand. My right leg and tail was shaking something awful, clearly a case of buck fever. This is why we hunt.
I told myself that I needed to pull it together as he could easily return. I noticed that the wind had shifted slightly and was now blowing directly out of the west. After about 10 - 15 minutes, I spotted a doe heading straight south from the north along my west side. At that very moment, I heard the Iron Buck grunting and then spotted him running down my in and out trail from the northeast. He had winded the hot doe and was on the move. I grabbed the bow off of the hanger, attached my release, and quickly drew in anticipation of him crossing my path.
As the buck approached he never left the in and out trail. He trotted right to the corner and then suddenly stopped looking straight up at me quartering towards me. I had the 20 yard pin on his left shoulder and wanted him to continue on the trail to give me a broadside shot. It was evident he was about to bolt. I squeezed the trigger and the arrow hit the mark right behind the shoulder, but again he was quartering towards me which isn't an ideal shot. As the buck ran off, I could plainly see the 2" cut right behind the shoulder. I was hopeful of a heart shot. I aimed at the location in fear of him ducking the string. The Matthews HeliM didn't give him the opportunity, but I was confident of the hit. The time was now 9:46 am.
The adrenaline again kicked in and I had to sit down to keep from falling off of the Lone Wolf Stand. I immediately called my wife to tell her I had just shot a great buck. I then began to lower my gear and take down the stand. I knew either way my time in the stand today was over. I had seen the arrow on the trail with my binoculars and walked over to investigate. A clean pass through shot with blood on the arrow. There was a lot of belly hair at the spot of the shot and the blood trail was easily picked up within 10 yards. Given the height of the stand, I knew there was a steep angle and was not surprised by the belly hair. The blood trail was solid so I decided to give him at least an hour and took my gear and stand back to the truck.
After an hour, I went back to track down the deer I was sure was dead. The blood trail was awesome and I simply strolled along not needing any effort to look for blood. At 150 yards I began to realize my shot was not a clean kill. At the top of the next ridge I found were the buck had stood. There were two huge pools of blood, but still no buck. I decided to pull back out and wait another two hours. I went back to the trail camera to pull the card. Maybe I was fortunate enough to get the shot on camera. Below in the slide show is the only photo showing the buck immediately after the shot. Again, disregard the time stamp as it is about 33 minutes fast.
I connected with a friend of mine and we went back to pick up the trail at the top of the ridge. As we followed the trail, it was clear he was heading for thicker cover. To my satisfaction he went straight for the buck beds created a couple of years ago at the point due west of the Main Food Plot. Below are the pictures of where he bedded down. It is hard to see, but there was clearly blood in the leaves at two spots indicating he was bleeding out both the entry and exit holes. The disappointment was that he was not dead. Since we had pushed the buck, we agreed to track him down the hill to see at least what direction he was taking. After another 75 yards we pulled back again.
Location where buck had bedded down. This was a buck bed we created, indicating he had used this bed previously since this is where he immediately headed.
Buck bedding area where Iron Buck first bedded down.
Now it was decision time. I had waited additional hours and it was close to 3:00 pm. It would be getting dark in another couple of hours and my chances to recover the buck would lower. The amount of blood was extensive, except immediately after the spot he bedded down. This gave me a clue that he was clotting up. But the more distance after where he bedded, the better the blood trail.
This plus the fact he was not yet dead gave me concern. It wasn't a gut shot so the question became to continue to push him until he bled out or let him rest. I obviously had not hit any vitals as it was now 5 hours after the shot. If pulling out, my concern was the blood trail would be lost, he would eventually die, and simply become coyote food. After consulting with Tom Rothrock and Jim Ward, I elected to push on. He was now off of my property so this required contacting other land owners. After gaining permission, I tracked him along the edge of a corn field adjacent to the west edge of my property. He had to cross a small ditch and the blood trail was again solid. The trail proceeded west of the corn towards the small creek. At that point, I jumped the buck again. He was approximately 70 yards from me when jumped. Again, it was clear he wanted to bed down and try to stop the bleeding. This happened multiple times and the blood trail was awesome.
Re-enforcements arrived.....my wife, two of my kids, and my oldest daughter's boyfriend, Luke M., came to help. We also were fortunate enough to have another friend, Dan H., pick up the trail along with two of his kids. That made the posse number at eight. Without there help I don't think I could have tracked this deer as far as we did.
The trail finally ended after approximately 3 miles. We found him down at the edge of a corn field just into a patch of tall weeds. It was now 9:00 pm and the amount of blood lost was staggering; thus the name..."The Iron Buck". He was truly a warrior. I was heart broken that my shot did not produce a quick harvest. I also pushed him out of respect, knowing that if I did not he would end up with the coyotes and I could not stand that thought. That had happened to me with my '12 Buck and I was determined to find him before the varmints.
Below are several photos of the best buck I have ever harvested. I have dreamed about a mature buck like this one. The mass along the main beams and tines is impressive. My preliminary measurement has him at 162" gross. The initial live weight was only 250 lbs. With the amount of blood lost, I would say he was probably 275 - 280 lbs. The field dressed weight was right at 220 lbs. A truly mature buck believed to be at least 5.5 years old. I will be sending in the teeth to the lab for analysis to determine actual age.
I have to thank everyone that helped me all along the way this year. The list is long and distinguished. My wife and kids especially for understanding why I practice this hobby and push so hard to hunt. My friends have been awesome and always help me when I ask. My hunting buddies who I network with and bounce ideas off of are always great and teach me endlessly about Whitetails.
This is my fourth buck in four years. It was a long trail to get my hands on him, but the Iron Buck was worth it! The work on the property with hinge cutting, connecting trails, staging areas, food plots, etc. is absolutely paying off. Thanks for following the blog and All Things Whitetail.
Name: Iron Buck (originally...Trident Buck)
Date: November 13, 2014
Time: 9:45 am
Score: 162" total
Points: Main Frame 8 pointer with 10 scoreable points (two additional on right side)
Age: Estimated at least 5.5 Years Old. Aged at 4.5 years old with teeth submitted to Deerage.com for cementum-annuli analysis. See copy of letter below from Deerage.com.
Live Weight: Estimated 275 - 280 lbs. before blood loss, actual 250 lbs. on the scale
Field Dress Weight: 220 lbs.
Wind: West / North West - Buck was shot to the north of my position. With the wind from the WNW the buck's only chance to pick up my scent would have been directly to my East or South of the stand. He was quartering towards me facing SW when shot was made.
Property Location: North Ridge of the property in the woods.
Location of Shot: Left Side Behind the Shoulder (pass through shot). Arrow did not penetrate the chest cavity given the downward angle from the tree stand height.
Buck Activity at Time of Shot: Buck had winded a hot doe due west of his location. He came running and following step for step on my in and out trail to 17 yards of my location.
Sightings: Previous sightings in '14 were by trail camera only. He visited all four camera locations (SW Staging Area, East Food Plot, Water Hole, and North Trail). First sighting was on October 19th. Then again on the 25th, 26th, 27th, 30th, Nov. 3rd, and Nov. 10th. The date shot was the only date seen from the stand. Additional photos from '13 as a much smaller buck are listed below.
3.5 Year Old Photos and Videos Before '14 Season: Upon reviewing trail camera photos prior to this season, I found that we had photos and video of this buck. In fact, I even wrote a blog listing this buck as my Top Draft Pick for the '14 season. The characteristics are undeniable, particularly the mass on the left G2. He started showing up late in the season last year and hung around for some time. Another impressive aspect is that this buck is the one that I documented in a blog about holding on to his rack well into February of '14. The amount of growth in one year is impressive. Too bad we don't have his sheds to compare actual size.
Compensate for steep angle from tree stand height of 30'.
Quartering towards shots are difficult to make and low percentage shots.
This is the second buck taken close to 10:00 am.
Aging deer on the hoof needs to improve. I thought this deer was 5.5 years old. Based on the sample results from Deerage.com, I was a year off. Looking back at the photos and video at 3.5 years old, I should have realized his age. Maybe I just wanted him to be older and ignored the obvious body characteristics? Either way, I need to get better at aging live deer.
Harvest dates are one calendar day off, Nov. 12, 2013 and Nov. 13, 2014.
This is the second deer harvested in the woods vs. a food plot. Two years in a row.
Circular travel patterns with mature bucks continues to factor into successful hunts.
Scent control continues to be critical to success and requires constant improvement with techniques.
I followed learning from previous two years of not pushing buck after first 150 yards. However, the circumstance associated with the arrow shot placement dictated that I push this buck to keep the blood flowing given no vital organs were struck.
On The Wall:
This is the second shoulder mount completed by Ed Vinzant of Whitetail Impressions in Brazil, IN. The form is a McKenzie half sneak turning to the right. I'm thrilled with the results.