It was late December, and I had a tag that was truly burning a hole in my pocket, a coveted Iowa muzzleloader tag. I would be hunting with Aaron Volkmar’s "Tails of the Hunt" operation. I was hunting with Ralph in Texas right after Christmas, which pushed Iowa back a few days. My anticipation of this trip was almost over-whelming; I wanted to be there yesterday. Pushing this trip back those few days did very little to help me get a tag on an Iowa Giant.
Gary and I headed to Iowa on January 6, talking all the way about all the huge bucks we were going to see and the fact that I just might take my biggest buck ever. The weather was really nasty, wind chills of well below zero and snow blowing and drifting everywhere. We unpacked as fast as we could and headed out the afternoon of our arrival. The snow had actually made some of the roads impassible causing Aaron to put us on other farms where the roads were still open.
That first evening we sat at an edge of timber where the deer were bedding and had heavy trails passing 100 yards upwind of where we hunkered by a fence. Our only defense from the gusting winds and driving snow being in the form of a white sheet we brought to help conceal the blinds we hoped to be sitting in. We had walked about ¾ of a mile to get to where we were and the sheet was doing very little to help cut the wind and snow.
Late that evening, we watched as a big bodied deer came from the timber and stopped to feed only 40 yards from us. You could see his pedicles were fresh, and very large. He was at least a 4-year old and hadn’t been shed for very long at all. He fed awhile as we watched a few does and a smaller buck with his rack still on pass through. He will be an awesome buck next year, but it was not to be for me. By the time we returned to the vehicle after darkness had settled, we were officially frozen.
The 2nd afternoon, the weather had worsened to where we couldn’t even get out to hunt; we had to settle for TV and a hot meal. This wasn’t what we wanted to be doing, sitting inside, but we would have never made it. As the roads slowly closed and the winter storm raged outdoors, we stayed warm and dry, waiting and planning for the next day.
Friday we awoke to find all roads were impassible. The county road crews finally passed by the lodge early in the afternoon, and we headed out. We sat on the edge of standing corn by a small pond in the frigid weather using the white sheet to try to cover some of our movement. We saw plenty of deer, mostly piling into the standing corn. Several does were very close, within 50-yards, but we didn’t want to drag it a half mile. I wasn’t about to drag a doe that far, but a buck, I would have still been there dragging it today. We sat until darkness came without seeing a shooter. On the way back to the lodge, the weather once again gave us trouble. We got stuck right in the middle of the county road. One of the guides, Galen, pulled us backwards until we could regain traction. We were late getting back and sleep came very fast and early.
Saturday the weather was better and we headed out in early afternoon. Tonight we would be sitting in an elevated blind where we wanted to be the first evening. We sat all afternoon in the sub-zero cold and watched as at least 50 does and smaller bucks came past us within 10-yards. We did see a great buck several hundred yards behind us, shed too of course. My time was running out to tag an Iowa giant. I was down to my last day—hopefully tomorrow would be my day.
The last day in Iowa, Galen and Aaron took us to an abandoned corn crib, in a corn field where the deer were coming out to feed. Pawing through the snow to pick any tiny piece of corn to help provide the energy they needed to make it through the harsh winter cold. A very good buck had been seen coming out with a few does, not every evening, but fairly regular. He was our target as we sat trying to stay behind the sheet I had been carrying, which didn’t block a bit of wind. We sat there all afternoon, our eyes watering from the below zero wind chill, and eventually saw the does start filing out and feeding their way past us. We sat frozen, watching for the buck to show, but he never even came.
As darkness came and the string of does and yearlings continued past, we decided to fill a doe tag for the HUSH program Iowa has to feed the hungry in the state. HUSH stands for Help Us Stop Hunger. We were getting close to going on gain with the camera when we picked out a mature doe traveling with several others. I brought up the TC Prohunter 50 cal. Muzzleloader and Gary got the camera on the deer. As the small group of deer passed us I took my shot at about 80-yards. At the shot, she crumbled in her tracks, and as the others just watched, we wondered if we could actually fill my buck tag with another doe for the HUSH program. I quickly reloaded and tried to reach Aaron by cell, but before I got an answer, the others had gone out of sight. Aaron called back and he said that I could indeed fill my buck tag with a doe, but our chance was gone. She was a nice mature doe that would help feed a hungry person or get a family through the tough time when food was hard to put on the table. Good protein for a great cause.
Thanks again to Gary for spending a miserable few days in the deep freeze, watching shed bucks and killing a doe in the last half hour.
Thanks also to Aaron, Galen, and Heath for all the effort they put into a very cold hunt, they didn’t quit, even though most all of the bucks were shed. It was definitely the coldest trip I can remember!