A four-year wait plays tricks on your mind. You know a hunt is special when you can count your wait in numbers of years. Most of my hunting buddies, including myself, knew nothing about the Iowa process before I set out on my preference point journey four years ago. At that time, my friends would say, “Really? It takes four years? Why so long?”
Why so long? It’s like the old saying goes, ”Until you’ve been there, you can’t know what it’s like to be there”.
Rain. I spent six days in the Colorado backcountry hunting elk during 2013’s disastrous floods. While it rained, we hunted, not knowing what was happening on the east side of the state. Being cold, wet and tired can wear you down. A year’s worth of anticipation washed away by the slow steady rains of September. Despite the rain, I managed to call in and miss a SOLID 8x8 public land bull. My Colorado hunt was an amazing experience even though I had nothing to show but a few pictures and a hardening experience on the mountain. I wouldn’t trade it, because that’s what we’re after: an experience. The kill is secondary, right?
For years I have dreamed of Iowa. Each year, applying and patiently waiting. Waiting for the golden ticket: ZONE 5. My friends and colleagues asked me if I had “drawn” and my reply remained unchanged time after time while explaining the Iowa process to the unfamiliar. Finally, after four years, I drew for ZONE 5 Archery!
Day one in Iowa: Rain. Day two: Rain. Day Three: Rain. Being cold, wet and tired can wear you down. As this story was becoming all too familiar, I held out hope for a break in the weather and for the Iowa rut to finally turn.
The morning of November 2nd found me dry and perched in a honey locust tree along the edge of a CRP field in Southern Iowa. Three days of frustration and cold, wet conditions had finally given way to this one beautiful morning. Just after sunrise I began to see deer moving through the CRP. No shooters yet, in fact, I was running out of time and was yet to see a fully mature buck. A four-year wait lost to three days of rain? Negativity surrounded the previous day’s hunts and I was trying desperately to shake it.
Several rattling sequences had produced results so I decided to try again as I watched a buck over 400 yards away work a scrape. I slammed my antlers together and watched the buck pick up his head and look my way. He then disappeared into the CRP. I looked around my stand location and saw no bucks. I took a minute to relax and check my surrounding for bucks that may be approaching from other directions. Suddenly the buck to which I had rattled was at 100 yards and closing fast! As I scrambled for my binoculars he was now at 75, 60, then 50 yards. I was beginning to see that this was a great 8 point! Just then, he folded his ears back and began posturing. What is he doing that for? I looked to my right and I saw my four-year wait standing in the CRP just 80 yards away. I never picked up my binoculars. A 21” spread needs no further confirmation for a bow hunter from Alabama, who is 16 hours from home and on a hunt of a lifetime. As the two bucks began moving towards each other I feared neither would present a shot. “Please don’t fight”, I said to myself, knowing it could possibly send both of these bucks out of my life forever. At last the “face-off” ended and the bucks went their separate ways, but I was still locked on the larger buck. 50 yards, 55 yards, then 58 yards. He was not getting any closer. Finally 60 yards! I rolled my HHA sight to the 63 yard mark and drew. The buck took a final step and I stopped him.
Months of preparing for Elk and shooting at distance had me ready for this moment. I released. As the arrow slammed into the buck’s vitals I knew I had completed my Iowa journey. The adrenaline all hunters crave rushed throughout my body and streamed out of me with a big, "YES!" 63 yards! Wow! As the buck ran across the field and disappeared into a small creek I asked myself, "How big was that deer?" He was a no-doubter for sure, but was he a 10 or an 8? 150 inches or 160 inches? I really didn’t know. He was a shooter for me on that day, and a fine buck to take home. My journey was complete, and my dreams had come true with the hunt of a lifetime and a filled tag. This was an experience of a lifetime. I still remember all those late nights as I lie awake in bed dreaming of my next trip to Iowa.
Do what you love and be happy doing it. I thank God that I am a bow hunter.
Special Thanks to Sitka Gear for turning clothing into gear, to IMB Outfitters and Preston Frasier for making my Iowa hunt a special hunt for me. I will be back!