Putting in the Time Equals Big “Tines”
By Ryan Arnevik
I think I’m like most whitetail hunters who dream about encountering and harvesting a monster whitetail, and when this deer was walking straight toward us, I was silently hoping this surreal experience was no dream at all.
My friend and hunting buddy, Rory Heims, and I spent the summer of 2014 brainstorming ways to get closer to the deer we have hunted in Wayne County, Iowa without pressuring them. I suppose we have been impatient in the past, getting to our best stands when conditions are marginal and only moderately considering stand access. Discussions centered on trying to get better as hunters in patterning and understanding deer movement in our area. Of course, we have always played the wind and have had success in the past with some beautiful deer, but we talked about how we really wanted to use this 2014 season to get more serious about management and harvesting more does and only bucks of an older age class. We fully understood that this might mean a lot of time on stand, and we laughed because, as this would only make the season even better! The dedication we hit the ground with for our summer preparation was exhilarating. The “hunt” had started.
After placing some trail cameras out in a couple pinch points we were fortunate. Right off the bat we had some mature bucks captured on camera. Fuel had now been added to our fire! One area on the farm was a high traffic area in 2013, and in looking at aerial maps and scouting on foot, was likely a travel corridor between a thick bedding area and some crop fields. We could see that our only low-impact access to a potential stand site would be from the north, cutting across a field. The field was planted in beans, and because of the excessively wet spring, was planted very late. Rory and I agreed we were going to need to wait to hunt this area until the beans dried up or were harvested. It was dubbed the “back corner stand.” The layout and required access of the stand site would not really allow us to hunt the beans if we wanted to be able to shoot to the main deer trail. A south wind would be required later in the season.
Rory and I hunted other stands during the early part of the bow season and Rory was fortunate enough to harvest a tremendously mature buck. After this, he decided that since he was successful early, he wanted to run the video camera while I hunted, just in case we had another encounter with a mature buck.
As many whitetail addicts do, we had some vacation time set aside for a few days during the first and second weeks of November. On the way to meet at the farm, I noticed the beans had finally been picked! On the night of November 4th, I checked the weather report, which forecasted a southwest wind for the next day. It was time to get in the “back corner stand!” The wait was over, and we were going to make the most of the opportunity, planning to pack a sandwich and stay on stand all day.
November 5th, 2014, began with Rory and I preparing our gear with a little more gusto than usual, with feelings of anticipation to finally see what was happening in the back corner. Arriving at the stand, I set up the camera stand while Rory set out a buck decoy 20 yards away in a little clearing to the north of the main trail. I thought he was a little loud setting up the decoy, then I clanked the stand accidentally against the ladder and Rory was instantly forgiven.
At sunrise we were entertained with a couple small bucks that spotted the decoy and postured, bristled-up and scraped the ground. Our decoy “held its own” and the small bucks dispersed. At approximately 10 AM a nice 3.5 year old 8-pointer with a big frame came through on the main trail and again kept our enthusiasm peaked. He didn’t really notice the decoy while walking with his nose to the ground, which was probably good as it would not likely have been standing long. About two hours passed without a deer moving through the area. Sharing a couple quiet jokes, we polished off our sandwiches and psyched ourselves up for the afternoon. It wasn’t long; 12:15 PM and Rory tapped me on the shoulder. Following the edge of the bean field was a medium framed 3.5 year old 8-pointer.
Rory had the camera running, focused on the deer. I tapped him on the shoulder and pointed at the gigantic deer about 50 yards behind it! This buck dwarfed the other and the antlers looked like trees! In a streak of good luck, which seems to rarely happen in favor of the hunter, the huge buck actually walked past the smaller buck and took the lead on the trail. Two mature bucks walking together is not a common sight on November 5th, but I suspect there was no confusion about who the dominant buck was; his body was as large as his rack. I knew from the moment I saw the deer this was the largest buck I’ve ever seen without even wasting the movement to raise the binoculars. My focus shifted to watching his every move and reviewing my yardages through my shooting lanes.
This would turn out rather pointless as he steadily made his way in to 15 yards on the main trail. I tried to remain calm, and drew my bow as he moved behind a thick clump of vines. He cleared the vines and stepped into the edge of the clearing. I let the arrow fly seemingly in complete calm and focus. He dropped. I hit the spine. Grabbing for another arrow. Shot again. He laid still. I was humbled instantaneously!
I replayed this in my mind over and over, and while I was upset about the initial shot, I had released the arrow feeling complete confidence in the shot. The second arrow was fatal very quickly and the biggest buck either of us had ever seen was laying 15 yards away!
Massive would be the best way to describe this buck. His mass above the burr on each side is six inches and the thickness and blading of the tines are impressive. I’m not including his score in this article, intentionally. I have always thought deer hunting is more than just a few calculated numbers. His life and the challenges of hunting him are the true gift to experience and to share with my family and friends. Thanks Rory for all the help!
This may be my buck of a lifetime. I hope to chase bucks like this in the future, but I’m realistic… there aren’t many. But, then again, there might be!