This story begins way back in the Fall of 2010. I checked my email and noticed that my friend, Jacob Miner, who hunts a neighboring property to our farm, had sent me some deer pictures. The pictures were of a nice 3-year-old ten he had on trail camera. This deer was a little unique because his left G1 was shorter than his right, so we named him “Shorty.”
Even though Shorty was only a 3-year-old, we both knew he would score at least 145. In Greene County, a buck like that is considered a trophy and it was very tempting to hunt him, but neither of us could bring ourselves to shoot a 3-year-old, no matter how big he was.
During the late muzzleloader season, I saw Shorty multiple times. The good news was that he survived the season; the bad news was that a car hit him and one of his shoulders was broken, almost to the point where he couldn’t walk. I videoed him and showed Jacob and my dad to see if they thought he would survive the winter. We had our doubts, but again gambled and elected to let him go.
In March of 2011, our main goal was to find Shorty’s sheds. Jacob drove to our neighbor, Sean Schiltz’s house to ask him if he had found any of Shorty’s sheds. As it turned out he had–in his front yard! After talking about Shorty for a while Sean gave Jacob the shed. Right after Jacob got the shed he called to tell me the good news. After getting off the phone, my Dad and I drove out to the farm to crow hunt. While walking in, we found Shorty’s other side lying right in the path, not 400 yards from Sean’s house! After getting back home, I called Jacob to tell him I had found the other side. We scored him at an impressive 159 inches–way more than we predicted him to be. Now that we knew he had survived the season, we couldn’t wait to see what he would turn into the following year.
Shorty at 4½
That summer we all put up trail cameras early trying to get a picture of Shorty. All summer long I anxiously checked our cameras, but never got any pictures of him. I began to wonder what was going on.
In the last week of October, my dad sent me three pictures of a huge deer he had just gotten on camera. When I opened the pictures, I immediately saw the difference in brow tines. It was Shorty! He had not only recovered after being hit by a car, but he also put on at least 20 inches of antler. I couldn’t wait to get home and start hunting him.
When I went home for Thanksgiving break, Jacob called and invited me over to his house. He had recently started filming for Hunter’s Specialties, and had great video of a huge deer he wanted to show me. I rushed over and watched the footage; it was Shorty! After talking to our neighbors, we found out that Shorty was very active during the day. Sean was even seeing him in his front yard! I was hoping he was going to be as popular with me as he was with everyone else. I just wanted to lay eyes on him!
Unfortunately, for the rest of the year, neither Jacob nor I encountered him. After January 10th, all we could think about was finding his sheds.
When February finally came around Jacob, Dad, our friend Michael Rossmanith, and myself searched every square inch of the properties we hunt trying to find his sheds. We walked every trail, every fencerow, and every field. We did this from February through May, with no luck. We could not figure out why we couldn’t find them. Either someone had already found them, or he lost them crossing the river and they were downstream somewhere.
Over the summer, Jacob and Dad set up multiple trail cameras trying to get pictures of Shorty. We didn’t get anything too exciting until the end of July. After analyzing two hazy pictures of a very large ten pointer, we realized that Shorty was back for round three.
In the fall of 2012, I transferred from Central College to Iowa State, and became very involved on campus. Because of this, I didn’t have much of a bow season until Thanksgiving break. In mid-November my dad pulled the memory card out of one of our cameras. Shorty was once again roaming our farm. Thanksgiving couldn’t come soon enough.
Neither my Dad nor I ever saw Shorty during bow season. After bow season ended I could not wait for Christmas break to come. I could hunt every day of the late season, and I couldn’t wait for opening day.
2012 Late Season
The late season started out very slow for Dad and I. We were not seeing very many deer at all. But there was some good news; Greene County was predicted to get hammered by a large winter storm by the end of the week. We knew that was going to be the perfect time to be in the stand.
We were in the stand the night the storm hit, and surprisingly didn’t see many deer. The next day the wind picked up and howled all day and night, 30 mph winds with 50 mph gusts. When we walked out to the stand that afternoon, we actually wore our snowmobile helmets to protect our face and eyes. We looked like idiots yes, but we were warm.
The next morning was perfect. It was cold, sunny, still, and we had over eight inches of snow on the ground. After we got in we started scanning with our binoculars. We did this for about an hour and didn’t see anything. Then at around 8:00am, I figured Dad had the scouting under control so I decided to check Facebook. After about 15 minutes of that I got a tap on my knee. “Look out ahead of us about 600 yards along the tree line,” he said, “is that a stump or a deer?” I got my binoculars and immediately saw what he was talking about (when you hunt the same stand every day you know when something is out of place). I knew it was a deer. Just then it lifted its head up, and we both knew what deer it was. For the first time we both had laid eyes on Shorty. Right then I knew I was going to sit there all day. As bad luck would have it that strategy didn’t pan out. After sitting for hours Shorty got up from his bed and walked back into the timber. We didn’t see him again that day.
The next day there was no sign of Shorty, but the following day I once again saw him in the exact same spot. I got a better look at him this time. He had a very noticeable limp. As it turned out, one of the farmhands across the road was sitting in a ground blind that our neighbor, Tim Healy, had set up during the shotgun season. He shot at Shorty hitting him in the leg, but the hit wasn’t fatal. This was one tough buck!
Once again that evening, Shorty never came within range, and I watched him walk out of my life–again.
December 26th, 2012 started out just like any other day for me during Christmas break. I woke up and hunted in the morning, got back to the house at 10:00am, went to the gym, ate lunch, and took a nap. At around 2:30pm, I got a call from my dad asking when I was going to the stand. I told him I planned on leaving around 3:00pm, so he took the rest of the afternoon off to go sit with me and video the hunt.
We got to the farm around 3:30pm, and headed to the stand. It was a very sunny, cold, and still afternoon with about eight inches of snow on the ground and a northwest wind–the perfect conditions for seeing Shorty.
At around 3:45pm, we immediately started seeing deer. Eight does came piling into our food plot followed by a 130 inch 8 pointer. This really got our hopes up knowing that the deer were moving that early. I was looking at the 8 through my binoculars when out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of antler back in the timber. I shifted my focus to that area and I immediately knew what buck it was. I instantly whispered “Dad!” and he cut me off and said “Shorty, I know. Calm down.” Yeah right, there was no calming down.
This was the first time I ever had Shorty within gun range. After I got past the awe factor of seeing him in the food plot, I did what almost every other hunter does–got buck fever trying to fight back the shakes.
Shorty was about 250 yards away, and since we still had about an hour of light left we decided to let him get as close as possible. While watching him I recalled that my Dad also had a late muzzleloader tag. If anyone deserved to shoot this deer on our farm it was he. After all he did buy the farm, plant the food plots, and built the “Condo” we were hunting out of. When I asked if he wanted to shoot him he replied, “I’m going to be hunting here the rest of my life Tyler, when I feel the time is right for me to shoot a certain deer I will.” I then asked, “Is this one of those times?” “Nope” he replied. I didn’t argue.
At around 4:45pm Shorty halted his progress in our direction, and started feeding parallel with our stand. This was it, now or never. With my dad videoing over my shoulder, I opened the window and had Dad range him. He was 164 yards perfectly broadside, a pretty doable shot with a muzzleloader. When I put my crosshairs on him, I was amazed at how hard it was to keep steady. Every time my heart beat, my crosshairs would bounce all over his body. After about thirty seconds of that I knew I had to take a shot. I took three deep breaths to slow my heart rate, and pulled the trigger. The split second the gun came to life, I remembered seeing my crosshairs move back to the middle of his body, I knew it wasn’t going to be the perfect hit I was looking for.
After the smoke cleared, Shorty was gone. I immediately started the long process of reloading my muzzleloader. While I was reloading I was looking all over for him, and when I set my bullet down flush against the powder I saw him hiding in the corn. After telling Dad where he was, I ranged him and got ready for the second shot. He was at 200 yards, and at this point I was very focused. I got on him, took three deep breaths, timed my heartbeats, and fired.
When the smoke cleared he was once again, gone. I reloaded my gun one more time, and while doing so I noticed one doe that kept on looking into the area of the corn where he was standing when I shot him. Right then I knew he was lying there. After reviewing the footage we saw that I did indeed drop him on the second shot. We waited a little bit, and then finally climbed down to go get him. There was still about 20 minutes of light left, so my Dad was still able to video. When I walked up to where I saw him last, I saw a brown body in the corn. I went up to him, tapped him with my barrel, and immediately grabbed his antlers. Shorty was mine!
He was one of those deer that grew when I walked up on him. My dad and I stood there in awe just looking at him. While Dad was still videoing I picked his head up out of the snow unveiling a 15” right G2, a 21” inside spread, and a 27” left main beam. I was speechless. I sent out one mass text, “Got him!”
Soon afterwards my Dad left to go get the truck, leaving me by myself with Shorty. That was when it really hit me as to what had just happened. I had just harvested the deer of my lifetime, from the same stand I shot my first buck out of, with once again, Dad at my side.
While letting that sink in I took off my hat, and laid down in the snow propping my head up against Shorty. I stared up into the clear Iowa night sky and thanked God for blessing me with so many great experiences on this farm, and having an awesome father that made it all possible.
Ten minutes later I got a call from Jacob, who was hunting about a mile south of me and heard the shot. After answering the phone I said, “Jake you aren’t going to believe this, but I just shot Shorty.” “No seriously what’d you shoot?” he said. “I’m not going to argue with you” I replied. “I’m laying next to him as we speak.” Within ten minutes he arrived to see him. It was really cool being able to share that moment with him since that deer was in both of our lives for so long.
After taking pictures and field dressing him, we took him back home to score him. He measured out to an unbelievable 187 inches. A heck of a deer in any part of the world let alone Greene County, Iowa.
After going out to eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant, and watching the video countless times in the living room, it was time to go to bed. Just like every night before I went to sleep I prayed and thanked God for blessing me with such a great experience.
This whole experience with Shorty really drove home for me the real reasons why I love hunting. Too many hunters today get caught up in the hype of somehow getting on TV, acquiring the latest and greatest gear, or harvesting that buck of a lifetime. In doing this, they lose touch with the real reasons we hunt. It’s about enjoying God’s creation, having great times with family and friends, and creating memories that will be passed down and enjoyed for years to come. When I tell people this story thirty years from now, I won’t remember what gun I used, the pair of boots on my feet, or the brand of clothing I wore. I will remember the great times and all of the people involved over the three-year journey chasing a deer that we will never forget.