My hunt for Bud began in August of 2008. I was clicking through some trail camera pictures and an incredible young buck popped up. I immediately said, “Oh, buddy,” hence the name Bud. This was a phenomenal 2-year-old buck. He had a 6×5 typical frame with some forks and stickers and had great mass. With all the junk he had as a 2-year-old, I felt like he would eventually grow into a giant non-typical. The problem was that he was only a 2-year-old and I knew that it would be three long years before I would hunt him.
On my farm, I’ve decided that genetically superior bucks will get the pass until they are 5 1/2 years old, and Bud definitely fit that category. The big question was whether he would still be around in three years. I vowed to do everything I could to make my farm the best it could be for him and to also harvest the mature bucks that shared his core area. I felt like if I could harvest the dominant buck in his area every year, he would be less likely to stay on my farm.
Fortunately, Bud lived in the heart of my 470-acre farm, so I felt like he had a decent chance of surviving several hunting seasons. I got hundreds of trail camera pictures of him that year and also found his shed antlers in the spring, so I knew he survived the 2008 season. I couldn’t wait to see what he turned into as a 3-year-old.
In August of 2009, I was pleasantly surprised when I started running cameras again. Bud had blown up into an awesome 3-year-old that would easily score in the mid-160s. The interesting thing was that he was only a 5×5 this year and was a clean typical. It seemed odd that he lost a point and all his kickers. During the 2009 season, I had the pleasure of seeing and passing Bud on numerous occasions. My heart would always skip a beat as soon as I saw him. I was also fortunate in 2009 because I was able to harvest two different 5 1/2-year-old bucks that lived in the same area as Bud. Things were shaping up, but I still had two years to wait.
In 2010 when I started running cameras, I immediately got pictures of Bud right where I expected. It was amazing how many inches he had put on from 3 to 4 years old. He had turned into a giant 6×5, and I estimated he would score in the mid-180s.
The 2010 archery season was a blast! I passed Bud twice and saw him numerous times. I’ll never forget the look on my cameraman Dan Johnson’s face when Bud walked by the first time and I passed him. He thought I was crazy! I was also fortunate to harvest two additional 5 1/2- year-old bucks that year, including one that lived right in Bud’s core area. I knew by killing that buck, Bud would definitely be in his core area the following year.
After the 2010 season, I couldn’t wait to see what Bud turned into as a 5-year-old. If he put on another 20 inches like he’d done the previous year, I felt like he had a chance to push the 200-inch mark. I also thought it would be neat to document his antler growth the entire growing season, so I made sure my Whitetail Institute 30-06 mineral sites were replenished in early spring and started running a camera on the one I expected Bud to show up on. I started getting pictures of him in mid-April, but I couldn’t really tell much from them. By mid-June he was really putting on some inches and some mass, but it only looked like he was going to be a 5×5.
It was obvious he was going to be a giant though, so I was very excited. In early July, I was clicking through more pictures and was shocked to see how much Bud had grown in two weeks. He now had G5s on both sides and was developing a few kickers. There was no doubt at this point that he was developing into a world-class buck. Now I just had to wait until archery season to hunt him!
During the months of July, August, and September I was busy planting food plots. I planted a total of around seven acres of food plots during that time. My food plots were broken up into brassica blends, cereal grain blends and Imperial Whitetail Clover. The problem was that we had a severe drought in southeast Iowa last summer and the plots didn’t grow as well as normal.
Once the food plots were planted, I had to focus on getting ready for the hunt. Fortunately Bud lived right in the middle of my farm in an area that is fairly easy to hunt. I also had the benefit of patterning him over the past three years, so I had several Lone Wolf stands in place well before the season that I thought I could kill him from. The only missing link was that I had a strategic spot where I needed a Banks Blind. There were no trees to hunt this particular spot and I needed a place to hunt his core area on rainy days. One of the drawbacks to filming my hunts is that I usually have to sit at home on rainy days. The Banks Blind would protect the camera equipment and allow me to keep hunting Bud even if it rained.
In early September, I ordered a Whitetail Properties Edition four-man Banks Blind. The next day I placed it adjacent to a point of timber in between two food plots that Bud frequented. I also placed a Reconyx trail camera facing the blind (about 25 yards away) to monitor the deer activity and to see if Bud was comfortable with the blind being there. Fortunately, within a week, I started getting pictures of Bud walking between the blind and the camera!
Now I just had to wait for my cameraman to arrive on October 28 to start hunting. That was a long wait! Some long-distance scouting and Reconyx pictures during the last few days of October indicated that Bud was still in his core area and was walking by several of my stands on a regular basis. It looked like I was going to have a short hunt. Boy was I wrong!
I started hunting Bud on October 29 and saw him the first two or three times we sat. Then he just disappeared. It wasn’t until November 2 or 3 that I realized he was already with does and had moved into a different part of the farm that is practically unhuntable. During the next two weeks, the only times that I saw Bud were from my house with a spotting scope about half a mile from his core area. In each case, he was with a doe.
I kept hunting him in his core area because I knew he would eventually return, but it was apparent that he was breeding does in a different area and probably wouldn’t be back in his core area until the post-rut.
On November 16, Dan had to leave and I started hunting without a cameraman. At this point, after hunting non-stop for over two weeks, I was worn out. I had seen and passed some nice bucks, but I really had my heart set on Bud. I continued to grind it out and finally saw him back in his core area the morning of November 19. I was set up in a small block of thick timber that he liked to bed in. At about 9 a.m., Bud ran into a food plot on the south side of the timber, looked around for does, and took off into the timber. He was on a mission to find his next doe!
I was on pins and needles thinking he would exit the timber right under the stand I was in. He always used the same trail when entering or exiting the west side of this timber. After a couple of hours without spotting him, I decided that he had bedded down and probably wouldn’t get up until mid-afternoon.
The wind was supposed to shift that afternoon and would be wrong for the stand I was in, so I decided to move to my Banks Blind. It was located on the east side of the block of timber on the other side of the food plot. Bud had walked right by it that morning, so I felt like I would have a pretty good chance at him that evening if he exited the timber on the east side.
I saw several deer that afternoon in the food plots, but Bud didn’t show up again until 3:45. Unfortunately he walked out of the timber right underneath the stand that I had been in that morning, which was 300 yards from the Banks Blind. He was on a mission too. He was running across the narrow field into a big block of timber in search of does. Right before he disappeared into the timber, I grunted as loud as I could. He stopped and stared in my direction for what seemed like an eternity. I grunted once more very softly and he immediately turned and started walking my way.
I quickly opened up the two windows on the Banks Blind that I thought I could shoot him out of and got ready. It was awesome watching him walk those 300 yards. He would stop about every 50 yards and grunt really loud. Once he checked out the first food plot and didn’t see any deer, he knew the grunt must have come from the other food plot around the corner. As soon as he committed to walking around the corner to check out the other food plot, I knew that it was about to happen.
I’ve got to admit that after three years of watching this magnificent animal grow and after 22 days of hunting him, I was a nervous wreck. I drew my bow when he was about 30 yards away angling towards the blind. When he walked through the first window he was broadside at about 20 yards but he never stopped. I didn’t want to stop him if I didn’t have to. Unfortunately he stopped between the two windows for around 30 seconds. I was afraid to move because I wasn’t sure what he was going to do. Finally, he started walking again and entered my second shooting window. Since he obviously wasn’t going to stop, I stopped him with a mouth grunt and immediately squeezed off a shot.
I watched as my arrow covered the distance seemingly in slow motion and disappeared through his chest. He immediately bolted into the timber and all was quiet. In an instant, my three-year quest for this buck had ended. As I replayed the shot over and over in my mind, I felt like I had hit a little farther back and a little lower than I wanted to. I elected to wait until morning to track him.
That was a long, sleepless night! At daybreak the next morning, my wife, Jacqueline, and 11-year-old son, Parker, joined me to look for him. The blood trail was excellent from the beginning and after about 20 yards I realized he was bleeding really well and wouldn’t be far. Another 50 yards and there he was! I can’t describe the feeling of finally laying my hands on this giant whitetail. All the years of watching him and passing him had finally paid off!
After we loaded Bud into the truck, I pulled the card from the Reconyx camera that I had facing the blind. I was hoping that I got a picture of him walking by the blind before I shot. Sure enough, the Reconyx had taken three awesome pictures of Bud while I was in the blind at full draw about to shoot.
We spent that entire day taking pictures and videos of Bud. Late that evening, we finally had a chance to put a tape to his antlers. His 6×6 gross typical frame was 194 5/8 inches and he had nine inches of abnormal points. As a typical, Bud would net 177 4/8 inches, and as a non-typical he would net 195 4/8 inches—a Booner either way you look at him! The most distinguishing characteristics about his rack are his long, 27-inch main beams and his mass. His main beams and all of his tines had exceptional mass.
I want to thank God for blessing me with an awesome farm and for giving me the opportunity to harvest a buck of this caliber. For me, there is nothing more exciting from a hunting standpoint than harvesting an old mature buck with whom I have plenty of history.
- Knowing I couldn’t even come to my knees without breaking the little concealment we had, I decided to lie on my left side, using my left elbow for as solid a rest as could be achieved within the slight incline of the old fencerow. But when I shouldered the rifle, the sight of the crosshairs oriented at a 10-4 o’clock angle was definitely a different look from the normal 12-6 position we all practice from. Even so, I didn’t figure that would matter if I aimed at the right spot and squeezed off a clean shot. I settled the crosshairs where I needed to place the bullet and steadied the rifle. Whispering “fire in the hole” while floating the crosshairs on the spot, I gently squeezed the trigger until the recoil removed the buck from my view. Read the full story.