Back one November in the mid-’80s, I was out for what I thought was going to be a typical afternoon of bowhunting in eastern Iowa. The weather was perfect and I was fired up. I didn’t have a clue that this particular hunt would expose me to something that would ultimately make me much more successful at taking mature bucks.
On this hunt, which took place around the middle of the month, I pulled into one of my special spots around noon. The area I was hunting consisted of a valley about 1 1/2 miles long and several hundred yards wide. The valley floor consisted of second-growth timber choked with weeds and multi-flower rose bushes. A 5-acre cornfield stood on the north end of the valley.
Three draws came together just north of the cornfield, and the deer were using this bottleneck as a funnel when traveling from their bedding areas on the hillsides and hilltops to the cornfield. It was a tricky spot to try to get to, but that’s where I went to set up for my afternoon hunt.
After an uneventful 1 1/2 hours on stand, I caught movement on the hillside to my east, about 150 yards out. Ten minutes passed, and I could finally see a large buck through the breaks in the timber. I estimated that he was a solid 160-class 10-pointer as he slowly and deliberately worked his way toward my position.
He had closed the gap to around 70 yards when I heard a grunt on the hillside to my west. The first deer I spotted was a doe around 50 yards out. Behind her another 50 yards stood a 140-class 10-pointer. Just as I spotted him, he started after the doe.
A VOCAL REVELATION
Although I had heard trailing grunts before (imagine a buck walking at a fast pace letting out a short grunt every time one of his front hooves hit the ground), this was the first time I had a visual of both the buck and doe while these vocalizations were actually being made. Due to the lay of the land, the 160-class buck could not see the buck or doe across the valley, but he was turned facing their direction at full attention. As I looked back to the west, I saw that the doe had run south about 40 yards and stopped. At that, the buck behind her closed the distance between them to around 20 yards, trail grunting all the way. Just then the doe let out five distinct bleats.
The buck, watching her so intently that he wouldn’t have missed a hair moving on her body, trail grunted his way right up behind her. He immediately mounted her and let out with several short, fast-paced and deep-pitched “tending” grunts. However, she took a few steps forward and he slid off her back. As soon as his front feet hit the ground, he let out a long, loud and throaty grunt. He then moved up, mounted her again and immediately started again with the tending grunts.
Just as the doe started moving away from him again, I heard brush breaking. The sound was coming from the east not far from where the 160-class buck had been standing on the hillside. I looked over just in time to see him running across the valley floor toward the breeding pair.
As he got close to them, the doe ran ahead a short distance and stopped. But the 140-class buck stayed where he was, staring at the doe, oblivious to the fact that the other buck was running right at him. The 160-class buck caught him in the left rear hindquarter and just about knocked him off his feet. I could tell that at least three of his heavy tines penetrated the hide.
The smaller buck then ran up over the hill with the other buck in hot pursuit. That was the last I saw of them. Although I stayed in my stand until dark, instead of paying attention to what was going on around me, all I could think about was the amazing scenario that had played out right in front of me.