January 30, 2023
By Josh Honeycutt
Dawn Jensen is serious about her whitetail hunting. She even self-films her hunts for Drury Outdoors.
“Growing up, I lived in town and had no experience with hunting,” Dawn says. “Neither parent hunted nor came from families that hunted. When I was 15 years old, I met my now husband, Beau, and was introduced to the hunting lifestyle. I was given the opportunity to hunt with him and his family if I received my hunter’s safety certificate. I took the course, and that fall I was able to harvest my first doe during the shotgun season in Minnesota. I became hooked with this lifestyle.”
This season, she tagged an Iowa giant. It all started in 2021, when the buck appeared on trail cameras. Other hunters encountered the buck last season, but she didn’t.
Then came the 2022 season. She hunted this deer five times with no luck. “I was grinding out the season self-filming, but also bringing my 3-year-old daughter to the blind on days that I didn’t have a babysitter,” Dawn says.
Then, on Oct. 26, she settled into the blind once again. The afternoon sun started dipping toward the horizon, and as it dropped, anticipation rose. The weather was good with overcast skies and an easterly wind, which wasn’t an ideal direction, so she kept the blind windows closed until time to shoot.
Her hunting spot consisted of rolling hills with timber and crops between two ravines. A small watering hole was nearby, too. Her focal point was a small plot with clover and triticale in front of the blind.
The evening air was very calm, and two small bucks worked scrapes in the distance. Afterward, they briefly sparred and then begun feeding in the plot. Some turkeys picked around, too.
Suddenly, the two young bucks raised their heads and looked eastward.
“I kept trying to look through the overgrown tree line to see if I could spot any movement,” Dawn says. “The second time I looked, I spotted antlers moving within 30 yards of the blind. I knew they were big. I scrambled to get my cameras ready and my bow in my hand. By the time I had my bow, the buck had already passed through one of my openings at 10-12 yards. I identified the buck and realized he was one of two I was after. Luckily, I had two real-life decoys in the field at 15 yards.”
The massive deer stopped and “socialized” with the other two bucks for a few minutes. They groomed each other, and then they started feeding again. Eventually, the big buck offered a broadside opportunity, and Dawn took the 20-yard, quartering-away shot. The deer ran 50 yards, fell over, got back up and disappeared into the timber. It crashed just a few yards inside of the cover.
“In the moment, as the deer stepped out, I didn’t give myself a chance to get worked up or feel the nervousness,” Dawn says. “After it was over, I couldn’t stop shaking or smiling. I felt a very strong sense of accomplishment. Self-filming is not exactly my favorite thing to do. I do my fair share of complaining about it, but I feel proud of myself for not giving up.”
After the shot, one of the two small bucks sniffed around the blood trail. Soon after, a bobcat entered the open and did the same. Then, her husband and a friend joined her for the recovery. They found the buck in short order. Of course, everyone was happy for her.
“I can’t leave out our great babysitter,” Dawn says. “Without her, I would have been in the house watching my daughter, Ryleigh. Or, I would have had Ryleigh with me, and who knows how this would have all played out.”
Jensen rarely scores bucks she shoots. She believes people get too caught up in the inches of antler. That said, she thinks the deer is 5 1/2 years old.
“Being able to chase these majestic animals is a privilege,” Dawn says. “The chase is fun. The harvest is an adrenaline rush. I love the comradery of family and all the hunters we’re surrounded by. To have the memories are priceless. Let’s not forget I get to feed my family delicious meals using this meat through the winter.”