When it's your first hunt in Iowa, on a piece of public land you've never seen, a little help from above can help to tip the odds in your favor. Just ask Sid Tingen.
Sid Tingen's monster buck out of Decatur County, Iowa, racked up an official net non-typical score of 193 3/8. Photo courtesy of Sid Tingen.
When Sid Tingen applied for a nonresident permit in Iowa, the exact location of his hunt was still unknown. Research led Tingen to a piece of public ground in the heart of Iowa's big buck country. Ironically, the chain of events that followed resulted in a promise kept and the trophy of a lifetime -- a massive 16 pointer.
Now 50, Tingen began hunting whitetails nearly four decades ago in his home state of Florida with his father, James. His father, who was nicknamed "Blue," was an avid deer hunter and a big influence on Tingen, but so were his two older brothers, Rick and Brick. When Tingen was old enough, he began traveling to the Midwest with them to hunt whitetails. He had hunted in Illinois and Kansas but never Iowa.
THE INTERNET LINK
"I hadn't ever hunted in Iowa before, and didn't have any idea where to go," Tingen recalled.Tingen had been watching a number of hunting shows on television, and began visiting online forums for guidance on hunting whitetails in Iowa.
"I started talking to a few people and asking for advice on where to hunt," Tingen said. "One thing led to another and I met Tim Young of True Trophy Outfitters. Tim said he was booked up for November, but if I came he would spend some time showing me around and could rent me a place to stay."
"I had previously gone to the (Iowa) DNR Web site to look for public land options," Tingen said. "There were two pieces of ground that I thought might be worth checking out. When I arrived in Iowa, I met up with Tim and asked about the two places. He hadn't hunted either place, but a couple of his friends had. They said both got pounded pretty hard. Tim suggested checking out two other spots. From an aerial photo, he pointed out a couple of alfalfa fields where they had seen two bucks that might go 150 to 160. My biggest deer to date was a 140-class 10-point, so I was pretty excited after hearing that.
"Tim also suggested scouting the ridge tops. There were a lot of acorns, and his friends had been seeing deer running the ridges.
"I went to one of the alfalfa fields and began scouting the edges. A well-used trail led me to a ridge 3/4 of mile from the road. The ridge top was really thick, but considering the number of fresh scrapes and rubs in the area, I started looking for a tree. There wasn't much for trees on the ridge top, so I ended up halfway down the ridge in a tree overlooking the creek bottom. By the time I finished, it was too late to hunt, so I made plans to return the following morning.
"I was up at least two hours before daylight, and an hour later I was climbing into the stand. Before first light, I could hear deer moving through the timber. As the sun came up, I could see glimpses of deer moving through the thicket on the ridge top. There was still enough foliage on the short trees that I couldn't make out what they were. Around 9 a.m., a yearling doe came down the ridge and bedded nearby. It seemed strange she was alone, but I figured mama had either been taken by a hunter or was off with a buck. Eventually, she spotted me and ran up the hill. On several instances, I caught a whiff of a strong musky odor, similar to that of tarsal gland. I checked my pack, but it wasn't coming from that.
"I climbed down around 10:30 to scout a bit more around the thicket. Much to my surprise, two deer jumped up and took off running. One was a mature doe, and the other a giant 8-pointer. Apparently they had been there all morning, which explains the musky odor I had smelled earlier."
FROM THE OUTSIDE IN
Tingen spent the next three days hunting from dark to dark and making incremental moves, each time moving closer to the thicket where the majority of deer had been moving across the ridge. Although he had seen plenty of bucks, none were of the caliber he hoped to shoot.
"On the fourth day, around 8 a.m., I spotted a nice buck coming up the ridge following a doe," Tingen continued. "He wasn't real wide, but he was a 10-point that would go 150 or better. The doe continued toward the thicket and the buck followed. I tried grunting and rattling, but the buck wouldn't respond. No doubt, I would have shot that deer had he offered a shot.
"The following morning I hunted the same stand. Once again, all the deer seemed to travel through the thicket. It was obvious I wasn't in the right spot yet and needed to move closer to the action. Problem was, there wasn't a tree big enough in the thicket for a stand.
"That evening after dinner, Doug Hampton and Brandon Carter convinced me that I needed to move into the thick stuff, regardless of the tree size.
"I climbed down around 10 a.m. the next morning to look for a tree closer to the thicket. I found a tree, but it was pretty small. Nevertheless, I moved the stand and settled in right away.
"Not more than 30 minutes later, the sound of scuffling leaves drew my attention toward a young buck passing through. That afternoon, six or eight small bucks cruised across the ridge. When shooting hours ended, I could still hear deer walking around me. I sat for another 45 minutes before climbing down and slipping out. At that point, I felt confident I was in the right spot."
Having never hunted Iowa before, Sid Tingen, of Florida, relied on help from a few new friends and aerial photography to settle on a spot for his hunt.
SIGNS FROM ABOVE
"The following morning, the truck thermometer read 24 degrees, which was the coldest it had been all week," Tingen recalled. "While driving out that morning, I thought about a promise made to my Dad, Blue, after he passed away in January. I had told him that if I drew a tag in Iowa, I was going to shoot a Boone & Crockett buck for him. I said to myself, 'Are you with me, Blue? It's my last day, and I could sure use yo
ur help getting it done! I turned on the radio to check the weather, and instantly the song "Amazing Grace" came on. Ironically, it was the only song played at Dad's funeral.
"Like the previous mornings, several deer scattered off the alfalfa field when I drove up to park. I took extra precaution, spraying down my equipment and outer clothing with scent eliminator before making my way to the stand. When I settled in, there was nearly an hour left before first light.
"While sitting there, I said to myself again, 'Are you with me, Blue?' About that same time, a shooting star went blazing across the sky in front of me. Whether it was a sign or not, I said out loud, 'If that was you, Blue, do it again.' The words were hardly out of my mouth, when another shooting star zipped across the sky. Coincidence or not, I took it as a sign that Dad was with me. And I had a good feeling about how the day would play out."
"As the sun came up, three does meandered across the ridge," Tingen said. "A few minutes later, a small 6-point came through and stopped to work a scrape. Eventually, he bedded down on the ridge within eyesight."
"A short time later, I spotted a doe walking through the thick stuff. Right behind her was a 150- or 160-class 10-pointer. There was no doubt I would shoot the buck given a chance. The doe continued and walked through an opening 40 yards away. As the buck approached, I drew and waited. The second he stepped into the clearing, I hit the release. The arrow zipped right beneath the buck's chest, and he barely flinched. I couldn't believe it. I'd missed. Instead of running off, he turned around, sniffed the arrow, and then continued on like nothing happened.
"I sat there replaying the shot and wondering what I had done wrong. At that point I was convinced I'd blown my only chance."
A SECOND CHANCE
"The thoughts had no more than passed, when I heard a grunt behind me. I turned to look and saw a small 6-point. As he came closer, I heard a "snort wheeze" further back in the timber. At first I didn't see anything, but then I spotted a big body moving through the trees. Suddenly, I caught a glimpse of a tall G2 and G3 and a lot of mass. That was enough to know it was a good buck, and one I'd shoot. At that point I stopped looking at antlers and focused on making the shot.
"All of the sudden, a doe appeared and the buck turned and began following her. Unfortunately, he didn't offer an open shot. When the doe got directly downwind of me, she stopped. The buck let out a snort wheeze, spun around, and took off running toward the small 6-point to chase him off. When the buck turned to walk back toward the doe, he angled slightly closer. Looking ahead, there was a small clearing 30 yards away. As the buck continued, I came to full draw. When he stepped out from behind a cluster of trees, I let out a 'murrp.' He stopped long enough for me to settle the pin and hit the release. The orange nock disappeared through the vitals, and the buck whirled and charged down the ridge. I couldn't see him but could hear him crashing through the brush and breaking limbs. There was a 30-second pause, then more crashing through the brush. One last crack echoed from below before the timber got quiet. At that point, I figured the buck was down.
"I waited a half-hour before climbing down. The arrow was coated with blood, but there wasn't much on the ground. Because of that, I climbed back into the stand and sat for another two hours. Instead of looking for blood, I made a beeline for the spot where I last heard the buck crashing through the timber. About halfway there, I heard and saw deer running. Almost instantly I was overcome with a sick feeling, and my stomach knotted up. I figured I'd go another 20 yards. If I didn't find him by then, I'd go back and try following the blood trail. I hadn't gone more than 10 yards when I spotted his white belly. The buck had fallen in a spot where the ridge dropped off.
"I knew the buck had a pretty nice rack but didn't know exactly how big until I walked up on him. I was surprised to say the least when I grabbed hold of his massive antlers. I sat for the longest time, thinking of my Dad and the events that occurred that morning. It's hard to explain, but I felt his presence around me and was overwhelmed with emotions.
"After field dressing, I tried dragging the deer up the ridge but only made it 40 yards before I was totally exhausted. I decided to drive back to camp for help.
"Tim was glad to hear I'd shot a buck. He offered to give me a hand but wouldn't be available until that evening. Since I was hunting public ground, he suggested that I go back and sit with the deer until then.
"Long story short, I stayed with the deer until nearly dark. After the hunters came in, a group of us went back out. Tim was surprised to see how big the deer was and claimed it wasn't one he had ever seen before.
"Eventually we got the deer back to camp. One of the guys rough scored the antlers and came up with a gross score of 213.
"Prior to this, my two biggest deer were taken in Illinois during the 2006 and 2007 seasons, both of which are 140-class 10-pointers. Initially, I dreamed of shooting a 170-class deer, but going home with one that scored over 200 inches is something I still find hard to believe."
In closing, Tingen had this to say: "I'd like to give a special thanks to Tim Young for his advice and hospitality. I would also like to thank my wife, Lisa, for her patience and support. Most of all, I'd like to thank God."
Some might question, was Tingen's success a stroke of luck, or did he receive a guiding hand from a higher order? The answer to that my friends, is something we'll likely never know! Congratulations, Sid!