Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
The Iowa deer season ended Friday, January 10. It was a tough hunt. During this year’s archery season, I hunted harder but encountered fewer deer in Northern Iowa than I’ve seen in several decades. During the peak of the November rut I had ‘close encounters’ with two mature bucks. The first was a wide beamed, high tined ten pointer that came into a decoy. Stiff legged, all bristled up and with ears laid back, the posturing buck approached to within ten paces. The problem was that he just walked on by, never ever stopped moving until he was gone. Regardless of how slow they appear to be going, taking a shot at a moving deer is never a good practice. Never saw him again.
The second big buck ran — and I mean ran — to the sound of rattling antlers. He stopped in the wide open at around 15 yards — but unfortunately, the angle was pretty much head on. When he finally did turn broadside, his vitals were now obscured by thick vegetation and he never did present a clean shot. Never saw him again.
Beyond that, I passed on four good shots at year-and-a-half old bucks and that was about it. Everyone else I know up here had similar seasons, or worse. Deer numbers have gotten so low in Northern Iowa, that some of my friends are refusing to shoot does. They’d rather do without venison than take out a breeder; very noble on their part. For me, it would be a tough choice. Venison is an important food item at our house.
Whenever possible, we like to have three deer in the freezer by season’s end. If I had a big doe standing in front of me and I knew that it was going to be my only opportunity for the year, I guess I’d have a really hard time not drawing the bow.
Fortunately, it never came to that. Last week, I had a plump button buck come in to 15 yards. The temperature was 6 below zero and I didn’t hesitate to bend the bow. Although the white-tail end of the freezer is going to look a bit bare this winter, I’m thinkin’ that a little venison is certainly better than no venison. The best part of the hunt was that the kill had absolutely zero impact on future deer numbers. With current deer populations being what they are, that’s something I can feel good about. For now, this year’s deer season is a wrap; or maybe I should say that it’s buttoned up.