Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
It’s late fall. The days are getting shorter, the nights cooler. Crisp sunrise landscapes are white with frost. For Iowa’s 60,000 archery deer hunters, the message is clear. Time has come to literally climb a tree.
Deer hunters, like the game they pursue, come in all shapes and sizes. But although exterior appearances may vary, deer hunters have one thing in common. They all dream of bagging a monster buck. You know, the deer of a lifetime. Those of you who have experienced a white-tail close encounter already know that giant bucks have a universally unnerving effect on the human psyche. I’ve never known anyone who didn’t immediately get the shakes when a big bodied, tall-tined buck suddenly stepped into view and headed their way.
No one can say when our fascination with deer antlers first began. But judging from the detailed hunting scenes etched onto the smoky walls of ancient caves, we know it’s been going on for a long long time. And although we no longer paint artistic expressions of antlered game on the walls and ceilings of our cave dwellings, there is also no disputing that our ancient hunting heritage is alive and well. Modern-day art prints depicting heavy beamed deer hang in our living rooms, while lifelike taxidermy looms above the fireplace. Bronzed sculptures pose on bookshelves and a full color calendar displaying ginormous bucks hangs next to the back door. For some, the antler fascination has given way to obsession. Although we no longer hunt to live; there are those who live to hunt.
Not all white-tails are created equal, of course. Some are average. Some are big. Some are huge. A few grow antlers so outrageously large that we give the deer names. Home Wrecker, Scarface, Kong and Hay Fork are among the dream proportioned bucks that I’ve had the personal privilege to view and hunt. Notice that I only said, ‘view and hunt’. That’s because most of those trophies are still roaming the timbers. Instead of glamorous monikers like Old Mossy Horns, Wide Eight or Tall Ten, most of the bucks I actually manage to put in the freezer would be better suited to handles like Button, Spike or Forkey.
But don’t get me wrong. Woodland dreams do come true. If an archer is willing to spend enough time shivering in a tree, then sooner or later, the pendulum will swing and a mature buck will come into your life. But bear in mind that bucks don’t get to grow large by being stupid. Tagging one requires skill, woodsmanship, and above all, patience, patience, and more patience. The search for a genuine Wall Hanger may last for weeks, or for the entire hunting season. In some cases, the unfulfilled quest may last for years.
Throwing the rule book out the door, the deer hunting scenario does have some happily notable exceptions. Sometimes, the wait for the ‘Buck of Your Dreams’ is short. Occasionally, it is ridiculously short. My latest best example of just how quickly good things can happen occurred just a few days ago when 16-year-old, Evan Pearson arrowed an Iowa giant just an hour and a half into his first hunt. By that, I mean that it was literally the very first hunt of his life. To date, Evan has bow hunted for a total of one and a half hours – in his lifetime! Evan’s monster white-tail is proof positive that woodland dreams really do come true.