There wouldn’t be a hunting season for me in 2017, or so I thought, having been diagnosed with cancer in July. I knew that if everything worked out in my favor, I would be lucky to get in on some coyote hunting in February or March. The plan was to go through chemotherapy and radiation treatments and follow that up with my surgery, with my recovery taking me well into 2018.
Needless to say, my life and my wife’s life had changed dramatically going forward. I had never had any major health issues. I stay active fishing and hunting, with hunting being my passion. My favorite activities would now be taking a backseat for a while until we were through this ordeal. Fortunately, my wife, Angela, would be encouraging me every step of the way.
Finally, in early November 2017 after two short stints in the hospital brought on by side effects from my treatments, we met with my surgeon. After a check-up and another MRI, I was told that my tumor was gone and that the clinical response the tumor had is considered pretty rare. The surgery that I assumed would be forthcoming was not recommended, and my wife and I were so thankful. All I could think about now was regaining my strength and stamina and getting into a tree stand once again. I have bowhunted for 33 years and was going to do everything I could to hunt rutting Iowa bucks this season.
When I started shooting my bow again, I couldn’t draw it at 70 lbs. The treatments, medications, and inactivity had taken their toll the last four months. In a matter of days, with a good diet and a new outlook, I was able to dial my Hoyt in, even though I turned it down to 64 lbs. Now all I had to do was purchase my archery tag and get in the woods.
It felt great to be back in my tree stand on the public land I hunt. On November 16th, my second day of hunting, I had an encounter with a special buck that I had trail cam video and photos of almost two years to the day prior. I had never seen him on the hoof, but I knew where he hung out, and from the information from the trail cam, I knew he was a midday mover. Since obtaining the video and still photos, I assumed he had been harvested long ago. After all, he hung out on a public hunting area in the big buck state of Iowa!
I had only been in my stand for one hour and ten minutes when at 12:40 p.m. I found myself staring at a large set of tall antlers moving in my direction at about 80 yards. This big 8-pointer was up to his old tricks again, moving during the middle part of the day when most hunters were out of the woods. When I arrived at the parking lot earlier, my truck was the only vehicle. I had the whole 1,000 acres to myself. The old buck was moving from a bedding area to a thicket where the does like to hang out, and I was in a tree along the main trail between the two.
As he walked downwind towards my position, I drew my Hoyt as he went behind a tree and at 15 yards put a fatal lung shot on the big buck. After making the recovery, I was able to confirm that he was indeed the river bottom bruiser that my camera had captured on November 10, 2015 at 1:42 p.m.
After tagging and field dressing him, I hoisted him off the ground high enough to keep the coyotes off of him during the night. I knew there would be no chance of getting this deer almost two miles back to my truck before nightfall.
The following morning, my son, Matt, and my friend, Austin, helped me cape, quarter, and backpack the buck out. I was unable to plan a western hunt this year, but having a pack full of meat and a buck for the wall on my back in the Iowa backwoods was the next best thing.
Without the support of my wife and family, I would be lost. Having them to always rely on, especially during the trying times of the last few months, makes me a very lucky man. I am now looking forward to what the 2018 season will bring. I will definitely be applying for multiple western tags and be more appreciative than ever that I am a hunter, and a very lucky one at that!