A Tale of Two Farms
1/24/2012 9:31 PM
A Tale of Two Farms
By Ian Eckerstorfer Suburban Standout Outdoors
In the summer of 2011, my excitement was at an all-time high. I finally had pictures and trail camera video of a metro unit Boone and Crocket. “Jolly Green Giant”, as he was named roams “Greenfield” farm. From the road the Greenfield doesn’t look like much, but to a bow hunter it was a dream. A thick fence line runs between a marshy pine bedding area and a hardwood ridge, with alfalfa and soybeans on either side. My stand hung at the intersection of two line fences that formed a great funnel.
The stand was an afternoon-only setup, as the deer fed in the fields under and around the stand in the morning. I could sneak in right after getting home from the Molecular Diagnostic Lab where I work and have plenty of time to be set up before the deer fed from either bedding area out into the fields.
To make a long, sad story short, I lost hunting rights to a family member of the owner two weeks before season. Not only did I lose a fantastic property, but I also lost the opportunity to hunt the buck of my dreams. And to make matters worse, this farm had also produced three does the year before, and there were plenty more on camera for this season. I had other spots and other bucks so my season wasn’t over, but Jolly Green Giant was off the hit list and another hunter was after him.
It was a somber evening when I pulled the stand from the line fence. As I climbed up into the tree to undo the ratchet straps, 6 does were already feeding out in the soybeans, along with a non-typical eight pointer named “Gnarly Davidson”. I sat and watched the beautiful scene in front of me. I enjoyed my last hunt, watching deer fed upwind of me in the summer breeze. As I backed out of the driveway, a hollow, empty feeling swept over me, like I had lost a good friend.
On the way back home, in an instant of shear spontaneity and fate, I turned into the driveway of a great looking farm I had passed many times on my way to the Greenfield. I had nothing to lose. I walked up to the man working in the yard, explained my situation, and asked the question. Within five minutes I had a new farm to hunt and a new friend. My game plane for the new farm was to scout from the road by glassing the field in the evening. I spent those last two weeks before the season driving in the truck every night, video camera and binoculars in hand, looking for bucks. None showed up on the new farm during those two weeks of scouting.
Bow season started out on a fantastic note for team Suburban Standout Outdoors, with a couple doe kills and a 150 down in Minnesota. It wasn’t until the third week of season, with both doe tags filled, that I had the right wind to hunt the new farm, “S.C.” Still not certain of where the deer would be coming from and no time to hang a trail camera before season, I decided to set an observation stand overlooking the soybeans and corn field 100 yards off of the swamp.
Numerous does and yearlings feed along the fence line and out into the beans each night we hunted. I sat in the observation stand three times and watched a pattern develop. The majority of the deer came out of the marsh near the pond well before sundown in a low spot hidden from the road. The observation stand tactic worked, and I knew where I needed to hang my stand.
The weekend of October 1st sent the first cold front through the Midwest. Friends from around the Badger state where texting reports of bucks on the move and even sparring in the fields. The front had triggered some pre-rut movement and it was looking to be a great weekend to get on stand. Sunday October 2nd was the night, and the wind was right for the S.C. farm. As I hiked in to hunt, I found new rubs and scrapes on and under almost any tree surrounding the pond. It had big buck written all over it! Then I found the tree.
The tree now known as “The Willow”, sits on the corner of the bean field right next to the marsh and pond. With the help of a hand saw and climbing sticks I was up 20 feet in the willow, Motion Camera arm strapped on, and ready for the evenings hunt. Fifteen minutes after I sat down a young 2.5-year-old 9-pointer came through the marsh grass working his way towards the pond. I lost sight of him and figured he had worked his way towards the other side of the bean field.
Two hours went by after the young 9 came through with no action. I soon encountered a dilemma. Should I grunt this early in the season? I decided to roll the dice. I knew the deer where sparring and scraping so I let out three soft grunts, waited fifteen minutes and grunted twice more. That’s when I heard him. The buck came in on the backside of my tree and was within 40 yards before I knew it. At first I figured it was the young 9 I had seen earlier looking for the intruder buck grunting on his turf. I couldn’t turn around with fear of my stand squeaking so I strained my neck as much as I could. “Shooter” hit my brain as soon as I saw him. He looked like a big eight around 3.5-years-old with decent tines and a spread just past the ears. Once I registered all of this I realized he was already within bow range as I turned to get into position, my stand squeaked just as I had feared. The buck knew something was up instantly. He stood at 15 yards behind a smaller willow, frozen broadside with no shot, staring at the base of my tree. While the sun fell beneath the horizon he just stood like a statue for a time that seemed like an eternity. Finally, he moved. He turned, and walked directly away. I whistled and bleated but he kept walking. Now at full draw, I bleated one more time. He turned and gave me a hard quartering away shot. It was now or never. With no time to range, I settled my 45 pin right on his heart. Taking my time, I slowly steadied my breathing, and I asked myself if I could make the shot count.
I released the arrow and watched it anchor itself deep into his chest right behind the shoulder. I watched half of my arrow bob up and down to the pace of his low, labored run. I was pumped because I knew I tucked it right behind the shoulder! I went home and called in the crew. Forty five minutes later with Joe Zalar, his dad, and my youngest brother Austin, we loaded up the trucks and headed out to trail the buck.
We found blood immediately, four hundred yards later following spraying blood the entire trail, Joe, leading the pack, let out a yell “There he is!”
Now I know a lot of guys talk about ground shrinkage on bucks, however, my buck was the opposite. Joe was teasing me the whole blood trail as we trailed deeper and deeper into the marsh, “if you got me blood trailing a basket eight pointer I swear I’m going beat you!” My three year old eight turned into a five year old eleven.
The events that led up to the biggest buck of my career is a story I will tell for the rest of my life. From losing the Greenfield, with one of the biggest bucks I’ve ever hunted, to getting the S.C. all in the same day, it was a crazy ride. Had I not lost the Greenfield farm my biggest buck would be out in the woods and not at the taxidermist. My feelings of accomplishment this season are pretty high. I was able to learn, pattern, and kill a buck within six weeks of gaining permission at the S.C., and tag out seventeen days into the season. I’m thankful to the landowners that allow me to hunt the many farms in the metro, my family and friends that put up with all my deer madness, and finally thankful to Joe Zalar for helping me drag my buck three hours, and two miles out of the woods on a Sunday night (still owe him a steak dinner for that one). The 2011 bow season will be a hard to top for us here at Suburban Standout Outdoors, but you can bet we’ll be out next year trying.
Back from the taxidermist.
Suburban Standout Outdoors