After Labor Day, when most hunters turn their attention to the scouting and planning that leads to harvesting deer, Denny Kommes turns his attention to another kind of harvesting. For about 14 hours a day, he works on a crew combining corn and bean fields.
In addition to helping put food on tables across America, the Exira, Iowa, hunter can also "bring home the bacon," or in this case, venison. His work schedule means that he only gets to hunt one weekend a year, but in 2004, Kommes made the most of his time in the field, knocking down a slammer that he’ll remember for all the weekends — and weekdays — of his life!
"We may chase out some deer while we’re combining, but doing that kind of work doesn’t allow any time for scouting and not much time for hunting," Kommes said. "We start in September and usually, with 45 farms or so to do, we’re working through November, sometimes working 100 hours a week."
Kommes runs a piece of equipment called the auger wagon, which catches the harvest from the combining equipment and then transfer it to trucks. In addition to running the auger wagon he also keeps up with any mechanical problems.
Finds Perfect Farm To Hunt
Out of the 45 farms Kommes saw from the seat of the tractor, one stuck out.
"It’s not an easy farm to combine, because the fields are surrounded by trees and there are a lot of draws coming up through the fields," he explained. "Places like that are hard to combine because harvesting involves a lot of turning around."
The farm’s fields were also braced with plenty of terraces, which are raised banks of dirt pushed in rolls around hillsides to stop erosion. Still, the gnarly draws of the farm stuck in his mind. On Saturday, Dec. 4, 2004, he and friend Bob Jensen headed there with plans to make the most of their time.
"We were doing mini-drives for each other, working along the creeks and draws," Kommes said. "But we weren’t bringing much out, and by 11 a.m. had only seen a couple does and were thinking we would have been better off with more people walking."
The morning had warmed to above freezing, warm for that time of year. It was starting to seem like a good time to take a break when Kommes saw a large-bodied deer heading up a draw.
"Right away I was thinking, oh, yeah — I knew right away it was one to try to get," he said. "Even when he was a couple hundred yards away he looked big."
Big Buck Angles Away
The buck’s line of travel was angling away from Kommes and if the big deer continued on that path, he would soon disappear over a ridge. The deer continued up the draw and was hidden from sight for a few moments until it jumped a terrace, popping up within about 50- or 60 yards of Kommes!
Kommes quickly got his shotgun — a Mossberg 12-gauge — to his shoulder and then got the gun’s scope on the buck’s shoulder. Knowing he wouldn’t get a second shot, with the ridge just a few jumps away for the deer, Kommes squeezed off a shot.
"After I shot, for about two full seconds the buck just kept running like nothing hit him," Kommes said. "He jumped to the ridge, where he’d be gone, and then his head went down and he drove his antlers into the ground, right to the base, and it flipped him."
Danny Kommes poses with his weekend buck.
Kommes later found out that his shotgun slug had entered the buck’s right side and destroyed its heart as it traveled forward. Also later, he’d be showing people the place where the buck’s antlers had torn up the dirt.
But before all that, with a huge deer down at his feet, he applied himself to the task at hand — he started making a bunch of calls on his cell phone.
A Trophy Buck
"We both (he and Jensen) arrived at the buck at the same time," Kommes said. "I was so excited and calling people that before I knew it, Bob had finished gutting the deer. Bob was joking with me, saying that he knew our hunting was over for the day — that now that I got mine, I’d just want to drive around and show everybody. And he was right."
With the beautiful 173-7/8 typical in the truck, it was time for pictures, and showing friends the deer, and more pictures. On Sunday, Kommes and Jensen hunted again.
On Monday, there was no question about what would come next. Kommes was back to work in the fields, this time doing chisel plowing to prepare the soil for over-wintering.
(Note: On his 2005 hunting weekend, Kommes also got a 150-class buck.)