Experiencing Iowa: What Was I Thinking?

After three years of waiting, I finally had an Iowa bow tag in my pocket!

As my Ford rolled down the highway, visions of huge stags danced in my head. I was headed to the “land of the giants,” where some good times certainly awaited an anxious bowhunter. Fantasizing as the miles rolled by, I couldn’t wait to my see my friends Dean and Terri, and to hear tales of the bruisers that lived in the surrounding area. Pulling into my destination late at night, I slipped into my camper and drifted off to sleep, ready to hit the ground running the next morning.

At sunup, I found Dean waiting at his hunting cabin, eager to show me around the countryside. After a short drive, we found ourselves looking over a standing cornfield that was surrounded by wooded hills and hollows. This would be my hunting spot, and from what I could tell, it should be a good one. Hitting the ground running, Dean and I set out to get an overview of my hunting area. By noon, Dean and I were hanging treestands in a couple of spots that promised good action. Finishing our work by late evening, we headed back to town for a warm meal that Terri had graciously prepared for us.

Eddie Claypool

Sitting around a great supper, we talked excitedly about all the kind of stuff that serious bowhunters talk about — big bucks, big bucks and more big bucks! Dean graciously invited me to accompany him on a hunt the following morning since my area needed a rest. Taking him up on his offer, I realized that I would be in a place that was a proven B&C producer. Furthermore, Dean already had trail camera pictures of at least one “booner” that was residing on the property this year! Just the thought of such, sent chills down my spine. “What if I see the buck, and he comes within bow range?” I asked Dean. Dean smiled and said, “then, kill him Ed.” Those words haunted me all night as I tossed and turned with anticipation of the morning’s hunt.

Hindsight Is 20/20
As Dean walked away in the darkness of the following morning, I climbed into the treestand that he’d left me at. As daylight finally began to stream onto the scene, I liked my chances. I was on an excellent property, in an excellent spot, with big bucks in the immediate area. What more could a guy ask for? Action was short in coming.

Soon after shooting light arrived, I began to hear shuffling noises coming from a cedar thicket behind me. Thicker than dog hair, the cedar area provided only slight clues as to the identity of its visitor — a leg here, a glint of antler there. Wow, a glint of good antler! With my mind running out of control, I quickly shaped a trophy buck out of the few pieces of the puzzle that I’d been given. Coming to full draw, I focused on a small open spot in the thicket. Amazingly, the buck quickly made his way toward the opening, and as antlers came into view, I threw my top sight pin onto ribcage, and let’er rip. In a second, everything was quiet, snapping me back to reality. Shaking, I settled into my seat.

When Dean arrived at my location a couple of hours later, I’d run the earlier sequence of events through my head a thousand times — hoping for a miracle that I was afraid wasn’t coming.

Eddie Claypool (left to right), Terri and Dean with the author’s first morning Iowa buck.

Climbing down, Dean and I soon walked up on my buck, expired a short distance away. As I looked at my trophy, I became acutely aware of the fact that he wasn’t wearing headgear nearly as large as I’d dreamed. And here he was, dead — and my Iowa hunt was over! Dean smiled quietly at me, knowing the quandary that I was in.

“Well, I guess you won’t be using any of those stands that we spent all day yesterday hanging, will you?” he asked.

I could only laugh … I had to, or I’d cry!

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Eddie Claypool provides tips on bowhunting, with an emphasis on whitetails. Over the past dozen years, Claypool has harvested 23 Pope & Young recordbook whitetails. Six of the deer were taken on public ground, with the rest coming from private ground that he accessed through knocking on doors. He has not been guided on a hunt, or hunted on managed properties. He also has hunted many other species of game including elk and mule deer.

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