The timid nature of some big bucks makes them hard to hunt.
Fans of “The Crush with Lee and Tiffany” already know the Lakoskys tag some monster deer every year, and their success is no accident. The husband-and-wife hunting pair have farms in Iowa and Kansas, and they work hard to manage the land and the deer with the goal of allowing bucks to reach their full potential.
In addition to food plots and mineral supplements, the Lakoskys also believe in knowing their deer. Lee said he wants to know anything that might help him tag a particular buck. Information like where a buck spends its days and nights, the travel corridors it uses and even its personality can help. Yes, personality.
Lee said that after watching so many whitetails over the years, he’s come to realize not only that they have different personalities, but also that many of the biggest bucks are the least aggressive.
“Most of our big bucks are like that,” he said. “It seems like the aggressive ones get taken by hunters. We had a 240-inch buck that was hanging around one of our farms, and we got trail camera pictures of him for years, but we never saw him from the stand. Any time another buck came up on him, they would run him off. One of the neighbors finally got that buck during a deer drive, and it was one of those Hail Mary shots as it was running away. Otherwise, I don’t think anybody would have ever taken that deer.”
Lee took one of his biggest bucks in 2009, a gentle giant he and Tiffany had nicknamed Gnarles Barkley.
Gnarles had been giving the couple fits for two years, showing up on trail cameras early in the season and then vanishing. Lee found his sheds after the 2007 and ’08 seasons; otherwise, he said, they would have thought the buck had left the area.
Although a mainframe 8-pointer, Gnarles was a giant-bodied buck that made his impressive rack look smaller than it really was. After giving them the slip for more than two years, Lee said he and Tiffany really wanted a crack at him from the stand.
“We had been getting pictures of about 40 different bucks, including Gnarles, throughout the summer,” Lee said. “Then in September, when the bucks shed their velvet, he just vanished. There was a small, secluded food plot farther back on the property that I had dozed a few years earlier, and I told Tiffany, ‘I bet he’s in there.’”
Why? Lee says it was because of the buck’s reclusive nature.
“With the bucks losing their velvet and getting aggressive, I just pictured Gnarles avoiding them and going back to that out-of-the-way plot. I have video of other smaller bucks kicking him out of grass beds and pushing him away from food sources. He just didn’t want any part it.”
The Iowa bow season opened on Oct. 1 last year, but the Lakoskys were in Montana hunting with Jackie Bushman and the Buckmasters crew. When they finally got home on the 3rd, it was too late to head out. “I remember being frustrated that we got home so late, because I really wanted to get out and try that back field,” Lee said. “I didn’t have time to get my gear together, but I was able to sneak back there for a look. Sure enough, Gnarles was there.”
It wouldn’t take a genius to guess where Lee hunted the following day. He had a ground blind on the edge of the back plot that had been in place for two years. Best of all, he said, he could get in and out of the blind without disturbing anything. “I could sneak into that blind even if there were turkeys in the field,” he said.
Just like clockwork, Gnarles stepped into the plot early in the afternoon.
“He came out at about 100 yards and just stood there looking at the blind,” Lee said. “Maybe it was because the flap had been down for so long and the blind looked different, but he just stood there for about 20 minutes. Finally, he just lowered his head and walked off.”
Gnarles was a no-show the next day, but Rascal Flatts lead singer Gary LeVox, a guest at the Lakoskys’ that week, broke the ice by taking a beautiful 12-pointer with a split main beam on its left side. “That was an awesome buck, and it felt good to get one on the ground,” Lee said. “We definitely had a lot going on at the time, but I was determined to take Gnarles.”
Finally, on Oct. 7, Lee was back in the ground blind.
“Gnarles came out again, but he was still too far away. I figured he was safe again, but then two more bucks came out — a 3-year-old and a spike. Gnarles didn’t like that other buck being out there, and he kept watching him. Finally his submissive nature got the best of him, because he circled away from that buck and came toward the blind.”
The shot was a little longer than he would have liked, but Lee made it and was able to claim the buck that had eluded him for so long.
“I just got lucky,” Lee said. “It was one of those things where the buck drives you crazy trying to figure him out. With those shy bucks, you can’t rattle or call them in, and just about anything spooks them. I might not have ever taken Gnarles if those other two bucks hadn’t come out in the field.”
Gnarles ended up stretching the measuring tape to 1967/8 inches. Lee said his best guess is that the buck was between 8 and 10 years old. It was one of the biggest-bodied bucks he’s ever seen.
“We do a lot of work to manage our deer, but we’re fortunate to hunt in Iowa, where whitetails have some of the best habitat in the country. We had a great season last year, and Tiffany ended up taking a monster in December, a buck we called The Unicorn Buck, and one that Jackie saw just out of range when he was here.”
Editor’s note: While Iowa non-resident tags are awarded via draw system, the Hawkeye State has 340 public hunting areas that yield more than their share of monster bucks. For more information and maps of Iowa public hunting areas, visit www.iowadnr.gov/Hunting.
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This article was published in the August 2010 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Subscribe today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.