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From Jane Doe to John Deer

Joe Austin

Iowa bowhunter attributes first buck to old instinct

By Joe Austin

The story of my very first buck, which I took with a bow on Oct. 13, 2011, near Woodward, Iowa, begins around 6 a.m. when I'd noticed a dark object about 300 yards away.

I didn't pay much attention to it since it was so far away. About 30 minutes later, I noticed it was gone, so I started scanning a fence line and eventually spotted the deer.

It was about 100 yards away at that point and getting closer, yet still too dark to see antlers. But, I noticed it nibbling and rubbing its head on an overhanging branch, which I knew was a rutting buck trait.

I told myself to stay calm, that it was only a doe, not a shooter buck. I didn't want to get too excited and blow my chance to get my first deer, so as the "doe" walked the fence line toward me, I slowly stood to get ready. My hope was the deer would approach slowly, so it would be legal shooting light by the time it was in bow range.

Honestly, at this point I began to doubt I'd have enough light to shoot because of the conditions that morning, even when it reached legal shooting time.

Everything started coming together when the deer slowly began walking broadside in front of my stand with the wind to its back. My adrenaline started pumping when I realized I might actually get a shot in bow range and it was now legal to shoot.

I continued to imagine the deer as only a doe, even when it was 12 yards in front of me. That's when I finally got a good look at its rack. Good thing I'd already drawn my bow and was snuggling in to make the shot.

Previous to the shot, I'd turned my pin lights on, thinking it would help me see my pins. Lesson learned: they were so bright I couldn't see through my peep at all!

As I aimed at the buck - no longer a pretend doe - I couldn't turn down the pin light, so I decided to shoot instinctively.

Fortunately, I'd shot recurve bows since I was just a wee lad, and grew up practicing at my parents' house with long bows, as well.

Joe AustinI held and carefully aimed at this buck for about 45 seconds until I knew I was instinctively lined up for a shot. Then I released my arrow and it blew straight through the buck!

It ran downhill about 40 yards and I heard it crash. It wasn't until this point that the adrenaline rush and jitters really kicked in. There's nothing like that feeling, knowing you've just taken your first buck.

I sat in my stand trying to call my brother and stepdad to let them know, but no one answered so I called my fiancé and woke her. I had to tell somebody!

We hung up, and after about 10 minutes, I felt calm enough to climb down and find my buck.

I began tracking, but kept losing the blood trail. I mentally replayed the sound of it crashing to pinpoint where it fell. After the third restart at the beginning of the blood trail, I was finally able to proceed farther than 20 feet.

I followed the droplets down the hill where the pools of blood began to increase, and I could tell it was bleeding from both sides - a good sign.

As I reached the bottom of the hill, I found where it had stopped and turned toward the creek. I followed the trail, but still couldn't find it. The trail had vanished.

I looked and looked and finally found my buck. It had fallen over a steep creek bank and was dangling from a tree! It took me 20 minutes to figure out how to get it down from the tangle, and it wasn't easy to do all by myself.

But, I was pumped! I'd finally shot my first buck, and it turned out to be a 3-year-old 11-pointer scoring more than 125 inches.

I was so excited I dropped it off at the taxidermist the next day. I was already ready to begin the mounting process.

Now, it's a permanent fixture on my wall, and my fiancé has named it John, as in John Deer. Pretty clever!

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