By Brock A. Halbrook
(Photo note: Terry is in the orange vest and Brock is wearing the Scent Blocker coat.)
-- My stepfather, Terry Oestmann, is the person who got me hooked on deer hunting when I was a kid. We hunted on great farmland for years, harvesting nice bucks together, though none worthy of mounting. We also had dry years when we wound up with only does.
Unfortunately, I lost my hunting buddy when my mother and stepfather divorced several years back. Due to family disputes, Terry made his new home in Iowa, and I was stuck in Oklahoma.
I hunted with Terry for almost 12 years before the divorce. I was becoming better and better by the year with hunting experience and exposure. Right when I seemed to get into my prime, we were pulled apart and, suddenly, our hunting adventures were over without any warning.
I continued to hunt for almost 10 years afterward without my hunting buddy. I managed to get in on leases where only mature bucks and does were shootable. The only problem was that, in Oklahoma, there aren’t as many mature bucks roaming, so I mostly killed does with two exceptions.
Due to high hunting pressure from surrounding neighbors, every time I passed up a young 8-pointer, my neighbor would fill a tag.
I kept in touch through the years with Terry. His first year in Iowa, he killed a great 11-pointer with a 9-inch drop tine that hangs on his wall. He told me about all the “huge” deer up there and how many more big bucks per mile there were in Iowa compared to Oklahoma. I was happy for him, but sad I was missing all the fun.
One day he talked me into applying for Iowa tags. It sounded good, but the odds of my drawing a shotgun tag, getting off work and making the trip were very unlikely. But I got lucky.
I arrived in Iowa the day before our hunt, and we drove around to check out the area. We saw several bucks still chasing does. Two were shooters, one a 10-pointer that would have grossed 150 easy.
My first day hunting there was like nothing I'd ever seen. No matter what time of the day, I kept telling myself that I was in Iowa, in the woods, and that was where the big boys live. I saw does, nice bucks and small bucks all morning. In fact, I saw more deer the first day than I saw while hunting in Oklahoma for the last five years combined!
About 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 6, I had a few nice bucks running in a group of 17 does in front of me about 50 yards in the timber. I was on the ground hiding behind a tree, trying to figure out which buck to shoot, when I noticed an enormous 11-pointer step over the ridge. He stopped beside a tree while facing me at 80 yards.
I knew he was a wallhanger, so I didn’t want to shoot him in the chest. After what seemed like an eternity in my scope, he finally jogged in my direction. Due to my scent-blocking camouflage coat and the wind, none of the deer had any idea I was there.
He ran beside and downwind from me, and I fired. After the first shot, he bolted like he had not been hit. He ran around behind me, and I continued to fire through the trees as he ran. He finally made a dart for a brush pile. I immediately moved sideways to get a better angle and saw him bed down with his back to me, looking away.
With the wind blowing 15 to 20 mph in my face, I slowly walked up to him and administered the coup de grace from 10 yards.
I immediately called Terry on my cell phone and I told him I'd seen a monster. He knew I had been shooting and asked me, “Did you get him?”
“Well, he ain’t happy, if that’s what you’re asking,” I answered.
He was a typical 5x5 with a split brow tine on his right side, making him an impressive 11-pointer. He sported massive 9-inch P-2s and P-3s on both sides with a 20-inch inside spread to make him the biggest buck I have ever laid a scope on. He was even bigger than Terry’s huge drop-tined wallhanger. Needless to say, he’s going on my wall for sure!
Deer or no deer, this was without question a sentimental hunt with history and closure that I will always cherish for the rest of my life. I knew I would only be able to make this trip once, and I couldn’t think of a better way to bid a final farewell to our hunts together than to finish one last adventure with the guy who got me started. For that, I will be forever grateful.
If you’re reading this, Terry, I can’t begin to thank you enough for everything!
--Brock A. Halbrook
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