By Lisa L. Price
Patrick Cady was deflated to learn that the huge buck his trail cam had photographed had been shot. It wasn't until much later that he entertained the idea that it might still be alive, at least until bowhunter and deer actually crossed paths. Photo Courtesy of Patrick Cady
With the optimism and excitement of everyone who uses a trail camera for scouting, Patrick Cady shuffled through photos. Does, does, whoa! A monster buck was casing his neighborhood!
"Based on what the camera told me, I went out on a Sunday morning, Oct. 3, hung a stand and trimmed shooting lanes," Patrick said. "And then as I was leaving, I met a neighbor who told me about a big deer that was shot on opening day, about 250 yards south of that property.
"It had been raining and cold on opening day, and there was still a lot of standing corn," he continued. "I'd seen a parked truck and thought the guy was wasting his time, but that's who shot the big buck. I went back that afternoon and pulled the stand."
The Wellman, Iowa, bowhunter was understandably disappointed. Time is precious, considering the countless hours he devotes to his own construction business and his duties coaching soccer, baseball and wresting teams. The 42-year-old outdoorsman treasures his time in the woods. And he knew that with the big buck gone, he wouldn't feel the same about the 2004 archery season.
Even so, he reset his sights on other fall hunting. He arrowed a bear in Minnesota, zipped a broadhead through a gobbler in Illinois, and, while hunting with friends near Bloomfield during Iowa's early muzzleloader season, he smoked a 166-inch whitetail.
"One of my friends dropped me off, and I had to walk half a mile in the pouring rain to get to my spot," Patrick said. "I had watched the buck for about 30 minutes, but it was on the opposite side of the fence from where I could hunt.
"Does kept going by, and it would sniff them," he continued. "Sometimes it would shake like a wet dog, so hard it seemed like its rack would fall off. It finally found a doe to follow, and I had to make a quick shot through a small lane."
Patrick's buck sports an 8x8 rack; a mainframe 12-pointer with two, 2-inch irregular points on both sides. Photo Courtesy of Patrick Cady
Just in case, Patrick reloaded his muzzleloader, but he needn't have bothered.
His friend was surprisingly dry and laughing when he came to pick up Patrick.
"You're the only one who went out," he said, while Patrick kept his mouth shut.
"We went back to the place we were staying and I let all my dry friends make fun of me for a while," he grinned. "Then I took out my mini-reloader. They could see it was empty, and knew I'd shot. Afterward, we all went to get the buck."
Meanwhile, while Patrick was in Minnesota and Bloomfield, his cameras were still busy back at home. As he caught up on the pictures, he found another of the monster buck, which still was very much alive. Or was it?
"I started getting pumped up again, but then I realized the date on the photograph was Sept. 29. The big buck had been shot Oct. 1," he said. "I called a couple of buddies who had seen the other harvested deer.
"They were sure that the other deer had a crab claw on the left side of its rack," Patrick continued. "The one in my picture clearly had a crab claw on the right side."
Patrick still had stands hanging in the woods. On the morning of Nov. 5, with the Iowa rut in full swing, he juiced a scrape with Mrs. Doe Pee and climbed into a stand.
"I had deer coming all morning, and about every 20 or 30 minutes, a buck would pass through," he said. "I could have shot a decent 150-incher, but since I knew a better one was around, I waited."
As the day progressed, Patrick began to think his bedding area stand was the wrong spot. He'd just made up his mind to move to one situated in a funnel when a group of deer mingling in front of him picked up their heads and looked behind him.
"I slowly turned my head and looked. Thirty yards away was THE buck, sniffing the ground," Patrick said. "I had to stand up, turn, get my bow and get ready to draw it through a vee in the tree ... with an 8-pointer and two does standing in front of me."
The huge buck raked its rack on a tree, and then moved toward Patrick, who slowly drew his bow. The buck eventually stopped 15 yards distant.
"I held for about 30 seconds, which seemed like eternity," Patrick said. "The buck finally took two more steps and turned enough to give me a shot. But just about the time I squeezed the release's trigger, I thought, 'TOO HIGH!'"
The arrow sailed through it, and the buck quickly ran 30 yards and stopped.
Patrick nocked another arrow.
"I was just about to draw when I could see that the buck was shaking, and then it lay down," he said. "My ol' adrenaline kicked in at that point, and I figured I'd better sit tight for a while.
"But after 15 minutes of the deer lying there, unmoving, I couldn't stand it," he added. "I lowered my bow, eased down and tip-toed in a short circle to get in position to shoot from about 20 yards behind the fallen buck."
Just as Patrick got to a perfect spot for a broadside shot, a dead tree snapped and crashed down right next to them both.
"After I got over that, I realized that, wait, nothing happened; the deer was still lying there ... ALL RIGHT!"
Patrick was so excited he left his bow out in the woods and hurried home to get his wife and four kids to see the deer. When he walked into his house, his first words to his wife were: "I got him!"
"She said, 'No way!' And then we all went out and took a bunch of pictures," Patrick said. "It was a great day."
Hunter: Patrick Cady
Official Score: 180 3/8"
Composite Score: 198 1/8"
-- Reprinted from the July 2008 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine