Here’s yet more proof that the coolest gift for a deer hunter would be an INSTANT REPLAY button.
Had Jeff Yanak ignored the urge to head off a fatally hit buck at the pass, if only he’d forsaken the power of reasoning that supposedly puts him above the deer he hunts, he might’ve had more food for his chain in 2012.
Regrets, he’s had a few.
But he got his buck.
Jeff, whose work keeps him on the road a lot, was still learning his fairly new 17-acre homestead in 2012. But he’d known about this particular buck since 2009.
“When I first saw it, the buck was somewhat of a loner,” he said. “It shadowed a group of 11 or 12 other deer, which came out into the fields in the evenings. This one always waited until just before or right after dark to join them.”
Jeff’s land is sloped and timbered up top. It rises and peaks about 500 yards from his house.
“Just below the timber is a large bowl, mostly open on the downhill side. Deer frequent the bowl the year ’round,” Jeff said, which is why he set up a stand near there, but out of the predominant wind.
“On the left side of my house, there is a deep gully and small stream. The first couple of seasons I hunted there, I used the gully as my approach to the stand,” he said. “I thought I was low and concealed. And the wind was usually in my face.”
While looking for sheds in the spring of 2011, Jeff explored the bowl and found 25 antlers. He was astounded. He also discovered that the gully — the secret corridor to his stand — wasn’t so secret. He could see into it from virtually anywhere in that bowl.
A deer would have to be blind or stupid not to notice a man sneaking in from there.
After that, Jeff ceased using the gully, instead following a fence line on the other side of the property. The only downside was that it took twice as long to reach his stand.
“My first actual encounter with the buck came during the 2010 muzzleloader season,” Jeff said. “It was a cold, snowy day when I saw it crossing a field well beyond range.
“And that was it for the whole season,” he added.
Jeff found one of the deer’s sheds on the gully side of the driveway the following spring, but he saw no trace of its former wearer during the fall of 2011.
In the spring and early summer of 2012, the deer activity increased on Jeff’s 17 acres, which put a bounce back in his step and hope in his heart.
“When the bucks started growing antlers, I knew immediately the one (from 2009 and 2010) was still here. Soon, I started getting pictures of it twice a day, like clockwork. Its rack was outstanding!
“The thing disappeared, however, long before the rut peaked,” he continued. “I figured local shotgunners had spooked the deer out of my area.”
Jeff’s hunting time was limited in 2012 because of business trips, but he managed to wrangle a few days off during Iowa’s first shotgun season. He was in his stand when he heard some shooting on a nearby farm. When he turned to look that way, he saw the familiar buck crossing his gully.
“It was not on a dead run, but it wasn’t poking along either,” he said. “The deer was about 160 yards out, too far, I suppose, but it was my first opportunity to even have the chance, so I took a steady rest on the stand and took the shot.
“It looked like I hit it,” he continued. “The deer mule-kicked before speeding off into my timber.
“They usually bust out of my timber and cross a field en route to a much larger block. So I scrambled out of my stand and cut across the end of the woods, hoping to catch sight of the buck crossing that field.
“I might not get another shot, I thought, but at least I can see where it goes into the woods on the other side,” he added.
There were indeed several deer crossing the field, but Jeff couldn’t tell if the big buck was among them. All the whitetails were just too far.
“I went back to my stand and waited for more time to pass. If the buck was still in my timber and wounded, I didn’t want to push it out to other hunters. I sat the rest of the evening,” he said.
“I called my buddy. We decided I should stay out of the timber for the time being, so I walked downhill to the house rather than use the circular route I normally take.”
Jeff stayed out of the woods the entire next day, which meant he’d have only one more, the last day of the season, to jump it and get off a killing shot.
“My buddy came out and pushed the timber in my direction that last afternoon. And nothing came out on my end,” Jeff said. “After that, he and I walked all through the timber, but we didn’t find any sign of the buck.”
The following day was the start of the weekend and also the first day of muzzleloader season. Jeff had been planning to take his kids, along with his younger brother, to hunt from a ground blind.
“I loaded everything in the truck and started across the field. I drove up along the fence line on the other side of the gully to where I wanted to set up the blind,” he said. “While driving, I caught sight of something that looked out of place, so I stopped to investigate.
“It was my buck, lying in some brush. The coyotes had already had their fill, and there wasn’t much left besides bones and hide,” he added.
“I did a lot of thinking about the whole episode and concluded that when I got down from my stand to run over to the other side for a look, it must have seen me and changed directions. The deer made it partway into the creek bottom and crashed where I found it three days later.
“The adrenaline rush from the day of the hunt had long since worn off, but when I found it, the excitement started all over again. I called my wife to tell her I had found the buck, but I was so excited she couldn’t understand what I was saying.
“She had to get me calmed down a bit before she could get anything intelligible from my mouth,” he laughed.
“She was as happy for me as I was.”
Hunter: Jeff Yanak
BTR Score: 212 4/8
– Photos Courtesy Jeff Yanak
This article was published in the September 2014 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home. Read Recent RACK Articles:
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