100 Acre Bucks

July 13th, 2010 / Posted by David
100 Acre Bucks

Are you like the majority of hunters these day’s that don’t have boo-cue acres to hunt? The fact is, neither did the 4 hunters I spoke with from the Mid-West last year, but they killed some of the biggest deer in the country. The bottom line is, big deer don’t necessarily come from big timber and the stories of these huge non-typical bucks that were killed in wood lots ranging under 100 acres are silent testimony to that myth!

Craig Belknap, 24 year old graduate student in the agricultural field at Iowa State University hadn’t ever taken a buck with his bow until this past season. However he got it right the first time when he shot a 20 point non-typical.

Native to Des Moines County, he hunts near the family farm where small wood lots, draws and big timber are most common. Craig’s stand was placed strategically in a big elm tree along a fenceline bordering a 100 acres of timber. Deer droppings, tracks, small rubs and scrapes revealed a fenceline crossing they used to a corn and bean field to feed.

On October 16th, he made his second trip back home for a weekend of hunting. Craig recalls, “The skies were cloudy that morning and it rained most of the night. Nevertheless, I cut across the muddy bean field to my stand. The battleship gray colored sky didn’t give way to first light until around 7:15 and I was beginning to wonder why I’d ever left the comfort of my bed. Only minutes later all my thoughts changed when I glanced down the fenceline and spotted a large drop tine buck a mere 50 yards away.”

“As he relaxed and started walking my way, I rose slowly and readied an arrow. Approaching my 20-yard shooting lane, I drew and steadied the pin and triggered the release. The 125-grain Pro-Series Thunderhead penetrated both lungs, causing the buck to dash 150 yards before stopping. Disoriented, the buck stumbled back my way. Ready with a second arrow if needed, he fell only 50 yards away. I was relieved and ecstatic to see the buck go down and not require a second shot.”

Greg Andrews

Greg Andrews of Corning, Iowa shot this massive 20 point non-typical buck on November 28, 1998 in Adams County. The typical 5x5 frame nets 176 1/8\

Greg Andrews, a 43 year old junior high math teacher from Corning, Iowa relies heavily on his eleven years of bowhunting experience and pre-season scouting skills for knowing the whereabouts of 3 or 4 good bucks before the rut gets underway. However, this past year would prove much different. It wasn’t until after Thanksgiving that the trophy hunter laid eyes on a large 20 point non-typical for the first time, even though he had been hunting hard.

He knew of one small 60-acre plot that harbored good bucks in the past, but still hadn’t hunted it. The narrow gnarly ridge consisting primarily of thorny honey locust trees had a sparse scattering of hardwoods and cedar. In addition, the ridge runs parallel to a creek bottom with a mix of small saplings, hedge and dense buck brush. The landowner had spotted a big buck on more than one occasion entering a standing cornfield nearby. The corn came out only a week prior and Greg figured the bucks had been holding up in the cornfield, which explains why the deer sightings picked up shortly thereafter.

Greg explains, ” I have three stands setup based on the main travel paths to and from the primary food source. One on both the north and south ends of the ridge and one about dead center along the edge of the timber near the creek. I made plans to hunt the center stand first because there’s always an active scrape line along the timber.”

“When you consider the tricky winds in the bottom, it isn’t always possible to hunt the stand. On the Friday morning after Thanksgiving, the winds prevailed out of the west, which was ideal for the north treestand. I hadn’t seen any deer that morning, but minutes before climbing down I could hear what sounded like a sparring match between two big bucks in the bottom.”

“Before first light the following morning, I made my way toward the middle stand toting a set of rattling antlers and a grunt call, using a thick blanket of fog to camouflage my approach. Shortly after sunrise I rattled for about 30 seconds, but didn’t get a response,” said Greg.

“However, almost immediately after the second sequence, I spotted a big buck running across the bottom from the south. Things were happening so fast, I barely had time to hang up the antlers and grab my bow. The buck came to a halt on the opposite side of the creek, white puffs of steam shot from his flared nostrils as he scanned the area for the intruder. It wasn’t until that moment did I realize just how big the buck truly was. As the non-typical stepped into the 10 yard shooting lane, I released the string. Upon impact the big buck barrel raced through the timber for only 50 yards before the woods fell silent.”

Merle Allen

Merle Allen, a 44-year old Project Manager for a local general contractor in Norwalk, Iowa spotted a large non-typical for the first time in early November while hunting in Madison, County. Merle and his brother, Bud hunt several tracts of land consisting of primarily agricultural crops and a few scattered wood lots, hedgerows, and brushy draws leading to surrounding big timber. Merle relates that he concentrates most his efforts on hunting the outer fringes of small wood lots, funnels and draws during the season and seldom hunts big timber.

Bud was actually the first to spot the buck on his way to work the week before. He studied the big buck through a spotting scope standing in a bean field with a doe he suspected was in estrous. Bud called Merle at work that morning excited, suggesting that he better get out and hunt while the buck was still in the area trolling for hot does.

Merle recalls, “The following morning I hunted a stand near the river bottom on a sidehill where the does were known to bed during mid-day. Even though the hillside is nearly a mile away from where Bud glassed the buck, I was gambling it would be the most likely travel route the buck would take to the doe bedding area.”

“Shortly after daybreak a group of does cut across the hillside, but a lone doe with a nice buck hung back in the thick brush. It wasn’t until they meandered within 40 yards did I realize it was the same buck seen by my brother. Unfortunately, they continued to linger in the thick stuff before heading back the same way they came,” explained Merle.

“The following morning I hunted the same stand, but hadn’t seen or heard anything until around 10:30, when the sound of a dog barking in the distance caught my attention. Not long after the big buck busted out of the bottom, crossing in the same place as the previous morning. I’d now watched the buck cross in the same place two days in a row and felt fairly confident I stood a good chance of getting a crack at the buck if I only setup near his escape route. I hung a new stand there but the wind was never favorable.”

“Therefore, I decided to hunt a small 25-acre woods on the opposite side of the road that’s proved productive in the past. I like to refer to this place as a “loafing area” where the deer congregated in the mornings before heading to a bedding area nearby. I moved in quietly and setup a stand for the following morning.”

On Sunday, the 15th of November I found my way to the stand at first light. A few does meandered through early, and then I caught a glimpse of big antlers further back in the brush. Although I couldn’t see the buck entirely, as he turned his head sideways, I was able to confirm he was definitely a thumper. Pulling out a grunt call, I grunted softly, hoping to draw the big buck into the open. The does had now moved directly in front of the stand, milling around in a small clear-cut. Nothing happened right away, so I grunted again. Only a short time later the buck started working through a wooly thicket heading in my direction. As he continued to close the gap, I stood with an arrow ready. Not wanting to get hung up staring at the antlers, I only concentrated on making the shot.”

Shane Helmich of Dickens, Iowa arrowed this dandy 14 point buck on the 27th of November in Clay County. The 12 normal points and a 17\

“As the buck approached the shooting lane at 20 yards, I drew the Darton Viper and settled the pin behind the shoulder before releasing. The arrow hit with a thump as the 125 grain Pro-Series Thunderhead zipped through both lungs, sending the buck on a 40 yard dash before going down.”

Shane Helmich
Shane Helmich, a 28 year old Electrical Field Technician from Dickens, Iowa has only been bowhunting 4 years. Nevertheless, he managed to shoot one of the bigger non- typical bucks of the 1998 season. The first time he spotted the 14 point was November 20th. Hunting mostly river bottom ground, Helmich sticks mainly to a public hunting area near the Little Sioux River in Clay County. The small tract of timber is only 50 to 100 yards wide at most points, but stretches over a mile in length. It’s only a small part of the 600 acres of grass fields, narrow bands of timber, small wood lots and coulees.

Shane’s wife, Patricia is not only his devoted hunting partner, but also became his eyes and ears this past season after shooting her buck in early November. On one occasion she spotted two big 10 pointers that led Shane to the woods where he had his first encounter with the large 14 point.

Shane recalled, “I slipped into the small 50 acre wood lot with a decoy late one afternoon. A half-hour after wedging a crotch board in a tree, a big non-typical sporting a drop tine appeared 70 yards away. I grunted softly bringing the buck within twenty yards, but when the bruiser spotted the decoy he spooked and left without offering a shot. Hoping for a second chance, I hunted the same area two more days, but my efforts were fruitless.”

“Later that week, Patricia called me at work and reported spotting two more big bucks in a bean field about a half mile away chasing does. I didn’t waste time getting to the area and approached carefully from the downwind side toward an inside corner of the bean field.”

“Reaching the corner I climbed into a ancient oak tree and stood on a branch 8 feet off the ground. Shortly thereafter, the big 14 point started working down the fenceline pursuing an obvious hot doe. About 4:15 the buck made a beeline toward my perch 150 yards away chasing the doe, closing the gap rather quickly. With an arrow knocked and ready, the buck stopped momentarily at 35 yards. Steadying the pin, a speeding arrow from my Martin Scepter hit the buck squarely behind the shoulder. After a short sprint for dear life, the buck dropped within eyesight.”

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