Memory Valley – Close to Madrid, Iowa

by Randy Robinette

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Despite word from most of my cronies that the "bucks are running wild", here at Memory Valley, things were pretty dismal – during the Early Muzzle-loader Season,  I had shot the best White-tail Buck which I had know to be lurking about the farm (Stan posted a pic of that buck earlier). Now, I was paying the price – nothing but "stick-bucks", or, as my Pal, Joe labels the little ones, "MONDO MEGA DINKS"!  Even had the desire to arrow one of the "DINKS" arisen, precious little opportunity to bend the bow had been presented – it was as if there was a PLOT working against the Mathews bow, which I had purchased prior to last years archery season!

This season, I had determined to leave my fussy side home and shoot the first decent 8-point which got too close – I wanted to "break-in the Mathews! (Note: around here, a 2.5 Yr. old buck will generally be an 8-10 point – including brow tines – with 3-3.5" base circumferences, 6-8 inch long tines and a 17-18" inside spread)  For many years, I have been infected by the BIG BUCK virus, which usually means eating the tag(s) . . . this is not a complaint, rather an accepted fact; I always ENJOY being close to and observing deer  . . . and hoping for Mr. BIG! The unavoidable fact is that once the tag is on Mr. Small, the season IS over – usually, I'd rather go down to the wire dreaming  . . . it's hell having two or three weeks left in the season, looking at another "horn-pile" rack !

But then comes REALITY: the likelihood of seeing, much less getting within arrow range of an older/bigger buck is SMALL. So, if the Mathews Bow was going to drive an arrow through a rib-cage; I was going to have to let a little of BIG MIKE back to the surface! (For those who don't know BIG MIKE – you're fortunate indeed – he's my alter ego . . . and none too fussy about antler size!) But presented with a few opportunities to draw the Mathews, even BIG MIKE couldn't pull the trigger on the local "dinks" – even HE wanted, "sumthin' spectubell" (a few months under ground seems to have mellowed even HIM!).

So it was, that on 11/12/04, with an ideal Easterly breeze, BIG MIKE (blindfolded) and I set out for one of my "special" locations – reserved for only "prime-time" (rut) days, with just this favorable afternoon/evening  'wind'! I carried the Mathews, while BIG MIKE was allowed to tote the LoneWolf climbing tree-stand (this is a light weight KILLER rig, which allows an extremely mobile and flexible approach to stand location; I rarely hunt out of the same tree more than twice a season) and wear the GrassHopper Safety belt . . . . HE was on cloud NINE!

We arrived on site promptly at 3:00 PM and I allowed HIM to run the LoneWolf up the tree, while I hung on for dear life – all went well. Once the LoneWolf was comfortably positioned and the safety belt was secured, I hoisted the Mathews, the CatQuiver, and our jacket/vest up and we prepared for an afternoon of quiet solitude. (For the archery buffs: the CatQuiver was filled with Easton [2315] XX75s, fletched with 5" white/natural turkey feathers and tipped with NAP 3-blade 125 GR. SpitFires and NAP 125 GR. 3-blade ThunderHeads – my two favored "broad heads".)

WE had scarcely settled into a comfortable sun absorbing posture, when one of the resident "dinks" came wandering down through the middle of the bean field, which placed him about 125 Yd. "out"; our position was in the "brush", back from the field edge about 50 Yd. BIG MIKE couldn't resist singing a tune on the "grunter", which proved futile – the dink continued South and disappeared into the timber. WE then settled into the quiet, awaiting the arrival of "even light" – that hour beginning  when the last vestiges of sunlight and shadow merge into an even light, similar to an overcast day – time for the action to begin! A lone doe, adhering to the play book, approached form the North East, heading straight down the trail, which would position her 12 yards upwind as she passed . . .  and surely, a buck would follow! At about 30 yards out, the doe adlibbed, deciding to veer west (the very light air currents were wavering between DUE EAST, East/N.E. and East/S.E.) we might be "busted" . . . Nope, she went behind a screen of gooseberry and stopped – at times, she was DIRECTLY downwind – HOT DOG – one of those magic evenings when the scent was going UP!

Fully ten minutes passed before a second doe materialized – this one closely pursued by a "nice" 8-point! Before I could react, Big MIKE was ready to loose an arrow! Fortunately, at the same point as the first doe, doe number two opted to swerve east! With the buck in tow, she went about ten yards deeper into the cover, and then turned back south, proceeding along a trail which would place them at only 20 yards out, but with too much under story to offer a reasonable shot! When the buck paused, his vitals centered in a saucer sized "hole", I wrested control over Big Mike and convinced HIM that we'd get a better opportunity. At that point, the doe decided she needed to be somewhere else – and PRONTO – she took off to the south at a brisk trot! As she approached the edge of the deep ravine, about 50 Yd S.E. of our stand location, she slammed on the brakes and did a partial "about face" and came sprinting directly AT us! Meanwhile, 'our 8-point buck' had resumed the chase!

As the original buck neared the "about face" location along the drop off, a BIG 8-POINT charged up over the rim – now everything was running our direction! At about 40 Yd. out, MR. BIG paused to tear up some real estate and perform the usual pre fight posturing! Doe number two and "our 8-point" were now standing broadside – the buck a mere 15 yards distant! BIG MIKE was muttering, "a burd en th 'and", while I was trying to convince HIM that, just maybe, this would be our "lucky day"! It remained a "Mexican Stand Off" for several minutes . . . a LONG several minutes, while the light breeze wafted, generally, from "them" to us!

The first doe precipitated the shake down – apparently, she just HAD to know what was going on! She came trotting over the small 'eight' and THAT was all Mr. BIG was going to tolerate – he came down the gentle slope at a fast trot, neck outstretched in the, "I'm gonna kick yer ass" posture – both does and "our 8-point" headed WEST!

Mr. BIG was bearing down on our location FAST and a decision was called for – try to STOP him, or, assume the risks of a moving target! BIG MIKE made the choice – I knew the bow was bent, and the pin was centered just at the point of the shoulder, but I was hoping he'd pause and provide a surefire 15-18 yard shot!  As the buck passed the "20 yard Maple", on a course the would bring him no closer, while placing a fair amount of brush between him and us . . .  at about  18 yards, BIG MIKE released the trigger . . . and my heart sank! With the Mathews, it was too much "lead" the arrow was going to hit ahead of the shoulder (almost where the pin was placed!) and the buck was very nearly broadside – not a desirable shot placement! It's amazing how much information/garbage the brain can process during the split second of an arrow's flight . . . just as I was thinking the worst, WHCRACK! Mr. BIG went down as if struck by Thor's hammer, his momentum sliding him another two body lengths across the fallen leaves! It was "our lucky day"! The SpitFire had severed the spinal cord and MR. BIG was not going anywhere; BIG MIKE was as proud as a peacock . . . I'm a little more humble – we were extremely fortunate. (NOTE: the autopsy revealed that the buck had abruptly turned INTO the arrow as it sped his way, thus the apparent lack of [required] "lead" the arrow path was actually a quartering angle, the spinal cord having been severed at a point just behind the shoulder.)  Amazingly, the buck could use his hind legs enough that I became nervous that he may regain his senses/balance and depart, therefore, having taken control of the bow, I waited for the deer to quit thrashing about, and placed another SpitFire squarely through the lungs.

And then, the work began! Mike Bigelow was kind enough to come over and help retrieve and hang MR. BIG on the meat pole; hopefully, I'll be able to return the favor soon!  I have seldom arrowed a deer early enough to get Donna back to the scene to make pics before total darkness; in my haste to beat the night, I didn't make time to clean up the rather gory scene before snapping the pics – an oversight I regret. Should Stan opt to post any of this, I thank him, in advance, for allowing me to share the tale of the HUNT!

However, the Mathews bow will likely strike again – BIG MIKE may be back!

P.S. The Tale of the TAPE: inside spread 20 &7/8"; main beams 21" . . . not really all that BIG, but BIG Mike is still Happy! The gross (B&C method): 141 & 7/8". Good huntin' and better shootin'! R.G.

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