featuring Dan Gritzner of Manchester, Iowa | Mossy Oak ProStaff manager for Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The first deer I ever took with a bow was a small 8 pointer. Taking any buck with a bow was and still is a major accomplishment for a novice bowhunter. I had shot a few does, before I had a chance at a buck. Even today, if I close my eyes, I can see that 8 point giving me a clear shot, and I can see my arrow flying to him.
In 1997, after harvesting quite a few deer, I took a 127-inch 9-point buck. At that point in my career, I thought that buck was a giant, and it was for me. In many places, a 127- inch buck is still a giant today, and at that time, most of my friends thought he was a really-big buck. The reason we hunt is because we enjoy the sport, and I don’t think we should discourage any hunter from taking an animal he or she wants to take. In recent years, I’ve primarily chosen to hunt big bucks, but I made that choice after I’d already harvested numbers of small bucks and does.
That buck in 1997 came in grunting and curling his lip – really putting on a show for me. I got excited and placed my shot a little bit farther back than I intended. That buck circled back after I shot him and stopped at about 50 yards. I already had nocked another arrow. At that time, I didn’t have a 50-yard pin on my bow. The buck took a few steps forward, and I instinctively aimed for the tip of his nose. When the deer started walking again, I released the arrow. This time I hit him high in the hindquarters. I knew my second shot wasn’t really a good shot either.
I had started to hunt early that morning. So, when the deer left, I decided not to go after him until 3:00 pm. I tracked him but I couldn’t find much blood. I decided to back out and return the next morning when my dad could go with me. We trailed that buck for about 1-1/2-miles. We jumped him out of his bed, but he didn’t go far before he bedded-down again. Then the deer went on another piece of property. Because I had expected the buck to be dead when we found him, I didn’t take my bow with me. That was a big mistake. My dad sat down beside a tree to watch the buck, while I went back to get my bow. I made the 1-1/2-mile hike back to camp, called the landowner who owned the other property and got permission to recover my deer. Then I collected my bow and arrows and hiked back to the place where I’d left my dad and the buck. When I got to the tree, my dad wasn’t there. I was getting frustrated, until finally I saw my dad waving to me. Apparently, the deer had gotten up and moved about 30-yards away and bedded down again while I was gone. I stalked in quietly, but by the time I got to the buck, he already had died, and I didn’t need my bow.
As I mentioned earlier, he scored 127-inches gross with a wide rack. He was the biggest buck I’d ever taken with my bow. As I remember that hunt, what I remember most is my dad and I in the woods together, trailing that buck, finding him, sharing the experience of taking the biggest deer of my life and dragging out the buck. I guess this is where I learned that the real joy of hunting is spending time with your children and sharing experiences that last a lifetime. On the farm we hunt now, we intensively manage our deer herd. Most members of our hunting club have gotten to the point in their hunting careers that they enjoy planting food plots with Mossy Oak BioLogic and other plantings, growing big deer and watching young bucks grow to the size we want to take. We’ve adopted the GameKeepers philosophy Mossy Oak has developed. We’d rather have those older-age-class deer present shots for our children than harvest them ourselves. We’re having as much fun, if not more, watching our children take these deer.