Editor’s Note: Tommy Nails of Milton, Iowa, is originally from Corinth, Mississippi, and grew up hunting deer and turkeys in Mississippi. He’s been hunting deer for 30 years. He moved to Iowa about 7 years ago but still travels back-and-forth to Mississippi during hunting season. After deer hunting Iowa for the first time, his dream was to live there, so he could hunt those big northern deer.
I get just as much enjoyment from checking trail cameras and doing trail-camera surveys as I do hunting deer. I didn’t get this particular farm to hunt where I took a huge 191-inch buck until September, 2011. As soon as I got the farm, I put out trail cameras. I placed a lock-on stand and a trail camera close to a scrape on this new property. I didn’t go back to this stand or the camera for 10 days. At 9:30 am that morning, I had two does running past my bow stand.
The place where I had put my tree stand was in a group of trees about 10-yards wide that ran for about 200 yards down the center of 150 acres of CRP land. That CRP land joined a big block of timber. As soon as I had access to this lease, I got permission from the landowner to use a bushhog and cut lanes to resemble a wagon wheel on both sides of my tree stand into that small strip of timber. The CRP grass was about 6-feet tall. After I cut the lanes, I started seeing deer tracks and trails all along those lanes, indicating that the deer were using those shooting lanes as travel corridors to come out of the CRP land and move into that small neck of hardwoods, where I had my stand or to go out into the hardwoods on the other side of the CRP land.
I was about 22-feet up in my tree stand. I spotted a big buck with binoculars when he was about 200 yards from me. He was chasing the does, and I assumed he was about a 160-class buck. I knew he was a big, mature deer. I think one of the reasons I underestimated the buck’s antler size was because this deer’s live weight was 296 pounds. A large rack on a really-big buck often appears to be smaller than it actually is.
As the big buck kept coming in, I bleated at him several times to try to get him to stop, so I could take the shot with my bow. However, that buck was so focused on the does he was chasing that he wouldn’t stop. When he drew closer, I finally yelled, “Hey!” and the buck stopped about 6 feet from the tree where I was. He was so intent on catching the does that I don’t think he really knew from where the sound had come. He stopped dead still and didn’t look up. I was at full draw when I yelled at the deer. I aimed right between his shoulder blades. Once the buck took the arrow, he wheeled and ran away from me out of sight. But I knew I’d made a good hit on him. However, since my arrow didn’t come out the bottom of the buck’s chest, I didn’t have a blood trail to follow. But, I had noted the direction in which the buck had gone and started walking in that direction for about 120-130 yards, until I discovered the buck. He was lying out in a clearing when I located him. Upon closer investigation, I saw that my broadhead had gotten one lung and the bottom of his heart.
The biggest deer I ever had taken before this buck had scored 164. I realized this buck had a better rack than that earlier buck. When he was scored at 191, I asked the taxidermist to score him again, because I couldn’t believe he was that big. Luckily, the deer had fallen in a clearing at the end of one of the lanes I had cut earlier with my tractor and bushhog. So, I drove my truck right up to the huge buck. I called two of my friends to come and help me to load that big buck up into my 4 wheeler trailer to take him back to my house. I also got my flash card out of the camera and took it back to the house with me. That night after we’d caped, cleaned and butchered the deer, I reviewed the pictures from the trail camera. I had three different pictures of that big buck on my trail camera. However, since I didn’t check the trail camera that day before I hunted, the first time I saw that buck was the day I took him.