While hunting after a heavy snowfall about 10 years ago, I ran into an older gentleman dragging out a once-in-a-lifetime whitetail. He had taken the buck early that morning and had been struggling to get the huge deer to his truck.
It was about lunchtime, and he was only halfway to his vehicle. I was happy to give him a hand, just for the opportunity to get a close look at the monster.
After he thanked me and we began to go our separate ways, he said, “If you want to shoot a big buck, go sit on this corner of this field tonight, and stay until shooting hours are over.”
Without hesitation, I heeded his advice and shot a great 8-pointer that very evening. That was the first time I sat in what my cousins and I now call Brad’s spot.
I have sat there every shotgun season since that day, and I have taken five bucks.
The old man I helped wasn’t my first deer hunting mentor to drive home the importance of staying afield until after shooting light has passed. My Uncle Leon Heuvelmann also was a stickler for arriving at stands an hour before shooting light and not leaving until it’s gone.
I was about 15 or 16 years old (30 years ago) when Uncle Leon shot a buck with awesome antlers. That deer rack has mesmerized me ever since, bestowing expertise on my uncle.
I learned just about everything I know about hunting whitetails from him, and he loved to tell stories.
Uncle Leon’s advice has enabled me to take a good number of deer over the years, including a few in the 135- to 145-inch range.
A new job and other obligations severely limited my ability to hunt in 2013. The shotgun season might’ve spanned about two weeks, but I could manage only two days.
On the second, I got to my spot under the cedar tree about two and a half hours before dark. As I had done many times before, I cleared away a few needles and twigs and knocked down some weeds to clear shooting lanes.
With about 25 minutes of shooting light remaining, I spotted movement in the timber down a slope to my east. Two does were moseying up to the field at an angle that would carry them right though my scent cone.
Knowing they would soon smell me, I prepared to shoot one of them. But I was too late, and they fled.
Ten minutes later, I fought the urge to cut my hunt short. When I turned around to glance at the field behind me, to the south, I saw two more does standing 10 yards away.
They were upwind and had no idea I was there. I slowly began reaching for my shotgun, which was hanging on a cedar limb. As soon as I grabbed the old 870, I looked up and saw this buck only 7 yards to my north.
I had no idea where it came from, and the deer had no idea I was there. The buck’s body was in full view, but only a couple of points of his incredible rack were visible.
Knowing I had no time to waste, I didn’t bother to wait and evaluate the rack. I took the shot.
At the boom, the buck reared up and ran straight away from me. There was no mistaking it was hit. But rather than go after it, I returned to my truck and waited for my cousin and brother-in-law.
They asked what I’d shot, and I told them I didn’t think it was very big.
When the guys arrived, we grabbed a couple of lights from the truck and headed back to my cedar. It didn't take us very long to find the blood trail, and my brother-in-law rushed ahead.
Seconds later, he was yelling, “Oh, my god!”
None of us had ever seen a buck like this.
I want to thank the old gentleman who put me on the spot. I never got his name, but I'd like to think that he might read this story someday and remember that snowy day about 10 years ago, when he took a buck of a lifetime, and paid it forward.
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View Official BTR SCORESHEET for Brad Heuvelmann.
Taken By: Brad Heuvelmann
BTR Official Score: 199
BTR Composite Score: 215 2/8
Location: Des Moines Co., IA