By Jill J. Easton
Iowa hunter glad he hesitated to collect freezer meat.
Deer hunting has always been more of a social affair for Randy Cantonwine and his landowner pals, who relish the camaraderie of hunting as a group.
They hunt as a team, together but separately. Walkers slip through the timber to push the deer, while standers wait at strategic locations to intercept them. Most deer they take are average, but they all dream about taking the kind of buck for which Iowa is well known.
Each year, three generations of families gather the night before opening day for a fish fry and to discuss the next day’s plans. The group might hunt two or three different locations on the thousands of acres available.
Randy had doe meat on his mind on Dec. 13, 2009, day two of the state’s second shotgun season.
The group saw a lot of deer during the morning’s first drive, but they had little to show for it. When the hunters reunited, they decided to move to a property that hadn’t been hunted recently.
Randy hadn’t been a stander on that drive for many years. He prefers to walk through the winding valley filled with streams and oaks. But he’d walked all morning and needed a rest. So after 24 years of slipping through the timber, he was ready to try something different.
Since hunting this way requires everyone’s exact location to be known, and because he was hunting from a new spot, Randy informed the other hunters.
He walked to where a single line of trees met up with a narrow spot in the timber. By then, it was between 10:00 and 10:30.
A short while later, two does emerged from the timber to his left. He’d almost made up his mind to shoot one, even had his gun up, when he noticed they kept looking behind them.
“I’ve been hunting 24 years and have a you-bag-it-you-tag-it philosophy,” Randy said. “If I’d shot a doe, I never would have noticed them acting so edgy.”
He didn’t know if their concern was over a walker or another deer, but something told him to hold fire and wait to see what would happen next, one of the best decisions he’s ever made as a hunter.
“I saw something moving through the cedars, and then all I could see was rack. No doubt, its wearer was a shooter,” Randy said. “The buck ran to my right, jumped the fence, and I shot.”
The deer buckled when the slug smacked it, so Randy figured it was hit hard. When the buck regained its footing, Randy shot twice more, but missed.
“I don’t think I was aiming after the first time,” Randy admitted. “I thought the deer was already dead.”
The hunter knew it was a big buck, but he had no idea how much of an understatement that was. He thought the buck had some junk caught in the far side of its antlers.
“There was a great blood trail in the snow, so tracking was easy,” Randy said. “I figured it would be lying just over the crest of the hill, so I followed the blood.”
While he pressed onward, the other hunters had gathered at his truck, which was locked. They didn’t know what Randy had shot, but they were more interested in finding the keys. They either had to find Randy, or walk a long way. After waiting about 20 minutes, two members of the group started looking for their missing chauffer. They cut his tracks in the snow, and followed the trail.
Randy had pursued the buck to the edge of the neighboring property, which his group didn’t have permission to hunt. So he turned around and went back to the truck to rescue his tired and grumpy friends.
He told them his story, and, after a group discussion, they all decided the buck shouldn’t be pushed immediately. So they rode back to Randy’s garage and ate a quick lunch.
Randy kept thinking about the buck, wondering about the antlers and the junk in them.
As soon as possible, he got permission to follow the deer.
“When we picked up the track on the other side of the fence, the blood trail hadn’t diminished. I could even smell it,” Randy said. “Then we saw the buck behind a log with its head down.”
One of the trackers moved to the right, while Randy readied for a kill shot.
The other man looked at Randy with eyes the size of half-dollars.
“It’s huge,” was all he got out before the buck jumped up and headed for a nearby creek. Randy shot, but nerves got the best of him, and he missed again.
When they caught up to the deer a second time, the hunter took no chances.
“The buck stood up, and I shot it,” Randy said. “I shot twice more, too. It was an amazing deer, and I wanted to make sure.”
The buck had 29 scoreable points and an almost 11-inch drop tine. Surprisingly, no one had seen the deer before that day. None of their trail cameras had photographed it.
“It the biggest one I’ve ever had my hands on,” said Bernie Schneider, owner of Schneider Taxidermy, who mounted the deer. He aged the buck at 5 1/2 years old.
“This deer will be displayed proudly in my man-cave,” Randy said. “It is the most amazing rack I’ve ever seen, and the best part is I got to share it with my friends and family. That’s what it’s all about, if you ask me.”
Hunter: Randy Cantonwine
BTR Official Score: 218 5/8
BTR Composite Score: 235 6/8
— Photos Courtesy of Randy Cantonwine This article was published in the July 2011 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
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