Last Deer of the Bow Season

The last few years I've developed a thing for hunting the last day of the deer season. Sure, I get jacked for the opener like everyone else, but as I've grown older it's become just as important to me to watch the sun set on the hunt. Of course it helps that I've usually got a tag to fill and some empty freezer space. But I honestly think I'd go even if that wasn't the case.

So Sunday was the close of the Iowa archery hunt. I felt compelled to go, and it wasn't just because I had a spendy nonresident tag in my pocket. I'd been sick for the better part of two days, and still wasn't feeling the best. And by the time we got home from church it was past noon. I had a 90-minute drive, hadn't scouted the public ground I wanted to hunt, and really didn't want to hang a stand or even tote a ground blind. But I asked Shari if she'd mind and, in her ever-patient way, she said "just go. And have fun."

It was pushing three o'clock when I parked the truck. I fired up some handwarmers, grabbed my bow and a little stool, and just started walking. The cold had me breathing hard and the snow was deep. I walked over a half-mile and--taking Shari's advice--
was truly enjoying myself. I wasn't hunting...I was taking a walk in the woods with my bow in hand. It felt wonderful.

And then, like a desert traveler spotting a mirage, I saw a standing cornfield. I'd hunted this management area before and had never seen one there before. So I trudged toward it and walked the perimeter, which was pounded by deer trails. Just when I'd picked the trail with the most tracks, I saw where a big willow tree had blown over. I shook my head at my good fortune, brushed out a little spot against the tree, and stuck the stool in the snow.

Twenty minutes before dusk, 8 deer came walking in. The doe in this picture was standing broadside at 7 steps when I shot her. It was one of the neatest hunts I've ever enjoyed. And I was just out there, having fun…saying goodbye to the season.