My friend Dennis Williams has tagged his share of trophy whitetails in the upper Midwest, and he used his considerable skill to take another fine buck this past week. Dennis’ hunt for the Iowa giant here showcased his understanding of whitetails, but also serves as a perfect illustration of the exact phase of the rut many of the region’s hunters are witnessing.

“I was lucky enough to not only draw an Iowa archery tag after several years of waiting, but to hunt on property owned by my good friends Beau and Dawn Jensen,” Dennis says. “We were in an area of their farm where we knew an old buck—a deer they’d nicknamed ‘The Porcupine Buck’— lived, and I was hoping to see that deer. But you never know what will turn up on that farm; there are tons of great bucks there.

“Beau was filming me, and the setup we had was in a good spot. But we had to pick a tree that was small, and had almost no cover. Because we felt deer had a good chance of busting us, we put out a decoy, to attract deer of course, but also to keep their eyes out of the trees and not spotting us. After awhile we had several deer approach our setup, including some does. I had a doe tag, and I was running low on venison, so I’d made up my mind to shoot the first good doe that came in. As one of them approached, I was getting ready to draw when Beau said it was a button buck. So I immediately let down. And I’m glad I did.

“When the does got past us, I looked up and saw a pair of bucks. It didn’t seem like they were going to come in range. So I grunted, and everything changed in a second. They immediately started sparring. When they separated, I grunted again, and the bigger one started thrashing a nearby cedar tree with his antlers. When he finished with that, I grunted again and he looked up and saw the decoy. By that time we realized it was the Porcupine Buck, and as he walked within bow range I was getting pretty excited. But I held it together and ended up making good on a pretty tough shot. Porcupine was a mainframe 8-point with 11 sticker points; his gross score was over180. He’s an incredible buck, and one that the Jensen’s had several shed antlers from.”

Dennis’ great Iowa buck proved the effectiveness of calling and decoying during the pre-rut phase. Though the Porcupine Buck was traveling with another buck when Dennis first spotted him, just a little calling and the promise of competition with a strange buck punched his aggressive button. That button should be easier and easier to take advantage of as pre-rut activity ramps up across the region. With a cold front settling in right now, I expect nothing but excellent action for the remainder of this week.