A Worthy End For a Nearly 10-Year-Old, 190-Inch Iowa Buck

On Nov. 1, Iowa bowhunter Barry Wensel shot a giant whitetail. The 6X7 buck was 9-1/2 years old, gross-scored 190-1/8" and field dressed 248 pounds. But this was no lightning strike; Wensel knew the buck well and had enjoyed numerous encounters over the last three seasons. Here is Barry's story of a buck he called "Hurley."
"I'd seen Hurley several times starting in 2006, but my first close encounter occurred on October 28, 2009. I was on stand and the winds were really swirly. So I decided to relocate. Just as I was about to get down I looked up and saw this huge buck coming up out of a dry creek bed loaded with acorns. "He was in bow range, but with a big branch between me and him, horizontal across his chest. If I shot under the branch I knew I'd be too low. So I shot over it, and I missed him."
"That miss resulted in the buck's nickname. I felt so sick after that arrow flew over his back that I felt like hurling! So I decided to call him Hurley. After the miss, I relocated the stand to a spot where I saw he'd made seven big scrapes along the creek. "The next week I saw at least a dozen bucks, but I passed them up waiting for Hurley to show."
"I never got another shot at Hurley that fall. But the next year the buck started showing up on trail cams placed by Gene, my twin brother and constant hunting companion. "I don't use cameras to try and pattern deer like some guys. My main interest is just to see what's on the menu. It's easier to pass a good buck if you know there's a great one in the neighborhood. I was glad to see Hurley was back."
"Hurley was obviously on my mind as buck movement increased that fall. But on Halloween day, 2010, I had just a great morning; I saw a dozen different bucks, and then a huge 8-point walked into bow range and I just couldn't pass up the chance. "The buck grossed 173" and my tag was filled for the year. So I decided to keep hunting with a camera. Then Hurley started showed up, of course. I saw him five times in the following weeks."
"One of my close encounters with Hurley happened one morning when I was filming a bobcat that came walking past my treestand. The cat was just minding his business when all of a sudden be popped his head up and started staring at something. Sure enough, here came Hurley, walking right at the cat. He stood there broadside at 25 yards. All I had was a camera in my hand, and later I found out the camera wasn't working. I didn't get any footage!"
"Still, I learned a lot about Hurley that year, hunting without a bow in my hand. One morning I was walking out on a skid (logging) road and came around a corner. There was Hurley, making a scrape on the edge of the road. When he left, I walked up to look at the scrape. "Hurley was a very aggressive scraper; his scrapes were almost concave, they were so deep. And seeing him make that one, then walk off, tipped me off to one of his trails, and his pattern when he was undisturbed."
"When the 2011 season opened, Gene's cameras had been getting pictures of Hurley, and I was ready for the hunt to begin. After an evening hunt in October, I was walking out on the same skid road I'd seen Hurley on the year before. My flashlight caught the eyes of a deer, right where Hurley had stood. I couldn't see the deer, but the eyes were spaced really wide. I was convinced it was him."
"Two days later, Gene and I were walking down the skid road, heading out to hunt. We found a big scrape, right where Hurley had made one the year before. Gene left a camera there, turned on, but just laying on the ground. When we came back he pulled the chip and looked at it. We had a picture of a huge deer, minus the head. I was convinced Hurley was back and it was time to hunt him."
"I spent some time looking over things before I set up. I was pretty sure I knew where he was walking and where he went to bed. It wasn't an easy setup. Hurley was walking through a stand of pretty timber, oaks and hickories, but the trees were all pretty skinny and I'm a big guy. But I've always felt I'd rather have a mediocre tree in the perfect place than a perfect tree in a mediocre place."
"I finally hung the stand in a hickory tree that was 20 yards off the trail. I shoot a recurve, and I like a 15 yard shot. So after I trimmed a couple branches, I took the blade of my pole saw and scratched a trail that I hoped would lead Hurley 5 yards closer. I also dragged a big dead limb across the original trail to help steer him. Then I backed out to wait for the right wind."
"On my first hunt there I saw a ton of deer, including a 150" buck that chased a doe right to the base of my tree. It was just a crazy good morning, but Hurley never showed up. I decided to come back the next morning; the wind was just like I like it; almost perfect for the deer so he'd feel safe, but just good enough for me to have a chance."
"I settled into the stand the next day and by 8:30 I hadn't seen a single deer, which felt strange after the action I had the day before. Then suddenly I looked up and here came Hurley. He crossed the skid road, checked the scrape, and then started walking down the trail I'd scratched out."
"It was pretty neat, because Gene had hung a trail camera right on the trail we thought Hurley would walk down. So as Hurley walked in, the camera got a last picture of him, about 10 seconds before I got my shot."
"I was feeling pretty smart until Hurley reached that limb I'd dragged across the original trail. When he saw it, he went around the wrong side! So now he was 20 yards out instead of 15, but once he got past the limb he was perfectly broadside. I felt like I could make that shot."
"He was just walking slow, so I didn't even stop him. I just took the shot and I knew immediately that I'd hit him good, with a slight chance that I was a little far back, possibly in the liver. "I just sat there until noon, then walked out and got Gene and the landowner. We came back at 3:00 and found Hurley almost immediately. He hadn't run 75 yards."
"I've been fortunate to shoot some really nice bucks, but Hurley was one of my most satisfying. I had a great history with him, literally years in the making. And I got to share it with my brother Gene, my identical twin by 8 minutes. I tell everyone I've taught him everything he knows."
"I actually think Hurley went downhill some from his peak year, when I missed that shot at him. I think he lost 20 or more pounds of body weight, and his tines were not quite as tall. "Hurley's genetics are still in the neighborhood; there's a buck in the area with a similar big flyer like Hurley, but coming off the right side."
Barry was using a Tall Tines custom take-down recurve, made by Brian Wessel of Keokuk, Iowa (talltinesarchery.com ). If you'd like more information about the books and videos produced by Barry and Gene Wensel, as well as the quality hunting gear they sell, visit their website; brothersofthebow.com .

On Nov. 1, Iowa bowhunter Barry Wensel shot a giant whitetail. The 6X7 buck was 9-1/2 years old, gross-scored 190-1/8" and field dressed 248 pounds. But this was no lightning strike; Wensel knew the buck well and had enjoyed numerous encounters over the last three seasons. Here is Barry's story of a buck he called "Hurley."