Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Leigh's First Bow Kill of the Year!


Several months ago, Scott Shultz asked Travis and me if we'd like to accompany him and his guests to hunt at Timberghost in Iowa.  To me, Timberghost is a legend in the hunting world – a true "Ritz-Carlton", professional, and the best accommodations, as well as HUGE BUCKS!
Travis and I about tripped all over ourselves accepting the opportunity to hunt there.  Upon arrival, the place did not disappoint!  The staff was extremely kind to Travis, me….as well as Gray (our 2 year old), Mrs. Alison (the best mother-in-law in the world! Who'd traveled with us in the RV to keep Gray), AND our 12-year old lab, Ace, who'd recently been diagnosed with lymphoma.  To say we brought a heard is an understatement because our cameraguys, Tyler Krampe and Stephen Boulware (who happen to be 1st cousins) bring more gear than I ever thought about packing!  Ha!
The first afternoon's hunt, Stephen (aka Sweet Pea) and I set up in a ground blind on a cutover area.  While we saw several does and fawns, as well as a large, large buck, there was one we spotted a couple hundred yards away that really got me excited.  Although he never came in close enough, we "came home" to the lodge, changed, and were greeted with the most amazing dinner by a chef, Damion, from New Zealand.  We were served lobster, asparagus, and the works – truly my chosen "last meal".  It was breathtakingly excellent!
After the next morning's hunt, I set up a Day6 Plotwatcher Pro camera on the corner where I saw the big buck the evening before.  I'll have to admit, normally Travis does this kind of thing for me, but I got the batteries, SD card, etc. and Stephen and I, as well as my guide who's name happened to be Travis, set it up because the wind was right for an afternoon hunt in the ladder stand set 50 yards from the camera barely in the woods.  Again, I watched several does, fawns and a couple of young bucks feed and travel to their bedding area.
The next morning (3rd day), our set was deep in the woods where the paths are pretty worn from deer traveling to the clover field and other spots when they get off the bed.  I had several encounters and even drew on one large buck.  If he'd taken 5 more steps from behind the tree, I'd be holding his antlers and smiling at the camera….but a doe interested him more than moving forward.
As we got out of the ladder-stand and traveled to the lodge, we stopped to pull the camera and card.  During lunch (of lobster bisque and organic salad…YUM!), I watched the PlotWatcher videos on our laptop.  OH, MY GOODNESS!!!!! 3 of the biggest bodied, antlered bucks I've even seen on the hoof were on video traveling in front of the camera a couple of hours apart in the afternoon.  My jaw dropped as one of the larger bucks got so close to the lenses of the camera, there was a picture of his nose, then his eye, antlers and horns.  I love those kinds of encounters on trail cams!!
As Travis watched the video with me, we discussed the wind, pattern of the deer over the last 36 hours and how a potential shot at one would take place.  T suggested I practice a 40 yard shot because, based on the camera and where the bucks traveled, that may be as close as I'd get to them.
When I got to the elevated target platform, not only did I mentally picture those bucks, feel the pressure of a female hunter, but I just feel apart and developed the worse case of target anxiety ever imagined.  While Travis was being extremely patient and helpful, as well as staying optimistic, the ever so insightful, as well as multiple winning world champion archer and who'd coached me, Scott Shultz, watched from the porch of my struggles and immediately picked up on the frustration building in me.  (He probably noticed I'd turned green looking because I truly felt like throwing up!) He casually walked to the platform, shot his bow, and allowed Travis and I to relay to him my problems.  Scott watched me hook my release on and as I drew, in my mind played through a broadside, big buck scenario and completely lost my focus as the arrow would hit inches from where I was aiming.  Without hesitation, he diagnosed my problem and coached me to correct it as the afternoon hunt was only an hour away.
As Sweet Pea and I got to our set, he put 4 GoPro cameras out.  One above me, one behind me, one infront of me and another where the Plotwatcher was previously set up across the way.
I applied my Easy Off camo paint (for some reason, face paint is a new fave for me…especially in warmer weather and, as one fan pointed out to me on Facebook, I really like it….but Travis, not so much. J ).  I ranged several spots again and sat quietly and as still as possible.  30 minutes later, Stephen and I watched (him, through the lenses of his camera) and the sky blackened.  I hadn't even thought of a change in the weather, much less prepared for it!  The wind picked up and then came the rain….followed by thunder and then lightening.  Being ever so prepared as he is, Stephen covered his camera with a vest and then bag.  Thank goodness our 5-Star rated guide, Travis, is also very prepared person as he'd put a clear plastic emergency poncho in SweetP's bag in the case of rain. I got under the poncho and hunkered down, with a gut feeling something good had to come from this day.  as the 2nd round of thunder hit, we watched a buck I called, because of his massive antlers, "crown of glory", rise 100 yards in front of Stephen and run towards us and away from the weather.  He was a beauty!!  While I hadn't considered getting down, I knew when I saw him that as long as the camera was fairly dry under the covering, we were staying!  I couldn't help but laugh when Stephen said, "There's no way I'm filming you in that bag!"  ha!  As we watched the rain pour and felt the wind pick up, I noticed a buck in a far field coming our way.  I wrestled myself out of the bag (think a cat getting caught in a pillow case because that's probably what I looked like..thank goodness there was a cover around the ladder stand I sat in!), I thought of the principles Scott had taught me to ready myself for a potential shot.  Slowly but deliberately, the buck made his way towards us.  As he walked, the rain and wind gradually eased up.  When he stopped to feed on grass 18 yards in front of us, I already had my release on, and was about to draw before I remembered I should check with Stephen to see if he was filming.  ;) of course, he'd been on him the entire time.  I drew my Z7, settled in on his vitals…and steadied the bow, as I pushed my left hand and pulled my right arm via my elbow until finally, the tension on my finger released the arrow and T3 broadhead Travis had put on my arrow.  THWACK!!!! I watched as the arrow penetrated the buck almost down to the NuFletch veins exactly where I'd aimed and for the first time, I didn't look up at the camguy to ask if I'd hit him or was he going down.  With a humble confidence, I knew it was a good shot.  The buck seemed to get even bigger as we watched his white antler pace threw the tall grass field in front of us.  Water shook off him like a dog, just bathed, would shake and drops of water flew off  his crown as he ran through the grass.
Finally, we watched as he turn, ran a few yards and hit the ground.  When I saw his antlers at an angle, I knew he was down!!
Wild horses couldn't have kept me in that stand any longer, but seeing a 3rd huge buck coming our way did!  I started to knock another arrow but envisioned Mike Hine's (the head manager of Timberghost) face and smiled as I put down my bow.  We watched and filmed this monster of a buck walk casually and feed, never knowing we were under 20 yards away.  Finally, he moved on past us out of view so I could descend and GO GET MY BUCK!
Stephen walked backwards and filmed me as I thanked God, Scott Shultz for inviting us, Timberghost, and finally stopped because, as I said out loud, "I'm beginning to sound like a Miss America!" (I know there are numerous ones I didn't mention….but we all know there's a time and a place…plus, this Mr. Big down speaks for himself!)
When we rounded the same corner he turned and saw him laying on the ground, it was an unbelievable feeling as I'd felt every emotion possible during the previous 5 hours!  After texting Tyler, Travis' cameraguy to _"Come now" (hoping he'd bring T), Travis the guide and Tyler pulled up with rain gear thinking that's what we needed. Travis the guide quickly ran over to us, and after hugging me, he glanced at the deer and quickly pointed out this was the buck who'd nose-d the Day6 camera I watched on the video.  Hallelujah!
My face muscles are beginning to ache from smiling (Travis, my husband, tells me I've slept with a smile on my face since the BBD).  What an experience?!?! Not only did I get my largest buck ever and Travis the same on the previous afternoon hunt, but I returned to the lodge to find that Scott had also taken a monster, as well as Ron Rette.  What a high evening?  Incredible that after and during the rain, the wildlife came alive!
Regardless if I'd shot "Thunder" (the nickname I've given my big hawg of a buck), Timberghost was the most incredible hunt I'll never, ever forget!
If you made it to the end of this very lengthy account of a most memorable hunt, Thank you for allowing me to share my incredible experience.
Travis has his own to share….but I'll let him do that (and don't worry, it'll be in less than 50 words.  He's got a gift for small talk – i.e. fewer words.)

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