On October 11, 2017, after a long day in the office, I left work in a rush to the treestand hoping to get set up as early as possible. I had planned on hunting the edge of a small clover plot tucked deep in the timber and wanted to get there before any deer worked their way into the opening.
After walking within about 150 yards of the plot, I realized I was too late. I could see a buck feeding in the clover plot about 60 yards from the stand I was hoping to sit in. Following a quick glance through my range finder, I recognized the buck. It happened to be the largest I had seen in trail-camera pictures over the summer.
Over the next 15 minutes and with some luck, a lengthy stalk ended with a 45-yard shot that was right on target. Long story short, I was able to wrap my Iowa buck tag around his antler and couldn’t have been happier.
After congratulating me, a buddy brought something to my attention that I hadn’t considered but that would end up defining my 2017 Iowa season. Due to the fact I had filled my archery any-sex tag so early, I wouldn’t be able to hunt a buck during the rut.
At first, I dismissed the idea that somehow by filling my tag early I would end up disappointed during the remainder of the season. However, after some thought, I realized I enjoy the grind of archery season and the process of hunting and learning about mature bucks as much as actually harvesting one. I also realized if I wasn’t in the stand during November, I would be missing out on the knowledge each hunt provides. If nothing else, I wanted to spend just as much time in the stand as I would any other year to continue logging information into my hunting journal.
Because the remainder of the season became more about acquiring knowledge for future seasons, I felt comfortable enough to try some more aggressive tactics. This allowed me to call in more bucks than I probably ever have during any other season.
I decided the first thing I’d do to keep me in the stand would be to go to the local archery shop and take the proficiency test required to hunt in an Urban Deer Management Unit. This also allowed me to purchase urban antlerless tags for the remainder of the season. In addition to providing some new locations to hunt, it gave me a goal for the remainder of the season. If I was able to fill three antlerless tags, I would receive an urban any-sex tag for the following year. Not only would this provide an opportunity to gain some meat for the freezer, but it could also provide me an opportunity to harvest up to two bucks with my bow the following year.
Secondly, I decided to capture some hunts on film. I self-filmed several of my own hunts as well as filming various friends. Throughout that process, I learned a lot from watching how other people prepared and executed their strategies. I was also surprised to learn how much information I missed when I was able to rewatch the videos later. Reviewing the footage allowed me to notice several things I would have otherwise missed during the fast-paced excitement of the actual hunt.
The final change I made throughout the remainder of the season was how I called to deer. I am normally pretty conservative about how and when I use calls during the different stages of the rut. However, because the remainder of the season became more about acquiring knowledge for future seasons, I felt comfortable enough to try some more aggressive tactics. This allowed me to call in more bucks than I probably ever have during any other season.
Looking back at my 2017 archery season, I couldn’t be happier. I was able to tag one of my biggest bucks to date and spent the remainder of the season trying several new things I may have never otherwise tried. There are many other options for a hunter in the same situation, like using that time to guide and mentor a new hunter. No matter which you choose, I found that being able to remove the stress of filling a tag will allow you to focus more on learning from each hunt and enjoying the overall experience. At the end of the day, the overall experience is what keeps me coming back year after year.
About the Author: Taylor Maas of Ottumwa, Iowa enjoys hunting deer and pheasants. He’s also an outdoor writer. Follow him on Twitter at @michaeltmaas.