RENDELL ERIK RHODERICK, 37 – IOWA
SADDLE GEAR: Tethrd Phantom, Predator Platform, XOP Mini Sticks
My rookie saddle season in 2020 will forever live in my memory. It started back in 2019 when I was tired of carrying heavy mobile tree stands every year. I watch The Hunting Public all the time and I noticed they were using the Tethrd saddles and platforms. Seeing how much better for mobile hunting they seemed, they definitely piqued my interest. I began watching videos and reading a lot of forums during the winter about tree saddles and decided I wanted to see one in person.
In the spring I decided to attend the Iowa Deer Classic. After talking with the The Hunting Public guys, I headed to the Tethrd booth and they helped me try everything out, walked me through what I needed to know, and patiently answered all of my questions. After testing it all I was sold! I went home with a complete saddle set up and ready to take on a new adventure!
When the 2020 season started here in Iowa, I dedicated myself to only using the saddle set up as much as possible. Wow! Saddle shape is a real thing! It took me a while to get comfortable hanging in it for long periods of time, but I got better at it as time went on. I started to love the saddle set up! I was hunting 3 to 4 days a week, bouncing all over the state, hunting spots that I found during post season scouting from last year.
It’s now the middle of November. After hunting hard for over a month and a half, I hadn’t seen any of the caliber bucks I knew were around. I was getting a little frustrated. During the rut I was pulling all day sits, which to my surprise were amazing in the saddle! No more back pain like the tree stands always gave me. The Thanksgiving time frame has always been good to me. It does come with some pressure mentally though because bow season time is running out. Finally, I started seeing bigger and bigger bucks every day but couldn’t get in the right spot to get close enough. With snow and rain coming the following week I had some time off and was planning to hunt for 10 days straight. After a few days, I decided to try out a few spots that I had some history with but never could get in due to the size and types of trees there.
It was the morning of the day I’ll never forget. I decided to hunt some hill country public land. I set up at the top of a deep draw that cuts down between two ridges. Just barely after shooting light, I heard a deer coming through the leaves to the west. Before it got close to me, it cut to the south and hooked around behind me. It was a shooter, but I didn’t have a clear shot through the trees. I sat there for a few more hours and saw some small bucks and does. I had planned to do an all-day hunt at this location but around noon I started dropping milkweed and noticed that the wind was starting to shift direction and could ruin my afternoon.
I decided to drive to another place I’ve tried to hunt before. I could never hunt this place very effectively with a tree stand due to the terribly small trees in the fence line. The wind had shifted to the Northeast which is pretty rare. It was just enough of an off wind to make this fence line shine. I quietly slipped down the fence line through the cornfield. I decided to set up in a small branchy tree that I’ve tried to use before with a tree stand. With the saddle I was finally able to hunt this spot with the perfect set up, allowing me to shoot left-handed into the cornfield.
It was now getting later into the evening, and I was hoping something would come out of the doe bedding area to the north to come feed in the cornfield. After a while, I dropped some milkweed to check the wind and when I looked behind me, I noticed a doe was running through the fence line I was on. Suddenly, I spotted a giant buck following her trail. They both went straight into the bedding area. I kept hoping they would come back out before dark. Eventually, a few does came out of the bedding area, and were milling around the field. All of a sudden, I see antlers on the edge of the bedding area, and I got my binoculars up to get a better look at them. I couldn’t believe what I saw! The height and width of the rack was insane! I started shaking and hoping the doe would come my way so the buck would follow. After what seemed like an hour, the hot doe finally started making its way towards the cornfield. She worked her way down and passed through the fence line to my east. The buck followed.
Now, it’s the last 30 minutes of shooting light. The buck finally comes through the fence line and stays close to it, while it cautiously follows the doe. The doe is now a few yards away from me. I was getting nervous that she was going to pick up my wind. So, I picked a shooting lane about the size of a soccer ball and waited. The buck finally makes his way to the edge of my shooting lane. I checked the doe to make sure she wasn’t looking in my direction and I drew my bow. After what seemed like an eternity of holding at full draw, he stepped into my shooting lane as he turned broadside to cross a waterway, 13 yards away. I took a deep breath and let it fly. I heard the impact of the arrow as my lighted nock disappeared into the buck. I had so many emotions surging through me at that moment! He lunged out into the field, stood there, and stared in my direction. Then, he slowly walked away following the doe. They made their way across the cornfield. When they got to the far corner of the field, I thought I heard something crash.
I snuck down the tree to look for my arrow. After looking it over, it had a decent amount of blood on it. I found the blood trail and it looked like he was dropping a ton of blood at first. It also looked to have a few tiny bubbles in it. Nonetheless, I decided to back out for a few hours just to be safe. I came back later that night and I slowly followed the blood trail that eventually ran out. I didn’t find him where I thought I had heard the crash, so I decided to come back when I had daylight.
I didn’t sleep much at all, as doubt crept in. I was sick to my stomach, frustrated, playing the shot over and over again in my mind. Unfortunately, the weather unexpectedly changed. It snowed and rained off and on, which I felt probably ruined any sign that might have been left but I wasn’t going to give up. I went back out and after walking every bedding area, trail, etc that was close by, I had no luck and was getting emotionally exhausted at this point. I decided there was only one last place left he could have gone, and it was down a dry creek bed that was close to where I thought I heard the crashing sound. It ran way off to the west. So, in the rain, I walked along the creek bed for almost a mile. I came upon a really thick bedding area that ran along it. As I came around a bend in it, I finally saw a rack sticking up in the mud down in the creek bed. I couldn’t believe it. It was him! I picked up his rack and washed it off with a bottle of water and sat there in the mud in amazement. I thought back on all I had gone through to get to this point.
I feel truly blessed to have had such an amazing experience. This buck is one of the largest bucks I have ever gotten, and it will make this season one I will never forget. Thank you Tethrd for helping me have an amazing rookie saddle season!