RENDELL ERIK RHODERICK, 38 – IOWA
SADDLE GEAR: Phantom, Predator Platform, XOP Mini Sticks, Predator Pack
During the post season of 2021 I got a call from a buddy of mine asking me if I would take him shed hunting. Like any good friend would do, I agreed to it. I suggested we should check out some new terrain types. So we picked a Marsh/Wetlands area that I had never hunted or scouted before. While we were looking for sheds, I happened to notice a set of really big buck tracks. I followed the tracks as far back as I could before losing the trail. They led me around the side of a bay. The buck was heading towards a big point and another bay that was past it. I figured he was probably bedding in the cedar thicket on the point right now but would probably be bedded in the second bay somewhere during early season. I took a mental note of it and continued shed hunting the rest of the day.
Fast forward to Monday October 12th. I was having issues with our air conditioning unit over the weekend, so I took the day off work to wait for the repairman. He was supposed to be there that morning but he hadn’t called or shown up yet. As the morning passed by, I was growing more frustrated because I typically save all my days off for hunting. After a few failed attempts to get ahold of him I decided I was going to bail and go hunting.
I checked the weather and it was going to be a steady north wind for the rest of the day. I started cycling through areas that I knew had buck bedding for that wind direction. I had a lot of different options but while e-scouting, I remembered those big buck tracks I found during the postseason. I just had a feeling come over me about that marsh. It is set up perfectly for bedding on a north wind in a few different spots. Now I just had to figure it out.
After dropping milkweed to confirm the north wind at the parking lot, I began to come up with an access plan. I chose to walk through a deep creek channel since the water looked way lower than normal. I doubted anyone ever used that as an access so the deer wouldn’t be expecting it. The channel swings a couple miles through the marsh and past the tip of the big point. It would keep me out of sight and keep my wind from blowing into any of the deer bedding. I wanted to spot check two other bedding areas that were on my way back to the point. Since it was so early in the season I thought maybe they weren’t pushed that far back yet. The first bedding area had some sign going in but I decided to keep going. The second bedding area had a lot of historical rubs but there wasn’t any fresh sign. I started to slowly make my way up the creek channel towards the big point. I was glassing ahead as I approached it when I noticed thousands of honey locust pods up in the trees on the tip of it. I thought the deer might use it as a staging area to feed on the honey locust as they came out of the bedding before moving out to primary food sources. I wanted to get a closer look.
Once I got there, I crawled up to the top of the point. I used my binoculars to look for other sign. I saw a cedar tree about 40 yards away with a rub on it, deer droppings, and locust pods scattered all over the ground. I dropped some milkweed to check the wind. It was blowing my scent out over the creek channel right to where I accessed it from. I also knew that the water would pull my thermals off into the channel as well. I didn’t want to set up too far past the tip of the point because I didn’t want the deer to get downwind of me. I opted for a small walnut tree about 15 yards away. The tree had very little cover but had a good backdrop. It gave me a 25 yard shot to the rub and lanes to any of the honey locust trees. I slowly crawled up to the tree and ended up only nine feet off the ground.
I was barely even set up when a group of does moved onto the point and went straight to the honey locusts. A couple of them ended up almost right below me. As they moved off, a couple more does came across the rub trail. A while later I spotted a decent buck in the bay making a scrape. Then a slow trickle of four other bucks moved through the point slowly feeding on the locust pods. As last light was fast approaching a giant buck stepped up onto the point out of the bay. He was coming straight at me. I instantly knew he was a shooter! I always hold my bow during the magic hour so all I had to do was draw. He was walking straight at me for 40 yards. I decided to take the risk. He never caught the movement. He came up to 5 yards and stopped to feed on some pods. The buck was slightly quartering away behind a tree so I swung out a little in the saddle for a better shot angle. I settled in, released the arrow, and watched it pass through the buck. He took off down the point like a rocket and I lost sight of him while trying to work the camera through all of the excitement. Everything happened so fast! My adrenaline was pumping. I was eager to find the buck but I decided to back out until the next morning and come back with a buddy. It was a short blood trail. He had only gone about 60 yards and down over the side of the point into the bay. I couldn’t believe the true size of his rack and that he had an amazingly rare double throat patch. It was one of the most rewarding but brutal drag outs I have ever done.
He is one of my biggest bucks to date. What an incredible hunt and experience that I will never forget. It was the perfect storm for everything to come together like that on a mature public land giant!