NAME: Kiley Harpster
SADDLE GEAR: Tethrd Phantom saddle, Tethrd Skeletor sticks,
Latitude X-wing platform
LOCATION: Missouri, Iowa
Deer season 2022, like all of them, starts in the Spring/Early Summer time for most of us
hardcore hunters. Coming off of a rocky, yet successful 2021 season coming down to the wire,
there was hope for one particular deer that I knew made it through the winter months, having
found one of his shed antlers (and the previous year’s set). With that, my buddy WC (you might
remember him) and myself had put in our draw for that coveted Iowa bow tag! As The summer
progressed, so were the antlers on top of the deer’s heads, especially the deer I had dubbed
“Blade” due to his long, blade-like brow tines. WC was down here for a golf outing we play
annually in June, and that night we received an email stating that we had in fact, DRAWN THAT
As July comes into focus, I received a letter in the mail, following a horrible day at work, where a
tornado had taken one of our buildings out, along with some equipment. I was happy to open
this letter though, as it was from the IDNR. Having those tags in my hand, just hit a little
different. WC and I had already made plans to go up to Iowa that weekend and get some
cameras hung on some public grounds we had been eyeballing. As we were up in Iowa hanging
cameras, I was getting pictures of Blade, and told WC “Man, I really hope I can get an arrow in
him early, so I can really focus on hunting up here in Iowa for Oct/Nov”.
September 15th rolls around, and I’m ready to really try this saddle hunting out for the season to
come, only having one sit/one kill in it. I felt I was off to a decent start, after all…I DID have a
platform now! Having to make a few tweaks to the pack in, the ascend and descend method, I
finally had a system down to where I felt confident this is how I’m going to have an epic season.
Still getting pictures of Blade, I start to hone in on where I believe his bedroom is.
Finally, I see the deer one rainy evening in late September. Hoping he made his way 400 yards to
me was a stretch, so I took that sighting and pushed closer for the days to come. I hung closer
over the next few days, wind dependant of course, and I finally had my second and third
encounters with him, the 3rd being him at 50 yards, me at full draw, and the light being too low,
as I couldn’t see my pins good enough to take a shot at him…so I let down in disgust.
Having finally figured out what wind this deer comes out from his bed into this field with, I made
a plan for the next day to get onto the other side of the field, and really cut that wind to that “iffy”
spot… either he smells me, or he doesn’t. The next day, I found that tree that I had been looking
at from across the other side of the field, and got in it. With high hopes, he stood me up, a no
show. With the same wind the following evening, he had to make an appearance.
It was October 4th at this point, and Iowa was pretty heavy on my mind as well, as we were
getting some awesome deer on camera. So I slipped into that “iffy” tree one more time, and that
SE wind was really making me nervous. This is a 5.5 year old deer, he’s no dummy. As the
evening progressed, there he was, he had popped out into the field from the exact spot I thought
he had been calling his bedroom, at about 150 yards. He fed straight out as I watched him for
about 30 minutes, he just really wasn’t moving much. As it grew darker, I was starting to get a
little impatient, “get your a%& down here” I kept saying to myself. I would scan the rest of the
field as he was feeding, and as I looked back in his direction, he was gone! Okay, he could really
only go one way, and that’s toward me, because he had absolutely no reason to go north. About
ten more minutes pass and along the ditch I’m sitting next to, I hear something…I thought “it has
to be him”. So I grabbed my bow and readied, just in case it was him and not a pesky squirrel or
raccoon. Finally, about 5 minutes after grabbing my bow, he jumps the ditch, 30 yards to my
north! Had he come any closer on the other side of that ditch, he surely would’ve caught my
wind with that SE breeze! That was all behind me now, as he assessed what was going on out in
the field, he started coming my way, 18 yards he stopped, I sent a Gold Tip into his ribcage! He
turned my way and SMACKED THE TREE I WAS IN! He took his last breath just 15 yards behind
me in some tall grass along that ditch. What an incredible hunt!! Having wished I had a video
camera for that craziness! He was bigger than I thought, and what a giant body… one of the
biggest deer I’ve ever harvested. Guess what I get to do now..? GO HUNT IOWA!
For the remainder of that week, I packed up my truck, and made sure that I had what I needed to
camp in it for the Iowa season, and hunt up North all weekend. I did this for the rest of the
month, every weekend, even taking a few days off of work to go up there. As we were still
getting pictures of tremendous deer up there, I kept up the grind back and forth from home, to a
couple of different public land areas in Iowa. Halloween weekend comes, and WC is meeting me
up there, as he lives in Michigan, it’s his first time coming over to Iowa to hunt.
After a few encounters with some nice deer, some tailgate cooking, and stories over beers with
WC, it was my time to head home. He had taken a week vacation to hunt, so he was staying.
Halloween day was on a Monday, and I was at work. WC texted me a picture of what looked to
be a seemingly happy reaction from his hunt that evening, as he had shot a great heavy-hoofed
buck! He chose to wait him out until morning, and another one of our friends had gone up to
help him recover his public ground, massive 10 point! Pumped up, I couldn’t wait to get back up
As the weekends went by, the temperature was falling. Our rifle season had begun in MO, but I
really had nothing else I wanted to hunt at home, and I welcomed the solstice of no gunshots
every 20 seconds hunting in Iowa. With more and more encounters, more and more pictures of
mature deer.. one of these jokers had to mess up eventually.
As I was at work on the 18th of November, I couldn’t take it. Snow was on the ground in Iowa,
and I was at work. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I left. With everything I needed already in my
truck, I blasted up to Iowa as quickly as I could, packed in a little over a mile into the public
ground I had chosen to sit the day, and got cozy in my saddle. With the frigid temps, snow on
the ground, and that magical thing we all know as the rut in my favor, life was good!
I had made good time, it was only 11am. At about noon, a mature short, heavy tined 8 point
came across the ridge on my downwind side, about 50 yards. It didn’t take him long to get out of
there once he smelled me. With the day ahead of me, I brushed it off and kept focus. I was near
a thick cedar bedding area, so anything could happen at any time. That’s exactly what happened
at 2pm, when a doe came running through at around 40 yards at the edge of that bedding area,
and she was being chased by a grunting, super tall 8 point with his tongue hanging out. They
disappeared as quickly as they came through, into the bedding area. Knowing they could come
back out at any time, I latched onto my bow and steadied my feet into a shooting position.
About ten minutes had gone by, and the doe reappeared, running straight at me, she veered a bit
to the right, with the high tined 8 in tow! I drew my bow, tried to stop him with a couple of
“braps” from my mouth, and finally on the 3rd one, I felt like I yelled at him…he stops about 15
yards quartering to me, and I shoot. What did I just do?!! I messed up a 15 yard shot straight
under me, I hit him in the shoulder. As he ran around to the other side of my tree, bleeding good,
I nocked another arrow, spun around the tree, and released another arrow at around 30ish
yards. I thought I had missed that shot, as he bounded another 20 yards and stood there. I didn’t
have another shot at that distance in the timber, so I threw up my binoculars and watched him
as he stood there, bleeding into the Iowa snow, he stood there, and stood there. “Go DOWN” I
kept saying under my breath. He wasn’t feeling good. 30 minutes go by, and he finally decided
to try to walk off, but he was having trouble. He walks out of my sight.
I had made up my mind, that when it was time to get out that evening, I was just going straight
to the truck and go look for him that next day, but I still had 2 hours before dark! I was a mess,
how did I mess up that whole situation, a chip shot. I arrived back at my truck, which was now a
second residence in Iowa, I had a jar of homemade soup, and called in a buddy to come help me
recover this deer for the next day. He arrived around noon that next day, so it had been around
21 hours since the shot. We gather up some packs, and trek into the public ground to where he
stood for so long. There was blood everywhere in the snow, that sure made things a lot easier,
but just about 30 yards into our track, we heard something jump up ahead of us. It was him!
Running away from us, we looked at one another, and I said “I told you he was tall!”
After a quick discussion of what to do, we decided to slowly take up the track as where we were
standing, the blood was running thin. After picking it back up from where we jumped him, it had
opened up again, following it for another few yards, we looked up to see that he had crossed a
creek, and there was a stream of blood. We made the tough decision of backing out, and he
would head home after that.
So, I’m left to think about all of this in my bedroom I have made in the back seat of my
truck, 100 outside, and my insides are killing me. I’ve really messed this up. After yet
another restless night, I went straight to where we jumped the deer the day before, with
the wind NOT in my favor, I decided to walk wide to get into the creek and walk to where
we last saw the blood going up the creek bank. But before I got to the point I had picked
out to drop into the creek, I saw a coyote on the other side of it. I thought to myself, this
could be a good sign, right?
I dropped into the creek, and made a light footed trek to where we spotted the stream of blood
going up the bank. I crested the bank, bow in hand, and crept step by step following the blood.
As I stood by a tree, I could hear some crows nearby, and at that point, I saw yet another coyote,
as he popped up from inside the creek where it had made a U-turn. I knelt down and crawled a
couple of yards to see where he had stopped and put his head down, and I saw red as I looked
through my binos, and then a set of antlers! I stood up, whistled at the coyote, and as he ran
off… there was that familiar feeling of excitement!! Almost immediately after walking up to that
deer, as I knelt down beside him, taking it all in, I broke down. I shot this deer on a Friday
afternoon, and here it was Sunday. I’m not sure I’ve ever had the amount of remorse for any
other deer, than I had for this one.
Upon looking at what was left of the deer, I had discovered that my second arrow actually did hit
him! While I didn’t get to salvage any meat from him, packing him out on my back from public
ground in Iowa, almost 2 miles back to the truck, I recovered him, and that’s all that mattered to
me, I owed it to that animal to keep pursuing him. As I collected a few of our cameras on the
walk back to the truck, it was a very surreal feeling. What a season this had been. The memories
WC and I had made, putting another state under our belts, taking great public ground deer, and
harvesting one of the best deer I’ve ever had the pleasure of pursuing in MO. To sum it all up
into one word: Blessed.