Branden Michel shot the Iowa whitetail he’d always dreamed of tagging
Hunter: Branden Michel
Buck Score: 215 6/8 inches
Date of Harvest: October 26, 2022
Location of Harvest: Iowa
Weapon of Harvest: Matthews DXT
Iowa whitetail extraordinaire Branden Michel tagged a 6 ½-year-old deer that scored well over 200 inches. He had trail camera photos of the deer in 2021. It appeared in mid-October, and he hunted the deer without success.
On Halloween morning of 2021, him and his father hunted the buck, but both chose the wrong stand locations. A trail cam check revealed the deer appeared on another nearby stand location instead. That afternoon, Michel chose the right location. The buck walked to within 20 yards, but remained behind brush. Unfortunately, it never offered a shot opportunity. Instead, it turned around and departed the way it came.
“After that day, he disappeared, and I never had another picture of him on any of my cameras on that farm for the rest of the season,” Michel said. Fortunately, once the season ended, he showed up on a trail camera Michel still had out. The deer survived.
“I pulled the camera, and sure enough, he survived the remainder of the Iowa hunting seasons,” Michel said. “That again, would be the last pictures I had of him until late September. Once I started getting pictures of him.”
Michel hunts this farm with his father and a friend. They decided to hold off on hunting the deer until late October. In the meantime, they put up a new treestand where they thought the deer might frequent.
On October 26, 2022, the work paid off. It was the fourth time in the stand, and he hoped it would prove to be the magical sit. It was sunny with temperatures in the mid 50s. His stand location was along a narrow stretch of timber the local deer used as a travel route. In front of him was a hay field with a cornfield around that.
The afternoon hunt started off slowly. The only entertainment was a scampering squirrel, which hung around for a while. Later in the afternoon, a pack of coyotes began howling, and seemed as if they were chasing something. “I thought my night was done for deer,” Michel said. “I really thought after hearing them getting closer that this hunt was quickly turning into a coyote hunt.” It didn’t, though. The coyotes faded into the distance.
About 20 minutes later, Michel heard a buck rubbing a tree. Sure enough, it was the big deer working a rub about 100 yards away. A few minutes passed, and the deer walked through the corn toward the timber. It worked a few scrapes as it moved closer to Michel’s position.
“Once he walked through the corn and got to the timber edge, I grunted at him,” Michel said. “I couldn’t see him, but he started scraping the trees aggressively. I grunted again, and he started walking my way, but I still couldn’t see him. He stopped moving, so I turned to my left (he was to my right) and softly grunted, as if the buck was walking away, and he came in on a string.”
Once the buck breached bow range, Michel drew back, settled the pin, and took the broadside, 30-yard shot. The shot connected, and the buck dashed out of sight.
“It just shows how quickly things can change when bowhunting,” Michel said. “I figured that, after the pack of coyotes were howling, no deer would come anywhere close to where I was. Thirty minutes later, and I shot this buck.”
After giving the deer some time, he started the blood trailing process. Overall, the deer ran about 200 yards, but circled back and ended up about 75 yards from the treestand. Two friends arrived to help drag the deer out of the woods.
“It means everything, mainly because it was on my family’s farm,” Michel said. “All the work we as a team have put in, from getting the treestands ready, cameras put up, and just everything else.”
All the effort ended up producing a 215 6/8-inch Iowa buck.
Whitetail Lab: Big Buck Tactics
There were many different tactics Michel used to tag this big whitetail. First, he waited. He and the rest of the crew decided to wait until late October to start hunting this buck. By that time, it would be more apt to move during daylight.
Secondly, he planned. Michel placed treestands in areas he expected to see the buck. “I use HuntStand for mapping all of our treestands and cameras, and for the wind guide (I love this feature),” he said.
Obviously, on the day of the hunt, he grunted at the deer several times, which seemed to be a major reason the deer entered bow range. Deer are vocal animals, and that’s a key trait hunters can use to lure mature bucks within bow range.