Sometimes you get but one chance at the buck of a lifetime. Other times, the deer comes back … and back … and back.
When Doug Knott and his son Tyler of Blakesburg, Iowa, first saw the whitetail they nicknamed Junkyard in a game-camera photo taken on Oct. 5, 2015, neither had any idea that it would be the start of a long, carefully orchestrated quest for the giant.
Junkyard literally walked through the backyard of their newly acquired 29-acre spread in Wapello County. Many hunters would’ve immediately went after the buck, but the Knotts figured that would do them more harm than good.
“We didn’t know how to hunt our farm, and we were concerned about running does we’d seen in the area off,” explained Doug. “We figured he’d stick around if the does stayed around, so we made a pact to not shoot any does that year.”
On Oct. 26, Junkyard returned – and walked right underneath Doug’s climbing stand. The buck never gave him a shot. Minutes later, Tyler missed the deer at 20 yards. Darkness got in the way.
On the morning of Nov. 1, Doug spotted Junkyard scent-checking for does. At 12 yards away, Knott thought to himself, you’re dead, and released an arrow. Hitting the buck in a front knee, the deer would live to seek romance another day.
Three weeks later found Tyler hunting a creek bottom near a deer crossing. A respectable eight-pointer was hot on the tail of a doe when Junkyard became enraged that another buck would venture into its domain. Tyler missed the buck again, this time due to an unforeseen limb.
At that point, both hunters agreed that Junkyard had beaten them.
“We decided to stop hunting him for that year,” Doug added. “He’s pretty beat down from the knee injury, we had our chances to get him, and we kind of felt sorry for him.”
Junkyard would recover. Photos showed the buck packing on pounds it lost the previous fall, and that its rack continued to grow. The Knotts spent the spring and summer designing a hunting plan, as Junkyard was becoming to them what the white whale was to Captain Ahab. They added two food plots to hold the buck on their property, and put up several permanent stands to ambush it in the fall. As bow season opened, both hunters could hardly contain their excitement. Unfortunately, not everyone was on board with their plans.
“Two of our neighbors start logging right in the area where we believe Junkyard beds,” Doug said. “And another neighbor kid starts target practicing, shooting over 50 rounds just about every afternoon.”
Tyler went hunting on Halloween morning. At 8 a.m., the 15-year-old spotted a large 170-class buck in the distance.
“He was moving away from me, so I hit my rattling antlers just a couple times, and he did a U-turn and walked toward me,” explained Tyler. “He’s only 25 yards away, and here comes Junkyard.”
The aggressive buck was looking for a fight, and ran right into melee it could never win. With the deer standing defiantly within bow range, Tyler arrowed his white whale.