Story Told By: Darron Mcdougal
When a bowhunter moves to Iowa, it’s usually because of the state’s giant whitetails. But Realtree pro staffer David Holder moved from Great Falls, Montana, to Winterset, Iowa, for another reason. “My wife, Karin, is a financial advisor with Edward Jones, and her work instigated the move,” Holder says. “We lived in Montana for almost 20 years, but felt that being centrally located in the United States would be ideal.” David and Karin are also co-owners and hosts of the show “Raised Hunting.”
Following his move to Iowa, Holder began assembling a catalog of properties where he could chase big deer. “We own a few properties and have also gained access to some other small properties,” he says. “The largest piece we own is 80 acres. We live on a 50-acre property, and we own another separate 40 acres. We lease a couple others, but nothing large. We also knocked on doors and gained permission on properties where other people are hunting, coordinating with them so that we aren’t competing with one another.”
Holder’s home property served as the hunting grounds for a buck nicknamed “Juice.” The deer earned his name after a tremendous jump in antler growth between 3 1/2 and 4 1/2 years old.
“We’d known about Juice since he was 3 1/2,” Holder says. “But I wasn’t seeing him as regularly in 2019 as I had in the past. Still, I knew of him and sort of understood his pattern. So, I put a couple of new stands up. I felt that when the conditions were right, those stands were right where I needed to be.”
Interestingly, the deer lost his eye in 2018 — a year prior to shooting him. “Last season, I filmed him one morning and both eyes were fine,” Holder said. “The following afternoon, his eye was swollen shut. That was approximately one year prior to me shooting him.”
Fast forward nearly 12 months, and Holder got his first chance at Juice on November 7. The buck chased a doe right underneath his stand. Holder couldn’t get a shot, but told his cameraman that Juice would be back.
“Sure enough, the doe returned 10 minutes later,” Holder says. “He was right behind her. He offered a tiny little window. At the same moment I released, he started walking, which we verified by reviewing the footage. On top of that, I rushed the shot. I’ve been bowhunting a long time, but that buck gave me buck fever for sure. Even though we were filming the hunt, we couldn’t determine if the arrow entered the ribs or merely grazed his belly.”
Holder waited until the next day to start searching. The blood trail was faint and lasted for 150 yards before disappearing. After lots of effort without finding any more clues to the buck’s whereabouts, he concluded that the buck was OK and would likely reappear on trail camera within a week. If it didn’t, he’d take his already-extensive search to the next level.
“Low and behold, I got a picture of the buck two nights later,” Holder says. “I knew I was back in business, because he was chasing a doe in the photo. He wasn’t hurt at all.”
On November 13, Holder climbed back in the stand with Juice on his mind.
“My son, Warren, was my cameraman,” Holder says. “I whispered to him that it didn’t feel like a ‘deer day.’ It was overcast and quite windy. I was wrong. We saw our first deer before daylight. And the deer sightings continued. Juice was the 11th buck we encountered. Interestingly, all of the deer except him traveled downwind. Juice always comes from west of our setup, and he did exactly that.”
Around 8:50 a.m., the giant deer chased a doe right toward the father-son duo.
“We honestly got only 26 seconds of pre-roll footage,” he says. “The doe came right in to 23 yards, and when Juice entered my lane, it took three mouth grunts to stop him. I was virtually yelling at him.”
Once again, the buck offered a small window of opportunity.
“He was close enough that I felt confident I could put my arrow right where I wanted to,” Holder says. “After making a non-lethal hit six days prior, I told myself not to do that again.”
But he still hit the deer a little farther back than he wanted. Playing it safe, they backed out for a few hours.
When they returned to search for the deer, they found the buck had expired about 200 yards from the point of impact.
“When my son spotted Juice at the end of the blood trail, he hollered,” Holder says. They weren’t far from the neighboring property, owned by another hunter with whom Holder is on good terms. “My neighbor texted me saying, ‘I guess I can get down. It sounds like somebody killed the deer I was hunting based on the holler I just heard.’ I didn’t know it, but he was hunting only about 300 yards away. It was kind of funny.”
Holder’s buck gross scores 169 6/8 inches as a mainframe 8-pointer. If you add the 10 inches of abnormal points, it stretches the tape to 179 6/8. That should keep a smile on Holder’s face until his focus shifts to a new buck next season.
By: Darren Mcdougal