Bison By Bow The Moment of Truth

By Josh FletcherFebruary 29, 2012

UPDATED ON: May 8th, 2015

On the morning of Thursday February 16th I had no problem getting out of bed, now falling asleep the night before was a different story. I lay in bed running my mental check list over and over again in my head, afraid that I was going to forget something. The next day I was prepared for a once and a life time hunt at the Scenic View Ranch in North East Iowa on a buffalo hunt with a bow.

As Thursday afternoon dragged on I tripled checked my equipment, shot my bow, packed and repacked our hunting rig while waiting for our camera man Bryce, (also referred to as Loo Loo) to arrive before we would depart to Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin where our hotel was located for the night’s stay.
Prior Bryce’s arrival I must have worn marks in the floor form the constant pacing as my nerves for the upcoming hunt was getting the best of me.

It didn’t take long and Bryce arrived. As we traveled we talked about the possibilities and the tactics to employ for the next day’s hunt. Neither Bryce nor I have ever hunted on a ranch a day in our life, so we had no idea what to expect. I was towing a trailer with an empty freezer to hall the rewards of a successful hunt back from Iowa. We also had several rubber bins packed with all the equipment and supplies to process a 1,000 pound animal ourselves.

The next morning came early, and both Bryce and I didn’t even wait for the alarm clock to go off. We sprung out of bed like kids on Christmas morning. We scrambled about the hotel room resembling ants in a freshly kicked anthill. We quickly prepared our gear and donned on our camo as we headed out the door.

As we crossed over the mighty Mississippi River and entered Iowa it hit me. This hunt was really happening. We were going to be chasing bison by bow. We would be partaking in a hunt that has taken place thousands of years ago. We would be hunting the great thunder beast that once roamed North America by the millions.

We arrived at the beautiful Scenic View Ranch just outside the small town of Monona Iowa, around 8:00 am. When we arrived we met with Co-owner of the ranch, Rex. He gave us a quick tour of the ranch.

A view from the top deck of the cabin at the ranch

Scenic View Ranch is working on expanding the hunting experience for their hunters. Rex showed us their skinning and meat processing shed that they are currently building for hunters such as ourselves that wanted to process their own meat while on the property. They have a large electric winch to hang your animal up and to assist with skinning; they also have the shed equipped with a walk in cooler and a walk in freezer.

Next he showed us their guest cabin that they are also currently building for guests to stay at to enjoy trout fishing in the summer, or hunting in the fall and winter months. I must say that to me this is much more than a cabin, once complete this would be my dream home. With two large decks that sat on the Yellow River, along with several bedrooms and loft, it is sure to be a hunters dream to spend the night in preparing for the next day’s hunt.

Once complete the cabin will have a rustic feel for the hunters to enjoy

After a quick tour and some final shots with the bow, we were cut loose to match wits with the large baffalo that roam the Mississippi River bluffs.

As we entered the property we felt like we were entering Jurassic Park. As we topped one of the many bluffs on the property it was common to see large white rams, bull elk, and whitetail deer. However for all the animals we were seeing the one we were after seemed to be nonexistent. As we glassed the large bluffs, open fields and down into the deep cuts, we realized that the buffalo could be any ware.

After searching for several hours, luck was finely on our side. As I looked up the hillside approximately 150 yards away I observed a large bull bison bedded, looking directly at us.

A herd of white rams added to the feel that we were hunting in “Jurassic Park”

With Bryce filming every move, I quickly turned to him and asked, “Well, what do you think?” We quickly devised a plan to make a large circle and to approach the buffalo from the back side, for two reasons. The first, being that we were currently staring directly in to the sun. If we circled, we could put the sun at our backs to help disguise our approach. Second with the crusty snow on the ground, we wanted to approach from an area of the ridge that had minimal amount of snow on the ground.

As we circled this bison, only one thing ran through my mind, how big this animal really was! The size of this buffalo just got bigger and bigger with every step we made towards him.

As we got within 70 yards of the buffalo, he spotted us and the gig was up. The massive beast rose to his feet, now alert. Unsure just how spooky buffalo are, or how close the shaggy beast would let us get before he would run or possibly charge, we decided to stay still for a while to allow the buffalo to calm back down before we would begin continuing our stalk.

Bryce (Loo Loo) filming every move of the hunt to share with the viewers

After he calmed back down, we again began our approach. As we got closer, Bryce made several references towards being able to film from a distance while I continue the stalk, along with the fact he was not sure just how quick a 1,000 pound animal can turn and charge. I quickly realized that my camera man did not trust my shooting abilities!  Knowing that if this beast charged, I needed my camera man with in a push-able or trip-able distance to buy time for my escape, I reassured Bryce that everything was going to be fine and to continue our approach.
As we cautiously approached the bison, we closed the distance down to thirty yards. I took a minute to regain my composure before drawing back on the slightly quartering away buffalo. As I began to draw my bow is the when the moment that I least expected occurred to me. At that moment I looked into the bison’s eyes. Those big deep eyes locked me in a trance for what was a split second, but felt like minutes. As I looked into his eyes I could see history flashing by. I imagined what the great Native tribes on the prairies thought as they also gazed into those same eyes. They too must have seen an animal that was created for man’s survival. A beast that was designed for sheer power, that once it was killed it would provide hundreds of pounds of food, shelter, and tools.

 I also saw the sadness. The sadness of a great free roaming species that once roamed North America in the millions, that was decimated merely for their fur and tong. I saw the ancestors of this great animal, as they lay in the prairies to rot.

 I also felt the pride that this animal will feed my family with clean pure meat, like its ancestors did for the early settlers and the Native Americans before.
After realizing just how amazing this large animal truly was, I needed to provide the purest meat designed by the good Lord himself for my family. I came to full draw, took a deep breath, and picked a spot for the arrow to drive home. As the arrow released from the string, the world seemed to be placed into slow motion. I remember seeing the rotation of the fletching as it glided through the air. I could hear a loud “thwack “as the arrow pierced through the thick furry coat. The arrow drove home perfectly behind the shoulder, assuring a quick and clean kill.

The blood trail made by the NAP two blade Blood Runner 

At the speed of sound everything was back playing before me at normal speed. The large buffalo with a kick, took off running down the hill towards a thick brushy bottom. As he ran down the ridge we could see the blood as it streamed from his side. He immediately turned and ran his way back up the ridge towards our direction. This is when Bryce decided he no longer wanted to be in-between me and the running bison. At this time is when the video footage becomes a bit shaky as he and I shuffled for cover.
As we were pushing for cover, is when the buffalo succumbed to his fatal wound. In less than fifty yards of the initial shot the 1,000 pound animal instantly fell to the ground quickly expiring.

The Carbon Express Maxima performed flawlessly with a well-placed shot

As any hunter knows, this is when the sudden dump of adrenalin pierces through our vanes. I couldn’t stop shaking as my legs became week. The moment of truth was presented and executed perfectly, for I had just provided hundreds of pounds of food for my family and friends.

The animal rights activists and non-hunting community will never understand this moment of truth. Yes we as hunters kill; we talk about blood and quick kills, but we are not barbarians. We study the animals that we hunt. We respect the animal and understand wildlife management, that some must die to provide life for others. We are predators just like the bear or the wolf. As hunters we refused to depend on rich business men and the stock market to feed our family. We refuse to feed our family with imported animals that are pumped full of growth hormones from other countries to produce more meat.  We are conservationists, predators, and providers.

We are predators just like the bear or the wolf

As I walked up to the fallen beast, I knelt down beside him. I said a prayer of thanks, for this big bull made the ultimate sacrifice. He sacrificed his life to feed my family. As Bryce and I admired the fallen bison, we talked about how life must have been when they once roamed in the millions, what the first settlers must have thought when they first laid eyes on a prairie that was black with herds of bison a mile or more long. As we sat there next to just one buffalo, what was life like when so many once roamed our continent?

This was truly the hunt of a life time that I will never forget

The sad reality is we will never know, we can only assume and imagine. One great aspect of history is that like a good book it is up to the reader to paint his or her own picture of what life was once like, the possibilities are in the eyes of the beholder.

As this great beast has fallen, it will provide life. To be a part of this great experience words cannot describe, for that moment in the Iowa bluffs, I was a part of history. It was the memories and the insight of what life was like when times were much simpler and the understanding of life was much clearer. This I am forever grateful for and these are the memories that can never be taken away. For this day I experienced the moment of truth.

Josh Fletcher
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