Steve Gruber’s Iowa Muzzleloading Deer Hunt

In 2009, I hunted in southwest Iowa, over a cut bean field. I was in a Shadow Hunter blind on the last day of muzzleloader season. Although I had spotted some does and a few bucks, I hadn’t seen a shooter buck. The sun was going down, and I knew my Iowa late-season hunt was coming to a close. Not only was I not going to take a buck, I also wasn’t going to get a TV show. There was so-many deer in the field, and does so close to my blind, that I could hear them chewing the corn that had been left in the field from the harvest. I was willing to stay until the very last minute of the hunt, because earlier we had seen an enormous buck that would have scored very high on Boone & Crockett. He had the kind of rack that was bigger than I’d ever dreamed of seeing, but I didn’t feel comfortable taking a 350-yard shot with my CVA APEX.

Just as I was starting to gather-up my equipment, I looked-out of my blind and saw a really-big 10-point buck walking straight toward the blind. By the time I got my rifle up and prepared for the shot, the buck was at 90 yards. I knew I could make this shot. When I squeezed the trigger, all I could see was a big puff of smoke and deer jumping around everywhere in front of me. Then suddenly I saw a big half-racked buck. (This hunt took place in January, and at that time of year in Iowa the bucks had begun to shed their antlers.) When I saw that half-rack, he looked to be about the same size and had about the same rack configuration as the 10-point I had shot. I told my cameraman, “Oh my god, that PowerBelt bullet hit that deer so hard that the impact of the bullet must have caused one of his antlers to fall-off.” Deer were still running in all directions, and I thought I’d knocked half the rack off my deer. As I got out of my blind, I was really disappointed, because, I knew the buck was 150 B&C or better. This hunt had been heartbreaking. I’d shot a really-nice trophy buck in the closing minutes of muzzleloader season in Iowa, and now I had to go collect half a trophy. I walked to the spot where the deer had been standing when I had squeezed the trigger. Although I was prepared to be disappointed, when I could finally see the buck, he only had gone about 16-yards from where I had shot him. He had a full rack, and he scored 159 B&C. I realized the half-racked buck looked a lot like the deer I had shot but was an altogether-different animal. I was so excited that I had not only taken the buck, but that he also had all the antlers I had seen in my scope.

That was the first year I had been to Iowa with my CVA APEX. In the following 2 years, I took two more trophy bucks with my .50 caliber APEX. All three of these bucks are now hanging on my wall. Luckily, I drew an Iowa late-season blackpowder tag again this year, so I’m hoping to go 4 for 4 on taking trophy bucks with my CVA APEX in Iowa. I use the Sapphire scope made by Hawke Optics, a leading optics manufacturer in Europe for many years that only recently has come to this country. They’re top-of-the-line optics at only about half the price as other European scopes. I use Cabela’s Outfitter Camo. Sometimes I wear Cabela’s Seclusion 3D, if I need a darker pattern. Another unique product Cabela’s has is ground-blind clothing that’s totally black. Since the inside of a blind is black, if you wear the black clothing, I don’t think the deer can see you as well. I always load with three 50-grain pellets and a 245-grain PowerBelt bullet. I see no reason to change the set-up that I am using, since that load has made me 3 for 3 in Iowa, and I know it can make me 4 for 4 this year.

By Steve Gruber, TV host for “Outdoor America.”

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