Andy Sheldon's Fremont Monster

Andy Sheldon's Fremont Monster

In the realm of Iowa's trophy whitetail haunts, Fremont County may not match the consistency of Marion or the antler proportions of Allamakee, but big bucks roam southwest Iowa too. Just ask Andy Sheldon. . . . (August 2009)

Andy Sheldon's trophy buck netted 217 7/8 P&Y points -- enough to earn fourth-place honors among non-typical archery kills at the 2009 Iowa Deer Classic.

Photo courtesy of Randy Templeton.

When Andy Sheldon took off the afternoon to go hunting last November, he never expected to see -- much less shoot -- the buck of a lifetime. Not only did Sheldon shoot his biggest deer ever, but the 22-point non-typical happens to be among the largest bucks taken with a bow in Iowa during the 2008 season. So, let's review the events leading up to Sheldon taking his Iowa giant.

"Fremont County hasn't been known for having huge deer," Sheldon began. "In fact, if someone shoots anything bigger than 160 (Boone and Crockett points), it's generally in the Loess Hills area, 15 miles away.

"While shed hunting with my kids, Mason and Quinn, last spring, I found a large shed antler from a deer I hadn't ever seen before. The property has been in the family for three generations, and none of us could ever remember seeing a deer of that caliber. So, you can only imagine how excited I was to find the shed.

"Growing up, deer hunting was a tradition that everyone got involved with," Sheldon recalled. "My dad got me started at the age of 11, and I shot my first deer that same year. We set up a trailer on our property some years ago, and we call it the 'Sheldon Deer Camp.' It's not much, but it is a place where family and friends meet before and after every hunt.

"I've taken several big deer over the years, but my priorities changed when my son, Mason, and daughter, Quinn, started hunting. Instead of concentrating on myself, my goal is to teach them about the outdoors. For the most part, I take both kids hunting nearly every time I go."

'QDM IS WORKING FOR US'

"Our property is flatter than a pancake for the most part and parallels a river," Sheldon explained. "I've been hunting the same ground for 34 years, so I know it well. Rubs, scrapes and trails usually show up in the same places every year, so most of those spots have become key stand sites. . . . Other than spring shed hunting and hanging stands in September, I generally steer clear of those areas until the season opens.

"We started practicing QDM several years ago by shooting more does and fewer young bucks," Sheldon said. "In the last three years or so, I started seeing it pay off with a more balanced buck-to-doe ratio and bigger bucks.

"The deer in our neck of the woods have never been very responsive to calls. And it would be rare to see more than one buck chasing or attempting to breed a doe. This past year, however, I watched three or four bucks chasing the same doe on more than one occasion. It was also the first year I had a buck respond to rattling or grunt calls. So, I guess you can say QDM is working for us."

SEASON OPENER

"We farm about 2,000 acres, so naturally fall harvest comes at the same time as hunting season, which means my brothers and I can't all hunt at the same time," Sheldon said. "We share the workload around the farm, so if one of us wants to go hunting, one of the others does the chores.

"The kids and I had been out maybe three or four times during the first month. For the most part, it had been pretty warm and the deer hadn't moved much. During the month of October, I hadn't seen anything I would have considered shooting.

"By the first week of November, it started to cool down, and the deer began moving more. In fact, that first weekend Quinn and I were sitting in a blind and had a nice 150-class buck come within 15 yards. He was a mature buck, and one I wanted to take. Unfortunately, while drawing my bow, the top limb brushed against the roof. The buck heard the noise and shot out of there like a dog hit in the rear end with a boot jack. . . . I was disappointed, but that's hunting!

"The following Friday we had just finished picking an 80-acre corn field and wanted to turn the stock cows loose in the field. Before that, we had to string an electric fence. My two brothers, Pat and Dustin, my dad and I started building the fence early that morning. Around 10:30, Luke showed up to help. There was a cold front expected to move in that afternoon, and Luke and I had planned on hunting the afternoon, providing we finished the fence. We worked like crazy and finished sometime after noon.

"Considering the full moon phase, I told Luke we needed to be in our stands by 2 p.m. because the deer would be moving early. After settling in, my watch read 1:56 p.m. I hadn't been sitting long when a 10-point appeared. It was a buck that I had passed up a week earlier. He was a 140-class but too young to shoot."

MOMENT OF TRUTH

"Maybe 10 minutes later, a second buck came walking out of the thick brush 40 yards away. At first I couldn't tell exactly how big he was, but about then the sun broke through the clouds and shined on the deer like a spotlight. The first thing I noticed was the drop tine hanging from the right side, and then his mass. He was absolutely huge!

"The (second) buck started down the same trail as the other buck, so I was pretty sure I'd get a shot. At that point, I stopped looking at the antlers and concentrated on getting ready. The wind was out of the northwest, so I wasn't too worried about getting busted. He continued on a slow but steady walk. When his head passed behind a hackberry tree, I came to full draw. And when he stepped into the clearing, God was the only thing between us. The arrow flew true, and I watched the Aluminock disappear in the ribcage. The buck took off southbound through the timber as hard as he could go and eventually disappeared from sight.

"Any other time I would have sent a text message to Luke, but I was shaking like a leaf. Instead, I called Luke to tell him what happened. Luke is one of those guys that judges deer in inches, and the first thing he asked was, 'How big is he, 170 or 180?' I said, 'Heck, I don't know. He's got a big drop tine and (he's) definitely the biggest deer I've ever shot!'

"Of course, I couldn't just sit there, and I figured I'd at least climb down and find my arrow," continued Sheldon. "It wasn't hard to find -- the Aluminock stuck out like a sore thumb. From the amount of sign, I knew the buck was hit hard.

"It wasn't but 15 minutes later when my brother Pat and Luke showed up. We started tracking the deer where I had last seen him. Still in shock and somewhat dumb-founded, I followed behind Pat who

was in the lead. Like most people, they both had their noses to the ground looking for sign, but I was looking farther ahead. We hadn't gone far when I spotted the antlers, and took off on a trot. When I first walked up on the buck, I didn't know what to say or do. I simply dropped to my knees and thanked God for having the opportunity to take such a magnificent animal.

"Of course I was speechless, but the looks on Pat and Luke's faces were absolutely priceless."

"You've got to be kidding me," Pat said. "That's a 200-inch deer, Andy!"

"Well, I told you he was big," Sheldon responded, "but I didn't know how big."

"It wasn't long before my younger brother, Dustin, and Dad showed up," Sheldon recalled. "At that point it got pretty emotional, not just for me, but also for Dad. He's been instrumental in getting all us boys involved in hunting, and (he's) the patriarch of the Sheldon Deer Camp. It was a special moment, having all my closest family members there to share it with.

"Before we had the deer field dressed, Luke had already sent pictures out from his cell phone. By 7 that evening, I'm guessing 20 people had stopped by to see the deer. Even the local game warden, with whom I've worked as a Hunter Safety Instructor for the last 20 years, stopped by to congratulate me."

CONCLUSIONS

"In the past 34 years, I've killed a half-dozen deer that scored 150 or better, but walking up on this deer was a humbling experience," Sheldon said. "The memory of that will be with me for the rest of my life.

"I think too many hunters get hung up on shooting 'The Trophy' and lose sight of the hunting experience itself. Hunting is about having fun and being able to share those times with family and friends. Obviously, I don't shoot a big deer every time I go out, but I always have fun, regardless."

The Andy Sheldon buck was the fourth-largest non-typical archery buck entered in the 2009 Iowa Deer Classic. The deer has a 4x5 main frame and 13 abnormal points. The buck grossed 229 7/8 inches and officially netted 217 7/8 Pope and Young and Boone and Crockett points.

GEARING UP

Andy Sheldon used a Martin Bengal bow and 26-inch Easton Axis arrows tipped with 100-grain G5 Montech broadheads to harvest his Fremont County trophy.

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