Last month, we looked at the overall picture for deer hunting in Iowa for the previous year as well where hunters might have the best chance to harvest a deer during the upcoming season. We highlighted some of the counties where harvests were highest, offering options for hunters to fill their tags. This month, we’ll look at some recent history for trophy bucks in Iowa and where you’re most likely see these big deer.
Hunters from across the country vie for tags that will give them a chance to harvest the buck of a lifetime. Allamakee County has a long history of holding the top spot as far as Iowa’s trophy buck locations are concerned, and last season was no exception. Clayton County held the No. 2 spot, followed by Warren, Marion and Van Buren counties. We had the privilege of talking with a few hunters that harvested true Iowa giants, and they gave us details regarding what it took to tag a trophy.
RECORD BUCKS 2016 AND 2017
One of the greatest benefits that we enjoy here in Iowa is that we can travel across the state and find some amazing hunting in each area.
For the 2016-2017 season, there were some remarkable animals harvested. Let’s take a look at some of the bigger bucks tagged recently.
Deer that are registered with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources are considered trophies by meeting criteria that are similar to the standards set by the other record-keeping organizations, but with a minimum score starting at 135 for typical archery bucks and 150 for typical shotgun or muzzleloader bucks. The non-typical minimums start at 155 for archery bucks and 170 for gun bucks.
Boone & Crockett minimum scoring requirements for a typical whitetail deer are 160 inches for the three-year awards book and 170 inches for the all-time-record book. The minimum requirements for a non-typical whitetail deer are 185 inches and 195 inches, respectively.
Minimum scores are lower for Pope & Young because of the strict use of archery equipment. A typical whitetail deer must be at least 125 inches, while a non-typical must reach at least 155 inches to be considered for entry. To be eligible for entry in the Boone & Crockett records as well as Pope & Young, hunters must comply with the requirements of fair chase.
Larry Stanley, of Waukee, had the biggest deer registered with the IDNR for the 2016-2017 season. Larry’s buck scored 226 5/8 and was harvested in Dallas County. Following the Stanley deer is a 215 3/4 trophy deer taken by Jon Henson of Carroll. This amazing deer was harvested in Greene County and was also the largest deer taken by a bow that was registered with the IDNR. Finishing out the top three deer for last year’s season is another giant from Palo Alto County taken by James Klepper of West Bend. His deer measured just short of the No. 2 spot at 215 3/8. All three of the top deer were non-typical deer. Another Iowa monster that gained lots of attention was a state crossbow-record typical buck harvested in Clarke County by Austin Pontier that netted 194 1/8.
We also had some younger hunters register record book bucks with the IDNR for 2016. Sitting atop at age 11 was Izzy Jones from Washington, Ia., with a 192-7/8-inch muzzleloader buck. This non-typical trophy was harvested in Washington County.
The second-largest whitetail buck recorded by a youth was harvested by 12-year-old Cannon Roberson of Indianola. This buck, taken with a muzzleloader as well, was a non-typical 173 3/8 from Warren County. Rounding out the top three for our youth hunters is 14-year-old Silas Klyn, from Harvey. Taken from Marion County with a bow, this buck measured 164 5/8 inches. Congratulations to these young hunters on what certainly will be a buck to remember for a lifetime.
Deric Sieck is no stranger to monster bucks here in Iowa. He already has a 174-inch trophy that he’s registered with the IDNR. And last season, a true Iowa giant and Sieck crossed paths. The buck was taken in Fayette County on private land Nov. 21, 2016, felled by a Hoyt Carbon Defiant 34 bow. The gross score for the bruiser buck was 288 4/8 inches. It netted 282 2/8, with 35 scorable points.
“We narrowed down his core area substantially in the late summer and early fall of 2016,” noted Sieck. “This knowledge gave me the information I needed to ground stalk this deer to 43.5 yards on Nov. 21.”
Having a southeast wind, Sieck took a different path through a dry creek to get into his blind.
“I spotted the deer bedded down from me plus or minus 100 yards or so,” he continued. “I picked a tree that I thought was in bow range and used the sand and rock of the creek to my advantage as I made my approach.”
The shot from the bow double- lunged the deer, causing the animal to make a run up a steep bank. “He gave me another opportunity for a second shot, which I took, putting a second arrow through the lungs, and he dropped.”
Sieck noted that at the time of this writing he was waiting on the paperwork from Pope & Young so he could register the deer with the IDNR, officially becoming the largest deer harvested with a bow. He already has the Boone & Crockett score and is fully aware of the significance of this deer.
“He was definitely a once in a lifetime deer, and I know how lucky I am to have harvested this animal,” Sieck said. “Sometimes it’s just better to be lucky than good,” he concluded with a chuckle.
Another impressive specimen registered with the IDNR in 2016 was a 20-point monster deer taken by Larry Stanley from Waukee. This buck was harvested from private property in Dallas County and measured 226 5/8 inches. The buck was taken with a CVA Optima .50 caliber muzzleloader. One of the things that makes this buck such a prize is the fact that Stanley had no knowledge beforehand of its existence.
“I have hunted this ground for numerous years and had a pretty good idea of where the trails, beds and rubs had been,” explained Stanley. “The area showed good deer activity, and I’d seen good deer here before, so I set up my BlackOut blind about 35 yards off an intersection.”
There was some work to be done after setting the blind up, such as clearing shooting lanes and dealing with some underbrush. Once the work was completed, the blind was left to sit for a month prior to the season opener.
“I wanted to take advantage of some of the outside hunting pressure during the first shotgun season so I decided to head to the blind,” noted Stanley. “There were several does and a small buck that came by that first couple of days, but nothing that piqued my interest.”
A few days later, Stanley was in the blind before sunrise and there was plenty of action early. There were several smaller deer, along with a medium-sized 8-point buck, milling about and feeding. The hunter noticed that they were not only eating but also looking up at something else.
“Sure enough, a nice 8- to 10-point buck came into view,” continued the hunter. “Having decided to take this deer, I raised my muzzleloader up and took aim when I noticed something white moving to the left of him.”
As the deer moved to within 40 yards he knew it was big, but had no idea how many points or how large the buck was due to the brush between them. Opting to harvest this new arrival, Stanley took aim and waited for the buck to clear a tree.
“I aimed just behind the shoulder and fired my muzzleloader,” said Stanley. “Through the smoke, I saw him rock sideways a bit, and he took off tail down over the hillside.”
Making a mental note of the trees that he shot the deer by as well as those that he was last seen, the hunter decided to wait at least 30 minutes before tracking him.
“That half hour took days to pass!” he reflected. Walking slowly toward the last known spot, he found good sign that he’d hit the deer well.
After cresting the hill, Stanley saw the deer lying next to a tree. The buck lifted its head and stood.
“It was at that point that all my 40 years of hunting whitetail deer was rendered useless,” remarked Stanley. “All I could think was ‘Wow that is a lot of horn!’” Attempting to calm himself down, he took another shot, missing everything. The buck disappeared down the hill and Stanley reloaded.
“As I’m reloading I’m doing everything I can to calm myself down. It was weird to have buck fever at my age, and I felt like a teenager. But I knew I needed to regroup.”
The hunter checked where he’d last seen the deer and again found good sign, confirming his thoughts of a well placed first shot. Checking his phone for the time, he sat and listened for a bit. After another 30 minutes, he went off in search of the deer. Finding the buck lying motionless, he ducked behind a cedar and waited to see if he could get a clean shot.
“I didn’t want to risk hitting the rack so I waited,” added Stanley. A short time later a doe walked by, and the buck got up and began following her. He turned and offered Stanley an open shot, which he took. The buck dropped. He reloaded just in case, but the deer was not moving.
“It was then I finally realized that this majestic deer was finally mine. I stood in amazement as I looked at the size and uniqueness of the rack,” concluded Stanley. “I put the tag on him and called my son in law, enlisting his help in getting him out of the woods.”
Being in the right place and right time holds true for this hunter. There were no trail cam photos of this deer, and this was never a planned hunt or harvest. For some, the excitement starts the day the deer is discovered in photos or during scouting. For this hunter, it was a chance encounter that led to a record harvest and a memory that will last a lifetime.
Jasper County frequently falls within the top locations when it comes to big deer, and this buck is no exception. Taken during late season muzzleloader in January of 2017, this bruiser measured 171 inches and had 11 scorable points. It had the potential for a greater score, but four additional points did not survive the rut.
“I was late getting ready for an evening hunt one January afternoon, but decided to go anyway,” noted Bill Henninger, of Newton. “I was out at my tree stand by 3:30 p.m. and made sure that the buck had not already entered the field.”
It was a very windy day, and Henninger opted to sit on the ground rather than the tree stand, using the terrain to block the wind. Having been unsuccessful during the bow season he heard some shooting as he settled in, giving him hope that maybe deer had been pushed his way.
“At about 4:15, a big buck jumped the fence and was heading in my direction,” explained Henninger. “He walked slowly to within about 60 to 70 yards when I took the shot. I fired from a sitting position and felt as though I had gotten a solid shot, confident that the deer had been hit well.”
The buck ran off, wobbling a bit. And after about 20 minutes Henninger went to the open field where he’d seen the deer run to.
“He was not down, and I’ve bumped deer in the past, which makes them hard to track. So, I backed out and opted to wait until morning to track him,” added Henninger.
From what the hunter could see, this appeared to be a buck that he’d captured on camera. The buck had a unique tall and narrow rack. The next morning, accompanied by his grandson, Henninger took off in search of his deer. The animal was found about 150 yards from where he had been shot. The hit was farther back than the hunter had thought, and he noticed a compound fracture to one of his rear legs, which is why the deer was having a hard time running.
“Other hunters in the area believe that this deer to be as old as 10 years, certainly 6 or 7 based on trail-cam photos we have,” concluded Henninger.
Iowa … the land where giants roam and where dreams are made. “Is this Heaven?” asked an actor from a famous movie. … “No, it’s Iowa.” Good hunting!