For those who follow big-deer stories in North American Whitetail, you might remember the phenomenal 2003 Iowa deer season like I do. 2003 happened to be the year that 15-year-old Tony Luvstuen shot the largest whitetail ever taken by a hunter with a muzzleloader. He took the record deer during Iowa’s youth season. Tony’s 38-point megabuck scored 307€‚5/8 and ranks No. 3 in the world behind the Hole in the Horn buck and the Missouri Monarch. (Both of those deer were found dead, so Tony’s buck ranks as the largest whitetail ever taken by a hunter.)
Later that same season, 16-year-old Brian Andrews rocked Iowa when he arrowed a giant non-typical that clinched the title as the state’s largest non-typical bow kill ever with a score of 253€‚1/8. With this kind of track record, Iowa truly is the land of the giants!
Fast forward to Oct. 16, 2008. While hunting in Jackson County on that historic day, 24-year-old Kyle Simmons of Spragueville arrowed an Iowa giant that green-scored 270€‚6/8 non-typical points. The massive 28-point non-typical was initially green-scored as a main-frame 7×8 with 13 additional abnormal points. This is not an official score, and the official entry score could change as much as 10 to 12 points depending on how the rack is scored.
The official entry score will also be subject to change because the rack will in all likelihood be panel-scored by both Boone and Crockett and Pope & Young at their next awards ceremonies. (The next Boone and Crockett awards will be in June 2010, and the next Pope & Young awards will be in April 2009.)
Naturally, when a deer like Kyle’s is publicized over the Internet, the rumors start to fly. Here is Kyle’s amazing story about a buck that may well be a new non-typical state record by bow, as well as one of the largest whitetails taken in North America during the 2008-2009 season.
THE EARLY YEARS Kyle didn’t actually begin bowhunting until three years ago, but he’s not new to deer hunting by any means. At the age of 12, he began hunting with his father, Todd. Kyle didn’t shoot a deer that first season, but the following youth season he shot his first buck, an 8-pointer that scored 135 inches. A few years later, he shot another dandy 8-pointer. When he started bowhunting, he became more selective, and he frequently passed up smaller bucks.
“As far as I know, the first time anyone knew the big deer existed was last spring when Dad and my younger brother, Lance, came home from shed hunting on the property where we hunt,” Kyle said. “Lance had found both sheds from a big non-typical that none of us had ever seen before. I measured the sheds afterwards. Needless to say, when I came up with 190 inches, we were all pretty excited about the upcoming season.
“My dad has been hunting the same property since 1984, so there’s not much reason to do a lot of scouting. If we do, it’s usually during the late muzzleloader season, or just after the season closes. In 2008, however, we did set out a few trail cameras in early September. We set up one in the general area of where Lance had found the sheds. We set up several others in different spots around the farm.
“We hoped to get photos of the big buck, but our primary goal was to get photos of several bucks we might be hunting in 2008. As it turned out, we got pictures of six different bucks, but none of the non-typical.”
KYLE’S 2008 STRATEGY The property where the Simmons family hunts is about 600 acres in size. Roughly half of that is timber. The remainder consists of CRP land and crop ground. The timbered portion is rugged and comprises steep ridges, bluffs and deep ravines. The landowner usually plants food plots every year. But as with much of Iowa during the spring of 2008, high water flooded out much of the bottom ground, and no planting was possible.
“During the early season, bucks really don’t seem to spend much time in the open, so my strategy was to hunt deeper in the timber, mainly on the travel routes between bedding areas and food,” Kyle said. “I also like to hunt staging areas, but I usually go just a little deeper in the woods than most. Since there wasn’t any food in the bottoms in the fall of 2008, I concentrated on hunting the south end of the property where there were standing corn and soybeans.
A DATE WITH DESTINY “I only hunted twice during the first two weeks of the season,” Kyle said. “Other than seeing a few does and fawns, both days were pretty slow. It had been very warm, and the deer simply weren’t moving.
“I’ve always heard that the best times to hunt are two days before a full moon and two days after. That was the case on Thursday, Oct. 16 (the moon had been full the day before). The temperature had dropped that morning, and I planned on hunting a stand where I had a trail camera set up so I could download the photos onto my laptop. But I never made it to the stand before getting busted by a doe. She stood there blowing for three or four minutes. I really wanted to hunt that area again, but I didn’t want to stir things up anymore, so I went back home.
“I took a nap and woke up around noon. After showering, I gathered up my gear and got ready to head out again. The wind was coming out of the north, exactly what I had hoped for. We didn’t have any stands in this particular area, so I took my climber.
“I arrived around 1:45 p.m. Before leaving the truck, I sprayed down my clothing, gear and stand with Scent-A-Way. I followed the fence line to the far end of the property. The area is probably the thickest on the farm, and I probably made a lot of noise going in. In fact, as I started down the hill toward the big valley that runs north and south through the timber, a bunch of turkeys scattered.
“When I reached the bottom, I veered away from the fence and headed north to a spot where two valleys came together. There’s a flat spot about a half-acre in size and fairly open. The valleys create a natural funnel, and it looked like a good place to set up, so I started looking for a tree to climb.
A FAST-PACED AFTERNOON “After finding a tree and climbing up, I didn’t like the way it looked. I’m a right-handed shooter, and there were too many branches in the way and I couldn’t shoo
t to my left. To compensate, I swung the stand around another 45 degrees. It was probably 2:30 by then, so I sprayed down one more time and settled in.
“Around 3 o’clock, I took my rattle bag out and rattled lightly for about a minute. I then followed up with one long grunt and one short grunt from my Primos Buck Roar. I had been sitting for a while, and sort of daydreaming, when a flock of turkeys started cutting and scratching leaves on the sidehill. Two or three minutes later, I heard something walking from behind. When I turned to look, I saw only the back half of a big deer moving toward me. Immediately, I stood up and grabbed my bow.
“When I turned back, I saw a big rack and knew instantly that the deer was a shooter. The buck stuck his head behind a tree, and I swung the bow around and got ready. As he passed behind the next tree, I drew my Martin Moab. The buck took a couple of steps and stopped behind a small clump of scrub brush. I couldn’t shoot, but I continued to hold at full draw while at the same time telling myself not to look at the rack.
“He made two more steps and entered the shooting lane. That’s when I settled the pin and hit the release trigger. The instant the arrow hit, the buck spun to the left and ran maybe 50 yards before stopping. From what I could see, the arrow hit a hair too far back, but it had good penetration and it had been angling forward. The buck stood there for probably 30 seconds, and then he went down. At that point, I was shaking so bad that I had to sit down for fear of falling out of the tree.
AFTER THE SHOT “Almost immediately I sent Lance a text message telling him that I’d shot the same buck that he had found the sheds from. I explained that the shot might have been a bit far back. Lance answered my text saying, ‘Dad wants you to call him!’
“The buck must have been lying there for 10 or 15 minutes when he suddenly rolled over and stood up. He walked a couple of yards and then lay down again. That’s when I called Dad to tell him what was going on. Dad said, ‘Let’s just wait it out and see what happens.’
“I sat there watching the deer for the next couple of hours, keeping in contact with Dad off and on. Around 6:30, I called to let him know that I was thinking about climbing down and trying to get another arrow in the buck. Dad said, ‘Don’t even think about trying to do that! If the deer hasn’t moved anywhere by now, chances are he won’t if you give him enough time. Just climb down quietly and come home!’
“I climbed down while it was still light and snuck out the back way, making a big circle around the buck. I was fairly confident I hadn’t jumped him in the process. After a long and agonizing wait, Lance, Dad and I headed out to look for the deer at about 11 p.m. When we arrived, I went to the spot where the deer had been standing when shot, while Dad started walking the path that he had taken. I found a pool of blood where the deer first had gone down, but I couldn’t find the landmark where I had last seen him. I went back to the tree stand to get my bearings. That’s when I spotted an old stump the buck had walked by.
THERE HE IS! “I walked to that spot and started scanning the brush, but I couldn’t see much with my light. Lance had a brighter light, so I asked him to bring it over. I had just started scanning the area with his light when I spotted the buck lying there dead.
“After a couple of minutes of hooting and hollering, I had to sit down. At that point I was speechless. I must have sat there for three or four minutes looking at the deer and not saying a word. In fact, I hadn’t even touched the deer yet. From where I sat, I could only see one side of his rack, but he still looked huge. Dad actually got the first look at the other side. He said, ‘If you think that side is impressive, this side is even more impressive!’ ”
Todd had been going in another direction when he heard the boys start yelling. “They were excited to say the least,” Todd said. “To put things in perspective, a neighbor lives about a half-mile away, and I’m sure those boys must have raised him out of bed.
“Like Kyle, I was almost speechless when I first saw the rack,” Todd continued. “When I first walked up on the deer, his head was drooped over a ditch, and I couldn’t see the other antler beam. However, as I approached from below and saw the other side, I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God, this thing is huge!’
“The buck was definitely the same deer that Lance had found the sheds from, but he was so much bigger,” Todd added. “He must have put on at least another 50 inches from the previous year.
“After Kyle had taken about 20 pictures, we attempted to drag the deer out. It was maybe 300 yards to the truck, but the deer was in a very thick area and we didn’t make much headway. In the end, we removed the heavy hindquarters to lighten the load. It was still 2:30 a.m. before we reached the truck.
FINAL THOUGHTS “As soon as we got home, we skinned the deer out and got the cape cooled down. It was probably 3:30 a.m. before we finished up.”
An autopsy of the vital organs revealed a one-lung hit, which explains why the deer lived so long. The old saying “When in doubt, back out” certainly rang true in this case.
With the publicity that a deer of this caliber gets, much of which is often negative, a friend suggested that Todd call the local game warden. Todd called Mike Macke, the DNR officer for Jackson County.
“I got a call the day after Kyle Simmons shot the deer and was asked to come out and look it over,” Officer Macke said. “I went to the house and looked the carcass over. Everything appeared to be aboveboard. So I feel comfortable in saying it’s a legitimate bow kill. I found nothing that would indicate otherwise.”
As mentioned, with a green score of 270€‚6/8, there’s an excellent chance that Kyle Simmons’ one-of-a-kind Iowa megabuck will be a new state record by bow. Also as mentioned, the buck was green-scored as a main-frame 7×8 with 13 additional abnormal points. With a 23€‚4/8-inch inside spread, the typical portion of the frame grosses 233€‚1/8 inches. After 14€‚7/8 inches in side-to-side deductions, the typical portion of the frame netted 218€‚2/8. That’s larger than Milo Hanson’s world record typical (213€‚5/8). With the addition of 52 4/8 inches in non-typical growth, Kyle’s Iowa megabuck green-scores an unbelievable 270€‚6/8 inches!
Although the answer is quite obvious, I asked Kyle what, in his opinion, sets his deer apart from any others he’s taken in the past. His answer surprised me.
“Other than his size, this is actually the first deer I’ve ever taken with a bow!” Kyle said. “Sure, I’ve had small bucks within range, but I’ve always passed them up, holding out for something bigger. When I first started bowhunting, Dad kept telling me that I needed to shoot a deer and it really didn’t matter how big. My response to him was always the same, ‘If you shoot all the good ones, you’ll never shoot a great one!’ Now how true is that?”
In closing, I would like to thank Kyle and his family for giving me the opportunity to bring this exclusive story to the readers of North American Whitetail. Moreover, congratulations on taking such a magnificent trophy!