Tony Lovstuen wasn't the only Iowa schoolboy to make hunting history in 2003. Brian Andrews also scored with a chart-buster, setting a state record in the archery category.
By Randy Templeton
In case you haven't heard, a young hunter bagged a world-class buck in Iowa last year.
I'm not talking about the one shot by young muzzleloader hunter Tony Lovstuen. That deer -- the world's biggest hunter-shot whitetail ever, at 307 5/8 net non-typical Boone and Crockett points -- has received his share of ink, starting with exclusive features in the January and February 2004 issues of this magazine. The buck to which I'm referring is another giant non-typical, this one shot by Brian Andrews of Independence. The 26-point Buchanan County brute has a net score of 253 1/8, smoking the state bow record by 12 5/8 inches and making him the world's No. 2 bow-taken whitetail of 2003.
KNOWING THE DEER
Before this buck was shot, few people knew he existed. One who did was Brian's dad, who was bowhunting when he first saw him in 2001.
"I've been hunting the same piece of ground for about 15 years now and can almost count on there being at least one good buck in the area every year," Randy says. "It was mid-November, and I was hunting from a fence line stand that evening. Just before sunset three deer appeared maybe 300 yards away, working up through a slough. Bringing up the binoculars, I could see two were does and the other a big buck. The buck never came close enough before dark, but at the time I estimated he'd score 180 to 200.
"While hunting the same stand about a week later, I spotted the deer again, crossing a picked soybean field on the adjoining property," Randy says. "Again, he was probably 250 to 300 yards away and came no closer. I hunted hard the remainder of archery season and throughout shotgun season but never saw the deer again."
Despite hunting hard, Randy didn't see the buck in the first two months of the 2002 bow season. Then, two days before opening day of shotgun season, Phil Fangman (cousin to Randy's wife, Karen) arrived at Randy's work site excited about a big buck he'd just seen standing 10 yards off the road. Phil and Randy immediately drove back to the spot, and when they finally spotted the deer, Randy recognized him as the same buck from 2001 -- only bigger.
Only months after the monster buck's sheds were picked up by two farmers in the area, Brian arrowed the record-breaking whitetail. Photo by Randy Templeton.
"Opening day (of gun season) Phil, Brian and I arrived before sunrise and set up in our usual spots," Randy says. "Brian was probably 200 yards from me in the fence line along a narrow 10-acre strip of timber. It was right at the crack of dawn when the big buck appeared with seven does in a field not far from where Phil and I had seen him two days earlier. I watched him through the binoculars -- then he took off running with the does in Brian's direction.
"I was almost certain he'd get a shot, but no shots were fired," Randy continues. "After a half-hour of sitting, I couldn't take it any longer and walked over to see why Brian hadn't shot. Brian told me only the does had come through! Evidently the buck had slipped through. It was the last time anyone saw him in 2002."
In early 2003, both of the deer's freshly shed antlers were discovered. Landowner Mike Frasher found the left side in March, nearly a mile from where the deer had been sighted; the right side was found nearly 1 1/2 miles from there by another landowner, Tom Griffin, in May.
By now the buck was drawing attention. In October, Jason Beatty spotted him on neighboring ground. Randy was certain it was the same deer, because Jason described the antlers to a tee. An avid bowhunter himself, Jason leased the adjoining 100-acre timber and set his sights on the deer.
It also would be Brian's first year of bowhunting. After a second year of practicing and spending time shooting the 3-D archery tournaments with his father, he'd become a better-than-average bow shot.
The typical frame of Brian's trophy has a gross score of 201 7/8 inches. At 253 1/8 net non-typical, he's truly world class. Photo by Randy Templeton.
In 2003 Brian turned 16, so by Iowa hunting regulations he was no longer eligible to hunt the early youth gun season. Not wanting to wait until the December shotgun season to go deer hunting, he decided to give bowhunting an honest chance.
Problem was, Brian didn't own a bow -- so he borrowed one from his sister Molly's boyfriend. After practicing with it, he was confident he could kill a deer within 20 yards.
The piece of ground Brian and his dad were hunting is approximately 160 acres, of which only about 10 are timbered. The timber amounts to nothing more than a narrow strip connecting to a larger block on the neighboring ground. The remaining acres are in CRP, consisting of tall grass and muliflora rose briars with a scattering of small trees in a draw running through the middle. The only other cover is a fence line made up of a few Osage orange trees.
"There really isn't any food on the ground we hunt, so the deer basically travel back and forth to the fields on the surrounding property," Brian says. "There was a picked cornfield to west, maybe 50 yards from my stand, and a fairly large picked soybean field to the south, about 100 yards away. On the east side is a small alfalfa field. My dad and I figured the deer in the area used the small timber and fence line as their two main travel routes going back and forth from where they feed and bed.
"I only had a chance to get out hunting a few times in October and hadn't seen a lot of deer," Brian recalls of his early efforts. "The majority of those were feeding in the picked cornfield to the west. At that point, the only buck that had come within range was a small spike."
During the last week of October, Brian started seeing more movement. On Nov. 1, he passed up a nice 8-pointer. Most of the new activity was concentrated out of bow range.
"It was then I started thinking it might be good to move a stand farther into the timber and close to where I had been seeing most of the deer," Brian says. "I felt once the rut got under way and bucks started cruising
for does, I stood the best chance of killing a nice deer there."
That night, the boy told his dad about the movement and suggested they move the stand. They normally hang or move stands together, but two days later, as Brian hunted elsewhere, Randy moved the stand on his own.
The new stand placement wasn't based on a plan to get the non-typical. "If it hadn't been for the sheds being found that spring and the fact that Jason Beatty had seen him in October, I wouldn't have had any confidence whatsoever the deer was still around," Randy notes.
He hunted the new stand three or four times, mostly going out in the late morning and sitting throughout the afternoon, but he didn't see the big deer -- or anything else worth shooting, for that matter. Then it was Brian's turn.
"I went out after school and hunted the stand for the first time on Nov. 5," the boy recalls. "I hadn't been sitting long when I spotted a real tall and wide 10-pointer back in the timber. The best I could tell, he might have been around a 150 class. I tried calling him in closer, but he just wouldn't come any closer than 50 or 60 yards.
"On the evening of Nov. 12, my dad I were sitting around talking when the conversation changed toward the big non-typical," Brian says. "Even though we were confident the buck was still alive, we had different opinions. Dad felt the buck was just too smart and would die of old age before someone killed him. I told him I didn't think so and it was just a matter of time before he screwed up big time and someone would shoot him.
"I was hoping to get out of school a little earlier the following afternoon, so I asked my mom if she could get me out the last hour," Brian continues. "She didn't say one way or the other whether she would.
"School let out at 3:06, and it took only a couple of minutes to drive home. After gathering up my gear, I drove out to the county yard to trade my car for Dad's truck. I was surprised when he asked me why I wasn't already hunting. Evidently Mom had changed her mind and called the school, but they forgot to tell me. Dad had been out on the roads for work earlier and said the bucks were really running hard and chasing does.
"It was about 3:45 when I arrived, and considering the time, I hurried to get ready," Brian adds. "After putting on my Scent-Lok suit, I sprayed down my clothes and equipment with Scent-A-Way and headed toward the stand.
The buck went several hundred yards after being hit, and the searchers had to rely on both blood and tracks to locate him. Photo by Randy Andrews.
"I arrived at the stand around 4 and quickly hung out a couple of white oak scent wafers, then squirted some Mrs. Doe Pee's Special Estrus scent around the base of the tree and on the main trail running by it," Brian says.
The young hunter hadn't been sitting long when he saw a spike running across the grass field. Brian wasn't sure whether the buck was running from him or trailing another deer.
After a few more minutes, Brian called a bit. Shortly afterwards, a doe came walking along the edge of the timber, followed by two more.
"Around 4:30, I called again," Brian says. "I started with a doe estrous bleat from the 'Big Can,' waited about five seconds to do it again, and then followed up with a couple of grunts.
"It wasn't but five minutes later that something caused me to look over my shoulder. When I did, I saw a buck about 30 yards away. It was the big one, and he had his nose to the ground, trotting right at me. I got ready to shoot, and when he came within about seven yards of the stand, I mouthed a 'murrp!' He instantly pulled to a stop with his nose still to the ground, sniffing the spot where I'd put out the scent, and then slowly turned broadside."
Brian drew, placed the sight pin right behind the shoulder and hit the release button. When the arrow hit, the buck took off on a hard run toward the hilltop, maybe 150 yards.
"Right after he cleared the top, I lost sight of him," Brian says. "I was pretty confident the shot was good, since I had watched the arrow pass through and could see it sticking in the ground, covered with blood."
Well after dark, the family headed out to find the deer. When Randy and Brian couldn't do so, they recruited Brian's mom and sister to help. Still nothing. Finally, at 10 p.m. the family went home, planning to search again in the morning. For Brian, it was an all but sleepless night.
Tragically, the mount of this buck was stolen from the Andrews home in Buchanan County on June 18. Eight days later, Jack Bell's 237 7/8-inch shotgun non-typical (featured in our Nov. 2003 issue) was stolen from that hunter's home in Des Moines County. While the two locations are several hours apart by car, the timing of the thefts has led investigators to wonder if they were in some way related.
If you have information that might aid authorities in recovering either of these world-class whitetails, please call the Buchanan County Sheriff's Department at 319/334-2567.
In Georgia: The unfortunate trend continued in Georgia. Read that story here.
The next morning, Randy, Brian and Phil picked up the sparse blood trail. It was in a direction Brian's sister had wanted to look the night before. Sure enough, the blood led that way, then across a cornfield.
"There was a good blood trail to follow until the buck ran into another open pasture," Brian says. "It had rained a couple of days before, and Phil picked up hoof prints and dewclaws in the soft dirt. From those we tracked him another 300 yards across the pasture. The buck had stumbled into the fence on
the other side, and the blood trail began to pick up again.
"After another 100 yards, the trail led into a dry creekbed. Dad had taken the lead when all of a sudden he started hollering that he'd found him.
"When I walked up on the buck, I was in total shock," Brian recalls. "I just stood there and stared at him. I really couldn't believe how big he was! Dad and Phil were excited, too. They started screaming and yelling, 'That's the one! That's the one we saw in the field last year!'
"It wasn't until we took the deer over to Buck Farni (a measurer in the area) that any of us really knew how big he was," Brian notes. After the 60-day drying period ended, Buck and Bob Moenk officially measured the tremendous deer at 253 1/8 net Boone and Crockett points.
Later, Brian would learn that another bowhunter had seen the big buck. At a family reunion, Phil's nephew, Jason Sullivan, told his uncle he'd spotted the deer three times in October. On one of those days he'd had the buck within 60 yards of his stand. That sighting had occurred in nearly the exact spot where the right shed had been found months before.