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Public-Land Bowhunter Makes Last Minute Decision, Results in 210-incher

J.D. Vandenburg had poor luck for most of his hunting season, and he was almost ready to quit for the year. Luckily for him, he decided to hit the woods one more time.

Public-Land Bowhunter Makes Last Minute Decision, Results in 210-incher

Despite signs of heavy hunting pressure in the area, J.D. managed to locate and arrow this incredible public-land buck. Photo courtesy of J.D. Vandenburg

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For the most part, J.D. Vandenburg’s 2023 hunting season had been lackluster. He hadn’t had any encounters with any mature bucks, and he was about to quit for the season. With a little more than a week left in Iowa’s early archery season, J.D. decided it would be good to hunt a few more times.

J.D. says he didn’t even feel like going, but after his brother-in-law told him to finish strong, J.D. gathered his gear and drove to one of his favorite public hunting spots.

J.D. said the parking lot was empty, but it looked like it had seen quite a bit of human traffic in the past weeks. Undeterred, the bowhunter threw his gear on his back and headed to a spot he’d pinned with the onX Hunt app. J.D. walked through areas where he could tell other hunters had been, and as he neared his spot, he even noticed someone’s ladder stand not far from where he was going to hunt.

Thinking he wouldn’t see any deer at all, J.D. continued with his original plan and arrived at a tree he’d found while spring scouting. After setting up his platform, J.D. went to the base of the tree, put on his heavy outerwear, and ascended to his perch.

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Although he was ready to quit hunting for the season, J.D. decided to go just a few more times. That decision proved to be a good one. Photo courtesy of J.D. Vandenburg

“I had just strapped my release on my wrist when I heard some commotion behind me in a thicket,” J.D. says. “Squirrels were barking and such, so I really figured it was just the squirrels. I looked around my tree at the noise I was hearing and saw what was making the sound; it wasn’t a squirrel. It was a giant buck walking right for my position!”

The buck was 30 yards out and closing. Frantically, J.D. tried more than once to attach his release to his bow’s D-loop. After a few tries he made the connection, and since the buck was within range and walking broadside, J.D. drew on him and tried to get him to stop. Unfortunately, the giant kept walking. “I really thought he’d keep walking that way and cut my scent. Then it would be over,” J.D. recalls.

While the buck was still walking just 20 yards away, J.D. took aim and shot.

“I knew I’d hit him,” the bowhunter says. “But I also saw it was back a little and slightly high.”

After the shot, the buck ran hard for 20 yards then stopped and looked back as if nothing happened. J.D. thought about taking another shot, but he elected not to, because he didn’t want to scare and bump the buck.

“As he was standing there, I got my first good look at him,” J.D. explains. “I couldn’t believe how big he was – he was almost cartoon character looking to me.”

The buck trotted 60 yards while J.D. was praying the deer would go down. Then the giant went out of sight and into the timber. J.D. called his brother-in-law to tell him he’d just shot a 200-inch buck, and the two agreed to meet up and track the deer. As J.D. was gathering his gear from his tree, he scanned the timber where he last saw the buck go. He thought he’d seen a white belly and part of the antler through his binoculars. After studying it more, his eyes weren’t playing tricks on him; it was his buck, which had expired 150 yards from where he’d shot it. After confirming the buck was dead from his tree, J.D. called his wife to tell her the good news. The next call was to his brother-in-law; J.D. told him the great news through teary eyes. Eventually, his brother-in-law showed up to help get the buck out. J.D. says this was an unbelievable moment.

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“I just never thought anything like this would ever happen to me,” J.D. claims.

A rough score puts J.D.’s buck around 210 gross. A phenomenal buck anywhere, especially on public land!

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J.D.’s 2023 Iowa public-land buck gross scores 210 inches. Photo courtesy of J.D. Vandenburg



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