If a hunter makes his or her goal taking a 200-inch buck with a bow, I suppose the place to do it is Iowa. The state allots nonresident deer licenses on a very limited basis. That, combined with excellent nutrition and firearm seasons that run after the rut, makes the Hawkeye State a whitetail hotbed where many bucks reach the older age classes and sport towering crowns.
While Iowa resident Derek Leinen had previously killed only one other buck with his bow, his goal was to kill a 200-inch buck. And he came very, very close to reaching it this November.
“I work for my father,” Leinen said. “We received a phone call at work late one afternoon. We were informed that someone had shot a deer, and that it had traveled onto our property. We met the neighbor who’d shot the deer at our property and helped him recover the young buck.”
Fascinatingly, the fellow mentioned that he’d captured a much larger buck on his trail camera.
“I’m not sure why,” Leinen said. “But he showed us a photo of a 17-pointer in velvet. My father and I exchanged wide-eyed glances. We’d been photographing some good bucks on our property, but nothing like that one.”
Obviously, knowing the huge buck was in the area stoked Leinen’s fire.
“I decided to start hunting more seriously, thinking I’d possibly get lucky enough to have him walk by me,” he said.
On a cold November morning, “I was sitting in one of my stands,” Leinen said. “Bucks were fighting and running all around, and I just couldn’t take it any longer, so I climbed down.”
While circling the property to look for possible shooters, Leinen glassed an adjacent cornfield owned by a neighbor who’d allowed him to hunt the property in the past.
“I saw a giant buck bedded in a cornfield with a doe,” he said. “There were six or seven other deer in that same cornfield. So, I went to the landowner and asked him if I could hunt. He gave me the green light.
“I spent a few minutes plotting my approach since the buck was just 200 yards from a state park,” Leinen continued. “I didn’t want to spook him into the park, so I parked my vehicle behind a hill and followed a terrace that bends around a hill to approach the buck. I followed it for about ¾ mile, and then I peeked over. The buck was 140 yards away and following a doe up a draw. If he continued his course, he’d soon be 50 yards from the end of the terrace.
“I tucked back down and quickly moved along the terrace to close the distance,” Leinen shared. “When I peeked over again, he was 70 yards away. I continued moving closer.
“Finally, my rangefinder read 60 yards,” he continued, “and I knew I could make that shot. He was bedded down with a doe and unaware of my presence. I was shaking like crazy, but managed to regain some composure as I prepared to shoot.
“I drew back and stood up, but realized my facemask was interfering with my bowstring, so I did my best and thought it was clear when I settled my pin on the buck and shot,” Leinen said. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t, and my arrow sailed about a foot high. The buck didn’t know what happened, so I ducked back down and nocked another arrow.”
Leinen immediately drew and rose back up over the terrace and realized that the buck had moved about 5 yards closer, making the second attempt — this time with his facemask clear — a 55-yarder.
“The doe was looking directly at me,” he said. “But the buck still had no idea I was there. He was sort of facing me, so I held my pin on his chest and waited for him to turn. Finally, he turned broadside, and I took my shot. It was a great hit, and he went about 100 yards before tipping over not far from the edge of the state park. The Good Lord made this all possible.”