Jans was driving a dirt road on his way to check a trail cam when he first spotted the buck, on November 1, 2010. “I happened to look over and a big mature doe stood up in the road ditch 10 feet away. I slowed down to take a look and he stood up right behind her. He looked at me and I looked at him, and I thought, ‘Whoa, that’s a nice deer, I wonder if he’s on my trail cam.'” Sure enough, Jans found this shot of the buck taken a few nights before.
He immediately hung two tree stands at the edge of a 20-acre bedding area where he thought the buck might be checking for does. The next day Drop Tine showed up at 40 yards. “It wasn’t a real ethical shot because there was brush in the way, so I let him go,” Jans says. “I figured I’d get another chance.”
He did get another chance the next day–and the day after and the day after that. “Three days in a row he showed up in the same spot on the same trail,” Jans recalls. “I threw the book at him–grunts, rattles, bleats, snorts–but he wouldn’t respond to anything and I didn’t take the shot.”
Jans never saw the buck for the rest of the 2010 season. In April he began searching for the big deer’s sheds, but a neighbor found them first. The sheds from 2009 and 2010 (shown here alongside the skull-capped rack from 2011) show the buck’s progression over the last three years from a respectable 8-pointer to 200-class giant.
A certified public accountant, Jans stays extremely busy from January to April. After that he has more time for establishing food plots, scouting and generally getting his Jefferson County, Iowa, farm ready for the deer season. As fall 2011 approached, he began eagerly looking for the big buck to show up on his trail cams. “I knew he’d be a jumbo deer in 2011, and he became my main priority,” Jans says. But September passed with no sign of the buck and he began to worry. As he does every year, Jans shifted his trail cam strategy on October 1, moving the cameras to food plots, scrape sites and certain trails that he knows the deer frequent that time of year.
“As soon as I moved the cameras, bang, he showed up the next day and kept showing up,” Jans says. “I had photos of him every day of October.” The buck was a regular at this popular scrape site, which is about 40 yards from where Jans eventually shot the deer.
Even though many of the photos caught the buck moving during shooting hours after the October 1 archery opener, Jans kept his distance. “I always hunt does the first three weeks of October,” he says. “I try to shoot 15 does with my bow, and I stay away from my buck areas until October 25.” (Editor’s Note: Iowa regulations allow unlimited antlerless tags until county quotas are met.)
“I was able to hold off because I wanted to get a better idea what he was doing,” Jans explains. “The scrape he was hitting every day has about five trails leading to it, and without knowing which one he was using, I didn’t want to risk spooking him. With these big mature bucks you can’t go in until you’re sure you’re going to kill him. You’ve got to have the perfect wind and you have to do everything right.”
After studying the buck for most of October, Jans felt he had a good strategy. He actually had two stands–one for the buck’s morning route and one for its evening pattern. But unlike 2010, when the deer showed up the first day Jans hunted, in 2011 he still hadn’t spotted the buck after a half dozen sits. This trail cam photo was taken just four days before he shot the buck (the camera’s date stamp is off by a month and should read November 6), and it showed the big deer to be up and moving in daylight. Jans just needed to put the final piece of the puzzle in place.
The breakthrough came November 10. “I hunted what I thought was his morning stand until about 1:30, then climbed down to make lunch for my hunting buddies. I got my laptop out and organized all my trail cam pics by time so I could see when he was showing up at which stand. That’s when I realized I was hunting his morning site in the afternoon and vice versa.”
When Jans had climbed down from his morning stand he’d planned to switch to the second stand after lunch. Now he changed his strategy. “I told a buddy I was going back to the same stand I hunted that morning. He said, ‘Don’t do it. Don’t second guess yourself.’ I said, ‘No, I’m doing it–and I’m going to kill this deer tonight.'” Jans had called his shot. Now he had to back it up.
He hurried to his stand, arriving about 3:10–only two hours before the end of shooting light. “That’s kind of late for me, and I was in a hurry. I got settled in, and there’s a food plot 50 yards away that I glassed with my binoculars. Usually I see deer right away, but that day I saw nothing. I’m wondering where are all the does? How come I’m not seeing deer? I was kind of upset, thinking I’d gotten in too late. Then about 3:35 I heard a twig snap behind me.”
“I turned around slowly and saw a buck coming down a trail through the brush,” Jans recalls. “All I could see was the drop tine, and I knew it was him and I knew I wanted to shoot. I stood up slowly and grabbed my bow.”
“The trouble was, I hadn’t cleared a shooting lane to that trail, because I didn’t expect the buck to come that way. But I knew the trail and I knew where he was going to walk: I’d ranged a log on the trail at 30 yards, and I knew he had to step over that log. I knew there was just enough of an opening that if I leaned way out I could get an arrow through a small clearing in the brush. But I had to stop him at that log.”
Jans drew his bow as the buck walked steadily down the trail. “When he hit the spot I gave a little grunt, and he stopped. He didn’t look at me but looked down the hill, which was perfect. I set my 30-yard pin on him, paused, and squeezed the release. The shot passed right through him. He kind of hesitated, turned, and looked right at me–and that’s really when I knew for sure it was him.”
“I was shaking pretty hard. I almost fell out of my tree stand. I had a safety harness on and it caught me, or I probably would have fallen. It happened so fast that when I texted my buddy that I’d shot Drop Tine, he asked if I’d shot him from the ground. He was still on his way to his stand and couldn’t believe I was in mine already.”
The buck had run down the steepest hill on Jans’ farm and fell into a deep ravine. “When I looked over the edge and saw him lying there, it was a feeling I wish every bowhunter could have. It was a lot of excitement, a lot of feeling of accomplishment. I stood there for five minutes and just took it all in.”
Jans (with his wife, Carissa) also felt redeemed. Three years earlier, he’d missed a 10-yard shot on a double drop-tine buck. Two weeks later that buck was killed by a car, and its antlers were measured at 236 inches. “So I made up for that mistake; it was redemption to finally put a big buck down with a really hard shot.”
A green score on the 21-point rack grossed 202 3/8 nontypical. (The buck will be officially scored in February.) The rack’s height, with G2s topping 13 inches, more than compensates for the narrow inside spread of 14 4/8 inches. The beams stretch 24 inches and the drop tine measures 11 inches. Along with that height comes impressive mass, Jans notes. The rack and skull plate weigh slightly more than 10 pounds.
“What I like most about him is he’s probably one of the heaviest deer you’ll ever see; as far as carrying his mass throughout his rack he’s phenomenal. He’s basically a mainframe 8, and normally people discount any 8-pointer as a buck that will never be world class. This just shows that if a deer has the right genetics and the right growing conditions, even an 8-pointer can become a massive buck.”
Jesse Jans first encountered this dandy Iowa drop-tine from only 10 feet away, then spent a year pinpointing the big buck’s movements. Once he did, the North Liberty accountant told a hunting buddy over lunch one day that he’d have the 21-pointer on the ground that afternoon. Then–like Babe Ruth calling his homer in the 1932 World Series–Jans delivered. Here’s how…