Last weekend I had the pleasure of traveling across eastern Iowa with our TV crew, and meeting and filming local 3 hunters who shot giant bucks that, combined, have more than 725 inches of non-typical antler.

iowa hein 2011 1

First stop Muscatine County, where Paul Hein has taught welding at the high school for 34 years. Paul, who loves his job and the kids, also loves to bowhunt in the afternoons when school lets out. One November day in 2011, he hurried to his tree stand and shot a freakish buck with double main beams that scored 219 (above).

Iowa simmons buck

Next it was on to Jackson County, where we met the Simmons boys. In this job I enjoy nothing more than to meet families with strong bonds and who hunt together. Todd (far right) has archery hunted the same farm for more than 30 years, and he got his sons, Lance and Kyle, into it. One March day in 2009, Lance found those sheds he is holding…one afternoon 7 months later brother Kyle shot the monster, which grossed 275 and netted 264 6/8. Kyle’s buck is the #1 archery NT in the Iowa Trophy Records, and one of the Top 5 Pope & Young bucks shot anywhere in America.

iowa kylly doyl and me

Finally, we rolled down to Walker, Iowa, and I got an up-close look at the stunning 244 6/8-inch giant that Kelly Doyl shot during the resident early muzzleloader season in 2010.

As I listened to the hunters tell their stories, the similarities of how the bucks lived and how the hunts went down are of great interest.

Seems every giant you see killed these days, the hunter had some history with it, and a few to a bunch of trail-camera pictures of it. Not these. While there were rumors of somebody having an image of both of the Simmons buck and the Doyl buck, no documented cam photos have ever turned up, which means there are none. They would have hit the Interweb long ago.

None of the hunters had ever seen the buck before the day he killed it! The farmer on the land Paul hunted had seen a big-bodied deer that “looks like he has two racks on his head” so Heiner had that bit of intel to go on, but that’s it.

All 3 hunters had rattled just before the bucks showed up. Paul’s hunt was during prime rattling time in mid-November, but both Kelly and Kyle rattled their bucks in mid-October, which to my mind has always been a little early for the best horn-cracking. I might change my mind now! Actually, there is science to support rattling in big bucks in the pre-rut. According to noted Iowa deer scientist Mickey Hellickson, you’re apt to rattle in the most bucks in the November rut, but your chances of bringing in a really big deer might be a better in the October pre-rut, just like Kyle and Kelly did.

There is interesting shed info with the Simmons and Doyl bucks. One day in March Lance Simmons found both antlers dropped close together in the timber on the farm, and 7 months later, Kyle arrowed the giant from a stand only 400 yards away! After word got out that Kelly had killed his monster, a man came forward and gave Kelly the sheds that he had found 5 miles away! One buck was a homeboy, the other a traveler, presumably between summer/fall and winter core areas.

And notably, all these mega-buck kills happened fast. Watch the show and you’ll hear all 3 hunters say something like, “I heard something and looked up and there he was!” That was a good thing. None of the men had time to get nervous; they just reacted and killed their dream bucks in a split-second.

Paul, Kelly and Kyle are what BIG DEER is all about. Nice, humble, salt-of the-earth guys who work hard and hunt hard, just like you do. I’ll let you know when this new episode of BIG DEER TV will appear later this fall on Sportsman Channel.