The Freak: PART II

Legendary Whitetails

…continued from The Freak: Part I

As we talked about earlier in Part I, “The Freak” arrived back on our farm during the first week of November. Remember, this was after my husband David had already filled both of his archery tags. With the bow season in full swing and the rut and the two gun seasons ahead, the days leading up to the hunt were filled with anxiousness and anticipation. Every phone call or text message during this time created a bit of nervousness, wondering if he had been harvested.

The season slowly passed by as we waited for our chance during the late-muzzleloader season. Finally, the second shotgun season was about to close and “The Freak” was alive and well! David checked the cameras and had a recent picture in the same area as before. Words cannot describe my feelings knowing our late-muzzle season was about to open the next morning. Being pumped up would be an understatement. Knowing this giant was hanging out in a very huntable part of the farm meant the adrenaline was flowing well before the hunt even began!

Trail Camera picture of The Freak, a giant Iowa Buck

It was at this point when I got totally blindsided by David. We were making plans for our hunt the next morning when he advised me to forgo the morning hunt and to go out around noon instead. Really?? I have ALWAYS hunted during my season from dark to dark, all day, everyday and he was telling me not to go out on my opening morning?! Oh, and he was so nice, he told me I could either trust the guide or fire him!! Well, isn’t that choice just great! After thinking about it for a short time and realizing he has been bow hunting for 50 years, I reluctantly agreed. He always gives me the choice of location and stand during my season providing the wind and conditions are right. Because of the wind, I selected a plot on the perimeter of his core area and I couldn’t wait for the hunt to begin.


On opening day, I was in my blind around noon with mild temps and a southerly wind. The only thing on my mind was The Freak and whether he would show. The day passed with only seeing a couple young bucks and a few antlerless deer.


The wind change on day two gave me the opportunity to hunt my favorite area on the farm and also on the edge of his core area. Again, the day passed without The Freak showing up. However, David had an encounter with him during the last hour of the season only to have a coyote spook a mature buck in front of him and end his chances. I did feel bad for him, but only for a short time, because he already had harvested two great bucks during the early bow season! He did tell me that The Freak was phenomenal and by far the largest buck he had ever seen.


On day three the weather was similar to the day before, so I returned to my same blind about noon. Movement was good with several bucks and does appearing in the plot throughout the afternoon, but The Freak was the only buck on my mind.


December 22, day four, the weather changed with the winds going more to the north and the pressure rising, David gave me the green light to do an all-day hunt. These conditions were absolutely perfect for my favorite stand and again I was going to return. With daylight breaking we worked our way to the stand, which is an elevated box blind overlooking a large corn field. Somehow, I believe he knew that day was going to be special because he usually wishes me good luck and off he goes. This day he looked at me and said, “Stay within your range, pick your shot, and shoot straight,” and the door closed.

At about 8am deer started to show up and the action was continuous throughout the morning and into the early afternoon. At about 3pm I sent a couple texts to David letting him know movement was great throughout the day, but no Freak. A few minutes later the deer in the field raised their heads and began cautiously leaving the area. My first thought was a coyote was near and my hunt may be in jeopardy. To my shocking surprise, looking to my left, I spotted The Freak standing along the edge of the timber and the corn at about 50 yards!

My heartbeat quadrupled IMMEDIATELY as I stared in disbelief at the most magnificent buck I had ever seen. Briefly, I soaked in his majestic beauty and wondered how I could possibly take this animal, he was SO AMAZING, I was star struck! But, that thought was fleeting & I needed to get my act together!

Typical me, I’m not ready, windows closed, gun in the corner, and my body is shaking uncontrollably! I get 2 windows open as the main event makes his way right in front of me only 50 yards out.  There isn’t a bone, muscle or nerve that isn’t shaking or pounding, a feeling that I will never forget. I get the barrel of my faithful muzzleloader out the window and for the life of me I can’t get him in my scope and its ticking me off!  For the next 10 seconds, I’m trying to find him in my scope and he’s moving further away and heading into the corn. If he gets into that corn field, I know I may not see him again, the pressure is on!

All of sudden it dawns on me, the scope is FOGGED UP!! I reach for my sweatshirt and slowly wipe one end and then realize after a failed attempt to still get him in my sights, DUH there’s two ends to clear on the scope!! Immediately I have him in my sights at 74 yards and on cue, The Freak turns broadside. I have a ritual that I go thru before I pull the trigger that always calms me and I can stop shaking before I pull the trigger…not this time. I can’t stop trembling. So, I released my fingers off the gun, took a couple deep breathes and heard David say, “Pick your spot and shoot straight.”

I held on tight and pulled the trigger. I can’t tell you if the smoke cleared. He lunged and turned completely around and then walked like 4 steps…NO WAY did I miss!

Then boom, he bolted and the corn stalks were flying thru his monster rack and The Freak dropped 30 yards away, on the same spot where I first saw him. It happened so fast, and I’m in shock and shaking so bad, that there’s NO WAY I can text David. When I get him on the cell, he keeps asking me, “Is he down? Is he down?” David knows it better have been me that shot and I only had one buck on my hit list. In between sobbing hysterically, I managed to say “YES, THE FREAK IS DOWN!”

The Freak: Lyla Nennig 2016 Giant Iowa BuckThe Freak had 28 scorable points with a gross score of 268 6/8 and a net of 251 7/8 non-typical. Just an amazing animal!

I waited patiently for David and our friend and local game warden, Michael, to arrive. I tried to breathe and was convinced at this point, that I did not need a stress test and my cardiologist would be happy I survived this challenge of a lifetime. When David and Michael drove up, I climbed down from my shack and walked over to them shaking their heads in disbelief at our trophy. Since my limbs were still on the shaky side, David proceeded to make a few phone calls and needless to say, the celebration began. . .for 2 days!

For years, we anticipated this moment, for years we watched The Freak mature, for years we waited to find his sheds to know he survived. So, when people ask, “Why would you tell the world about this Buck”?  My answer is, “How could we NOT?” As I write this, and relive that day, all the emotions come flooding back, even the racing heart. I see The Freak in all his glory, standing, head high with his massive rack covering the trees behind him, one of thee most amazing creatures of GOD.

We get asked a lot, “Did David, let you shoot that trophy?”

Well, David and I are a team. We both work hard and have made sacrifices to obtain the chance to have a Dream season like we did. The Freak has given us great joy and we love sharing his story, our journey with him. Is there a part of me that feels bad that David did not get The Freak with the bow? YES, but only a very tiny part! David couldn’t be happier for me, for us, that we were blessed with this opportunity to show what hard work, perseverance, and patience can accomplish if you want it bad enough.

Lyla Nennig with her giant 240" Iowa buck

“The Freak” was still in the late velvet stages, probably due to his injury the previous year. He was 6 1/2 years old with 26 scorable points, with a 24 inch inside spread. His gross score is unknown at this time, but several official scorers estimate him to be in the 240 to 250 gross range. They indicated he may be the largest gross buck ever harvested by a female muzzleloader hunter. We are looking forward to seeing where “The Freak ” ranks among female hunters in both the state and world.

Written By: Lyla Nennig | IA Deer Hunter

RELATED: The Freak: Part I

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