By Daniel Dye
-- Sandwiched between two of the country's most fabled monster buck states, Illinois and Ohio, you'll find Indiana. Known more for the historic Indianapolis Speedway and the Indianapolis Colts than big bucks, most avid trophy hunters skip the state altogether to reach what are some of the country's most well-known hunting grounds in whitetail country.
However, Justin Rowland and his 200-plus-pound, 13-point bruiser reveals that the Hoosier State offers up quality deer, too.
Justin's history is a typical story of a young man growing up. He hunted a great deal as a teenager where he learned the ropes of the outdoors with his best friend, Shane Maust, and Shane's dad. As time passed, Justin set aside his passion for hunting and invested his time in pursuing a college degree, a career and a family.
Then on the heels of the fall 2007 Indiana bow season, Justin's life changed. Following a divorce, he suddenly had a lot of time on his hands. So he went back to his childhood passion to pass the time and fill a void.
"In August, I bought a new bow and started practicing nearly every day," he said. "I primarily hunted with a bow as a kid and noticed that the technology has changed a lot in those 15 years since I last hunted. I bet I had almost 300 shots on my new bow before deer season started. All I wanted to do was shoot."
That new bow instantly set the wheels in motion for what would be Justin's first buck - a trophy buck by anyone's standards. But it would not come to him without a challenge and some second-guessing on his part.
He traveled to northern Indiana during opening weekend of bow season but came home empty-handed. A quick phone call to his uncle, who owns a farm in White County, gave the eager hunter a place to hang a stand the following Saturday.
The deer activity in this central Indiana county proved to be fast-paced.
"That Saturday, I made it on stand and heard two bucks going at before daylight," he said. "Then I saw a few does pass by later in the morning. I had a standard in my mind that I would not take a buck unless it had at least six points."
Following a lunchtime break, Justin decided to change locations. Around 3:30, a doe appeared, did an about-face and retreated. Hot on its heels was a 5-point buck. Justin stuck to his standard and let the big-bodied deer walk.
Then some of the neighbor's dogs pushed a group of deer out of the thicket, passing the stand Justin used during his morning hunt. Luckily, Justin stuck to his self-prescribed rule and let another big-bodied buck pass.
"When I looked up at 6:30, I didn't see anything coming down the trail," he said.
A trotting set of antlers proved him wrong.
"I looked again and saw a set of huge antlers coming down the trail. I tried to stop myself from shaking. I pulled back, took aim and let the arrow go. It was just like something from a video. This was the biggest deer I had ever seen in my life."
After a fruitless evening tracking the buck, Justin and a cousin, Eddie Martin, who has hunted southern Indiana for years, found the buck the following morning.
"He looked at the deer and said that it was bigger than anything on his wall," Justin proudly stated.
With a bruiser buck like this, Justin might just stay within the confines of Indiana next season as other hunters travel to Illinois and Ohio.