Land Of The Giants
By: Marc Drewek
Awarded! That special word you want to read when you apply for an Iowa non-resident deer tag. The journey begins in May when you begin the application process and ends in July when you go onto the Iowa DNR Website. It’s hard to describe the feeling when you make the final click on the draw results tab. When the tag arrived in the mail in late July it was like holding a bar of gold. The next five months flew by like a flock of migrating geese. What also helped were numerous family events to look forward to and of course the busy season at TRS.
Having hunted in Iowa since 2000 it is like going home to hunt. The largest bucks I have had the opportunity to harvest have all come from Iowa. All of us who love to hunt whitetails and watch outdoor television know Iowa is the place. Knowing that at any time a buck of a lifetime can show himself is a feeling that’s hard to describe.
The numbers of deer is another great element in an Iowa deer hunt. Over the years, I have had stands that I have seen over 40 deer in one sit. Although the area I hunt has suffered through EHD, (a hemorrhagic disease of white-tailed deer which is an infectious, and sometimes fatal virus that is characterized by extensive hemorrhages) the deer herd seems to be growing and staying healthy. The terrain I hunt is similar to western Wisconsin, deep ditches leading from the bedding areas into the agricultural fields. The trick here is finding the key bedding areas, setting the stand, and waiting for the right wind. (The one thing I have discovered hunting in Iowa is that the deer do not look up in the trees like the deer in Wisconsin.)
After a good night’s rest, day one was filled with excitement and anticipation, just like every other one. With all the rain they had, the fields were wet and extremely muddy so all the stands I wanted to hunt would have a long walk. I sat in a stand that was one of my favorites with five big ditches leading up to a saddle and then down one big main ditch, a perfect funnel. I would see four bucks and a few does that morning. With a missed opportunity with the muzzleloader, it was time to move to the back of the farm; another long walk but well worth it. This was an area that produced my first Iowa harvest, a 160-inch, 10-pointer. So needless to say, I was excited.
On this day, the wind was perfect for this stand; directly out of the southwest. At 4:00 the first deer came out and it was a shooter. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a shot. By the end of the day, I had seen several nice younger bucks and plenty of does. The only negative was that the deer were coming out where I couldn’t get a shot. We needed to move the stand 20 yards south. If we could do this, I knew I would get an opportunity, granted the wind stayed the same.
Day two was uneventful at best. The wind changed and we couldn’t hunt where we wanted. We were watching the weather hoping the wind would switch and some colder weather would move in.
Day three we decided to move the stand. So I would sit in a blind on another property while the stand was moved. At 1:00 pm I was back on the stand where all the activity was. By 3:00 the deer were moving but they were coming out downwind. I would still see several nice bucks and a few does. Our hope was for the clouds to move out and the colder weather to move in.
Day four rolled in with colder weather and sunshine, which we hadn’t seen much of this trip. I sat in the timber for the morning hoping to catch the deer heading to the bedding area. By noon I hadn’t seen a deer, so I decided to take a slow walk back to the evening stand. Just as I had expected, the deer started moving earlier, the first ones at 2:30 and they just kept pouring out. The new stand position was perfect. The farthest shot would be 80 and the closest at 30. By 4:00 I had seen over 25 deer, including another nice 10-point. Needless to say, I was getting pumped. Just to give you an idea I had 17 does and fawns pass by me at once at less than 30 yards. After those does had passed, I noticed two more deer headed my way. Both were bucks. There was a smaller one and a really nice wide 8-pointer. If they stayed on their path, they would be at 30 yards for a shot. Thirty yards it was… and the wide eight was on the ground 20 yards away. After a few minutes of calming myself down, I climbed down and put my hands on him. I couldn’t have been more grateful to harvest this animal.
After four days of pounding wind and rain, the satisfaction was overwhelming. Being aggressive and moving the stand made all the difference. Sometimes you have to make things happen and take a chance. The hunt was one of the most enjoyable due in part to where I was hunting, but also because I didn’t put pressure on myself to “shoot the big one.” Instead, I absorbed every minute of being in the outdoors, seeing multiple big bucks and having the chance to experience the thrill of the harvest. It’s not so much about the grail as it is the quest in the land of the giants.