As a 46 year old boy from Illinois, I’m not quite sure why it took me this long to chase Iowa whitetails…especially since I can see Iowa from my back deck. The excitement started earlier in the year when a friend and I got word that we had been selected to hunt deer during the late muzzleloader season.
Our first trip to the Cianciarulo farm in southwest Iowa began in mid-December. Jess Johnson made short work of his drive from Wisconsin, and in no time at all the truck was packed and we were ready to hit the road first thing in the morning. It was only a 6 hour drive for us and the plan was to get there early enough so we could do some afternoon scouting. We wanted to get an idea what the deer were doing so we could hit the ground running when the season opened the following morning. We also wanted to see if the winter rye and turnips we planted in a bean field a few months earlier had come up.
Once we arrived at the farm, we quickly transferred all of our gear to the Zook cabin, grabbed our spotting scope and bino’s, and were off to a good vantage point that would allow us to watch a portion of the bean field where we had planted the rye and turnips.
It didn’t take long and we were watching deer, lots of deer. We didn’t see any of the Iowa giants that we had been dreaming about for months, but we saw enough to keep our excitement level high.
After a sleepless night, the early morning found us tucked away in some cedars. Our mission was to put tags on a couple of Iowa bucks, along with taking a couple of does to be donated to the Iowa HUSH program. As the sun started to rise, it didn’t take long at all to see our first deer. We watched several deer working their way towards their bedding areas, but no buck sightings this morning.
That afternoon we headed down to the hidden bean field where we had broadcasted turnips and winter rye several months earlier. With the severe drought conditions that year, we weren’t sure what we would find. To our surprise, we found the winter rye to be doing quite well in the now picked bean field. There were no signs of the turnips…but one out of two isn’t bad.
We saw a tremendous amount of deer and turkeys that afternoon but no shooter bucks. We took turns hunting and filming for the rest of the week and the only big bucks we saw were a wide framed 10-point that had broken over half of his tines…and a buck with a huge 5-point right side and a single spike on the left.
Given the fact that we would be able to return after the first of the year, we let several marginal shooters walk and also decided to save our doe tag until after we sealed the deal on a buck.
It is now the first week of January and we are headed back for a short 3 to 4 day hunt. Joining us on this trip were two friends that were going to do all of the filming so Jess and I could split up to get in as much hunting as possible with the limited number of days.
This trip started off where the last one left off….lots and lots of deer sightings, just no shooters. With the mild weather, we decided the wise ‘ol bucks were doing all of their movement at night.
On the second afternoon hunt of this trip, my friend Shane and I decided to set up on the north edge of the hidden bean field to take advantage of the south winds. We set up in a spot where we could not only see most of the field, it also put is in position to cover the majority of the winter rye.
Not long after we got set up, deer started pouring into the field. We had deer all around us…but still no signs of a shooter. With about 30 minutes left in the hunt, a number of deer started making their way into the rye. Soon after, an 8-point that we had seen a couple of time on the previous trip made his way into the rye.
Prior to this second trip to Iowa, Jess and I had discussed this buck and felt he would be a shooter if he showed himself in January. Well, it was now January and he was standing just over 100 yards away. With light starting to fade I made the decision to shoot. Once the buck cleared some does that were near him, I steadied the ‘ol smoke pole and fired.
The buck never left the field and before I could even put my hands on him, we heard Jess shoot from the opposite end of the farm. We were losing light fast and Shane and I wasted no time in recovering the buck. This was only the third time Shane had filmed me tip over a buck…and I’m not sure who was happier. Me for shooting it….or Shane for filming it!!!
Once we were back at the truck, I phoned Jess to see if he needed any help. He let me know that all was good and that he had taken a doe for the HUSH program. I let him know that I had taken the tall 8 that we had seen in December…and our plan was to meet up back at the Cabin.
The next morning was our last sit for the year and it was pretty uneventful. After running to town to drop off the deer at a locker for the Iowa HUSH program, we headed back to the cabin for a big lunch full of laughs and exaggerated hunting tales before packing up and heading home.
Even though I/we didn’t see the giant Iowa bucks that we had always dreamed about, I had just spent a total of two weeks seeing lots of deer, hunting with good friends, and even making new ones as well. In the end, this is what is most important!