Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Does of Southwest Iowa

Southwest Iowa is really blessed or cursed, depending on who you talk to, with a large and healthy deer population.  The first muzzleloader season that I hunted started for me on the first of January until the tenth.  The second and final season for muzzleloader runs from the eleventh to the twenty ninth of January. 

Having two different farms along two different rivers gives me an edge when it comes to hunting does.  The first location is along the Nishnabotna River north of Oakland, Iowa.  The landowner has ground that runs right along the river.  On it are about 100 acres of timber that was old river bottom at one time.  With all the corn fields around and the timber to hide in, the deer have great habitat and a place to grow and hide. 

Looking west along the old riverbank you can see almost to the river.  There are lanes down through the timber and the deer will come down one of the lanes.  They mostly stay to the east and out in the cornfields.

After Christmas I gave the owner a call and he said to come out.  His relatives had already harvested ten deer from the ground.  The ground seems to hold about ten to fifteen deer.  You take a few off the land, and in a couple of months it is back to the ten to fifteen.  He said he was seeing some small deer early in the morning heading back to the timber after feeding either in the cornfields or the feed lots with the cattle.

Looking north up one of the lanes that the deer come down.  The timber north is very thick.

The temperatures were like early spring.  This was not supposed to take place in January in Iowa.  The temps were 40 to 50s in the day and there was no snow on the ground. 

The ground drops from the pasture and cornfields down a bank of about 15 to 20 feet.  This was the old river bottom of the Nishnabotna River.  From the edge of the bank it is about 200 to 300 yards and holds strips of dense timber.  I sat down in some fallen timber near the bank before light and started the wait.  Nothing showed up.
I push myself back against the two trees on the left side of the picture that are close together.  There is a deer run that swings out from the pile of dead timber and it is here I generally wait for them as they come in from the fields with full bellies.  The old river bank is right behind me.

The landowner called me around 7:30 AM and said he was heading south of the cornfields and would try to drive any toward me.  I was to move to the south end of the stand of timber, which I did.  Here I got behind a tree and waited.  To the front of me was the bank to the old river bottom and right above that was corn.  The wind was out of the north, and normally this would not be a good idea.  The deer would easily wind me, but I wanted to try out a new product.  Scent is always a problem and this was a new scent eliminator I wanted to try.  Wildlife Research Center® Scent Killer Spray Combo from Bass Pro.
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The deer came right straight toward me and never broke a stride.  With the wind at my back they should have winded me and did not.  This product really works. Go to Bass Pro on the link provided below and go to hunting and scent eliminators.                                

The landowner called me again. He said he had run out four small deer and to get ready.  In the glasses, I could see them running stretched out in a line.  A small one came over the bank into the old river bottom and stood there.  I came around the edge of the tree and drew down on the small doe.  I started to pull the hammer back.   Then a really nice size one came over the bank.  It stopped about 30 yards out and looked straight at the tree where I was standing.  I moved around to the other side to get a better angle and plunk the bigger one.   That was a very very bad idea.   I should have shot the small one right on the spot.

The tree where I attempted to hide for the shot.  The four does were just off to the left.

There was just enough movement and it spooked them.  Up came the flags and off they went like a scalded dog.  I never got the hammer pulled back on the muzzle loader.

The landowner came up to give me a bad time about not taking the shot on the small deer.  The two behind the doe were small bucks and were not legal to harvest as they still had their racks.

There is always another day, but I think I will check with the landowner down by the Missouri River and see what his deer population looks like.  This farm is just not offering a lot of opportunity.  I hunted another morning and evening and saw nothing. 
Looking back towards the tree where the screwup took place, I am standing on top of the old river bank.  At this spot it is only about 4 feet high with a gradual slope.  

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To whoever sent me this picture, thank you.  It is a beautiful shot of deer in the early spring.
Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

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