The one style of hunting that is my all-time favorite would be a good old man drive during one of our great state’s shotgun seasons. Whether it is because this was my first exposure to hunting deer, or simply because of the logistical theory that goes into each drive, driving deer through a rural Iowa parcel has a certain native essence that makes me reminisce on the origins of man stalking and coordinating around his prey. If your group is like mine, there is no certainty from year-to-year that the logistics of getting everybody rounded up for one of the two seasons will work out, so it is vital to cover the major bases on your property to ensure that the most success is had during each drive. Here are my top ten posting locations that can be applied to almost any Iowa property that your crew will drive this year.
1: The Point
The point is a location that gives the hunter-vantage over several likely escape routes for the deer. This could be a cornfield hilltop that overlooks fingers running on either side of the hill’s base. This posting location often results in deer coming from either direction so it is important to set up within comfortable shooting range to the exit routes, as well as giving the hunter maximum visibility for all the options that could play out.
2: The Pinch
The pinch is the location where things get a little tight for the deer and is arguably the best position of all to be in for the hunter. This situation happens when a larger woodlot either funnels down into a drainage or simply comes to a point before opening back up. The deer have two options here: bust out or move forward. The hunter wants to post at the narrowest part of the pinch about 30-50 yards off the habitat with shots that are perpendicular to the pinch point. This location gives the hunter a chance to see the deer go through the pinch, as well as catch any of them who decide to break for open ground in their direction.
3: The High Ground
This is the hunter’s general vantage point of the entire drive. The high ground is simply a hill top, river bottom overlook, or even a road side that allows for maximum vantage potential when the deer have a free run of escape routes. The idea here is to have posters every 100+ yards along the high ground over-looking the parcel the drivers are pushing. This gives the most shooting potential as well as ground coverage for uncertain deer escape plans.
4: The Back Side
Anybody who has hunted a season or two knows whitetails are well known to backtrack on the hunter. Therefore, my number four spot is the back side of the drivers. The drivers generally move in one direction which means that any deer looping back around to ground they already covered are generally in the clear. I like to post on a back corner of the parcel starting in a point post position. Once it is safe to do so, I will move closer to the cover we are driving. This will give you the view you need to catch that sneaky buck cruising the wood line or backwards through the cover behind the driver.
5: The Midway
Many of the wood lots Iowa hunters drive are long and narrow. This makes for an easy assessment of where the deer may go, but it can also leave a lot of open ground for deer to cover between hunters. On the long drives, I like to post a guy on lower ground towards the middle of the parcel. This gives the hunters on high ground or the points a chance to shoot and turn back the deer, which often try to return to the wood line but away from the posters. Having a guy lower to the wood line and in the middle of the parcel, gives a second chance to snag the deer as they panic and return to the drivers.
6: The Finger
This is a classic location for drive hunting success. A finger is generally a narrow strip of timber or cover that protrudes out from the main body. Many river bottoms or hilly terrain feature many fingers. The finger allows deer to have an easy escape route that doesn’t cause them to leave cover, unless you post a guy at the end of the finger. As the drive plays out, deer often filter into the fingers and will head straight towards the driver posted at the pinch point.
7: The Push and Post
For drives that have one main body of timber with several fingers running from it, it can pay to post people at the end of the fingers while three to four drivers run the main timber in a straight line. When the drivers approach the finger, the outer driver will break off and work the finger out. This ensures that all the fingers get checked. The driver and the poster can then spread out and post up to watch the rest of the drive play out. This gives point, middle, and high ground coverage and is effective with larger groups, while maintaining flexibility for smaller groups.
8: The Fence Line
When deer bust out of timber and thicker cover, they will likely run to a known escape location or the first thing they perceive as cover. In Iowa 9 times out of 10 this is a fence line. I love posting along fence lines in the middle of a property that is being driven. This allows me to see deer running from either the beginning or end of the drive down the fence line towards me. The trick is let the deer come as close to you as possible before shooting. This gives you the best shot opportunities and if you miss, you will likely turn them back to the center of the drive action.
9: The Brush Pile
Remember what I said about perceived cover? Well there is something about laying up in a brush pile that makes a deer feel invisible. It pays to post a guy on the outskirts of a drive especially if there has been recent timber thinning or clearing and it is piled away from the drive location. Deer will bust from the drivers and head straight to these brush piles to bed down. In fact, I will usually push the edges of the brush piles before the drive starts and have kicked several bucks and does from these piles for an early start to the action.
10: The Island
I refer to secluded pieces of cover in the middle of fields, timber stands, or even ditch lines as islands. These are little treasure chests for last minute success as the daylight fades. There is no good way to hit them other than surround them and have a guy or two ambush the location. My trap shooting coach from high school literally watched a buck every year for seven years escape the clutches of Iowa shotgunners. As soon as the first shots of the season rang out, he said he would look out his back door to watch the heavy horned bruiser cruise up a fence line to a small patch with three plum trees in CRP to bed down for the day.
Covering these ten escape routes will ensure that you have a shooter in the right spot for the right shot this season. During any season, safety is paramount. Make sure that you properly plan each drive, know where everyone will be, and do not vary from the plan without letting everyone know. Wear your orange, know your plan, and know your target.