It is time for our annual questions and answers article geared around bow hunting here in Iowa. Normally we answer questions from our readers on hot topics in the deer hunting realm. For example a question we always get is “Should I hunt stand “X” before the rut kicks in or should I wait?” Then we would provide our advice accordingly.
This year we flipped the script and sent out questions to our readers for them to answer. Since the content in the magazine is predominately provided by people who are just like our readers already we decided why not ask them about common, and some not so common, questions about deer hunting in Iowa. Deer hunting is basically like the weather and changes from region to region and county to county so we were hoping to get several different takes on the questions we sent.
I think we achieved that goal as we received some pretty good diversity with the answers. Some were pretty descriptive and others were straight to the point. We published several answers to each question trying to put in the most popular answer as well as maybe the one that wasn’t so popular but gave some good incite. Take a look below and see what your fellow Iowa Sportsmen deer hunters gave as answers to our questions.
What is your rut strategy?
My rut hunting strategy is very simple. After years of hunting the same property I have a pretty good knowledge of the deer in the area. I know where the does like to eat, where they like to bed and when this happens. Knowing this allows me to put stands in these locations. The idea is bucks are looking for does during the rut so I had better find the does first otherwise it is merely a crap shoot and guessing game on where the bucks are going to be. The rut is obviously a great time to hunt, but it is unpredictable. The less guessing you have to do the better and by finding the does you are taking about a lot of the guessing. Thanks for sending me the question!
Tom from Ankeny
Just being in the stand as much as possible. The correct stand that is. No sense hunting stands that are not likely to have bucks cruising them.
Jackson from Sioux City
My go to rut strategy is not ruining it before it starts. I don’t hunt very much during early October, in fact the only time I will hunt the first few weeks is if I know I have a buck patterned. By patterning a buck I mean one that is coming out to a food source during the evening hours several times a week. I will not go traipsing around in the deep timber during the early season. It is all about low pressure to me. Leave a small footprint and stay out of the area until it gets closer to the rut.
Tony from Webster City
If you have a wind blowing your scent into the direction deer normally travel from what do you usually do?
Simple, I don’t hunt that stand at all. I know all of these products on the market today say they can trick a deer’s nose but I am not buying it. The best possible way to have a poor day hunting is having the wind blow your scent into the travel corridor.
Jayme from Greenfield
I know the simple answer is don’t hunt that stand on that day or until the wind changes. However I think timing comes into play. Is this your last day to hunt the rut? If yes I say go ahead and throw caution to the wind. Bucks might be coming from all directions anyways so playing it careful may not be the best bet. What if a buck came at you from upwind from the stand? It is a very common situation during the rut. Obviously 9 times out of 10 I say don’t hunt that stand, but I am going to think it through first and account for all factors in play.
How do you go about hunting new property?
Getting to hunt new property is great. Ideally I would like to establish new property in the late spring to early summer so I have time to scout, establish trail cams, and hang stands well before the season starts. I would also like to see a bird’s eye view of the property so I can get a good idea of the lay of the land. More importantly how a deer might use the land to travel back and forth from food to bed.
Braydon from Iowa Falls
Hunting new property is trial and error. I will do as much as possible before the season starts to be ready to go and make sure I have stands in good spots. However it never fails with new property that I don’t have the best stand sites right away. So I would say during the season look for what the deer are doing and take note of this. If you are a believer in changing stands during the season go for it. If you would rather wait until the following season (provided you get to hunt the spot again) then make sure you remember what the deer were doing and more especially why they were doing something. Then in the spring and summer you can move your stands accordingly. New property is all about learning and adjusting.
Derick from Davenport
How do you go about hunting un picked cornfields?
How did you know I hate cornfields? They are just like another 160 acres of timber on my property, the problem is unlike timber they are dang near impossible to hunt. The only thing that I can do is look for areas where the deer are entering and exiting the field. If there is a tree in the area I will hang a stand there. If there is another food source or bedding zone down from this area I will find a good tree in the middle for an ambush.
Joseph from Creston
I like to hunt the corners of cornfields so I can see both directions of the edging. Especially during the rut when bucks might be scent checking a field, they love cruising the out few yards of cornfields.
Ben from Grinnell
Do you use scents to attract deer why or why not?
I have never been into using scents such as buck urine or doe estrus to lure in deer. I am sure it has some validity to it, but I simply believe there are better ways out there than to purchase these items. All at a lower cost…sorry I am a bit of a cheap you know what. Seriously though I think if one wants to use them great, but they are just not for me and my hunting style. Just one more thing I would have to worry about.
George from Independence
I use a drag rag of doe estrus from late October all the way through the rut. I have had some pretty good response doing this as several bucks have followed the line up to my stand. I would say it works on a few deer every year which is good enough for me.
Scott from Afton
During the rut I will hang an estrus wick in a tree to get a buck to come check it out. Honestly I have only had smaller bucks come nosing around, but if it gives me better chance of bringing in a big deer I will do it.
William from Cresco
What is your beliefs in Scent protection clothing?
Not for me, but if you believe it works then by all means go for it. Trusting a product is important. If you think it works then buy it, if you don’t think it works then don’t buy it. With that said….stick with being downwind and you will never have a buck smell you!
Charles from Keokuk
I know it is not 100% guaranteed the clothing will keep my scent from reaching a deer’s nose, but I do think it helps. The more help I can get I will take.
Curtis from Elkader
I always try and play the wind as much as possible, but I also go the extra step and try and kill and hide every scent molecule I produced. I know, I know call me crazy, but it is just something I feel helps me go undetected. I shower before every hunt, spray my clothes in scent killer, use Scentblocker clothing from head to toe, spray my stand site before and after a hunt. I even bought one of those Ozone killing machines. Results may be inconclusive but I tend not to get detected in the tree. If I do it seems to be because they saw me instead of smelled me. So I say yes to scent killing products.
Tim from Centerville
What are your thoughts on managing your property for bigger bucks?
I am all for it and have been implementing management practices for the last 5 years. It takes a while to see the fruits of your labor but I am finally starting to see it. The hardest part other than the manual labor of food plots, timber improvement, etc is actually letting a 2.5 or 3.5 year old deer walk because you are only after a mature buck. It’s also hard to sacrifice your buck tag one year on a buck that needs to be shot but won’t even score 100 inches…but for the betterment of the herds genetics you have to get rid of him.
Sam from West Union
I used to be big into that kind of thing but now I don’t bother. I put my time into shooting a buck that I want to shoot and making sure I am in the best possible spot for that to happen. By no means am I afraid of the hard work, but it’s the surrounding properties that don’t make it worth it for me. For true herd management to pay off you must get all of the surrounding land’s hunters to be on the same page as you are. That is the true hard work of deer management.
Gene from Council Bluffs
Do you use a decoy? If so why and how? If no why?
I don’t use a decoy because honestly I don’t like all of the extra effort that goes into setting one up. I just want to get to my stand and hunt and not have to worry about setting up a decoy.
Denny from Iowa City
I don’t use a decoy because I think they can do more harm than good. You have to be so careful with everything you do with a decoy in order to not spook deer. I understand that they work in some instances but I think they do just as much harm more often.
Austin from Manson
I use a decoy every chance I can get during the rut. Starting about the 3rd weekend in October I will have “Ol Bucky” slung across my back walking to the stand. Yes it is a lot of work, but if you do what you are supposed to do correctly using a decoy can give you some of the best hunting experiences ever. Nothing beats watching a buck coming in all stiff legged, hair risen on his back, ready to kick the crap out of your decoy! Talk about adrenaline rush! I usually use the decoy during day and evening hunts just because it’s easier to set up during daylight hours. One thing I always make sure of is to have the decoy visible. If a buck can’t see your decoy then you are lowering your chances immensely of him being interested. Lastly make sure your decoy is positioned accordingly that provides you a good shot of the approaching buck. I like to put my decoy about 25 yards upwind of my stand and positioned facing the general direction of my stand. Most of the time bucks will approach each other by circling downwind and then coming in head on. Doing this will give you plenty of shot opportunities and keep the wind in your favor.
Jesse from Gowrie
How do you go about shooting big bucks consistently?
It all starts with your ability to not shoot the first, second, third, fourth, and so on immature deer that walks in front of you. By all means if you want to shoot immature deer go ahead, absolutely nothing wrong with that. But if you have a goal of 150 inches and above you can can’t shoot the first 135 incher every chance you get. Let the little ones walk and be patient, if you want to fill the tag shoot a doe.
Jacoby from West Des Moines
Ha! Nice joke I wish I shot big mature deer year after year. While I have shot many nice deer I am far from a wall hanger every year. To answer your question though I would venture to say that harvesting a big ol bruiser every year takes dedication in every aspect of hunting. From pre scouting to pressing the release you have to be committed and dedicated….no short cuts.
Matt from West Branch
How do you hunt the lockdown phase of the rut?
I hunt lockdown the same way as I hunt any other part of the rut. Find the does and hunt there in hopes of a big buck still searching.
Drew from Washington
Lockdown is tough, no doubt about it. About the only thing you can do is put in your time and wait it out. You never know when a buck will break free in pursuit of another suitor. I also take the hunt to the lovesick couple. I try and hunt deep thick areas I think deer looking for a little privacy would go. Or I will hunt those remote places that never get any pressure. Bucks love to take does off the grid. If you can find a huntable location like the above go for it. Even though they are breeding they still have to get up and move.
Trey from Waverly
What is the best advice you can give on hunting deer in Iowa?
Hunting is similar to the game of life. You will undoubtedly fail, most likely quite often and that is okay. Failures are what leads to success in deer hunting. However you have to be willing to learn from your failures or they will never turn into successes. So in a nutshell my best advice is if you screw up learn from it and don’t repeat it.
Vinny from Humboldt
It is okay to let deer hunting consume you, but don’t forget get the tradition and honor of hunting. We should respect each animal we harvest and give thanks for the bounty it provided. If you are hunting to become a TV star then move to LA. Don’t hunt for fame, hunt because you enjoy the challenge and honor the tradition like the sportsmen did before us.
Kyle from Pocahontas
There you have it! Answers to our bow hunting questions from your fellow readers. I think it is safe to say that Iowa bowhunters know a thing or two about the sport they love. These were just a fraction of all the answers we received back. So thanks to all of you that participated even if your answer didn’t get published. Getting the readers involved is important to the magazine, after all who knows more about hunting and fishing Iowa than you guys and gals? Good luck this season!