The Richest Tradition: Iowa’s Shotgun Season

by Thomas on December 5, 2011

Midwest Iowa Outdoors® & Outside Iowa®

With Thomas Allen

(November 28th, 2011)

I can remember my first shotgun season as clear as last night’s hunt.  There is something about that first experience that shines in my memory, and is still something I greatly look forward to every year.  In fact, I really think I get more excited about the opening day than I do Christmas Eve!

I think back on those days with fondness and am really looking forward to introducing my son and daughter to the excitement of opening day of deer season.  This coming weekend, December 3rd, is when Iowa’s blaze army hits the woods across the state looking for big racks and ample amounts of succulent meat to fill the freezer with.  If you are timber bound, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, whether you are participating it the block and drive method or you are planning on sitting over a hot food source, the weather will have an impact in how you should approach your hunt.  Pay close attention to the weather forecast all week and build your game plan accordingly.  However, at this point, it doesn’t look like shotgun season will take place under adverse winter conditions, which could be good or bad depending on how you prefer it.  Obviously how you dress is key.  If you are hunting with a large group and plan on walking across the terrain, dressing light is a good idea.

If you plan on sitting, packing in the majority of your outer layers is a good idea.  This helps to keep you from sweating, which will eventually freeze and make you very cold.  If you have a leaking problem like I do, this is very important.  I also like to stock up on the chemical hand and foot warmers as both my hands and feet tend to get cold easily.  If that makes me a wimp, so be it!  I prefer comfort to pride.

This really should go without saying, but spend the days prior to the season’s opener getting your slug gun dialed in.  If you are hunting with a group and employing the block and drive method, I’d suggest iron sights, as it is easier to make effective shots on moving deer.  If you are sitting over food, a quality scope will be worth its weight in gold!

This also goes without saying, but safety needs to be your absolute first priority!  I know there are those that prefer party hunting to stand hunting, and those that prefer deer drives to hunting to a food source.  I am just thankful we are able to participate regardless of the method of take.  There is no wrong way as long as it is legal and ethical.  Always know your target.  NEVER shoot at something that you are unsure of.

Iowa code requires you wear a solid blaze orange vest, but I wouldn’t stop there.  I would wear as much blaze as possible so any nearby deer hunters can easily identify you without question.  It’s just not worth the risk.  The vast majority of Iowa hunters take safety very seriously, but one second of carelessness can result in tragedy.  I recall that first shotgun hunt I went on where the landowner and party leader went through the rules and plan of attack in detailed fashion in advance.  Each and every one of us knew exactly what to do and we had a very successful hunt.

If this upcoming firearm season is not apart of your early winter tradition just yet, I strongly suggest starting your own or looking for a crew that might have an opening or two.  It is just flat out a lot of fun, and also provides an excellent opportunity to get the next generation exposed to the great sport of deer hunting.  Good luck and be safe!

Live It Up

(Thomas resides with his wife and two children in Guthrie Center, Iowa.  He is a professional outdoor writer, photographer, videographer, and outdoor talk radio show host; for more information visit www.outdoorpursuitsradio.com.  If you have questions or comments feel free to email Thomas at tha481@gmail.com)

{ 0 comments }

Northern Push

by Thomas on December 5, 2011

Midwest Iowa Outdoors® & Outside Iowa®

With Thomas Allen

(November 21st, 2011)

Instead of buying a Butterball this Thanksgiving, I think I’m gonna have me some honker!  I’ll have to get prior approval of course, but I think she’ll go for it.  The ultimate plan and ulterior motive is to get out and shoot a few geese so we have some fresh meat for the big feast!

There was a major winter storm in the Dakotas that had the birds headed south in large numbers, and we were right in that path.  That same weather system was scheduled to hit us over the next couple days, which was to include rain, snow, and ice.  We loaded up the dekes, calls, and hooked the boat up to the pickup with plans to be at the launch by 12 AM the following morning to claim a spot.

The morning was magical; we filled a four-man limit of ducks and geese by 1 PM and enjoyed greasy bacon and eggs with hash browns, made fresh on the boat.  (There is no better way to enjoy breakfast than on a duck boat while its chilly out!)  We didn’t get any white fronted geese, but had a mixed bag of ducks including a few big mallards.  It was amazing and well worth skipping a day of deer hunting.

The weather and time of year are vital to consistently finding waterfowl shoots like that.  The storm they had up north really got the birds moving and pushed them south as they sought refuge from the nasty weather.  While it wasn’t much nicer here, it was where they ended up and spent a few days to refill their fuel tanks with corn and soybeans.

We have a few marshes that we regularly check when planning for a hunt.  This particular slough had 300-400 honkers and as many ducks on it the morning before we decided to hunt it.  The forecast was calling for overcast with moderate winds and rain likely, which is uncomfortable for the hunters, but perfect for the birds.

During these northern pushes, the birds are new to your area and are far more susceptible to decoying and calling tactics.  Whether you are on a marsh or field hunting, lots of decoys are typically the best way to go.  Mix duck dekes with honker dekes and you will be in position to work on filling limits of both, which only sweetens the pot.

These birds have done a bit of traveling by this time and have most likely seen other hunters along the way.  If you are field hunting, make sure your blinds are well hidden.  If you don’t have a layout blind, use a piece of burlap and weave a few cornstalks or dried prairie grass into it to add realism.  Finally, place a few silhouette decoys around your hide as that help in making you disappear.

If you’re on the water, take advantage of the existing terrain or structure like muskrat huts; your duck blind/boat should look like the existing vegetation.  Don’t be afraid to move or adjust your set up if what you are doing is just not working.  The birds will tell you what they want, and successful hunters listen.  You may spook a few birds in the process, but the rewards are worth the extra effort.

The weather is so key this time of year.  I watch it like a hawk for my local hunting areas, but also for up north.  If big weather is hitting way up there, you can expect birds to be in route to your favorite pond, slough or harvest crop field.  When the right conditions are pending, clear your schedule and take advantage of it!  These fall northern pushes are as good as it gets and only come around once a year.

From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

(Thomas resides with his wife and two children in Guthrie Center, Iowa.  He is a professional outdoor writer, photographer, videographer, and outdoor talk radio show host; for more information visit www.outdoorpursuitsradio.com.  If you have questions or comments feel free to email Thomas at tha481@gmail.com)

{ 0 comments }

Beating Lock Down

by Thomas on December 5, 2011

Midwest Iowa Outdoors® & Outside Iowa®

With Thomas Allen

(November 14th, 2011)

No, lock down is not when my wife hides my truck keys so I can’t make it out the woods, however it would be to my advantage to find a solution to that problem.  Lock down is the time period of the rut when the big mature bucks are keyed in on a hot doe and won’t leave her for anything.  It can be an especially difficult time of the rut to kill a mature whitetail, but some of the action you might encounter can be breath taking.

A doe will be receptive to breeding for a 24-hour period, and the bucks know this.  An interesting study shows that two and three and a half year old bucks do the majority of the breeding during the rut.  The older bucks have learned through experience that it’s more about quality than quantity.

When a big buck finally finds a doe that is nearing the peak of her cycle, he will corral her and chase her until he has complete control of her movements.  This will include fighting other bucks as they may challenge for breeding rights, therefore rattling can still be very effective during the peak of the rut.  The mature bucks know the game and will push their does to a quiet, obscure, and greatly overlooked location and stay with her indefinitely.

You will hear of hunters not seeing big deer as often as they did the week before.  But, as soon as that buck is done with that doe, he is off to find another.  That, more often than not, takes place during the middle of the day.  The movement patterns change from late October through the end of November and understanding this adjustment should greatly play into your strategy.

The hunting during the last week of October is typically better in the evenings, morning hunts are usually more productive during the first week to ten days of November and midday action is usually best the second eight to ten days of November.  My suggestion for beating lock down is to sleep in, and make it to the stand by 9 AM at the latest and sit until dark.  If you can manage an all day sit, that would be best, but long sits are not for everyone.

A buck decoy can be dynamite this time of year as well.  As those bucks leave the does in search of the next lucky lady, any rutting activity will instantly grab their attention.  If they see a smaller buck (decoy) that needs to have another lesson taught, he will quickly volunteer to knock the intruder back in place.

All calling and rattling should also continue through out the day.  Mornings can be rocking for rattling and calling sequences, especially before the sun comes up – same with evenings.  I like to rattle twice an hour before and after prime time periods, or more depending on what I am seeing.  You never know when that doe is going to become unreceptive and he will be out to find a new girlfriend, hopefully you’re there waiting.

The last tip I have found valuable during lock down is getting back in the timber and hunt directly adjacent to security cover.  The bucks will cruise during all hours of the day, especially right through these bedding areas or they might even swing by down wind to scent check these areas.  This is a great time to also use scents and lures.  My preference is Ol’ Drop Tyne (www.doetodoor.com), as they provide the freshest peak estrous scents available and I can tell you from personal experience how well they work!

Sit as long as you can, as often as you can and you will have more consistent encounters with mature whitetails.  We wait all year for this time of year; don’t let it pass you by!

Live it Up!

(Thomas resides with his wife and two children in Guthrie Center, Iowa.  He is a professional outdoor writer, photographer, videographer, and outdoor talk radio show host; for more information visit www.outdoorpursuitsradio.com.  If you have questions or comments feel free to email Thomas at tha481@gmail.com)

{ 0 comments }

The Great Buffalo Giveaway

December 5, 2011

Midwest Iowa Outdoors® & Outside Iowa® With Thomas Allen (November 7th, 2011) A few weeks ago, I ran into a good friend of mine, Mr. Dave Funk who is deeply immersed in Iowa politics, and especially Iowa’s Chapter of Safari Club International.  We caught up and after I asked about what was new with Iowa [...]

Read it all, NOW!

It’s On!

December 5, 2011

Midwest Iowa Outdoors® & Outside Iowa® With Thomas Allen (October 31st, 2011) More big Iowa bucks eat a big fat dirt-nap sammich during the first week of November than any other week of the year.  Even if the weather is warmer than the seasonal averages, the big boys are usually on their feet, but if [...]

Read it all, NOW!

Iowa Ringnecks: Is It Still Worth It?

December 5, 2011

Midwest Iowa Outdoors® & Outside Iowa® With Thomas Allen (October 24th, 2011) Its no secret that Iowa’s pheasant populations have plummeted to a concerning level, especially since the hey-days of the early to mid 90s.  Harvest numbers in those days often neared or exceed the million-bird mark, but this year we will be lucky to [...]

Read it all, NOW!

Autumn Iowa Farm Ponds

December 5, 2011

Midwest Iowa Outdoors® & Outside Iowa® With Thomas Allen (October 17th, 2011) Is there ever a bad time to fish?  I am a firm believer that a bad day of fishing sure beats a good day in the office, no matter how you slice it.  What about fitting fishing time in between hunting outings? Now [...]

Read it all, NOW!

Fall Muskie Madness

December 5, 2011

Midwest Iowa Outdoors® & Outside Iowa® With Thomas Allen (October 10th, 2011) 86 degrees in October, seriously?  I could complain about it, but gripping about the weather is like banging your head on the sidewalk, it doesn’t do any good.  You know, fall in Iowa wouldn’t be complete without a few Indian Summer days.  The [...]

Read it all, NOW!

Early October Whitetails

December 5, 2011

Midwest Iowa Outdoors® & Outside Iowa® With Thomas Allen (October 3rd, 2011) October whitetails are legendary.  Sure, November is the preferred time to sit in the stand from dawn to dark because the rut is simply amazing.  But, don’t skip October all together; some of the best opportunities to harvest a mature buck are right [...]

Read it all, NOW!

The Final Countdown

December 5, 2011

Midwest Iowa Outdoors® & Outside Iowa® With Thomas Allen (September 26th, 2011) As of Monday, September 26th, the countdown to sunrise on October 1st currently stands at 4 Days, 11 Hours, 34 Minutes, and 55 Seconds… But, again, who’s counting?  It’s hard to believe that the time we live for each fall is actually just [...]

Read it all, NOW!