From my vantage point in the big old oak, it was easy to see why this is among the best bowhunting country in all the world. Fencelines, creekbottoms, drainage ditches, and shelterbelts formed a network of cover corridors through the expansive Iowa farmfields. Once lush with corn and soybeans, they now lay combined bare. Deer concentrated in a tiny fraction of the cover they enjoyed mere weeks ago. I imagined huge trophy bucks racing those corridors intent on their lusty objectives and oblivious to all else. Then suddenly, my imaginings came true.
Four does and six fawns materialized in the frosty November air, crossing the wooded riverbottom and headed my way. A harem like that would surely command attention from the heavy-horned cruisers, and I scanned behind them for the buck I knew must be near. Sure enough, the muffled crackling of brush drew my gaze across the river, to a fine trophy buck headed toward the does, the river crossing, and me!
He was a slender-tined buck but my heart raced as he approached. But as he neared the water’s edge, he stopped and swiveled his massive head to look back. Another buck, with an angry air and determined stride, pulled up the rear.
The two clashed immediately. But it was no match. I watched in awe as the first buck struck the smaller aggressor to the ground and sent him limping away. Whitetails scattered, and the big boy followed, offering no shot.
As much as I was tempted to return to the fight site, I sampled the stands on several different farms operated by Thor Hunting Adventures over the next few days. I saw bucks every day; there was the beautiful 10-point hugging the fenceline that contained my stand, but veering off for no apparent reason just as he approached shooting range. And the massive-horned bull-of-a-buck that just wouldn’t present a good shooting position in the little dogleg of timber. They were easily Pope & Young. But I couldn’t get the buck fight out of my mind, and the image of that fine rack.
Big Buck Reappears
Then late one morning, the image materialized. Spotting-scope scouting, I caught sight of a group of deer loitering along a deep, grassy drainage ditch. There among them was my buck.
With little time left to hunt, I quickly made up my mind. Bow in hand, I embarked on a stalk.
Hands-and-knees in a disked cornfield is not my favorite place to be. Then it started to rain.
But the potential reward was well worth the effort, and I crawled on, for over an hour, until I reached the spot where I thought I might get a shot. I eased over the bank of the deep ditch. No deer.
I slipped my binoculars out of my jacket and began to search. Through the pelting rain, I noticed a vague white spot and examined it. It was a whitetail’s throat patch; the deer had moved 300 yards downstream. But with the deer in the deep ditch, it was as good a stalking situation as a hunter could ask for, so I crawled on through the mud and rain.
The author and a fine Iowa buck.
In another hour I was easing over the edge of the ditch again, at the point where I’d last seen the deer. This time, they were there, bedded at the very bottom, only 20 yards away. They hadn’t sensed me, and I backed up out of view to consider my situation. Finally, there was only one answer. I got ready, stood, aimed, and shot.
Deer scattered, but one stayed behind. It had been thrilling and memorable whitetail action in the farmlands of Iowa.
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Mike Strandlund is editor of Bowhunting World Magazine and bowhuntingworld.com, and is a member of the National Bowhunters Hall of Fame.