Scouting Public Land Pays Off

When I first moved to Iowa 12 years ago, I had no access to private land. My sole availability was public ground, which fortunately Iowa has a good bit of. I took my first buck that year along the Des Moines River sitting on a bucket in the timber with my bow. Like most states you can gain access to where all the public ground is by contacting your DNR. It requires doing some scouting and in many cases a substantial amount of walking, because the good spots are the places most people won't put the effort in to walk to. Over the years I have purchased land, leased land, and met great people through QDMA that I currently have about 2,000 acres that I either own or have access to by managing the ground. I could easily sit in a nice cozy blind every time I go out or a very comfortable tree stand sitting over nice Tecomate Food Plots that have ample deer coming and going, especially now with all the snow on the ground. In many cases when I go out I try to film everything, whether it’s for our Tecomate shows or just for myself, which as you can imagine adds a whole new level of difficulty to any hunt.

Well that sets the stage to what happened this last weekend. Since I had a four day weekend thanks to the holiday, I decided I was going to go back to my traditional ways just to level set how I started here in Iowa. I started out on Saturday the 29th of December, where I found a very high point that overlooked a substantial amount of private land that feeds into the public ground around a very large lake in southern Iowa. With all the snow the deer were really bunched up, so when they started moving, it was usually 15 to 20 at a time and they were all working their way to the lake for water. On the 30th I decided to take my bow and a bucket to sit on and find a hot trail to set up on. After about a 1.5-mile walk I set up about 30 yards off a hot trail. The deer would be feeding from a large tract of timber across a stubble field right the trees I was sitting in. There was a small group of trees that I put myself in the middle of and used some down branches to build some partial cover. Unfortunately, once the first set of does came in I realized my wind was going to be all wrong. Although that main trail went past me at 30 yards, it also eventually curled around my back side, so the lead doe in that first group brought all the deer past me, but eventually got around to my wind. She quickly notified the rest of her group that not all was good and they cleared out. Knowing I was going to have better wind on the 1st, I just backed out of there.

On Jan 1st, I headed out to that same spot, perfect wind, a little fresh snow, and I grabbed my bow and bucket and headed out to that same spot. Once I set up, I knew it was going to be good as I saw deer moving a good 30 minutes earlier then I did previous nights. By 4:10, I already had 21 does and 4 bucks walk past me on this trail and none of them had a clue I was there. The deer were funneling out of timber about 150 yards across a stubble field right to the timber I was sitting in, so I could see them coming from a good couple hundred yards away. At 4:30, the next group appeared and the first two deer were nice mature bucks, with the first one being a very large mature 8. As they got half way across the field, I had decided to take this guy; he had to be 6 to 7 years old. As he got into my shooting lane, I pulled up to draw, but in my tight quarters I hit a branch my arrow bumped and came off the nock. Fortunately this happened without the deer hearing it, but the buck I had been waiting for had just walked past and into the woods. As I re-gathered myself, more deer were coming and the very last deer out of the woods looked to be a very nice buck. I repositioned myself so that I would not make the same mistake I just previously made; and as this buck walked into my lane, I drew and let the arrow fly. I saw my shot was a little bit high, but definitely well enough to lung him. Knowing it wasn't the best placement we let him sit overnight. First thing in the morning we set out and although he went a couple hundred yards he was all balled up near the creek. He had 19 score able points and came in right at 187, an absolutely beautiful deer.


This was a huge adrenaline rush, and the real moral here is that with the right scouting and willing to take the time to walk that extra bit, you can find some nice success on public ground. Once our shotgun season ended here, there is little to no presence in much of this public ground. It's like having your only 1,000-acre forest. Big bucks can be taken on public ground, you just need to scout it and time it right.

Posted by Terry Sedivec

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