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Oh Sweet Iowa!

Mike Luper - Hoyt Vice President of Sales & Marketing


When my plane touched down in Des Moines last November something just felt different.

This was it! The time had finally come and with an Iowa whitetail tag in my pocket, life was good…very good! This was a day I had looked forward to for a very long time. I was finally getting my opportunity to bowhunt Iowa, a state of which I had heard so many legendary whitetail stories.


My good friend and host of Nock On TV, John Dudley, picked me up at the airport late Friday night. I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve. Little did Dudley know he was playing the role of Santa Claus. With my gear safely off the conveyer belt I eagerly busted out of the airport doors, greeted Ol’ Saint Nick himself and loaded my gear into his 4X4 sleigh. Heading down the highway, I was so excited and so grateful to be on the ground in Iowa and for the chance to bowhunt this amazing whitetail state.


Up to this point, I had had the opportunity to hunt whitetails in many different states throughout the country and have been teased with a number of great buck encounters. I’ve been blessed to connect on some smaller bucks but had yet to connect on a larger buck. And, like many whitetail bowhunters, I had been humbled time and time again and have certainly had my fill of tag soup. Needless to say, I was ready for the odds to shift in my direction on my trip to Iowa.


That night at camp, I could hardly sleep. There is nothing like the night before the hunt. For me, I usually end up awake all night setting out, evaluating and tinkering with all of my gear, making final hunt plans and trying to manage the hundreds of thoughts racing through my head of what tomorrow might bring. It’s the same anticipation I felt growing up as a young boy waiting for the sound of my grandpa’s diesel truck coming up the road to pick me up at 4 AM for the morning hunt. It’s a feeling that is pretty much impossible to explain to a non-hunter but a feeling that every hunter in the world can relate to. The night before the hunt…what a feeling!


Saturday morning finally rolled around and before the alarm clock could go off Dudley and I were up and at em’ headed for the truck. The previous evening Dudley teased me with trail cam photos of great bucks we were hoping to encounter. Particularly, he had a “hit list” of about 6 or 7 bucks that were all dandies and unique in their own way. I kept thinking to myself that if I could just have an encounter and an opportunity with one of these “hit list” bucks the trip would be golden. With the gear loaded, we headed down the road to the grounds we would be hunting.


With the smell of freshly cut farm fields lingering in the crisp early morning air, we made our way to our stands. We both had our bows in tow with the plan that I would hunt the morning with Dudley running the camera in order to capture some footage for Nock On TV. Settled in my stand waiting for darkness to lift, my emotions were running high. The time had finally arrived…my first morning of my first ever Iowa whitetail hunt…I was pumped!


As the morning started to break it took about 2 minutes after first light to recognize that I was in for a real treat. I thought I had died and gone to whitetail heaven. A couple hundred yards out in front of us, beyond a CRP field, deer were moving like mad. Then, just a few minutes later, beyond the CRP, two great bucks showed themselves. As they stood watching over the field, I stood in my treestand glued to them through my binoculars. As I watched their breath float through the cold morning air, I had the feeling that this was going to be a very special morning.


With lots of deer movement happening all around us at a distance, Dudley reiterated to me that things were going to get really good and to hang on. After only about an hour and a half in the stand that first morning, two does came scurrying at a rapid pace under our stand, with the lead doe looking like a yellow lab that had been chasing tennis balls for the last hour. She was worn out and tired having been chased by the local bucks in the area. Now the adrenaline was really pumping wondering what, if anything, would be hot on the trail. Dudley, from his stand positioned above mine, grabbed my shoulder and gave me the thumbs up as he shared in the excitement. With the does long down the trail and out of sight, I sat and waited eagerly watching and listening hoping that one of those bruisers we had seen earlier would be next. What soon transpired was unreal.


As I was seated in my stand watching out in front of me, I caught a glimpse of movement to my left out of the corner of my eye. As I looked over and down, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! Literally, directly below my stand, nearly against the tree I was seated in, a stud buck was moving from my left to right. It was one of the big bucks we had been glassing at first daylight. How he got that close without either of us seeing or hearing him is beyond me. I quickly grabbed Dudley’s knee and pointed down at the buck. As Dudley quietly moved his head around the tree to see what I was pointing at he looked at me with eyes the size of silver dollars and mouthed, “it’s Heartbreaker!” Dudley had been e-mailing me trail camera photos all through the pre-season and I specifically remembered hearing about and seeing photos of this buck he called Heartbreaker. With a name like that I was really hoping it wasn’t a sign of things to come and with the way the encounter was panning out, it looked like the big buck was living up to his name.


As the buck was making a beeline down the tree lined CRP field directly behind my treestand position, my heart began to sink. He had one thing on his mind and he was on a mission to catch up with the does that had walked under our stand earlier. With him heading out of sight, Dudley quickly blew a grunt call and on a dime, the big buck turned to his left, jumped an old wire fence that ran along the tree line and he disappeared into the thick trees. Without hesitation, after the buck disappeared in the trees, I quickly drew back my bow eyeing the wooded area in front of my stand hoping he would pop out as he circled back to investigate the call. The situation couldn’t have been scripted any better! Within a matter of seconds, the big buck wandered out in front of my stand at 31 yards and stopped broadside looking in our direction trying to figure out where the call had come from. With my bow already drawn and at full anchor, ready to rock, I zeroed in and let the arrow rip. As my arrow flew through the air, it was as though it was all happening in slow motion as I watched the arrow disappear into the wheel-house and the buck exploded through the woods. I had no doubt that the arrow hit the mark and at that moment I about came unraveled as Dudley and I exploded in pure excitement and energy…thank goodness for my safety harness! Here I was, about an hour and forty five minutes into my first morning hunt on my first ever Iowa bowhunt and I had just shot the biggest whitetail buck of my life! Words can’t express the feelings. Iowa had truly lived up to its reputation and beyond. Oh, sweet Iowa!


Wanting to give my buck just a little bit of time Dudley and I switched places with him taking the lead treestand and me above him in the filming position stand. Dudley kept reiterating that this was a special morning and we were hoping to keep the magic morning alive.


No longer than 25 minutes in the stand, after having shot my buck, I looked out into the CRP field and could see a great buck walking directly towards us along the tree line. I quickly tapped Dudley on the shoulder and pointed out the buck that was headed our way. With a quick look through the glasses, Dudley immediately and excitedly exclaimed, “it’s Chernobyl!” Chernobyl was a really cool non-typical buck that had made the “hit list”. With very little time to spare, due to the pace the buck was traveling, Dudley got into position as the buck closed the gap. Because we were strategically sitting on a natural funnel point, the buck came right up to the area where our tree was, jumped the fence right below us and without any hesitation, Dudley launched his Easton Injexion connecting with a perfect shot. The buck busted out, running through the woods in front of us and falling over in our sight.


Now if the excitement after shooting my buck wasn’t enough, here we were, 25 minutes apart, having just shot the biggest whitetail buck of my life and Dudley connecting with a great non-typical and both were captured on film. We were two grown men, acting like two ecstatic little boys, hugging, high-fiving and overcome with such amazing joy! Words cannot express the feelings that overcame me as I tried to comprehend the morning we had just experienced. Just over two hours in the stand and we had just doubled on two incredible Iowa whitetail bucks…Oh, sweet Iowa!           


Iowa will forever hold a very special place in my heart. It lived up to every expectation I could have ever imagined and more. It was surreal. It was incredible. It was Iowa! Iowa is a state that prides itself on world class hunting and exceptional mid-western public hunting opportunity. The state does a phenomenal job managing its public grounds with wildlife habitat management and even food plots. When combining controlled tag numbers and no rifle hunting to the equation you can easily see why the hunting is so superb.


May 5th marks the first day to register online so be sure to start applying by visiting http://www.iowadnr.gov or by finding the Iowa DNR link on the home page of Hoyt.com. It will more than likely take you a few years to earn some points to be successful in drawing your Iowa whitetail tag but that will give you time to scout public land and/or knock on doors. Spring turkey season is a great time to do this and non residents can easily acquire spring turkey tags if you apply in December. I would urge you to put in for your deer points now and head out next spring and chase turkeys and learn more about the public grounds and maybe even get permission on some private land. I can tell you, you will not be disappointed in what Iowa has to offer. What a place!


Good luck and good hunting!


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