A Cool Iowa Whitetail Hunt

After making our excessively generous donation to the Iowa DNR, it was back to southern Iowa in search of whitetail deer again this year. It was a dramatic change from last year's weather, with one degree below zero temperatures for opening day. The obligatory range work was long out of the way, with Dad finishing up by putting three Parker 250 grain Ballistic Extremes into one inch at 100 yards from his Savage 10ML-II. I was using an LHR Redemption with Blackhorn 209 and the bullet it preferred: a 300 grain Parker Ballistic Extreme.

Iowa's deer population has been declining since 2006, still numbering upwards of 400,000 head. Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) has taken its toll, a nasty disease transmitted by the biting midge. Biting midges are blood-sucking little flies that also transmit the more widely known Blue Tongue: a related, but different virus that is also non-contagious. EHD is difficult to combat, as there is no vaccination and the flies breed in water. Reducing all the standing water is quite a task. EHD does not affect humans or impact the safety of venison. It is a good thing, a very good thing that substantial hunting dollars are in play to try to combat deer and other wildlife diseases, for in the case of deer there are a goodly number of farmers that want them all dead.

Over and over again history teaches us that the best way to insure healthy game populations is to hunt them, for without hunting dollars much wild game would be found only in zoos and in private collections. Few Americans realize that their tax dollars are used by Federal agents (Dept. of Agriculture) to slaughter deer with night vision and so forth. The USDA's 2014 budget is $146 Billion. As part of our giant government, where the money actually goes invariably contains elements of mystery, waste, and revulsion.

In stark contrast to last year, the December, 2013 Iowa visit was on the cool side, with opening day temperatures dipping below zero. That, and some aggressive winds made things a bit more interesting. The blind I was using was in a good spot, but it had seen better days as it was about two-thirds there, an large gap in the back. It had also collapsed, so it took a little last-minute patching to make it more or less upright. The first day's hunt revealed several does, noisy woodpeckers, bald eagles, and perhaps the world's most entertaining squirrel . . . but, nothing with horns on it. For non-resident hunters, Iowa automatically makes you buy a doe tag along with the either sex tag, but we had no intention of using them. Dad, who claims to be 85-1/2 years old and “seniority” had a similar opening day. Come to think of it, Dad has always asserted seniority and the perk that go with it, all of my life. It doesn't seem like I'm catching up.

The second day brought snow and lots of it. It was sufficient to fully collapse my blind into an object resembling a throw-rug. Quickly using my borderline razor-sharp mind, I found that my range rod balanced on the chair was sufficient to keep the blind usable. It is a better option than spending the day supporting the blind with your head, to be sure. The second day brought more does, flashes of a few animals running deep in the woods, but nothing of substance.

Dad had better luck, though, for although his morning was just a small amount of doe-viewing, very late in the day, after sunset, a big lone deer made his way across the field 140 – 160 yards from Dad's blind. I'd been suggesting (okay, preaching) to Dad that he break down and get some binoculars worth looking through. Finally, this year, he did: and it paid off. Though it wasn't possible to discern what the animal was with the naked eye, a quick look through his 8 x 42's revealed it to be a decent buck.

Dad invented a new type of shot this year, the “broadside raking shot.” He gave his Parker 250 grain Ballistic Extreme a rough ride, taking the long way home from liver to lung. It is a good thing he wasn't using a naked lead projectile, or a pistol bullet, to be sure. Anyway, Dad's 10 point didn't go far. It ended up as sixty-two pounds of prime, boneless venison, and Dad's hunt was a success.

The next morning, I was going to give my decrepit blind one last try. It was cold, slippery, and nasty. Rather than getting stuck, I was going to use an older E-Z-GO. A very cold-blooded beast, rather than run the battery down, I used the truck. Well, the truck could make it and I managed to come within a few inches of dropping it into a creek. So, it was back to camp, still in the dark, and after another go at the E-Z-GO, we were up and running. Well, the E-Z-GO had a rough time making it up one big snowy hill, but finally managed. Alright, so it was ditch the E-Z-GO in the tall grass and hoof it to the blind, now thoroughly weighted down by snow, still supported by my lucky range rod.

It was after getting set-up in the blind that my butt bumped the range-rod, causing instant collapse of what was left of the blind in the cold and wind. As a bucket of snow ran down my back and melted, I was forced to ask myself one simple question. Is there something really, really wrong about actually sleeping in one morning of a hunt? No intelligent creatures were moving that morning, just a whole day of nothing. Hunting is hardly always finding, to make an understatement, but that isn't the point. The more time you spend in the woods, the luckier you seem to get.

The next day, it turned cold and the wind picked up. I was in a better blind, the wind in my face. Naturally, when one degree wind is blowing into your face your eyes tend to water. When your tears turn to ice before they can roll off your cheek, it is a reliable sign that you are cold. You don't have to be nutty to do this, but I consider it a great advantage. Although a few does cooperated, they just got looked at. That's why they call it hunting. It was a great hunt, nevertheless, it was good to see Billy and Rose Knight again, and Dad cashed in with a tasty ten-point. The Iowa monster buck will hopefully be a bit bigger next time.



© Copyright 2013, 2014 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.


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