WHAT TO EXPECT
WHEN HUNTING WITH MDLO IN SOUTHERN IOWA
Hunting in Southern Iowa can be extremely exciting thought. When you consider what is shown on outdoor television over the last ten to twenty years, outdoor magazine articles and photo content, and now add the internet and social media, it would be easy for people to assume that there are 170" whitetails around every other tree. What the YouTube videos and shorts, the TikTok posts, the IG reels, the FB videos, and outdoor television shows don't show you is the money, the labor, the effort, the time, and the failure that goes into hunting monster whitetails in Southern Iowa. Since there is not anything out there that truly depicts the real hunting here, this is to explain what you can expect to encounter, witness, hear, see, smell, feel, etc., when you hunt in Iowa for 100% free-ranging wild whitetails during archery season, gun season(s), and/or late muzzleloader season with MDLO.
FIRST, HERE IS WHAT YOU PROBABLY DON'T KNOW
ABOUT THE PUBLIC (BRAND) IMAGE OF SOUTHERN IOWA
WHITETAIL HUNTING, DEER MANAGEMENT, AND LAND MANAGEMENT
Money is the single-most relevant topic when thinking about properly hunting whitetails in Southern Iowa. You either have it, or you don't. For instance, Lakosky's made big money and reinvested it into their hunting operation. Now, they hold private, exclusive access to roughly 10,000 acres amongst Iowa and Illinois. That all costs money, and they put together their plan. It starts with being able to afford it. Drury's are in the same boat there. When you are able to invest money into your hunting, the more the merrier. It all adds up. It can be assumed that the amount of money able to be spent or invested into annual hunting practices is almost directly relatable to the consistency of big deer frequenting or living on certain farms. Neighborhoods can truly be swayed simply but money spent on habitat improvement, food plots, and overall acreage. Every neighborhood can be monopolized, and the biggest spenders do it to improve their odds each year. It is nothing for someone to spend $20,000 a year on deer hunting here. Frankly, it has been said that Lakosky has left $150,000 in standing crops up just to feed the deer on their farms. If you want to hunt like him, you best be prepared to spend like him, year-in and year-out.
Time is also one of the most important components to hunting big deer in Iowa each year. As most of MDLO clients are non-residents, time is of the essence. Most of your "big deer killers" are guys who spend an ungodly amount of time hunting. You just don't see that shown adequately at all in the videos you see on TV or online. Some guys go 45 days or more without killing a big deer and they live here! So, when a 7-10 day hunt is not successful, it is easy to understand one reason behind such. Yet, it can happen in just one sit. Many big deer are killed each year by guys who hunt less than 7-10 days. There are even guys who live here, hunt 60 days, and don't kill anything. So, time is very important, but it is not everything. You can hunt the best farm ever for two weeks straight and not see a shooter. You could hunt the worst farm ever for 1 day and kill a 200" B&C buck. Time is valuable, but the deer can make it irrelevant due to them being able to roam the countryside freely as they so choose. Time simply leads to bucks making potentially that next mistake that will be their last, and you just never know when that will be. The more time you spend hunting, the better your odds generically improve. Plain and simple.
Labor, sweat-equity, is that one factor that you never see in the videos online or on TV. To be honest, plenty of big deer get killed by hunters who have invested very little labor. Yet, like time, the more you put in the better the results can be. There is a catch though, at any point in time, your labor on a farm can be in vain. One wrong move could bump that big buck out of the property for good. He doesn't care that you had the best of intentions to make his dinner table nicer, bedding area bigger, etc. Yet, if done so properly, securely, and at the right time, the labor invested can be of huge value to making the hunting much better. Labor is sort of a vague topic though. After all the prep labor, you can continue to add valuable labor by being mobile enough to get to in on a buck, like a hang-and-hunt setup. That is prompt, specific, rational labor which is more risky but also valuable if you pull it off. The negative outcome from labor is rarely shown to the public. This is easily a topic that could go on and on to cover more specific scenarios and information. If you research enough, test your thought-process enough, you will know the difference between good labor, bad labor, and wasted labor. Yet, there is still lucky labor to come.
Social media has been both a positive and negative influence on our lives, let alone deer hunting. When it comes to social media, a lot of the deer hunting content that you see is relatively narcissistic and ego-driven. As for the deer hunting industry, you will notice that it is fueled by views and likes by the viewers that drives people to continue to use social media. Posting a big buck picture or video on social media is strictly done to gain attention and/or for marketing purposes. Feeding the ego in such a way has caused a lot of people to push the legality of their hunting actions to the limit, but it has also drowned out the overall positive that social media can bring, a sense of community in the hunting world. If you are not on social media, stay off of it. If you are on social media, consider why you do it, and what it does to you - gives you a false sense of what reality is. This is extremely true for deer hunting. You don't see someone post photos or videos of the countless hours spent in a stand with no shot opportunity presented or even no buck sighted. You see the hero shots, the short clips of when a buck did appear. Yet, you won't see the reality. Nobody likes to watch videos of nothing in front of the stand, right?
Like social media, Outdoor TV feeds the ego and creates a false sense of reality. One can see how TV in general has produced such changes in our general society over the years. Look at what it has done to the outdoor industry or more specifically, the hunting industry. People have gone to jail and prison over deer hunting. Why? Just to earn a buck. The hunting TV market grew in the 2000s when Dish Network and DirecTV made specialized channels more accessible. You could turn on the TV at least once a week and see a 200" midwest whitetail being hunted. If you waited around for 30-mins, you'd have a chance to see a record-book brown bear on Kodiak getting spot-and-stalked. Before TV, those were stories in magazines left for the imagination to envision. Now, it's in front of you in full color on-demand. How cool! Yet, this has made people come to expect the good that is shown in the videos, not the time, money, labor, and effort that goes into making such a video segment. The hundreds of hours of B-Roll footage, the thousands upon thousands of dollars spent on just videography equipment and editing software & computers, none of that is shown. Yet, you are likely to think hunting big deer is easier than what reality truly is.
Big deer, big money, big image, and big egos have caused the demise of many hunters through cheating. Southern Iowa might not have the largest poaching case in the country, but there is always plenty of cheating and poaching that goes on here, unfortunately. Hunters, outfitters, guides, etc., have all pushed the envelope of legal vs. illegal from time to time, but in Iowa, the DNR does a fabulous job of protecting Iowa's fine resource that produces millions of dollars in state revenue each year. There are stories about hunting personalities (TV, Social Media) that would blow you away: Buying record-book high-fence does and releasing them into large private tracts to improve overall buck genetics and size. Putting poison on property lines to keep deer inside despite not being high-fence nor having a license for a high-fence operation. Lying about state residency (big one). Filling other people's tags. Buying tags for kids to fill yourself and not take them hunting. You truly don't know how many cheaters are out there that appear as 100% legal and legit. Some get caught. Many escape. Sometimes, the DNR won't even pursue arrests and charges because the strength of the case is too weak. We have seen it first-hand.
HOW DO THE ABOVE ITEMS APPLY TO MDLO,
AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR MDLO'S CLIENTS
WHO ARE NON-RESIDENTS OF IOWA ON A LIMITED
TIME STRUCTURE FOR THEIR DEER HUNT
MONEY & TIME
Spending time & money on an outfitted hunt like or unlike MDLO is a risk. Consider it a "hunt investment" that is a trade of money & time for potential opportunity to harvest a trophy whitetail with no guarantees. 50% or more of the hunt outcome is truly up to the deer and what they decide to do. Over half of the potential opportunity to see and/or harvest a trophy whitetail is fully outside of MDLO's control or the client's control. That's not to be disheartening. It is meant to be clarifying. Yet, the amount of time & money that you are willing to spend on a hunt can truly influence the hunt for the better. The more money you spend on the hunt, the better the odds become because more money is invested into producing the hunt. No matter what your schedule & budget is, it is what it is. You will always try to get more for your time & dollar than what is likely to occur. You will likely be spending something that does not contribute directly to improved odds. That is just the nature of it. We've spent thousands of dollars and hours upon hours on leases that looked good but did not prove worthy enough for us to keep. We've spent hundreds of dollars and fewer hours on leases that have produce better deer than leases that cost thousands down the road. There is a huge aspect of risk here, and we are doing so blindly with great intentions.
LABOR & EFFORT
MDLO is able to operate up to & including spending as much money and time that we have been given by our clients each year. The balancing act is our responsibility. We could easily run for a loss each year with MDLO because of there being no limit (ceiling) to spending money to invest in hunting. However, we don't run MDLO just for fun. It is a business, and businesses have bills. Yet, when done right, the clients benefit from the guidance from MDLO, regardless of hunt outcome. Again, as mentioned in 'Money & Time' category, over half of the potential hunt outcome is outside of MDLO's control nor the client's control. This makes it challenging to choose what to do and what not do for the betterment of the hunt. This includes not just money and time but also labor and effort. We have to balance our money, time, effort and use as much as we can to produce a hunt that we feel can produce big deer. Yet, we know it is not the majority of the factors that determine whether a hunt is successful or not. Please keep this in mind as we run MDLO for you to have a great hunt and hopefully potential shot opportunity on a monster whitetail. We will spend money, time, labor, and effort into our clients' hunts that we can reasonably afford, and we welcome our client's to spend the same in addition to such. It takes teamwork to pull off these hunts with a strong sense of self pride.
CLARITY & AWARENESS
As long as the client understands this entire topic, the rest should be relatively easy. Just go hunt. Hunt hard. Be rational, logical. Stay open-minded yet neutral on emotions. The outcome of the hunt is only one aspect of the hunt. Killing a big buck is obviously the final end goal, but if it doesn't happen, it doesn't need to be the end of the world. That is hunting. Having the mental clarity and situational awareness will take a huge burden off of the client's chest. The excitement of the hunt, the stress of the hunt, the actual hunt itself, it's still just a hunt. Any hunt can be an absolute failure, and any hunt can be an absolute success. With that in mind, the clients should relax and just soak it all in, the sounds, the sights, the smells, all of the feels, and appreciate it is for what it is, an opportunity to hunt where there could be monster whitetails that you tend to only see on TV or social media. Those big deer are 100% real, but they aren't so overly populated that you should expect to see one every single day of your hunt. If you see a mature whitetail buck, consider it a blessing. That deer had to make literally thousands of choices to show up right in front of you in that very moment. Of course, there are some things that the client and MDLO can do to potentially improve those odds of such happening, but yet, it's still up to chance and mostly all up to those big deer to play.
HOW THE DIFFERENT PHASES OF THE HUNT,
START, MIDDLE, AND END, SHOULD
BE LOOKED AT BY INQUIRING & CURRENT HUNTERS
THE START OF THE HUNT
The start of every hunt is exciting, especially in Southern Iowa if you are not from here. There is a legend about it. Yet, the time to be calm, focused, collected, and purposeful is here. As soon as the hunt starts, it is go-time. Enjoy it. The minute that you step into the woods or fields in Southern Iowa, it is a possibility to see a trophy whitetail. Yet, in a calm state of mind, you value your clarity while knowing it can unfold at any time yet also knowing that you have a potentially challenging hunt in front of you. It's hunting time until it is not. Staying sharp for 5,6,7 or more days straight, dark-to-dark, wears heavily on the mind and body. Yet, if you enjoy just being there and taking it all in, the hunt will be much easier & more enjoyable.
THE MIDDLE OF THE HUNT
Some hunts don't even have a "middle" because they are over with before it gets to this point. Some hunters shoot a buck very early. Most of the hunters do get to "the middle", and this is where the mental games start. Hunters start thinking about whether or not that buck will ever show. Some wonder if they chose the right time to hunt, the right zone to apply for, or even the right outfitter. Those questions are never truly answered. Yet, letting yourself get to this mental state is potentially damaging onto your hunt and the potential outcome of the hunt. At this point, you're not enjoying the hunt. You're worried about it, maybe even stressing about it. Wipe those thoughts and get back to calm & collected. It only takes one second to change.
THE END OF THE HUNT
Nobody ever knows when this will happen, but everyone knows that it will definitely happen. Every hunt comes to an end, but often times, it is a choice by the hunter to capitalize on a shot opportunity or even draw a buck in closer with a snort-wheeze or a grunt for that shot. You never know when this will unfold, if at all. You know that the only alternative is the last hunt day concluding without a shot being fired. In that case, it is what it is. That is hunting. This is the risk a hunter takes every time they enter the woods. There is a reason that it is called hunting and not killing, yet, we all hope that the end concludes with a harvest. Yet, enjoy the hunt and cherish the hunt memories made from start to finish, & become a better hunter by it.