Archery hunting for mature whitetails in southern Iowa is one of the most exciting things that you can do as a bowhunter. It is also one of the most difficult things to do as a bowhunter. When you come to Iowa, you expect to see a shooter, proving that they are nearby and you're in the mix. Furthermore, getting a shot off on one of these shooters is a tall order, even on some of the most open of farms where your shooting lane is a field. Our 2020 bow season was the best year that we have ever had for overall encounters and sightings of shooters. However, the shot opportunities didn't match up equally with the sightings despite our best efforts. That is why they call this hunting and not killing. We were 100% in the running for these big bucks, but we just didn't seal the deal.
Below, I will share some shot opportunities that we did have, or at least encounters that I will count as almost shot opportunities.
- 180" booner @ 50 yards (he stood in the only area where the shot was not doable)*
- 150-160" 8pt @ 60yds (hunter dropped his release on spot & stalk in CRP)
- 170"+ booner @ 40 yards (shot was taken, hit low, believe non-fatal)
- 160" 8pt @ 40yds (bedded with doe, couldn't thread the needle)
- 145" 8pt @ 20yds (6+ yr old; passed open shot opportunity)
- 155-160" 8pt @ 10yds (5-1/2 year old; couldn't get a shot due to hunter error)
- 150" 8pt @ 30yds (3 shots to kill him; recovered)
- 135" 10pt @ 25yds (3-1/2 year old; shot & recovered)
- 135" 10pt @ 50yds (7+ year old; passed on shot due to distance)
- 150" 3-1/2 year old @ 50yds (I told hunter he can't shoot him; good pass)
- 175-180" booner typical 10pt @ 60yds (7+ year old; passed on shot due to size)
- 160" 4-1/2 year old non-typical @ 60yds (running after a doe; didn't stop him)
- 160"+ shooter @ 60yds (running after a doe; couldn't stop him; unknown deer)
- 150"+ shooter @ 60yds (brush was too thick & timing did not work; known buck)
- 155"+ 9pt @ 25yds (passed due to wanting a bigger deer - a 170-180" buck)
Let's do some data analysis here now...
Number of Iowa Bowhunters: 15
Number of Close Encounters/Shot Opportunities: 15 +/-
Total Inches of Bucks Encountered/Shot Opportunities: 2,340" +/-
Average Buck Size on Encounters/Shot Opportunities: 156" +/-
Average Distance of Encounters/Shot Opportunities: 42.67 Yards +/-
Needless to say, the outcome of the 2020 bow season was very underwhelming compared to the shot opportunities and encounters that we had. I'll even say it is depressing. If we killed half of the encounters we had, we would have had 7 or 8 deer down, maybe more. I know some of the shots were definitely tough shots to make, but a lot of them were very doable if practice was done and confidence was reasonable. Yes, a few hunters made mistakes, and that's just part of it. Yet, this directs my attention to a topic I have discussed a lot in blog posts before: being a big deer killer, not just a hunter. Doing the semi-guided hunts, a lot of the work and effort during the hunt is solely the responsibility of the hunter themself. We were definitely in the mix to kill some great deer this season, but luck wasn't on our side, and a few mistakes cost us even more so. That is deer hunting for you, even in southern Iowa.
I know a lot of great deer that have made it through bow season that now must survive past the orange army of gun hunters in southern Iowa. I have a few gun hunters coming in who are past bow clients, so we will see what they can manage to take a shot at. As I type this, I have 2 guys hunting to try and get something down. One is a former client who moved to Iowa and is hunting as a friend, and the other is a client whom I've known for a few years. It's not the ideal time to hunt these big deer, but we are making efforts. If they are able to get a shot opportunity, quality encounter, or even get one down, I will surely do another update to this post (and repost it).
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