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FREE-RANGE DEER FARMING: A Share From Facebookland

Updated: Oct 16, 2020

I saw a Facebook post this morning from late last night that was highlighting a topic of "big deer killing or farming" in the hunting industry by a once-upon-a-time big deer killer in Iowa who has since fallen out of the industry spotlight after personal family turmoil and continued/extended failure to kill big deer like he use to back in the day... Sponsorship money has probably dried up compared to what it once was for him and his show. The industry has definitely shifted over the last 10 years. (The industry is very cut-throat, and I am not a big fan of it after I learned a lot of the hidden truths behind the market and shows. Sorry, if that start was a little harsh.) Anyways, I found a lot of irony in his post because it seemed more emotional than logical, but that is just my opinion. Maybe he has more information on the subject than I do. Who knows... Yet, there is a lot of truth in his post, which I will comment on below.

Now, I know exactly who he was referring to, Lee Lakosky, and how it's not just hunting anymore but rather free-range deer farming. Lee has killed some mega studs in the last two years. No, he didn't mean high-fence. The free-range aspect involved thousands upon thousands of acres of private access owned and operated by the hunter or an investment group. $100,000-$150,000+ in food plots and unknown rigorous amounts of money in trail cameras, stands, blinds, equipment, etc., all leads to "unrealistic hunting"...

He was right,. It is free-range deer farming when you can invest that much money into the work. Do you think Lee Lakosky is the only one doing it? No. The Drury's do it. Bill Winke did a much smaller scale of it. Many industry guys have tried to follow suit and failed, including the guy who made the post. There isn't a single deer hunter that I know personally that wouldn't love to be in Lee Lakosky's shoes, including this gentleman.

I have heard stories of Lakosky and Drury buying bred does from high-fence deer farms to add special, high-scoring genetics to their farms. Now, I know this industry is sick in many ways, so it's not as far of a stretch as one may think. Yet, I currently do not have nor will I have any proof of such. So, you won't catch me throwing that around when Lee or Mark kills a 200" whitetail.

Lakosky is one of the best deer hunters out there. So is Drury. Yet, their hunting is much different than the normal hunting across this country. They are in the Bill Gates percentage of the whitetail industry with their resources and I don't just mean money. So, what gives? Work, being relentless, and proven success reaching goals. Lee has done that, and so has Mark. Lee lived in a shack when he first moved to Iowa. Lee's life today was his dream that 20+ years ago popped into his mind... more land, more resources, bigger deer, more big deer, better age structure, controlled environment, etc. It took him and Tiffany decades to accomplish this. Prior to a few years ago, Lee's biggest whitetail wasn't even 200"... Gnarles Barkley (look it up). Now, Lee has 3 deer over 200". It's not a far stretch when you consider the amount of quality ground he has, the food sources he has, the neighborhoods he has controlled, and all of the other variables he has had influence on or can outright control. He worked for it. He turned his passion into a job, which created the time to do this. If you work a 9-5 making $100k a year, well, you could be where Lee is in 20 years. That was what Lee gave up for this. Whether or not he added farm genetics to the wild herd is irrelevant to me. It's not unfathomable for a guy to have what Lee has in southern Iowa and kill monster whitetails. Same goes for Drury. I am not trying to defend Lee or Mark, but I dislike seeing hunters bash other hunters. Grow up.

Back to common folk hunting, the industry has forever changed how we hunt. From trail cameras and cell cameras, to drones and food plots, to aerial maps and improved knowledge resources such as media content and social media, we should all be better deer hunters because of it. I think a lot of us are. We have adapted. Are there still guys going out and killing big deer like Mitch Rompola? That dude lives whitetails... no joke. That is his focus 24/7. He didn't adapt with the industry, and you only hear about him in discussions about his debatable world-record typical that Milo basically hushed him on. He didn't care. He knew he killed the record, or at least a mega whitetail on his own terms, and that was enough for his own self-contentment.

What is so different between Mitch and the rest of the whitetail hunters trying to kill big bucks? Ego. If you had an emotional response just there when you read the word "ego" then you are probably an ego-hunter. It's okay. Most hunters are. Hunting is not a team sport where greed and selfishness doesn't belong. It is a selfish sport, an individual sport. Ego is part of the craze of who can kill the biggest buck. Some have made jobs of this industry craze, like Lakosky and Drury. Some have spent millions on it. There are still guys like Rampola out there who have avoided the ego crisis. That is one of the stark changes in this industry that I am okay with... competition. Competition produces results. It also produces liars, cheaters, and scammers... it produces both the good and the bad.

If you are a guy like me, who is split between chasing monster whitetails with all legal and available resources and also missing the good ol' days where deer hunting was much simpler... here's a suggestion to ponder... Dedocate a year of deer hunting to the old ways... no trail cameras, no food plots, no attractants, no store-bought scent-control, just you, your bow & quiver, and a stand. Go out & hunt. Get back to the old ways. I believe most will not do this as it's easier to kill big deer with the technology and other advancements this industry has made in the last 20-30 years, year-by-year. I don't fault you for using the resources you were gifted by advancement in the sport. That's your personal choice to make. Yet, if you choose to utilize such, don't bash a hunter more successful than you because they have been able to do what you wish you could have, whether by luck or by effort.

For those of you who have read to this part in my post, I am going to come up with a pretty cool option for my outfitted hunts in southern & northeastern Iowa as well as Kansas... The "Good Ol' Deer Hunts"... no trail cameras, no attractants, no food plots, just good ol' stands and private exclusive access. Now, these hunts will be much cheaper than my normal semi-guided hunts because the investment is less. $2,250 for a 7-10 day bow hunt in southern Iowa. You pick your dates. Only available on the weekends? $1,750 for 2 weekends (Fri PM - Sunday PM; 10 sits total) That should help cover the cost of a lease and a few stands. Do you have the nerve to go for it? Do you trust your abilities? Are you actually that good of a deer hunter to be able to kill a mature whitetail without all of the resources? If so, let's talk. I can help you with that. Call me at 563-320-6875.

God bless & happy hunting!

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