MDL Outfitters: Most Frequently Asked Questions by Inquiring Hunters

Wow... Where do I begin? No, that is not one of the FAQs. I really don't know where to begin. All of the questions I get asked by inquiring hunters are so important that it is hard to prioritize them in any particular order. I will try and base this off of the frequency that the particular question has been asked over the last five years. If you are looking at hunting here with us in Iowa or elsewhere in Iowa, this list should help give you some important direction to make sure that the place you choose fits your goals accordingly.


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Q: How many acres do you have?

A: Depending on the year, we have acreage ranging from 1,500 to 2,500 depending on the draw and outlook, and it is well spread out into different areas by choice.

Additional Context: We are spread out across three zones of southern Iowa, which means that we do not have anything close to a central area or continuous tract of land. Our farms range from 40 acres to 500+ acres with the averaging being similar to what we see in southern Iowa as a whole, 120 to 160 acres. This provides benefits not normally considered with outfitting and outfitted hunts: different neighbors mean different genetics, different hierarchies, different pressure, different weather, different land, different deer, different neighbors. All of the problematic things in hunting that are out of our control are much more easily tolerated with being spread out and not confined to one area. To think that any hunter believes X amount of acres equals X amount of buck opportunities is a myth at best. The outfitting market has used acreage to market their operations for decades, and as many know, have convinced people solely on that fact alone. Not here. We are all about shot opportunities, not acres. I'd rather have this than 4,000 continuous acres any day of the week. The deer do not know the property lines, the farm's acreage, nor the hunter hunting them. I rest my case.

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Q: How many days are the hunts?

A: We have a very unique structure that is more like a seasonal lease than a hunt. So, we require our bowhunters to hunt at least seven (7) straight days and they can continue to hunt up to the entire stretch of their date section (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, or Delta). If spacing remains, they can even hunt longer. Most of our sections are between 2-1/2 to 3 weeks in overall length. So, yes, you can hunt from 7 up to 21 days at your discretion (and mine)...

Additional Context: We are truly unique with this hunt length setup. Why? I wanted my hunts to be different and to add more value to the hunter. With hunting free-range whitetails in southern Iowa, there are only so many (few) aspects that I can add with no extra cost to me or the operation that will also benefit the hunter and technically improve the odds of their hunt ending with a successful harvest. Outfitters don't normally do this at all unless you're "buddy-buddy" with them and maybe pay them for extra time, directly or indirectly. I'm too honest. I'm too fair. I'm too biased towards your outcome. If I wanted to try and turn my operation into a "big box" outfitter, I would run 4, 5, or 6 day hunts and run as many guys through as I can. Well, most of us know that such just doesn't work well on the long-term. So, if you hunt with me, you will have as much time as you can free up to hunt these big whitetails in southern Iowa. We understand some hunters do not have the schedule flexibility to hunt for more than 7 days, especially at one time. Yet, if you can, I highly suggest making it a valid option for you after waiting 4 to 5 years for your non-resident Iowa archery tag.

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Q: What is the average buck taken or what is the average buck I should look for?

A: Well, those two do not often equal one another. I like to say on a general basis that we average 150-160" whitetails during bow season. We've had a 200" and a 125" buck taken, and everything in between. For your outlook, I recommend a mature 155-165" buck with the "mature" part being the most important as that is what qualifies a deer as a trophy or not in my book... age, then score (if score at all).

Additional Context: We have had a tremendous amount of opportunities, close calls, blown shots, blown encounters, bad calls, etc., that have lead to deer living when they should have died. That's me being reasonable. We have had hunters shoot a young buck (3-1/2 years old) that should NOT have been killed, and we have had a hunter shoot a debatable 3-1/2 year old that went 165" gross B&C. How do I tell a guy to pass that deer? Exactly... I don't. Southern Iowa is magical. It truly is. You truly have no idea what could step out within range while hunting here. I think the lone fact of us having archery encounters with 200" whitetails within 40 yards three times in 4 years shows us that as a fact. We didn't know any of those encounters would happen beforehand. You just never know. Yet, to calmly focus the mind, I want my hunters picturing a mature whitetail of 4-1/2 or 5-1/2 years of age and older first and foremost, and then headgear from 160" and above on average. There are not too many bucks that are 5-1/2 or older that are drastically under 160" gross B&C. That's Iowa's deer herd and genetic quality mixed in with quality age structure. It's special here, yet it is NEVER a guarantee to see one of these giants. If you want a guarantee, go to a high-fence operation or an operation that is doing something illegal (baiting, poaching, etc.), which is the opposite of us in every way. Be modest. Be humble. Be calm. Be intelligent. Kill a mature buck the first chance you get. A second chance is never a given.

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Q: What are the accommodations, if any?

A: There are no accommodations such as lodging, meals, or transportation with my hunts, which I think disqualifies me as an "outfitter" in most people's mind. Yet, our focus is the hunt itself, not the accommodations. We do help our hunters setup their accommodations months in advance, and to date, it's flowed more smoothly than we did our fully guided hunts with all of the accommodations included. Why? Because our joint focus (me and my hunter's focus) is on the hunt itself and making it a success.

Additional Context: We are truly unique with this hunt length setup. Why? I wanted my hunts to be different and to add more value to the hunter. With hunting free-range whitetails in southern Iowa, there are only so many (few) aspects that I can add with no extra cost to me or the operation that will also benefit the hunter and technically improve the odds of their hunt ending with a successful harvest. Outfitters don't normally do this at all unless you're "buddy-buddy" with them and maybe pay them for extra time, directly or indirectly. I'm too honest. I'm too fair. I'm too biased towards your outcome. If I wanted to try and turn my operation into a "big box" outfitter, I would run 4, 5, or 6 day hunts and run as many guys through as I can. Well, most of us know that such just doesn't work well on the long-term. So, if you hunt with me, you will have as much time as you can free up to hunt these big whitetails in southern Iowa. We understand some hunters do not have the schedule flexibility to hunt for more than 7 days, especially at one time. Yet, if you can, I highly suggest making it a valid option for you after waiting 4 to 5 years for your non-resident Iowa archery tag.

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Q: What are the differences between a trophy farm and a standard farm?

A: There is a very precise breakdown of such on my website's homepage at the very bottom before the footer. The difference starts with the potential buck density in and around the farm. We are looking at trophy farms carrying 160-170" whitetails and up more consistently than most, whereas standard farms would carry 140-150" whitetails more consistently. These score ranges could also vary depending on the neighborhood and the year. Secondly, the difference could also pertain to the quality of the land and the amount of time, effort, and money we can use to invest into making the hunting better (food plots, ponds, more cameras, more stands, etc.).

Additional Context: I think every hunter I have talked to wants to go with a "trophy farm" over a "standard farm". This was not my intention when I carefully chose the word "standard" to represent that category. I think there is something negative assumed with it by my hunters, which was never my intention. I always finish by throwing them a curveball about this topic. Out of the last four years, we have hunted 3 different 200" bucks (arguably 4 actually... but I don't think he was 200" though). We have only killed one of them. We could have killed all of them, very easily. Two of the three (the ones that we didn't kill) were encountered within bow range on STANDARD farms. The one we did kill just happened to be on a TROPHY farm. Do I believe that the quality of the farm truly dictated that we killed that buck versus the others? No chance. It was 100% based on the hunters' actions during their encounters. I wish it was the other way around because that would be more understandable, I believe.

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This covers the most frequently asked questions that I get from hunters with some additional context thrown in. If you have a specific question about anything here or something not listed, don't hesitate to contact me directly by calling 563-320-6875 or by submitting a message through the 'Contact Us' page of our website. I look forward to answering any and all questions that you have. Take care! -Matt

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MDL Outfitters is an Iowa-based Limited Liability Company owned & operated by Matt & Jill Petersen. 

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