MDLO Late Muzz - Cold Hunting

Late Muzzleloader Season in Iowa is a very fun and highly productive hunt if done so correctly. Late Muzzleloader hunts are the most expensive per hour on the stand/blind due to the conditions and overhead needed to produce the hunt and only hunting the second half of the day. Yet, it is the most successful "gun/firearm" hunt that we offer for good reason.

Hunting with us in LM will require you to think, walk, react, execute, plan, and wait, not to mention battle the elements that Southern Iowa throws at you with Mother Nature putting her signature touch on it. That is okay, that is what makes this hunt special and well worth it. It is the only gun hunt we would do when planning a year out. Residents are able to play the weather, go get a tag over-the-counter, and jump into the farm. Non-residents must plan accordingly, and LM seems to have the most upsides.

Picture this, Southern Iowa landscape, nice crusty white snow glistening, your breath fogging up your immediate vision warming your forehead so slightly, the sun shines but without much warmth, the first deer enters your view and the evening parade to the dinner table begins. Not long after, tines appear. He's on the same trail the other deer were on, and he's starting his approach. It won't be long now. He's coming. The shakes start because the little shot of adrenaline just made your body wake up. Muzzleloader is loaded and ready to rock. Now it is up to the clock. Finally, he enters the plot. He's eating. He's calm. Check him through your scope. Yep, that's him. A mature Iowa whitetail. He raises his head as if he heard something only to go back to feeding like he can't get enough. You range him. 104 yards. Zero'd. Take an extra second to soak it all in around you. It's go time. Execute the breathing. Calm the mind and body while fighting the cold. Feel the trigger finger. It's still there and hasn't fallen off. Good. He's now behind a doe. Damnit. She needs to move. Keep breathing. She moves off enough to open the shot back up. Okay, let's do it. Find him in scope. Breathe. Cock the hammer. Breathe. Get a few solid breathes in. In through nose, out through the mouth. Don't fog up the scope, dumb***. Okay, that's wiped clean. Finger now on the trigger oh so slightly. Find the shoulder line, move just below center-mass, the heart/lung overlap, breathe, look, relax, inhale slowly, full exhale slowly, squeeze it off. Click - BOOM! Smoke everywhere. It's all white. Deer are scattering. Which one is he?! Heart pumping so fast you finally feel warm. Stand up. Find him. Reload. Find him again. Get him in the scope. There he is! He's down! grab the backpack (ya know, with your tag?) Start walking to the plot, it now appears different. Heart still pumping. There he is. Getting closer. You see his tines better now. You are getting closer to him than you've ever been. How awesome! Yep, this is real. This is it!

If only I could draw it up that easily, but yet, that is almost how all of our muzzleloader hunts end up. From the moment the buck appears, the memory storing and excitement start. Some guys wait a week for this to happen. Some guys have it happen the first night. That's hunting. Some don't have it happen at all. That's hunting. Yet, remember why you try. Remember why you battle the elements. You're here for that buck. Can't quit now. Late Muzz hunting is one of the most fun times to hunt. Below are pictures from our last LM hunting, myself and my buddy client in 2020. We killed the same night. The above storyline is almost on key for our hunts that evening. Missing some key details about positioning for the shot, ranging, etc., might be left out, but that's the uniqueness in every hunt beyond the excitement. It is fun!


Top Left - I am pointing to confirm the trail going into this spot that the deer also found accommodating. This CRP farm was my buddy's so I wanted to make sure I chose the right entrance into the setup. Top Middle - My setup on the ground, in the snow, overlooking a bean plot that had already produced 2-3 studs that year (bow season and gun season); a beautiful LM spot. Top Right - The immediate result of dropped a buck hard when he's super old, sheds... Bottom Left - My best staging of him while trying to get out of dodge and back home three hours away before neighbors saw my phone light, my flashlight, or my truck lights. I like to be secretive, so trying to keep things on the D.L. Bottom Middle - Rack of the oldest LM deer I have ever shot with fresh blood yet. Bottom Right - My buddy's 160" buck he shot on my farm that same night while I was on the friend's farm 3 hours away.

Conditions were right that night in Southern Iowa, weather, pressure, snow, deer, it all was solid from what I could tell. I was hunting 1 acre of beans and he was hunting 100 acres of beans, yes, a standing bean crop left in due to poor farming practices. The deer appreciated it though! He made a stalk to get this buck in range and made it count. I knew we had good deer around that farm, and the snow and cold allowed him to capitalize on it.


Late Muzzleloader Season opens the Monday following the Second Regular Gun (Gun 2) Season, usually the Monday before Christmas and closes January 10th every year. That about 3 weeks of late season when the bow season is actually reopened for their "late split". The early split is Oct 1st - Nov 30th* (until Gun 1 opens). So, three weeks of late December and early January hunting. This is also when bucks are battling cold, lack of food, remaining rut action (on yearlings or late popping does), predation, and Mother Nature in general while recovering from the rut trying to gain fat for the winter months that last through February. In a more detailed fashion, the best "when" to hunt is the night right before, during, and after a snow storm with a big cold front. High pressure and rising (30.01" and up) is a huge add-on. Hunting a southerly warm wind is not as good. So, there is a "when" component to the weather