Dylan has been all over the map this fall, almost exclusively behind the camera. With a North Dakota tag in his pocket, he was excited to grab the bow and try to knock one down before the season closed. Him and Ryan headed north the morning after Christmas and planned to hunt until New Years. The weather still wasn’t great, but the forecast called for some fresh snow right at the end of the year. After a few slow sits, it was coming “down to the wire” for Dylan before he needed to head home. On the last evening of the trip, they headed into a brand new spot that none of us have ever hunted before. Recent intel showed several good bucks on the camera, but very inconsistent on their movements. With it being the last night, it was time to roll the dice and hope to get lucky. With an hour of light remaining, one of the good bucks popped out of the marsh 150 yards away. He read the script perfectly as he worked into bow range. Dylan made an excellent shot and the buck expired just out of sight. What a way to end the year in North Dakota!
Mike has also been sitting on a North Dakota tag, with hopes of filling it in the late season. Well above average temperatures were not helping the deer movement. The first 4 nights of the trip were unsuccessful. Several shooters were showing up on the cameras but almost exclusively after shooting light had faded. On day 5, the cell cameras showed a couple of good bucks feeding well into the morning hours at a spot that we call “The Slip”. This gave Mike the confidence that they were bedded close by would return that evening. Him and Brennen slipped into the blind a few hours before dark and waited. Right at last light a doe approached from behind them and passed in front of the blind at a mere 8 steps. Close behind was a solid 9 pointer. He walked past the blind on the same 8 yard trail. He stopped at 18 yards and Mike made it count!
Ryan and Dylan have made it an annual tradition to spend the 8-9 days leading up to Christmas, in North Dakota chasing late season whitetails. On a normal year, they are greeted with snow covered ground and subzero temperatures. This year would be different. Bare ground and temperatures reaching highs in the 30s and overnight lows staying well above 0. This might sound chilly to most, but for the deer in the northern plains, this is “t-shirt” weather. The boys stuck to the game plan, played the wind, and hunted the spots where good bucks were flirting with daylight on the trail cameras. The first several days yielded next to no deer sightings. Recent intel on the cell cams led them to sit a spot where an old buck they dubbed “Sid” was moving fairly close to daylight. The sun set, and “Sid” popped out of the cattails a couple hundred yards away. The old buck took his time and circled downwind of the setup before finally committing. He gave Ryan the 20 yard opportunity he was hoping for, and they watched him crash in the grass 125 yards later.
For the first time ever, I decided to buy a gun tag for the 1st shotgun season in Iowa. I generally opt to wait for the late muzzleloader season instead because it is substantially longer. However, the last couple years have been tough hunting in the late season due to mild weather. With good buck activity on the trail cameras leading up to season, I thought I had a reasonably good chance at catching a daylight shooter during the 5 day season. On the 3rd morning of the season, my decision paid off! JP and I were perched in one of my favorite sets on the north end of the farm. Around 8:30 a.m. I picked up a good buck down the valley from us, I threw the binocs on him and instantly recognized him. It was ‘Weezy’, a buck that I had a great encounter with 2 years ago. He was no stranger to the trail cameras since that first encounter, but this was the first I had seen him on the hoof since that day. The buck was paralleling us at around 110-120 yards as he was heading up the hill. I found an opening in the timber and took my shot. He went down in his tracks. What an incredible way to cap off my season in Iowa.
JP drew a tag in Kansas this year for the first time, ever. With a new lease in place, we were excited to get down there and start hunting this fall. A couple of nice bucks seemed to call the property home throughout the summer and into the fall, but they just weren’t quite what he was hoping to put his Kansas tag on. The plan was to wait until November and give it time to see if something bigger would show up. Sure enough, late October rolled around and a “new buck” showed up. We dubbed him “Showtime” and he quickly moved to the top of the Hitlist. Showtime was very inconsistent in his movement on the trail cameras, but he would show up just enough to give us hope that we might run into him. It would be on our 3rd trip in November, and on the eve of Thanksgiving Day before the stars would finally align and JP would lay his hands on the biggest buck of his life!
It’s been 4 years since Mike drew an archery tag in Iowa. In 2016, him and I hunted together on some of the ground that I am fortunate enough to hunt on. This year would be different, he wanted to take on the challenge of filling his tag on public land. In late summer, we did a scout trip and pinned a bunch of locations on BaseMap that we felt confident in. It wasn’t until late October when Mike would make his first trip down to hunt. A few good encounters in late October and early November had him itching to get back and give it one last go before the gun seasons came in. On the morning of November 23rd, Mike was set up on a narrow ridge when this buck came cruising by shortly after daylight.
Dylan “Goolash” has been toting around his decoy (Decoy Dan) for the last couple of weeks hoping to get some action in Wisconsin. Encounters have been stacking up but the quiver remained full, until now. This beautiful Wisconsin buck read the script perfectly. He entered the food plot, laid eyes on the decoy, and it was game on. We are pumped to share the story of this hunt with you guys next summer!
Chad and Dan headed to Colorado for a DIY public land elk hunt. The guys worked hard all week to get away from the hunting pressure, and get into the elk. No matter where they went, it seemed like the elk were always just across the fence on the private land. They stuck with it and as the trip was winding down, it came together for both of them on great bulls!
It wasn’t easy an easy decision, but I waited until November 10th to begin hunting here in Iowa. Warm weather and south winds for the first 9 days didn’t allow for me to get into the areas that I knew would present me with my best opportunities. A front rolled in late on the 9th and brought with it, north west winds and rain. The radar showed the rain laying up around 12 noon so we sat out the morning and wanted to be in the tree by 11:00 a.m. The rain quit around noon and the action escalated quickly. This buck was the 5th buck we had seen when he cruised past the tree at 2:00. Any doubts that I had about waiting this long to climb in an Iowa tree quickly faded when my tag was gone just 3 hours into my first sit. Forever grateful for the opportunity to chase whitetails in November.
Initially JP and I planned to spend the early part of November bouncing back and forth between Iowa and Kansas. Those plans quickly changed when south winds and warm weather decided to move in for the first week of November. Instead of burning out our farms down south, we elected to hunt Wisconsin and Minnesota while we waited for cooler weather to arrive. Action was slow on the Minnesota public land I have been hunting and with gun season rolling in, we decided to hop across the river and sit some Wisconsin spots. It didn’t take long on the morning of November 8th for things to heat up quickly. Shortly after daybreak, this buck crossed the county road and ran a trail with his nose to the ground that led him past the tree at 35 yards. JP grunt stopped him, and squeezed the release. On the shot, the buck took a step which led to a liver hit. We waited for the wind to pick up and elected to back out and give him a solid 8 hours before picking up the blood trail. We returned early evening and followed the blood right to the dead buck. He traveled approximately 300 yards, and laid dead 10 yards from his first bed.