After four years of waiting, my first Iowa archery tag arrived this summer. Three $60.50 preference points along with a whopping $644 for my hunting ($131 plus $15 habitat fee) and deer license ($498). $825.50 to kill a whitetail.

Some foreshadowing: it was worth every penny.

Iowa is an enchanted land chocked full of fairytale endings. The videos. The articles. Listening to hunters talk. How much is true? How much is fake? How much is luck?

Expectations were checked at the Iowa border. By the end of 12 days and over 100 hours on stand, expectations were exceeded.

Planning Makes All the Difference

Last year, Chad Sylvester – my friend and co-owner of Exodus Outdoor Gear – spoke about his three Iowa preference points on an Exodus Podcast episode. Two hunters devoted to the rut spoke about strategy and chose November 6th – November 13th as the ideal timeframe. Counting down time was the hardest part. Who to contact about hunting Iowa was the easiest.

Austin Mass owns and operates Broken Brow Outfitters near West Liberty, Iowa. Since 2008, he has been transforming and managing properties that hold and grow big deer. What Austin’s accomplished over the past 15 years is nothing short of amazing. When you enter his lodge, each framed success photo decorating the walls are testament to the work and time he’s dedicated and that is also easily seen on his episode of Whitetail Cribs. They also serve as a reminder that deer hunting dreams can come true.

The Rut is Quicker than the Blink of an Eye

Eight straight days to hunt sounds like a long time, but it wasn’t. Passing on deer that I would kill back home became easier as the week progressed. Three Booners and another 15 bucks scoring between 125” to 155” were seen. Regardless of the stand hunted, a feeling of it could happen at any time persisted.

Besides Chad and me, there were two other hunters in camp. Between the four of us, two shots were missed. An over 200” deer – had his left side not been broken off at the base – was rattled in to less than 30 yards.

My bow was never drawn back, but no level of disappointment existed. Only talk of making a return trip as soon as possible.

The Broadside of Sweet Success

The return trip came the day after Thanksgiving. The action was not as intense. Deer were seen – just not the deer. That all changed late Sunday afternoon. Deer were crossing a slough and I saw two good bucks come through. There happened to be a tree about 30 yards away to hang a stand in.

The next afternoon, my anxiety was at a level almost too high to control. I got in early and about two hours later, the magic commenced. Does began milling in timber on the other side of the slough. It was not very long after when I saw the deer.

As deer began crossing the slough, he stepped out and watched. Watching became tedious and he followed – stopping well within my kill box. At 26 yards, he looked away. I drew back, settled my pin, and touched off my release. The unmistakable death run ensued followed by one of the greatest feelings a hunter can experience: immediate accomplishment as the deer you just shot goes down within eyesight. It is a life experience I will never forget.

1,702 Days to Wait

I have been fortunate enough to hunt places like Stafford County Kansas, Buffalo County Wisconsin, Pike County Illinois, and Schuyler County Missouri. After experiencing Muscatine County Iowa, they all pale in comparison.

A place where 160” whitetails bed behind every black walnut and white oak tree does not exist. Iowa is as close a deer hunter can get to making that fantasy a reality. Having to wait four years to draw another tag makes it even more special.


Author: Geoff Guzinski, Exodus Black Hat Team Member