Last month, Iowa Game & Fish magazine took a look at the overall picture for deer hunting in Iowa for the previous year, as well as forecasting where hunters might hold better chances to harvest any deer. The top-10 counties with a better-than-average harvest per square mile were featured. Iowa G&F also recommended public areas where a hunter might improve his/her chances for killing any deer.
This month, Iowa G&F looks at some recent history where trophy bucks have been taken in Iowa, and how this information can be used to help you take your trophy buck this season.
We're also going to take a closer look at the first reported case of chronic wasting disease in the wild deer herd in Iowa. We'll provide you with information on how you can assist the Iowa Department of Natural Resources with its disease monitoring plan in the area where the reported deer was harvested.
Let's take a brief look at the scoring system used for antlered deer and what qualifies as a trophy deer in Iowa. Two scoring systems — those defined by the Boone & Crockett Club (B&C) and Pope & Young Club (P&Y). The B&C scoring system was established in the early 1900s, while the P&Y scoring system began in the 1950s.
Under the B&C minimum-score requirements, the antlers of a "typical" white-tailed deer must measure a total 160 inches or more to be included in the organization's three-year awards book. A typical buck must measure 170 inches or more to be listed in the B&C All-Time Records book.
The minimum-measurement requirements for a non-typical white-tailed deer are 185 inches and 195 inches, respectively. To be eligible for entry in the B&C records, hunters must comply with the requirements of fair chase. For more information on Boone & Crockett Club and online resources for scoring, visit www.Boone-Crockett.org.
Minimum scores are much lower for entry in the record books of Pope & Young Club because eligible hunters are restricted to the use of archery equipment. A typical white-tailed deer must measure at least 25 inches, while a non-typical must measure at least 155 inches to be considered for entry. Just as with B&C, all entries must be taken by fair chase and with bow-hunting equipment, excluding crossbows.
White-tailed deer can be entered into the same two categories (typical and non-typical) as with B&C. To learn more about Pope & Young Club entry requirements and fair chase, visit www.Pope-Young.org.
In Iowa, hunters also can submit their trophy deer scores to the Iowa Big Game Records, maintained by the IDNR. The state scoring system is identical to that used by the B&C and P&Y clubs; however, the minimum qualifying scores differ from these national clubs. The classes with minimum scores are listed in the accompanying table.
BIG BUCK SUMMARY
Many Iowa deer hunters summarize last year's deer season with a simple statement: "Deer numbers are down."
In last month's edition, "Part 1: Where to Get Your Deer in Iowa" revealed the harvest in the Hawkeye State overall was down, indeed, by 14 percent. So, it goes without saying that the number of large bucks that were seen and harvested were down as well.
"The number of record-book bucks at the 2014 Iowa Deer Classic that were harvested during the most recent season was down considerably from the previous year and below average for the Classic in general," said Tom Litchfield, deer project biologist for the IDNR. "The largest bucks entered this year did not approach the size of those entered in the 2013 Iowa Deer Classic from the 2012-13 deer season. The 2012-13 season seems to have produced an exceptionally large number of abnormally large antlered bucks."
To what can we attribute the above average success among trophy deer hunters in 2012 compared to that of 2013 when large deer numbers were down?
"Hunters are a very important part of the deer management system. Selective harvest has a direct result on what the hunters will be seeing from one year to the next," said Willie Suchy, wildlife research supervisor for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
But environmental factors, such as availability and quality of deer foods, ultimately affect how the deer will grow in the coming season. A harsher winter with a large amount of ground cover creates a problem for good food sources and proteins. Antler growth in deer is really a phenomenon. In fact, deer antlers are among the fastest growing tissues in the animal kingdom, growing as much as a 1/2-inch per day during peak antler growth. Of course, the amount of antler material a buck grows depends upon nutrition, genetics and age.
"In 2012 we had a killing frost in early October, which improved the hunting opportunities," Suchy said. "Hunting conditions were much better in 2012 compared to 2103, and weather was a factor in the reason why there were more and bigger deer harvested during that record big buck season."
Last year's winter was close to normal, so food sources should have been more abundant. That factor, Suchy added, should have Iowa hunters during the 2014-15 season seeing a better class of deer — both for large bucks and does.
WHERE THE BIG BOYS ROAM
Since 1953 the Iowa Department of Natural Resources has been compiling data and lists of where trophy deer are taken. That year there were two deer recorded, and the larger of the two came from Clay County. This buck, taken by William Runkle of Spencer, was harvested during the shotgun season and scored a typical 171 1/8 inches. The second deer was from Washington County — also a typical deer harvested during the shotgun season by Keith Carris of Batavia. It measured 152 1/8 inches
Iowa continues to produce trophy deer, and every year following those two entries, hunters have recorded some very impressive trophies. Each year Iowa G&F lists the top-10 counties in Iowa where big bucks are taken historically since 1953. And since the 2000 hunting season, with few changes in the rankings (as shown in the accompanying tables), trophy bucks are consistently taken by hunters in the same counties.
Let's take a look at the top counties in Iowa over a shorter time frame.
In 2012-13 the top-three trophy-buck counties in Iowa were Allamakee (16), Linn (11), and Monroe (10). Truly, Iowa is capable of producing trophy deer in any one of its 99 counties, and some of the largest animals consistently turn up from "unexpected" places. But it takes time for a buck to fully reach its genetic potential, so overlooked areas, pockets of secure habitat, and properties that are just "deer hunted" often contain mature animals.
However, based on the list of trophies harvested since 1953 and the rankings shown in the accompanying tables, the top-10 counties most likely to produce some of the biggest deer in Iowa this season are those shown for the time period 2006-13.
"If a hunter can become proficient at harvesting mature bucks, they will also harvest their share of bucks with large racks," Litchfield said. "Where do you find them? You find them in the places where other hunters are not looking or are not looking very hard."
CHRONIC WASTING DISEASE
Last month, Iowa G&F took a brief look at the first reported case of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in the wild Iowa deer herd. According to the IDNR, the finding of CWD was in an adult male whitetail, harvested in Allamakee County during the first shotgun season in early December 2013. Testing was conducted by the Texas Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and confirmed by the National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames.
"One of the most important elements to the CWD response plan is to obtain additional samples in the area where the case occurred," said IDNR spokesman Kevin Baskins. "We certainly will be relying heavily on hunters to help us with this."
Thus, the first order of business for the IDNR is to try and collect more samples. The effort to determine if this is an isolated case or if there are more out there will concentrate on portions of northeast Iowa near Wisconsin and Illinois, as well as in Wapello, Davis, Pottawattamie and Cerro Gordo counties, following positive tests from captive facilities in or near those counties last year. If more are detected, additional response plans will be implemented.
"If this proved to be an isolated case and the only detection we find in that area, then, after three years, we would go back to routine sampling rather than the intensive sampling we will be undertaking starting this deer season," Baskins added.
Since 2002, Iowa has tested 50,998 wild deer and 3,429 captive deer and elk. The Allamakee detect has still been the only one found with a wild deer in Iowa, and there have been no positive detects so far in the wild herd in the three counties where CWD has been detected in captive herds (Davis, Cerro Gordo and Pottawattamie counties) Detection of CWD comes as no surprise to the Iowa DNR, given that the disease has been detected in every state bordering Iowa.
"A single case of CWD was found in Minnesota, and two deer tested positive in the wild in New York," said Wildlife Bureau Chief Dr. Dale Garner of the IDNR. "But after several years of intensive sampling, Minnesota and New York have not reported any additional cases. Missouri has had 10 positives in the wild, all in one area."
The IDNR is not only asking hunters to assist. It also seeks help from the general public, as well, by reporting road kills or any sick or emaciated deer they might see.
"Since our meetings in Allamakee County, we are pleased that we have had some road kills reported to us allowing us to collect additional samples outside of the hunting season," Baskins said. "I believe Dr. Garner phrased it very well, describing our one detect as a 'spark' that we want to try and extinguish quickly before it becomes a fire."
The IDNR is encouraging the public to report all the road-killed deer an sick or severely emaciated deer found in the targeted area to any of the following staff members:
— Unit Headquarters
— Biologist Terry Handfield
— Conservation Officer Bill Collins
— Conservation Officer Jerry Farmer
— Conservation Officer Burt Walters
IDNR said the goal for this fall will be to test 500 deer in Allamakee County, including 300 from the targeted area around where the infected deer was killed. Local IDNR staff will work with hunters to obtain samples for testing during the 2014-15 deer hunting seasons. The IDNR is especially interested in testing deer harvested from islands in the Mississippi River or from land adjoining the river near Harpers Ferry.
"The more data we have, the better position we are in to make the best decisions possible," Baskins pointed out. "We would also ask that hunters, and the public in general, to refrain from any feeding activities that would concentrate deer, since CWD can spread through contact with infected animals."
One of the concerns many hunters are likely to share is, "How will this affect me?" Currently, no evidence exists that humans can contract CWD by eating tainted venison. However, the National Institute of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that hunters do not eat the brain, eyeballs or spinal cord of deer and that hunters wear protective gloves while field-dressing game and boning out meat for consumption. Hunters can help reduce the risk of spreading CWD by not leaving bones on the landscape after processing their deer. A better option is to bury them or take them to a clay-lined landfill.
As IDNR wildlife research supervisor Willy Suchy noted, "Hunters across the state are one of our best resources for reporting data during the deer hunting seasons."
Over his years of chasing whitetails, A.J. Downs of Conroe, Texas, has taken a number of big bucks with his bow. But none of the other mounts in his trophy room can match the size, or the meaning, of the freak whitetail that fell to his arrow shortly after daylight on opening day of the 2012 archery season.
Thirty-five years of bowhunting have taught Bill Ullrich a few things about chasing whitetails.
Several seasons ago, Bill had made up his mind to take off work early to spend an afternoon in the woods, and he knew exactly which tree he was headed for that afternoon. He was almost to the tree when something told him he needed to turn around and, instead, opt for a tried and true setup he had long-ago named the 'good luck tree. '
One hour and ten minutes later, he realized that was the best decision he had ever made, as he watched his arrow bury to the nock in the largest whitetail buck he had ever shot at.
Bill Winke has earned himself a spot as one of the best Midwestern whitetail hunters of all time with this massive double G4 Iowa giant.
The huge Iowa non-typical Bo Russell took is testimony to the rewards of smart scouting and hard work. Not to mention being adaptable enough to overcome some outside interference — including a crew of archeologists!
Russell's giant had a gross score of 246 4/8 inches and a net of 231 4/8. That made him the second-largest bow kill entered from the 2012 season.
After many years of chasing the same buck and coming up empty, Brian Hollands' luck finally turned around. On a fateful morning two seasons ago, Hollands not only found a lost little girl wandering the back roads of Missouri, he also found the buck of a lifetime.
Brian Herron fought numerous obstacles and setbacks to eventually bag this 184-inch bruiser.
The 16-point Daigle buck, scored by Boone & Crockett measurer Lonnie Desmarias, grossed a whopping 197 0/8 inches gross and netted 191 0/8 inches as a non-typical, breaking the existing Massachusetts state record by seven inches, according to the Northeast Big Buck Club records.
In 2009, Dean Partridge started having encounters and getting trail camera photos of a small 4Ã—4 whose back tines were a little bladed. There was nothing out of the ordinary at the time, so Partridge and crew carried on filming that fall and finished off the season. The next summer, he was back in the woods, checking to see which bucks had made it through the harsh winter. And much to his surprise, the buck that seemed ordinary had grown into an extraordinary buck with a large droptine that he aptly named "Droppy."
You need only skim the pages of the record books to understand why the majority of hunters pick the November rut as the prime time to hunt giant whitetails. Mature bucks are never a pushover, but they are more vulnerable when their nose is glued to the ground trailing an estrus doe. Fred Swihart proved, however, that you can have success outside the rut — sometimes it's just a matter of persistence.
Whitetail fate played its hand for Arkansas' Shane Frost in the big-timbered, fertile ground of the Black River Bottoms in Clay County. The ancient oaks and sloughs, in all their years, had likely never witnessed a more epic bowhunting scene, which ended with a 216-inch trophy on Frost's wall.
Garry Greenwalt teamed up with North American Whitetail's Gordon Whittington to kill this amazing Washington buck, known to Greenwalt as "The Ghost." Greenwalt spent a good deal of time tracking down the amazing 172-inch Washington giant, but it was all worth it.
It was mid-afternoon on Nov. 13, 2009, and Gary Morris of Winslow, Ark., was heading south out of Iowa. Driven by a haze of internal frustration, he was headed back to Arkansas six days early. The last three years of planning, anticipation and excitement for his Midwestern hunt had been stolen by an encounter with a 170-inch behemoth buck and a blown 12-yard 'chip-shot. ' After his miss, Morris thought about giving up bowhunting altogether. But it's a good thing he didn't.
With the help of her husband, Kevin, Ohio resident Lindsay Groom scouted this buck for two weeks before coming across its path again. Lindsay shot the buck with her crossbow at about 10 yards, but was unable to locate the buck.
After watching the kill shot again on film, the couple decided to track it the next morning, finding the deer just 30 yards away from where they stopped looking the night before.
Jeff Iverson hunted this particular buck for three seasons. In 2010, when the buck was a six-by-six typical, he missed a shot at it with his bow but Iverson's persistence eventually paid off.
On Nov. 14, 2012, the wind was right for hunting, and Jason decided to sit all day. At about 7:30 a.m., he heard chasing over the steep hill in front of him. Then a doe came running up the hill and went past him. Jason could hear grunting from the cedars below. It was the buck he had named "Cyclops."
With the buck at only 70 yards, Jason cranked up his scope and looked at the buck closely. Immediately he saw the glassy eye, and he knew Cyclops was his. It was a chip shot for his accurate .270 Win. After the shot, the huge buck only went about 75 yards before he crashed.
After years of hunting other people's property, Schmeidler finally got his own in 2010, when he purchased a 750-acre property consisting of river bottom cover and cropland. He immediately planted multiple food plots, his favorite being milo, and two seasons later, nine straight days of hard, smart hunting gave Schmeidler his trophy.
Despite one of the worst droughts in history, in July 2012 Jim Cogar's expectations for deer season in central Ohio were as high as ever. Trail cameras were set, mineral sites were established, and other attractants were strategically placed throughout the farm.
After discovering a giant on his trail camera, that he aptly dubbed Conan, Cogar set out on a mission to bag Conan before the end of the season.
It was Super Bowl Sunday before the opportunity presented itself to Cogar. As Conan led two young bucks down a hill, a distraction opened the door for Cogar to bag his buck of a lifetime.
Joshua Earp's Georgia giant scored 187 inches green, weighing in at 235 pounds, and was a great October surprise.
'I've hunted 25 years for this," Earp said. "I give all thanks to God and my father for teaching me and introducing me to this sport I'm addicted to. '
Lucas Cochren killed an amazing 238-inch Kansas trophy, but it all started with a blood trail gone cold. Fortunately, Cochren stuck to it and bagged the trophy of his lifetime.
Mike Moran's Saskatchewan buck was a dream come true for the hunter who'd spent 27 years looking for a deer of that quality. He finally got his wish one Thanksgiving day, an experience he won't forget.
Payton Mireles, age 10, of Indiana, with her first buck: a 154-inch bruiser.
Having two years of history with this particular buck, Rhett Butler was able to track where he had taken pictures of "Hercules." The deer seemed to be ranging over 1-1.5 square miles revolving around a 100-acre alfalfa field.
When the buck stepped out, Rhett put the crosshairs onto the buck's left shoulder and squeezed the trigger of his Winchester .270 bolt action. At the crack of the rifle the buck dropped in his tracks and never even kicked. The hunt for Hercules was over.
Killing the buck that had come to be known to the Taylors as 'Big Daddy ' was Robert's primary focus in the fall of 2012. He arranged his work schedule so he could be in a deer blind most mornings and afternoons during the waning weeks of the season.
After a sleepless night and an unsuccessful afternoon tracking a blood trail, Ryan Dietsch was sure he'd squandered the opportunity of a lifetime. He and friends went back to track the deer he thought he'd hit, but couldn't find so much as a drop of blood. His luck all changed, however, and the rest — along with his 219-inch trophy — is history.
Stanley Suda with his Southern Ohio buck, estimated between 235 and 240 inches.
"The shot was perfect," he said. "I watched my dream buck run across the field and pile-up about 20 yards inside the wood line. This was definitely my finest moment in the treestand. '