November 04, 2015
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It wasn't surprising when word arrived this week of yet another giant Iowa buck going down.
Nor was it surprising that the big bruiser was wearing a carcass tag after Don Kisky, also known as Papa Freak, co-host along with his wife, Kandi, of the Whitetail Freaks television show on Outdoor Channel, had let loose another well placed arrow.
When I saw the picture, I quickly fired a text back to Kandi Kisky, Mama Freak as she is affectionately known to many, and asked: "Is that today? In a cornfield blind?"
To which Mama Freak replied: "Yes, this morning at 75 degrees. And yes, in a cornfield blind."
That corn was involved in the latest success of the Iowa-based Whitetail Freaks isn't surprising.
After all, farmers in Iowa – and that includes the Kiskys, who are row-crop farmers of both corn and soybeans – grew almost 2.4 billion bushels of corn on 13.2 million acres of land last year according to the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture).
And this year? A similar amount is expected by Iowa farm officials, something in the neighborhood of 2.3 billion bushels of corn on 12.6 million acres of Hawkeye State land.
Given the genetics that Iowa whitetails possess, not to mention the mature age structure of the state's buck herd, and all of that corn is a part of the equation as to why the state is so consistently good for giant whitetails.
Including those that roam the various Kisky farms, where corn is not just a part of the food and habitat, but also a part of the hunting strategy too.
"We've had a lot of success in recent years hunting out of ground blinds we've put up in standing corn," said Kandi. "We brush them in really good with corn stalks and the results have been really, really good."
To brush them in and to secure the stalks, the Kiskys will use a combination of plastic zip ties, baling twine and the loops that come already on a blind as the cut corn stalks are arranged in the same direction that they are standing around the blind.
"(Don) brushes them in quite a bit, usually fully on three sides, on top and sometimes on the back of the blind too, although he leaves the door so that we can get in and out (quietly)," said Kandi.
According to Mama Freak, she and her husband got the idea from a couple of fellow Iowa deer hunters and Outdoor Channel television personalities.
"Lee and Tiffany Lakosky had been doing it on their farms with good success and they shared the idea with us," said Kandi. "You go two or three rows into standing corn, cut out a hole for the blind, brush it in with corn stalks and you literally can't see it even though it's only two or three rows in."
Using the Carnivore ground blind by Ameristep Blinds, the Kisky's strategy starts by leaving a few rows of corn and corn stalks standing through the fall and early winter months.
"We cut a hole in the standing corn since you don't want any corn stalk stumps remaining which will produce noise when your feet hit them," said Kandi. "Don will take that corn that we cut from the hole and use it to brush in the blind with those stalks."
Such a hide helps Don and Kandi position themselves in the right spot in a field to intercept great bucks that their Browning trail cameras are showing.
Not to mention giving them the chance to get into and out of a stand without spooking deer, even if the field is full of whitetails busily chowing down on the golden little nuggets.
"Using these cornfield ground blinds, we're able to gain a back door entry into a field and able to get in and out without any deer knowing that we're there," said Kandi.
Ummm, a back door entry?
"The way that we set these blinds up helps us get into and out of these blinds," said Kandi. "Depending on where the blind is, we've got timber and some sort of food (either a strip of green food plots or harvested corn) in front of us (where the blind is facing).
"And then out of the back of the blind, we've got a section that is two or three rows wide that Don has knocked down (all the way out of the field) that is out the back door of the blind."
Mama Freak says that with such an exit pathway, nothing will get behind them during a hunt and nothing will get downwind of them either.
"It's a killer strategy," she said. "We've probably killed more Booners in the last five years than ever before using these cornfield ground blinds.
"We're able to get so close to these big bucks by doing this; Lee should have kept his secret," she added with a laugh. "We tell Ameristep all of the time that they need to come out with a corn stalk blind."
By employing this strategy, the Kiskys have found that they are able to hunt the same set-up more frequently than they can with other blinds.
"By quietly crawling out the back of these blinds and being careful on the way out, we're able to hunt the same blind day after day without alerting or tipping off any deer," said Kandi.
None of this means that the Kiskys ignore the wind because they don't.
"We wear ScentLok, we spray Wildlife Research Scent Killer, we do it all," said Kandi. "But you still have to always play the wind right.
"That's especially true with two people in a blind with bows, hunting gear and a camera. And as Don always says, I've got my makeup on (too)," she added with a laugh.
To keep their scent contained – and to increase the odds of a successful hunt – the Kiskys work hard to keep the blinds from being noticed by deer feeding in the fields.
"In terms of shooting windows, Don is a lot more conservative than a lot of people are," said Kandi. "We don't open many of them, we'll have maybe a front window and a side window open (and that's it).
"And we wear black (clothes) and open the windows only so wide because you don't want them to be able to see you," she added. "We never open the windows wide open, only enough to get a gun or an arrow through.
"I've seen some people who open them like 10 feet wide and you think 'Gee Whiz!'"
Does the cornfield blind set-up work?
Look at the picture of Don's huge Iowa buck – taken the day this story was written – and you be the judge.
Better yet, carefully consider the evidence from past seasons too.
"Last year, Don killed the buck we called Cluster out of such a ground blind in late October," said Kandi, noting that the blind was put up and brushed in with corn stalks on the same day as the hunt.
"That deer came in at five steps and never knew we were there. He had no idea."
In fact, such a cornfield setup has helped the Kiskys find more early season success in recent autumns, a time when many hunters sit in frustration as mature buck movement slows due to the presence of abundant acorns, unseasonably warm weather and the sparse rutting behavior of the dreaded October lull.
"We've hunted in October a lot more with this set-up," agreed Kandi.
But the cornfield blinds are also good later on in the season too.
"Last year, I killed my Booner buck out of a ground blind (like this)," said Kandi. "He came in, I missed him, the doe came back, he came back and I shot him at 40 yards. That buck was in November."
In 2014, Kandi Kisky used the same ground blind hunting strategy to harvest this nice B&C buck. (Photo courtesy of the Kiskys)
Without a doubt, this cornfield blind setup has become an important part of the Kisky's successful hunting strategy as they film various episodes of Whitetail Freaks.
"These ground blinds, over the last five to 10 years, they have moved from being a novelty for us to being a core part of our hunting strategies," said Kandi.
"If you eliminate the noise, the movement and work to control your scent, it's just amazing what you can get by with in those blinds."
Even as another Boone & Crockett record-book monster buck walks by.
"I'm not going to lie, it's become one of our favorite ways to hunt (big whitetails)," said Kandi.
Coming from one of the two Whitetail Freaks, that's definitely saying something.