You can double your opportunity by hunting near state borders.
By John L. Sloan
Heavy frost covered the ground, and the leaves were frozen in roadside ditches. I left the Super Eight Motel, headed west through Nebraska City and pulled into the driveway at Jim Johnson’s farm. The sky was still starry.
I rode through the picked and barren bean fields, and my footsteps crunched as I walked up the oak ridge. My scouting the day before had revealed heavy travel along the ridge. Now, within 50 yards of my stand were a dozen fresh rubs, and one was not covered with frost. The trail was clear of leaves.
I settled into the stand at 7:00, 15 feet above the ridge and 150 yards above the twinkling flow of Weeping Water Creek. I could see the sights on my Knight Disc Rifle. I was ready.
For one hour and 45 minutes, a dozen huge fox squirrels, a couple hundred geese and a woodpecker that sounded as if it weighed 20 pounds entertained me. Then it began ...
I met Jim at a benefit shoot for cancer research. As soon as he mentioned the location of his farm, I started frothing at the mouth. I had hunted that area before, and knew what was there. I also knew about the potential for combining hunts in more than one state and with more than one weapon. It didn’t take long to work out the details for a hunt.
I hunted with him in early November. It was supposed to be the peak of the rut. It was also supposed to be cooler than 80 degrees. I passed up a lot of deer and missed a 150-class buck. But the result was I still had an Iowa tag.
“John,” Robb said, “why don’t you buy a Nebraska muzzleloader tag and come back in December? You can hunt across the river (Nebraska) with a muzzleloader and then bowhunt Missouri or Iowa.” Well, you don’t have to hit me with a church steeple. I was back in Hamburg, Iowa, on Dec. 13.
Below me, on the trail between me and the creek, a doe and big fawn moved through the cedars. Behind my left shoulder, more than 150 yards away, on a flat near the creek, a big buck chased a big doe. I was standing, all senses alert. In the distance, a buck trotted briskly across a picked field. Unusual activity for Dec. 14.
They passed in single file – 13 does and fawns – 30 yards to my left. I watched them file along the trail. Somewhere in the distance, waterfowlers opened up on something. I heard the leaves crunching behind me. Five does came in a pack from over my right shoulder. I turned slightly. There was something straight in front of me now. I caught motion in the cover of the oaks. An antler gleamed above a large body.
A big doe came in a rush, dodging and playing the game. She passed through an opening 60 yards in front of me. I brought the Knight up and lined the sights. I waited. Soon, the buck filled my sight picture. The air was full of Pyrodex smoke, and I ducked to see which way it ran. But it hadn’t run. The buck was graveyard dead right where I shot it. Large body, 10 points, and all mine. The Nebraska portion of my combination hunt was over in less than two hours.
On to Missouri
Robb’s headquarters is the Super Eight Motel at the Nebraska City exit off I-29. From there, within 20 minutes in any direction, he has land leased in three states. It is a perfect setup.
That Friday afternoon, I drove to a store in Missouri and, for $100, bought a Missouri bow license. That gave me two either-sex deer tags and two turkey tags.
Saturday, Dec. 15, was a warmer day – 38 degrees and windy. I was on another of Robb’s private farms, this one in the Loess Hills, a line of ridges that runs from St. Joseph to Council Bluffs. Again I was on an oak ridge, and again my stand was surrounded by fresh rubs. Only bowhunting was allowed on this farm. It had not been hunted for 30 days. The wind was gusting and swirling as daylight hit the ridge.
Three does circled the bowl behind me. I stood and watched. The bow felt light after the muzzleloader. I braced my knee against the stand, trying to stand steady in the wind. Moving from my right to my left, slightly farther out than the does, the buck neared. I had not had time to gauge the distance with my range-finder, but I knew it was out there. My single sight pin settled just about where I figured it should – 3 inches over the back – and the arrow was gone.
I knew I had missed. I saw the arrow go high and skitter off through the trees. I also forgot about the gusting wind. All in all, it was pretty poor planning and execution. Later, I ranged the distance at 53 yards. What was I thinking?
The ridge was alive with squirrels foraging, as did the deer for the last of the huge mast crop. Woopeckers hammered away, and I heard turkeys all around me. By 8:30, the wind was so bad I knew I couldn’t stand to shoot. If I did, I doubted I could hit anything. My Whisker Biscuit was the only thing that kept my arrow from blowing off the rest.
I got down and looked for my arrow. Before I could start scratching around in the deep leaves, I saw the 8-point buck lying just 40 yards from where I’d shot it. My arrow was sticking up through the leaves. The last 8 inches, usually white, were red. Go figure.
I would like to say I went on to fill my other Missouri tag and Iowa tag. I did not. Had I wanted to shoot a small buck or a doe, I could have filled all my tags in one morning. Instead, I made arrangements to return to that Golden Triangle of Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska this year. I love this combination hunting!
This is not the only place you can put a combination together. Many times I have sat in my stand on the edge of the Assiniboine River Valley in western Manitoba and watched thousands of ducks and geese fill the sky. In September, bow season is open for deer and waterfowl. There is little hunting pressure on either that time of year. Black bear is also an option, and there are lots of them. On a deer hunt with Bob Shebaylo, president of Champion Bows, I commented on the all the bear sign I was seeing. That afternoon, Bob arrowed a dandy chocolate-colored boar.
In late September or early October in South Dakota, you can combine a deer and antelope hunt for archery. You might even be able to add some upland shooting.
Many of the Southern plantations have set-aside areas for bowhunting. You can combine that with a rifle hunt. All it takes is a little asking up front.
Give some thought to booking a combination hunt. It increases the fun, the challenge, and, in many cases, the opportunities. Just ask the outfitters listed in this and other hunting publications. In some cases, there is an extra charge for a combination hunt or a trophy fee for a second buck. Does are usually no charge.
By contacting various state agencies, you can get the dates for the different seasons. Then start putting a hunt together. One common scenario is in states where bow season ends one day and gun season opens the next. Providing you can buy both tags, as in Missouri, you can structure your hunt for, say, three days of bowhunting and three of gun hunting. This gives you a chance at the one that got away.
This article was published in the August 2004 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.