One buck is great, but three in one season? Jordan Howell narrates how he shot three bucks with an average class of 159 to 160 in a single season. From using trail cameras such as Radix trail cameras to reading a deer’s patterns or habits from previous years, discover the creative secrets Jordan uses in his hunts and how he got the big three. The first buck he took was right at the start of the season. The second one, he got right off his own farm. The last buck, he got on the same farm as the first one on the second rut.
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Discover Secrets Of The Big Three – Jordan Howell
We’re traveling up to Iowa and we’re going to connect with Jordan Howell. Though Jordan came out of the mountains of North Carolina, but he sure didn’t stay there because there weren’t any big deer there. He started for the Midwest and made up his mind to move up to the Midwest and he did that. He moved to Indiana and started to learn how to hunt deer. He decided, about 2016, is that correct Jordan?
He moved to southern Iowa and Iowa is the land of giants folks and everybody knows that. We don’t have to embellish that anymore. The thing you’re going to enjoy with the episode is that Jordan is a DIY self-taught hunter. Jordan Howell, welcome to Whitetail Rendezvous.
Thank you, sir.
Jordan, in the warm up we talked about a lot of different things and I’m going to start right off why did you even start hunting? What got you going?
When I was little, none of my family actively hunted but my dad. One of my favorite things to do when I was a kid is he would tell me stories about when he used to live out west in Colorado and would hunt elk and mule deer and track them in the snow in the high country. He had actually quit hunting because of some health reasons and so he was never able to take me out hunting, but I was completely fascinated with listening to him talk about the stories of him and his buddy. In North Carolina, we didn’t have any elk or mule deer or anything like that to go after. About the only thing we had was whitetails and we didn’t have many of those. When I was about twelve or thirteen, I went and got myself a bow and decided I was going to learn how to hunt on my own. I wasn’t good at it. It took me a long time to kill my first deer, but that’s basically where I got my start.
No uncles and grandpas, they didn’t hunt or best friends didn’t hunt at all?
When I was younger, the friends that I had, most of them didn’t, most of their parents didn’t. There were some kids in my school that hunted, but they weren’t the group of friends that I was in when I was in my younger years. I was literally relying on my dad’s stories. That’s the only exposure I had to hunting fairly on.The passion for hunting can come from the challenge and satisfaction of being able to go after one of the smartest animals on the planet. Click To Tweet
What got you going? What fueled the fire that made you as passionate as you are, as you have a number of open young class deer to your credit. Where did that passion come from?
It was the challenge and the satisfaction of being able to go after one of the smartest animals that lives on the planet. I was unbelievably frustrated the first few years trying to hunt deer and I actually started with a bow as opposed to a rifle like most people because my mom didn’t want me to own a rifle. The only thing I had was to learn how to bow hunt, which I’m thankful that she didn’t buy me a rifle because it taught me a lot more than if I started out with a rifle. That first deer that I got, he was a little button buck. He wasn’t anything special, but I was proud of that deer. It might as well been my little hands as a deer. Every deer that I killed after that, I learned a little bit more. When I finally started getting into trying to target bigger deer and figuring out that they’re completely animal than a regular whitetail. I have so much respect for a mature whitetail buck, the way that they think and the way that they act. The passion for me is the challenge behind targeting mature deer in particular and being able to do that with consistency and doing it in a position I am where I don’t own any land at all. I certainly don’t have access to thousands of acres of managed land, granted I would if I could. Me being basically a blue-collar guy who has to do it on a regular budget and is completely self-taught, I never had anybody to hold my hand or show me how to hunt a deer. I enjoy the challenge of it.
It is challenging because there are hundreds of books, magazines, videos and shows. It’s a huge industry. Somebody said that it’s a $34 billion industry, the whitetail industry with over fifteen million people that participated it. It’s a huge business. Some of us do it because we like to sit around the campfire in the cabin or behind hay bales and do nothing but rifle hunt. Other people hunt with their muzzleloaders or archers and compound or stick on a string and then crossbows. There are a lot of different ways to take a whitetail, but consistently taking Pope and Young class deer is a tough chore. You’ve got some over 150 inch. You took three bucks in 2017, how did that all work out? Did you hunt three different states? How did that come to be?
In Iowa as a resident, you’re allowed to get two buck tags anyway. You can get statewide archery and a statewide gun tag. I’m also a farm tenant. I farm about 260 acres where I live. You can also get a farm landowner tag, which is an extra buck tag and all three of the deer were taken in Iowa.
Thanks for explaining that because some people might say, “How does that work?” Folks, you learn from Jordan how that all works out in Iowa for residents. As far as I know, nonresidents we get one tag in deer and we can shoot a doe, but that’s it.
Nonresident is completely different. Nonresidents are limited to certain zones they can hunt in and certain seasons and it’s not that way for a resident. I go to the hardware store and buy a $24 tag and I’m good to go.
If you’re farming and putting seeds on the ground and rounding up down other herbicides. Coming back and putting in your fertilizer down and then picking it at the end of the year and harvest, you’ve got a lot of money to spend. Good for you. I can buy every tag in Colorado for about $800 if I put them in a draw. Ladies and gentlemen, in Colorado that’s how much it cost to put for everything in the state into the draw and they just changed that this year. It’s $3 to apply. Anyway, getting back to that. I thought we put the first part of the show or first half of the show and talk specifically about the three bucks that you did take in 2017 because collectively the average, I’m going to call it 159 something in there close to 160. To shoot 150 class deer or better is good at any place, but to take three, that’s a little different. Which one do you want to start off with?
The first one that I killed on opening day, October 1st.Be adaptable, read each situation, and figure out each individual buck’s chink in his armor and try to capitalize on that. Click To Tweet
How did you know where he was? Walk us through it. You shed hunt, you got cameras out and you can give a plug for the Radix trail cameras anytime you want. Take us through when did you first see him and then tell us the story.
The hunt for that particular year started in 2016 when I first moved to Iowa. He actually lived on the first piece of property I ever got permission to hunt on in Iowa. I had lived in Iowa for about a week. We’ve got moved in and I had a week before I had to start my new job and I told my wife, I’m going to knock on doors and find permission. People think that it’s a myth or something that you can’t find permission on quality ground in a premium state without spending a bunch of money and it literally took me two days to find this farm. It’s a nice landowner. I just knocked on the door and I got permission.
What’s unique about the property is that it’s 460 acres, but there are only about five acres of woods. The entire rest of the property is nothing but cattle pasture that’s fenced off in about 40-acre sections and it’s active cattle pasture. It doesn’t look premium deer habitat. What makes this property special is the property that sits next to it. The neighbor’s is not hunted and it is a giant sanctuary. It’s about 250 acres of brush, seeders, and creek bottoms and all the cover a whitetail could ever want. Basically, all the deer live there. The farm that I have access to, a lot of those 40-acre sections not all of them have cows in it the same time because they rotated and some of them are kept as hay fields. There’s a lot of alfalfa, some have beans and corn. There’s a lot of food. Even though it’s wide open in the evenings, deer literally pour out into this property and 30, 40, or 50 deer an evening you’ll see out in this cow pasture.
It’s challenging to hunt because the terrain is so wide open, but it’s pretty rolling. In 2016, I started hunting it up ground blinds because that’s the only way you can hunt it. There are no trees to speak of and I started seeing with consistency is big, 170 inch, ten-point coming out in the same general area during bow season from October 1st to October 28, I saw him five times. He would always come out into the cattle pasture in the same place. He would always walk past the exact same row of round hay bales. There is not a lot of terrain features, the deer are creatures of edge and that row of hay bales gave him something to hide behind when he walked. Every time I saw him no matter where he came out he would end up by those hay bales. I didn’t have a way to get over there and season was already in progress, so I didn’t want to go put up a new blind and disturb it. I basically tried to hunt him from a distance. I got close a couple of times with my bow but never got a shot.
Actually during shotgun season, I had my wife with me and she was shotgun hunting and we almost got a shot at him. He ran past our blind chasing a doe fawn in December. Before the end of the season, I ended up seeing that deer eight different times and always on one particular part of the farm. It always concentrated around this group of hay bales with a little pond behind it. The season ended, I didn’t get him. I put my cameras out last summer and didn’t have any summer velvet pictures of him. Even the previous summer, I had zero velvet pictures of him. I never saw him until the season had started. I knew that buck didn’t spend the summertime near that property that he moved in once October came around.
The same thing next season, no velvet pictures. On September 6th, I checked the trail camera and I had two pictures of him in daylight. Honestly, that’s all I needed to know. I was confident in that deer that he had not been pressured. No one hunted this property other than me in a long time. I had a hunch that he might do the same thing in 2017 that he did the year before. When I got that picture of him on September 6th, I went back to that row of hay bales and I put up an elevated blind. I built a little platform about five feet tall and put pop-up on top of it so I could see over the hay bales. It’s literally out in the middle of a cattle pasture. There’s not a tree within 200 yards. I had a hunch that that deer would do the same thing. Clearly, a super mature deer and I think he was 7.5 years old.
I found that a lot of the super mature deer will find something that works, something that’s kept them alive for years and they will keep doing that. The super mature deer oftentimes are more patternable than a three or four-year-old deer is because they found what works. I put that blind up and left it completely alone. I knew the information I needed, I didn’t go back. Opening night, I actually had another deer that I was going to target, but my wife wanted to come with me. I didn’t want her up in a treestand. She’s pregnant and so I said, “Come with me and we’ll go sit in that blind.” The wind is right for that and I know there’s a good deer that we got a good chance to see anyway.
We got up in the blind and this October 1st opening night. I’m happy to be back in the woods again. It was the first time of the year looking forward to seeing some does. The evening progressed. Does start coming out, little bucks. We had probably about 35 deer out in front of us in the alfalfa. About ten minutes before the end of shooting, my wife actually spotted the buck. He hopped the fence to the north of us and she spotted a big rack coming over the hill. She saw him before I did. I pulled up my binoculars and instantly I recognized it was the same deer from 2016 and he was doing the exact same thing. He was marching right at us, right towards the hay bales. I got ready and he was getting pretty close and we had some other deer that were right under us and so I didn’t want them to spook. When he was a little over 40 yards out, I ended up stopping him and he was broadsided. I shot him, double lunged him and he only went about 50 yards and tipped over. It was an awesome way to start the season.
One, older deer and I love how you said, he has lived 7.5 years so he knows what works. One, he has a sanctuary to live in during the hunting season, but where he spends June, July, August, the winter basically we don’t know, do we?
No. I didn’t, but once I figured out that he was doing the same thing I didn’t care. He felt that that neighboring property since it doesn’t get hunted is like you said. It’s sanctuary for hunting season. He probably had access to big soybean field somewhere that you would spend in the summer. Once those beans started turning yellow, he went back to his fall range which happened to be where I was hunting him.
Where did you put the cameras up on fence posts or how did you set cameras up?
I actually had to get pretty creative. I used an electric fence wire and I would make little fences. I would use the farmer’s bale yards where the landowner has electric fence basically keeping the cows out of the hay bales until she wants them to get to him. I would go around inside the bale yards and put cameras up. I had a couple of mineral sites inside the bale yards and then fence jumps were on fence post like you said. I would take a camera with a stick and pick and put it on a T post right where the fence jump where they come in to the property and see which fence jumps they were using.
Explain fence jumps for people that might not know what they are.
In southern Iowa like many places in the Midwest, there’s a lot of cattle country. There are a lot of three-strand or four-strand barbed wire fence or woven wire fence they originally put up of cattle and you’ll see that even through the timber and a lot of places. Deer, they’re smart but they’re lazy. They will always most of the time pick the easiest spot to cross that fence where there’s something falling on it and the wire is a little bit lower or the wires are loose or something where there’s a little bit of a knoll where they can get over it easier. It’s clear you’ll see big divots on both sides in a pretty heavy trail where the deer prefer to cross the fence. I find those types of places and use those to put cameras up to see what deer using which fence crossings.
Folks, if you’re in a new property and you’d see some likely trails and there isn’t an advantage, you can create that especially with barbwire. You twist the top barbwire down with permission from whoever owns a property. That has worked for a lot of people to funnel them if that’s a correct work, Jordan. You can use that to funnel them into a field especially where you have trees, it gets them closer to you. Your thoughts on that?
Yes, if you’re allowed to. I have many times lowered the top strand or sometimes even opened up a small section of fence. I have done that on some other properties to actually encourage deer to cross in a certain spot and they will do that.When it comes to a super mature deer, there is a lot of value in keeping track of what the deer did the year before. Click To Tweet
If you haven’t tried that tip, go ahead and try it. You mentioned the number one buck he was about 40 yards out and you stopped him. How did you do that?
I made a little noise with my mouth. He was calm and he was walking. I would’ve let him kept coming, but I had another probably 120-inch deer about five yards away and I didn’t want to spook him. I made a little noise with my mouth while he was about 40 yards away. I needed a couple of seconds for him to stop so I could settle my pin.
At 40 yards, he was pretty relaxed you said. He didn’t even try to jump the string, did he?
No. He didn’t drop at all when I hit him. A lot of that too, it’s October 1st it’s opening day. None of the deer have been shot at for a long time. They’re not on the pins on needles like they are in January.
Off the farm that I’m privileged to hunt, Garrett took the biggest deer we have ever taken off. It was the second day of the season in September and this was in Wisconsin. A beautiful deer and he had watched it all summer. The buck was running with some other bucks and he got in there. The second evening it was all over. He took a gorgeous deer. It was like you did. It was opening day, right?
Lesson learned there, folks. Early in the season, you don’t have to wait for the rut. If you can pattern the buck and they have a setup like Jordan has, not too many people hunting it, and you got a sanctuary in you nearby, you got tons of food literally and you’re creative in setting them up. Let’s think back to your creativity, setting up that blind. Five feet off the ground so you can see over the bales and you got a little pop-up blind, stake down to some plywood. Why do you think that would work rather than just putting a round blind in between the bales or in front of the bales or whatever?
I wanted to be able to see what was coming before it was right top of me and the pasture that I was hunting over has some topography to it, there’s a little of a hill about 30 yards out from him with the blind sitting right on the ground, you can’t see over the hill. With the blind elevated, I could see all the way to the fence where the deer actually dropped. Instead of the deer being in range before I know they’re there, it gave me a lot more visibility. That was the thought process behind it and I did it early enough than the year where the deer didn’t pay any attention to it at all.Deer are smart but they’re lazy. Click To Tweet
Just another blob out there, right?
Yeah. It’s a working cattle farm. There’s always stuff changing, bales being moved and tractors. The deer don’t pay that much attention to new structures appearing anyway.
Let’s get back to the teaching moment that taught me and hopefully the reader. You got a wide-open pasture and not a tree to be seen. You got some little bit of topography and you got some hay bales. You figure it out by watching the deer. As we talked in the warmup, you think about deer 365 days a year, I know that. You zero in on one deer, forget about a hit list. You may have one, but once you see the right deer you go after him. How did you develop this thinking-man whitetail hunting?
I noticed over different years of doing it that paying attention to the little things makes a big difference, not being afraid to think outside of the box. A lot of guys would look at a farm that has no trees and think it’s unhuntable unless you’ve got a rifle or something. I had that mentality too coming from the East Coast where you’ve got hundreds and thousands of acres of timber. I’m a treestand guy, but I had to break that mold and figure not so much worry about what tactics am I comfortable with. I had to start thinking about what do I need to do to kill this deer.
What is this deer’s weak spot, where does he feel safe and what do I need to do to adapt in order to do that. That’s honestly how I approach every deer that I go after now. I don’t let myself be limited by any particular tactic or anything. That deer, he knew he was safe out in the middle of that cow pasture because he could see all around him and he knew nobody had hunted him out there. Nobody in a treestand was ever going to get a shot at that deer. The previous year watching him do that, he would chase does out of that sanctuary and take them out there in the cow pasture and spend all day with them out there where he was safe. It’s being adaptable and reading each situation and figuring out, trying to find each individual buck’s chink in his armor and try to capitalize on that.
They all do have chinks because they’re habitual. They are if unpressured. You can definitely get on bucks, but first you have to locate. That’s why I’m a big believer in long-distance scouting, which you do out west anyway. You have to because this can’t cover the miles, you have to let the glass door, but more people are doing it. Out of their pickup or from over the hillside and finding bucks and watching them from afar. That’s become more prevalent by people who are successfully scoring every year on mature deer. There’s no question about that. When you spot a deer, you watch the deer. This deer you patterned and you close the deal. What was the number one lesson he thought you during that period of time?
I’m becoming more of a believer in previous year’s data on deer. When it comes to mature deer, I’m not talking about just any deer. When it comes to a super mature deer, there is a lot of value in keeping track of what the deer did the year before. It’s not an exact science, but I’ve seen it a lot of times, even with something like trail camera pictures. If you get a trail camera picture of a deer and you check it and he is on there, that’s great. That doesn’t necessarily mean you can go get in a standing kill that deer because by the time you check that picture, he has already been there. He might be somewhere else. If you can go back and look at previous years’ data, I’m fairly young but I’m old school. I keep a manual logbook of all my hunts and I log down what I saw and where I saw it. When I got a picture of a certain deer, I have files on specific deer in it. It’s ridiculous, the extent I got to. If you can go back and look and see on this date range this deer was in this general area in daylight for one year or two years in a row, there’s a good chance he’s going to do that in the future.
One of the biggest things that deer taught me is how much that can be true because if I had approached that like a new season, setting up on the areas where most of the other deer where going and setting up on traditional sign, I wouldn’t even be in the game on that deer. I would have been the same way as I was the year before. I didn’t have a trail camera picture of that deer next to those hay bales in 2017. The trail camera picture I had on him was on a different side of the farm, but I remembered from the year before that was his favorite spot to go when he was on that farm and me hunting there was based on what he did the previous year.
A guy named, Fred Bear, it’s been told he kept a journal for every single hunt he was on and historians and everything like that, hand-written. A wealth of knowledge that he learned from all over, any places he hunted, he kept a journal of that hunt. That helped make him the hunter he was. It’s amazing. We have iPhones and everything we can collect data or write in the field. Like yourself, you said it’s ridiculous the data you have, I’ll counter that notes, not ridiculous. That’s one of the reasons for your success because you’re studying the deer, you’re not just hunting. There’s a huge difference to that. I’ve been both. I’ve studied specific animals and been successful and not been successful. Other times, I went hunting and see what would turn up. Both techniques will work. If you want to hone in on specific deer, the more data you have the better off you’re going to be. Your thoughts?
I agree. Information is key. There is no such thing as too much information. These little tidbits of information are puzzle pieces and that’s all hunting big deer is. Once in a while you might get lucky and kill one, but more often than that when you kill a big deer, it’s because you were able to put together all those little pieces over time and figure out where you needed to be.
My friend, Garrett Shear, he spent the whole summer on that deer and the deer was only down from the house, 200 yards. The house rowed timber food. He could almost watch him from the road when you have foliage of course in the summer. It was interesting how much time he put on that deer. It was amazing what he did. He’s spoiled now. He’s in his twenties and he’s taking a Boone and Crockett class deer with his bow, enough of that. Before we go to deer number two, let’s give a shout out to Radix trail cameras, what makes them special for you?
I started doing some work with Radix when they were starting. They’re a name in the trail camera industry. They actually have the smallest trail camera that’s on the market and the image sensors in the cameras are super big. The pictures that we get are more comparable to what you would see in an entry level DSLR camera takes. Our image quality is what we like about them. Our small size is what people like. Our smallest camera is 3x4x0.5 inches. They’re smaller than most wallets. They’re smaller than an iPhone. They’re easy to hide, which is good for guys that have cameras that tend to roll legs.
Are you on their Pro Staff?
I’m actually their build and Pro Staff manager. I oversee the people that are on their field and Pro Staff and help with marketing for the company.
You want to give a shout out if somebody wants to get a hold of you regarding Pro Staff or you would rather not?Information is key. There is no such thing as too much information. Click To Tweet
You got number one buck out of the way. Tell us about number two.
Number two is a very different type of story. He actually lives on my home farm where I live on 260 acres there. In 2017 was the first deer I hunted that farm, we moved into that farm in April of 2017. As soon as I got there, crops were in the ground and I had to start thinking about the important stuff, deer. I started putting a bunch of cameras out on mineral sites. I picked this deer up, almost immediately. Before I go any further, trail cameras absolutely 100% killed this deer as much I did. I learned everything I know, I knew about this deer because of trail camera data and there is no way I would have killed him otherwise.
This deer did not live on my 260 acres. I didn’t know where he lived, but he would come in to my mineral site about once a week, maybe twice a week in the middle of the night, the dead of night, 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. I knew he was traveling a long way from wherever it was that he live. I had other bucks that were residents that I would literally have on my mineral site morning, every night, every day. I knew they live there pretty close. This deer he would show up for a day or two and then he disappeared for a week. I knew that my farm was not his primary core.
The same thing happened, the new ones velvet came off September. Actually, there’s a creek bottom that winds through the middle of the property and there is alfalfa on one side and then some CRP with a bean field on the other side. The creek bottom winds north to south and at the northern tip, I planted a food plot with some radishes and oats. I put a hay bale blind there. Once again, there are not many trees for the wind that I wanted to hunt that spot on. I wanted to hunt on west wind and there is nothing but a CRP field on that side. I put up a hay bale blind on a platform. I would get pictures of him in my food pot in the middle of the night, 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning once a week.
I wasn’t focused on hunting this deer. There was a couple of other deer that were bigger that I was actually wanting to hunt. I was still trying to figure all of them out because it was a new property and first year I had been there. Throughout mid-October, late October, the same thing. I started picking him up on some mock scrapes, but all on this western side of my farm I never had him on camera once or even eastern side. I narrowed it down a little bit. He was coming from somewhere to the west because I never seem to pick him up except one side of the farm. About November 2nd, I did take a vacation from work to hunt, but the weather was going to be off. It was going to be muggy, foggy and warm. The wind was not right for anywhere I wanted to set. I was going to harvest beans that day, but it was too wet early in the morning. You can’t run combine when the beans are too wet. You’ve got to let them dry out and burn off a little.
I said, “I’m going to climb in this observation stand.” I had way on the south end of the farm that actually overlooks the neighbors as well as a big 40-acre seeders that get on my side. I climbed up there. I’m going to sit for an hour or so and see what the deer are doing. On that morning, I saw this deer. For the first time I ever laid eyes on him and I’d never had a daylight picture of this deer ever. I saw him on the neighbor’s property to the south about a half-mile away stand up out of this little tiny creek bottom with two does. I said to myself, “I know where this deer is living now.” He is living in this cow pasture on the neighbors to the south. That’s why I never get a daylight picture of him because he has to walk .75 miles to get to my camera. I already knew that he never used the east side of the farm because I had a bunch of cameras over there. I basically reconcentrated all my efforts.
The two bigger deer that I was going after had gone MIA. I didn’t know what had happened to them, but this deer I knew he was moving in daylight because I saw him with my own eyes. That told me I have a chance to kill this deer. I just have to figure out where he is moving in daylight because clearly he is not getting to my food plot until after dark. I surrounded that creek bottom with cameras. I put eight cameras in probably a 30-acre area. This deer wasn’t going to be able to breathe in that creek bottom without me knowing about it. I was hunting every day, going in, checking my cameras on my way in and on my way out, trying to find what was going on with this deer.
I had seen him on the 2nd. On the 3rd, the wind was not good for where I wanted to sit in the creek bottom. I did have a stand actually down in the timber in the creek bottom and not at the point where my food plot was. Wind was not good, so I hunted a standover on the east side of the farm where I knew he wasn’t, but I had to be in a tree somewhere. Obviously, I didn’t see the deer. In the morning of the 4th, a buddy of mine about an hour after daylight shot a nice deer. I got down and I went to help him. While in the afternoon, the wind had switched back out of the west, the direction I needed it to be. I went back to check a couple of my cameras I had on the western edge of that creek bottom. Lo and behold, I had two daylight pictures of this deer on the 3rd and on the 4th. I had seen him on the second in daylight and on the 3rd in the evening, he walked ten yards in front of my stand in daylight.It’s not worth it to risk educating deer because they’re already smart. Click To Tweet
On the morning of the 4th, when I had got down to go help my buddy, he had walk past the same stand again. I had confirmed he moved in daylight, three days in a row. I figured I can kill this deer, I just need to get aggressive and get on him because all the times that I had either had pictures or seen him in daylight, he was actively looking for does. He was a super aggressive deer. I had a feeling he was. I got in that stand on the 5th and actually saw the deer come out of the creek bottom where my creek bottom stand was, which the wind was not right for. I didn’t get a shot on him that evening, but I confirmed that he was there and that made four days in a row, he was moving in daylight. Once again confirmed where I knew that he was bedding because he came right up the creek from the cow pasture on the neighbors went right up the creek bottom and passed my other stand.
On the 6th, I hunted that same stand again and had the same wind. Every other deer in the state of Iowa, I saw 36 bucks from the stand on November 6th. Probably the most incredible day of reading action I had ever seen. He is literally the only buck that I didn’t see. A couple of days later, I checked another camera that was on the opposite side of creek bottom, out of my sight and he had actually walk through there at 9:30 in the morning and passed another one of my stands. He was moving in daylight again in that creek bottom. I want to get in my creek bottom stand because every day he is walking past it, but the wind wasn’t right.
I tried again on the 7th, the wind still wasn’t right and didn’t see him again on the 7th. A couple of days later, confirmed he had again walked on the other side out of my line of sight in the morning and then came back in the evening in daylight. I had him pinned to this ten-acre section of creek bottom. I couldn’t get the right wind to hunt it. Finally, on November the 8th, I had a southwest wind and I was so happy. That was the first time I was going to be able to actually get in that creek bottom. I went in there before dark, climbed up in the tree and lo and behold, about 3:00 in the afternoon, he came. He stood up out of the neighbor’s cow pasture and came wandering up the creek bottom pass me at 35 yards and I shot him.
How wide is that creek bottom?
In its widest point, it’s probably 70 yards. It’s not the widest. It’s literally a strip in between two fields that’s timbered with a creek in the middle.
Would call that pinch point throughout it or a huge long funnel?
Yeah, the whole thing is a long funnel. In the end, there is a long down in the low spot in between the two fields.
Readers, not everybody can have as many trail cameras as Jordan, I get that. What you have, make the best use of them. Think the deer out and close the circle until you are at 35 yards and the deal is done. Jordan did have him across the creek and couldn’t see him on one of the days. Let’s move on to buck number three.
That one is a bit simpler, but it goes back to previous year history, which is something I believe more in every year. This was on the same farm where I shot the deer opening day. I did not have any previous history with this deer. No trail camera pictures of him. On that same farm in 2016, my first year hunting it, I noticed that during the secondary rut that middle to later part of December, there was a tremendous influx of mature bucks. I saw more reading activity in December 2016 on that farm than I did during November. That’s because on this particular farm there is an extremely high deer population. There are a lot of does, a lot of bucks too but not all of the does get bred during that first cycle and there are a lot of younger does and doe fawns that come in December.
In 2016, I experienced all of a sudden that property seem like it inhaled five or six four-year-old or better deer in December and they were chasing does like it was November. I was banking on that same thing to happen. I had not set foot on that property since October 1st. I had left it completely alone during the rut and just had cameras running. I knew I was going to go back and try to get a deer during late season. I had a hay bale blind set up basically overlooking a big bottom that was full of alfalfa where I knew does like to come out and feed every single evening. It’s normally a spot where I go and try to shoot a doe. Opening night of muzzleloader season was I think the 19th of December, the wind wasn’t right so I didn’t go.
The 20th was my first night to actually go and hunt. I figured it was the right of year. I figured that that property must’ve inhaled some mature buck if they were in fact some does that were going to come in to heat. I got into my blind after work and got there pretty late. I didn’t get my blind to almost 4:00. As soon as I got my blind, there were about six doe fawns hopped the fence, came out, started feeding alfalfa and passed me about 100 yards. Literally about four minutes later, I saw a big body walking through seeders out of that sanctuary on the neighbors. He came up, hopped the fence, stood there, looked and he saw that herd of doe fawns and he started marching right at them like he was on a mission. It’s hocks were black and running down the back of his legs. He was ready like it was the middle of November, but it was December 20th. You could have probably walk up there and yelled at the deer and that scared him away. He was on a mission to go those doe fawns. He basically prints right in front of my bale blind at 100 yards and stopped on his own to look at the does and I dropped him with a muzzleloader. The muzzleloader end it quick.
Of the three hunts you discussed, that was the easiest. You knew it was hanging out there and closed the deal.
It was a number saying, I knew where the most does within a couple of miles were going to be. I anticipated that the bucks would do what they did the year before and there would be a good one there somewhere following them.
Folks, data, trends, patterns, whatever you want to call it. Unpressured deer though, that’s what I’ve heard throughout our whole chat here. You’re hunting unpressured deer because you get in and get out in creek bottom and he never blew up. You never blew them out of there.
Even though I hunted a lot of days, I only sat in the creek bottom once because I waited until conditions were right. I knew he was there every day, but it wasn’t worth it to me to educate unless the conditions were perfect. That’s one thing I’m big on too. I don’t care how big the deer is. If the conditions aren’t right, I’m not going in there. It’s not worth it to me to risk educating that deer. They’re already smart. It’s not worth it to me to give them any more of an advantage.
Let’s talk about what everybody has been doing for the last month or so, and that’s shed hunting. What does that tell you about the bucks in your area or on the land that you have permission to hunt?
It does a couple of things. I love shed hunting. There is something about it. I almost get more excited finding an antler than I do killing a deer sometimes. It shows me, one, the number and quality of bucks that are in the area, which is always a confidence booster if you know that shed antlers lay in there. You know that deer survive the hunting season and he is most likely going to be this fall. That’s a big part of it. It’s an inventory thing to know what deer I need to start looking for. Honestly, shed hunting is a lot about getting data that I can’t get during the season because most of the places that hold the bigger deer are places I never I set foot in. There are sanctuaries that I will go into a couple of times a year when I go in there and look for sheds and that’s it. I’m going in there for as much as data collection as I am actually looking for the antlers. If I can find particular ridge where I think a particular buck or a group of bucks are bedding, I can file that away and use that in the fall. Also, trying to confirm the deer that I was going after were they as big as I thought they were or were they as old as I thought they were. They’re all little puzzle pieces that I use with all the data I get the rest of the year to try paste together a plan on deer.
All total, how many acres do you have permission to hunt on?
All totaled probably about 2,500 acres or so. For people who think it was 2,500 acres, that’s huge. That’s not all in one chunk. It’s a bunch of little farms. It’s 100 acres here or 60 acres there, 80 acres or 200 acres. In farmland, it’s not that’s all timber and huntable land. It’s a lot of open grain fields part of the acreage and pastures. Overall, it’s about 2,500 acres.
20% timbered and 80% tillable of pasture?
It’s amazing where the deer can live. That’s the point I was trying to drive to. Many times we have big woods and there are a lot of places in the upper Midwest huge woods. It’s a lot harder to find mature bucks unless you spend a lot of time in the farm belt if you will. There are zones of living in places they’re living albeit somewhere tiny swales they might be living in. If you spend the time you’re going to figure out what they’re doing and when they’re doing it. It’s such a fascinating sport.
It is. I have so much respect for the whitetail. He is one of the most majestic, smartest creatures that was ever put on this earth. I have a ton of respect for them in what they have to go through every single day to survive, not just from hunters. They’re constantly being hunted, whether its predators, vehicle, hunters, dogs or whatever it is, they’re such survivors. I have a ton of respect for them.
As do all deer hunters. One way or another, we’ve all been schooled so many times that you go, “How did that happen?” When you know the woods and places so well for hunting for years, they said, “He should be right there,” and then pops up someplace 100 yards away, and he goes, “Everything was right.” He patterned me better than I patterned him, let’s call it that way.
Deer have personalities and they have memories. They remember things better than a lot of hunters given credit for.
An important point, because I’ve had deer and watched them come by stands that I was hunting them. I’m only 200 yards away and I can see that stand and bucks will come up, they’ll pop their head up. Look at the stand. When there’s nobody there, there’s no scent, there’s no anything to stand in there for months and they just check it out. Everybody knows they’re smart. The mature deer are a lot smarter that we give them credit for, that’s my thought.
When a buck turns four years old, something weird happens. He walks up to a pond, sees his reflection and he’s got a great big rack and he’s like, “I need to act differently now.” They turn into a different animal and they don’t even think the same way a regular deer anymore.
Jordan, I want to thank you. I can’t wait to talk to you again and find out what the heck happened in 2018. I’m looking forward to it because you bring real in-depth sense of what mature hunting is all about, the aspect of spending more time scouting and figuring out what the deer is doing than actually hunting it. In your case, you said you had two first set kills and the other one took a little bit of time. A lot of successful people have told me that on the show that they do all the work and the hunt if they part right, they know that deer is coming and it’s a matter of, “Is the wind going to change? Are you going to drop your range finder?” All those things happen, but other than that, one, two or three days and they’ve got a buck out of the ground or they live. It’s game over and he won then on to the next one on the hit list. Your thought in that?
Preparation is key and the more of it you do the better chance you have, but chances are more often than not, the deer is still going to win. It’s nice when it works out once in a while. The more preparation you do, the higher chance you have of it working out more often.
Jordan Howell, thank you for being a guest on Whitetail Rendezvous and thousands of people are going to check your podcast and your episode. Folks, if you have questions, Jordan, what’s the email you like people to reach out to you?
Of course, you can reach me at WhitetailRendezvous@Gmail.com. With that, again Jordan, thank you so much for being the guest.