Episode # 318: Trophy Bucks of Iowa – Brandon Dahms

WR 318 | Trophy Bucks of Iowa Brandon Dahms

Trophy Bucks of Iowa isn’t just about the inches on the head of the animal. It’s about their trophy and what it means to them to take that animal. Brandon Dahms wants to instill that trophy may not have the same meaning of a trophy to a young boy that went out on his first hunt, but it’s about creating memories of being able to go out, hunt, and what it means to them which they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.

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Trophy Bucks of Iowa – Brandon Dahms

We’re heading over to Iowa and we’re going to connect with Brandon Dahms. Brandon is part of Trophy Bucks of Iowa, a huge Facebook page. Trophy Bucks of Iowa, what’s it all about? What they do is share memories, helping people keep their memories, remember their hunt, and enjoy the joy of the hunt. Brandon, welcome to the show.

I appreciate you having me on.

We’re kicking off the year great because everybody knows how big Bucks are in Iowa. Brandon and his crew have done something unique. Brandon, jump in and start talking about how Trophy Bucks of Iowa came to be and what you guys are doing.

Eric Kline started Trophy Bucks of Iowa. He wanted a great way to share his harvest and some of his friends’ harvests so he started a Facebook page, Trophy Bucks of Iowa. Initially it was just for him and some close friends and they just wanted a forum, a bragging board to share their success stories. It took off. People make it their daily routine to come check Trophy Bucks of Iowa. Anybody can send us their pictures and stories and where they took them, and we post. Everybody gets on there and congratulate and it makes them feel good about it.

How’d you guys get started? What was the genesis of doing this?

Eric took a buck and he wanted to show some friends on Facebook. Instead of just putting them on his personal page, he started the Trophy Bucks of Iowa. Some of his friends had texted him and said, “Can you share my deer?” and pretty soon he had three or four deer on there and a couple of their friends shared the post and things went viral. Here we are now and there are 38,000 going on to 39,000 people, and we’re getting deer sent to us faster than we can share them.

WR 318 | Trophy Bucks of Iowa Brandon Dahms
Trophy Bucks of Iowa Brandon Dahms: Trophy Bucks of Iowa just isn’t about the inches on the head of the animal. It’s about their trophy and what it means to them to take that animal.

I know one guy that does that, Troy Cravens. He started doing that back when I posted my Iowa buck a couple of years back. I just want to thank you for sharing all the trophies. We talked about trophy hunting, my joy of the hunt up at Iowa Trophy Whitetail Outfitters with Judd Cooney and Sheri Yarborough. I took a young deer but his is almost 10 inches. That’s why I shot him and just a pretty deer. I got him up on the wall. He’s not the largest deer, but the joy of the hunt, that memory will stay with me forever. Talk about the memories that you guys are helping to create.

One thing we like to instill is us at Trophy Bucks, there are four of us, we like to shoot mature deer, four and a half or older. It isn’t about inches at that point in time. It’s about letting the deer get to maturity. One thing we do is we don’t just share people’s deers that are over a certain amount of inches. We want to instill that trophy to me may not be at the same meaning of a trophy to a young boy that went out on his first hunt and he only shot a fork horn a year and a half old. That’s something that we wouldn’t do, but it’s a trophy to them. It’s about the memories that they got to go out and they can probably remember the exact moment they shot the deer and what it meant to them, and they’ll remember that for the rest of their lives. Trophy Bucks of Iowa just isn’t about the inches on the head of the animal. It may even be a doe, but it’s about their trophy and what it means to them to take that animal.

I heard that from Brenda Valentine when we first started the show. She graciously was our guest. She said, “Bruce, it’s your hunt. It doesn’t matter how much you pay, if it’s DIY or you run at somebody’s lease or you’re paying an outfitter to get you in the field, it doesn’t matter. It’s still your hunt and you’re hunting for your reasons and not somebody else’s.” Many times, especially guys, “I got to get a bigger buck than Johnny,” and you look at your buck and you can see it on social media, and guys say, “It’s not the biggest buck.” As soon as they say it, it’s like, “Stop.”

You are darn great in what you did. I absolutely agree.

Hunting is such a wonderful thing. I can think back to the first deer 50 years ago that I shot. I still know where I shot him. Every time when my buddies and I get together, he goes, “I can’t believe you unloaded your shot on that poor deer. How many times did you do want to kill him?”

We get sometimes where people will comment, “I can’t believe you took that deer.” It’s all about what it means to that person. You might have a five-year-old deer that’s never going to get to be 180 in its class. People see it on TV in Iowa and they think they’re going to come to Iowa and automatically shoot a Boone and Crockett deer. That’s just not the case. It does take great managing and having the right property. To some people, their whole dream isn’t to shoot a Boone Crockett. It’s just to have the memories and get out there and have a successful hunt with family and friends.

I couldn’t agree with you more because of all the years I can think of some of the best time I ever was on, I didn’t take any game.

I’ve gotten into bow hunting more over the years. Bow hunting is my time and I go out and enjoy. I get to see the birds come alive and get to see things that most of the generations don’t even get to see because it’s happening out in nature. A lot of people aren’t seeing that. The gun hunting has become the camaraderie and hanging out with multiple generations. We’ve been seeing a lot on Trophy Bucks of Iowa where we’ve seen four generations in one photo and that’s just fantastic.

Gun hunting has become the camaraderie and hanging out with multiple generations. Click To Tweet

I think back to the crew that we started out, we got a bunkhouse crew, Dick is 72, I’m 70, and his son is in his 30s, and the whole family. In Wisconsin, hunting tradition is generational. The same cabin that great grandfathers built are being used by the great, great grandsons now. They’re still going to the same place, sleeping in the same bunks, telling the same stories, playing cribbage or cards at the same card table. The stories go on and on. The stands are all named the same. It’s tradition and brings us back to what I call common ground because when we’re in those shacks or we’re around a campfire, we do reach a common ground with everybody there. You leave your ego in your truck and you’re just there to enjoy each other’s company and talk about something that we love.

I remember the week leading up to our deer camp, sleep gets less and less as each day gets closer to the opening day of deer camp.

It’s tradition that you need to share. Your Facebook, the Twitter, the Instagram, your personal Facebook page, can share all those with us?

My Facebook is Brandon Dahms. You can reach me on there. I also have Instagram. It’s @BDahms77. Our page on Facebook is Trophy Bucks of Iowa. There’re a few other pages that have come out that are similar, but ours is just Trophy Bucks of Iowa. Our Instagram is @IowaTrophyBucks. Our website is TrophyBucksOfIowa.com.

Thanks for sharing that. Folks, I asked Brandon in the beginning, “Are you guys outfitters or just DIY hunters?” Let’s talk about that a little bit. We talked a little bit about why you got this outfit going. Let’s talk about what roles each of you guys play.

We are not outfitters. We do take a lot of friends hunting because of our knowledge and trying to get as many of our friends into the outdoors as we can that normally wouldn’t have been introduced to it. We get messages daily, “What are your rates?” We are not outfitters. We are strictly a Facebook page and other forums that share your trophies. The four of us, Mark, Eric, Ryan and myself, have an extreme passion for hunting and letting others see it and sharing their success stories as well. Eric and Mark are twin brothers. They hunt down in Southwest Iowa. Ryan hunts in Southwest Iowa as well and a few Des Moines area properties. I mainly hunt in Southern Iowa down into southern tiers in the Ringgold County area.

Let’s talk about getting the youth involved. That’s a big push for you guys.

I grew up in Illinois where on my mom’s side, hunting wasn’t that popular. When I go see my dad every other weekend, he would always talk about the outdoors and it’s something I wish I would’ve gotten more into when I was young. I remember how excited I would get every year knowing when December was coming around. It was gun season in Iowa and I got to go hunting with my dad and see some of my other friends grew up with it. They’re always outside and had amazing stories. We’re just noticing a lot of the youth are disconnected from the outdoors. What we’ve been excited about is the amount of youth and people that normally wouldn’t be taken outside hunting sharing, such as guys taking their nephews and nieces hunting or a young kid getting excited about hunting because of his friends or he got his father and brother and everybody else excited about it.

It’s been them wanting to share their success story on our Facebook page. That’s had them want other people to share their story on our Facebook page. It’s a goal of getting on Trophy Bucks of Iowa. We’re excited that some kids that would normally have not been out in the outdoors, their uncle or somebody called them up and said, “Would you be interested in going out?” and they go out with a smile on their face speaks volume when it’s something they normally wouldn’t have been introduced to because their immediate family wasn’t into it. Our passion helps lead to them being introduced to it which may lead generations to come.

WR 318 | Trophy Bucks of Iowa Brandon Dahms
Trophy Bucks of Iowa Brandon Dahms: We’re just noticing a lot of the youth are disconnected from the outdoors.

If I don’t have any kids on my own, and I’m saying, “I’d like to take out the neighbor’s kid.” What’s the best way to approach a parent or somebody and say, “I’d like to take your kid hunting?”

I’ve taken quite a few youths hunting, especially this year. I just took somebody out and they got to experience the first harvest of a doe. They showed some interest in what I do, and even if the parent wasn’t but the child was, I just approached them and I said, even if they don’t go hunting, “Would you be interested in me just allowing them to come and watch and just be in the outdoors? Maybe just put them in a tree stand the first few times with mirror ground blind and just see if sitting in the outdoors and seeing deer up close gets them excited.” Every time they go home they talk about it so much that the parents have come and said, “I’d be more than happy to let you take him hunting.” Usually I spend some time with them, get them familiar with the type of weapon that we’re going to be taking, and usually invite the parents out as well. That way they’re comfortable with me because I have the safety of their child or whoever at my hand. Once everybody gets comfortable, then we’d go out. Sometimes I invite the family. Sometimes it’s just the child, but usually I try to take it in small steps because sometimes it can be a foreign idea to let their son or somebody go out hunting if it’s not part of their lifestyle already.

Some kids listening to the show, Whitetail Rendezvous, say, “I’d like to do that.” Is the best place to message on Facebook?

Message us on Facebook. Even if we don’t have time available or we’ve already taken somebody else out, I’m sure we can find somebody in their area we know that is reliable that could take them on a hunt. With TV and everything, youth and women have at least some videoing of their hunts getting popular. It’s all you should experience at some point in time. It’s not for everybody and they would know once they go out if it isn’t, but some kids are missing out on not getting out there.

We’re talking about boys and girls, guys and gals.

Some of my customers that have never experienced to hunting, I talk about it with a passion and they always say, “You talk about it so much and you enjoy it so much, I’d like to experience.” They have no idea what I’m talking about when I explain hunting. It’s like a foreign language to them, so I take them out there and they experience the deer up close and personal, and then went from being a city guy that’s never been fishing or hunting before to now they only eat what they harvest. He now gets it when we talk and understands, so it’s not just for you. There could be a 60-year-old grown man that’s never been involved with it. All it takes is somebody extending an invite and taking them and it can change somebody’s life.

All it takes is somebody extending an invite and taking them hunting, and it can change somebody's life. Click To Tweet

Let’s talk about 216 and your hunt. We’ll start first with your very first bow kill.

It was my first buck of the year. I had pictures of this deer earlier in the year and he was not on my hit list. I knew he is old enough but I had some mature deer that were higher on the list. My first priority in bow season every year is to establish which properties I want to be going after the bucks, and then which ones have too high of a doe population and that’s where I’ll be taking my does because the majority of the meat that my wife and I eat is venison because I’m allergic to beef. Venison or some of the other game that we harvest is pretty much all we eat. Once I establish that property, I was going after a buck and I put that deer off in the back of my mind. It wasn’t even on the radar when I was hunting. It would’ve been about a week before I harvested this buck. I had one of the biggest deer I ever shot with my bow in my life tuck my arrow, and I was not a happy camper. I was pretty bummed about it. You go through all the steps you take all the time. This deer was a five-year-old and he would’ve been hands down the largest deer I’d ever harvested and clean missed. I didn’t know what happened, it ran off. I was pretty upset probably more than I should have.

I decided, “Let’s go to this other property. I’m going to check trail cameras and see what’s there.” I pulled the cards and this buck is on it. I’m like, “This is the deer that I have been seeing in Bellwood earlier.” He didn’t lose that much mass from velvet. I knew it was mature and I had a sneaky suspicion that he was bedding up in this one corner of the property that I hadn’t hunted in years. I had a climber that I had put up there and literally it’s been there for two years and that’s the same spot I actually shot my first deer in with a bow. I don’t know why I didn’t go there for two years. I just got caught up in all the other places. I decided to go in there one morning, I climbed the tree, and a doe came walking in. A good friend of mine and his son were with the hunt with me. You can see him wanting to get his first deer and I had said, “If a mature doe walks by, I got a tag. I will be more than happy to take the doe and we’ll take it to the locker and you and your boy can take the meat home.”

A doe come by and I was full drawn and I hear something coming and I’m like, “It’s November. There’s probably something chasing it,” so I decided to let down and here comes a little button buck chasing the doe. I was bummed there again just because I let the doe go that I was going to take for my friend to the locker and used up my last archery doe tag. I set my bow on the bow hanger and go to sit down. I hear a twig break behind me right where the doe and button buck went and I thought, “They’re coming back.” I go to turn around and saw the antlers, and I knew immediately it was a mature deer. I didn’t know it was the one I was after because it happened so quickly, but I was right on the border of the neighbor’s property and mine, so I didn’t have a lot of time before it crosses the fence. Once it crossed the fence and I don’t have permission, I’d have to pass the deer. I drew back and connected and the buck ran maybe 30 to 40 yards and keeled over. That being the buck that I drew the card on, that made me go up there. It’s nice when things work out to plan. It’s a nice chocolate rack nine-pointer, not the biggest deer in the world, but mature. I was absolutely tickled with him.

You hunt a lot of properties. Let’s talk about your sets and why you choose to put a hanger, or a climber, or a double stand up.

I run a ton of cameras every year so I have a pretty good knowledge of the high traffic areas, where the mature bucks are and what properties have a lot of those. I like to put doubles up where I’ll be taking if my nephew comes or my wife wants to come sit with me or a father and son want to go. I’d like to put those in higher traffic areas. That way, they may not be out for a big buck and they just want to see some deer and have action just to introduce them. I’ll put the doubles where I know they’ll be seeing deer. The climber is in more of a remote area where only I will go hunt after some of my hit list deer. I don’t like other people using it just because I would hate for them to not be familiar with a climber and get injured. I always have certain areas I like to put. It depends on what time of the year I’m hunting, but I’ll always put pinch points near my food plots and between the food and the bedding areas. I like to keep the bedding areas pretty much left alone. This climber that I was sitting in at a harvest to my buck happened to just be a pinch point that was leading right from bedding area to one of my food plots. I believe he was scent checking the ridge, heading towards the food plot to see if there were any does in it.

WR 318 | Trophy Bucks of Iowa Brandon Dahms
Trophy Bucks of Iowa Brandon Dahms: I run a ton of cameras every year so I have a pretty good knowledge of the high traffic areas.

You mentioned scent checking. Are you above or below him? Talk to me about the wind.

The wind couldn’t have been worse. What the wind app told me it was going to be doing, it was doing the opposite. The wind was supposed to be coming out of the northwest and the deer came from the northwest, but the wind happened to be out of the southeast. I was up high enough. I believe my scent wasn’t dropping until it was beyond where the deer was coming. I also had just recently started using the season ozone technology down when I haven’t been busted yet with using the ozone technology as well as mature buck orders. Even though it was swirling, in years past, I would have probably gotten down and that way I didn’t bugger up the area. I wasn’t worried at all with the opposite wind direction just because I was confident not being busted with using the ozone and the wind blow.

How do you get into your stand? Do you stock your stands? Do you take the same trail? How does that work?

Usually, I take the same trail. I’ll never send a stand up where I have to go through a bedding area or if the wind is coming in the wrong direction. To get to this climber where I harvested the deer, I have to go through quite a bit of timber, but it’s not a bedding area. It’s strictly a travel corridor for deer. I’m not worried at all about blowing deer out of the area. Most of the deer bed a solid 100 yards on the opposite direction, maybe even 200 yards away. Usually I come in from the road and I hug to a part of the property that doesn’t hold a lot of deer. When I come through the timber, by the time they’ll be crossing through that area, they have already crossed through my shooting zone so I’m not worried about at all getting checked or busted when walking through.

Let’s switch it up and head out west to Wyoming. Something very exciting happened out there.

It was a bucket list trip. I’ve always talked about going out west. In the back of my mind, it was something that I thought wouldn’t happen for many years down the road. I’m part of another online forum. One of the guys on there is going to college out in Wyoming and he had said, “Would you be interested in coming out and doing a do-it-yourself public land hunt with me?” I went out in September with my bow and saw a ton of wildlife. I went out to Wyoming and that catapulted Wyoming to the top of the states for me as far as beauty and wildlife. I went out there just to harvest a cow. I didn’t care if it was a bull or cow just because we were going out there more to fill the freezer and get the experience of the area. My friend, Josh, ended up harvesting a very nice over 300-inch bull with his bow that weekend. I came home empty handed, but it turned out that the same tag I was out there with my bow I could use in December with a rifle. Me and a local friend here in Des Moines each had a tag so we both set out to Wyoming in December, the week after shotgun season here in Iowa, and decided we were going to try to see if we could fill one, if not both, of our tags.

The opening morning while we were there, our GPS wasn’t working well. We came across a herd of almost 300 to 400 cows and spikes. It was a sight to see that many elk running. Since the GPS wasn’t working properly, we weren’t 100% positive that they are on public or private because we were pretty close to the lines, so we let them go. It’s better to be safe than sorry. It turned out they were right in the middle of public and we could’ve harvested them, but like I said, better to be safe than sorry there. That evening, clear up on the mountain, normally they’re coming off the mountain this time of the year, but the wind was so incredibly strong. We were having 50 mile an hour gusts every day we were there, non-stop. The snow wasn’t accumulating up on the mountain, so the elk will not have any urgency to come down off the mountain. About halfway up, I saw a group of five bulls at last light right above public but not on public, so I grasped them until dark. I noticed they fed down into the sage right into the public at pass legal lights, so we made a point to be there at first opening legal light and didn’t see them. We’re getting ready to leave that next morning and check new spots and we just happened to glance one elk and it’s about two miles off the road. The wind was perfect. The wind was blowing from them to us, so we hiked up.

By the time we got up there, they had fed down waiting at the middle of the public section and there were five bulls, two young ones. The two that we ended up harvesting were 6×7 or 6×6, and then one that was a once in a lifetime elk. It took us about two hours to sneak to them. The wind was so strong. We didn’t want to take a long-range shot just because of the wind effect in our bullet and our experience with it. We ended up getting to under 100 yards from them and they started feeding back to us. I was on the right, my friend was on the left, and we each had our sights set on one. The largest one of the group was still feeding over the hill, so we didn’t see him at the time, but it was now or never. I picked the one I wanted, he picked the one he wanted, and we shot on three. Both bulls dropped immediately, and then the work began. We were ecstatic. It was a surreal moment to go out there. Even though I was going out there, there was a lot of elk, until it happened, it was one of the things that in the back of my mind expected to go home with just fond memories of seeing a lot of great wildlife and I’m not going home with a bull. It was an extremely emotional and exciting time for both of us.

Everybody should get out and experience just taking a backpack, hiking out in the wilderness, and seeing an elk bugle. Click To Tweet

How do you view elk hunting as opposed to whitetail hunting?

It was two totally different experiences. I will be going back out again 100%. Just like whitetail hunting, archery was unbelievable. I don’t think anything will ever take away from me enjoying Iowa whitetails. Whitetail will always be my number one, but I am definitely going to try and make it a staple of going out west with my bow. It was beautiful country. It’s something that everybody should see, once in a lifetime views and quite the adrenaline rush. We saw a mom bear with three cubs. First time I’d seen that. We saw multiple moose, antelope, mule, deer, and just tons of elk. They’re two different adrenalines, but something that I will absolutely put in to do more.

Not giving out any hunting holes, what national parks were you hunting on?

It’s different than Iowa where it’s all checkered to where it’s a square mile by square mile of public and then private, public and then private. We were in Wyoming and it was an over-the-counter tag do-it-yourself hunt. I will say the one thing that helped was studying the lay and maps. I never heard of corner crossing. You can’t corner across where you go from public to public if their corners touch. If I wouldn’t have known all this, somebody could get out there and be breaking the law and have no idea. I would highly recommend people look into it. If I can do it, anybody can do it. I thought it’d be a lot more work, more than I wanted them to get out there and do it, but once you understand the laws and the means of getting the tags, it isn’t as hard as what I thought it would be. The main thing I can say is to study the laws and learn the lay. Getting out there in September with my bow paid absolute dividends. I already knew the area, so that’s probably my main points.

Thanks for sharing that. I can remember going to school in Wisconsin, the crew of us jumped in a pickup truck. We’re going to Colorado. Fortunately I had met Dwight Schuh with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and bought his book. Between that and topical maps, I found the drainage I wanted to be in. In Colorado, there’s a lot of elk so you’re probably safe to say you’re going to see some elk. I had a great hunt and didn’t harvest anything, but I was close. I smelled a bull out before he took off and ran away from me. I wasn’t 50 yards from prey and closer than that. Then I had a nice shot at a mature mule deer buck which didn’t come to fruition, but that was my first trip out there. That was in the early ‘80s. I always come back to that. That I spent more time researching and now we have Google Earth, there’s absolutely no reason that you can’t sit right at your home wherever you are in North America and figure out how to hunt in Montana, Wyoming, Utah, wherever you can get a tag, and how you can hunt DIY and be successful.

It’s all about the work you put in before and the research you do. People think of public land and it’s probably overcrowded and there’s no wildlife there and it’s just not even worth doing. You would’ve thought we were on private property that hadn’t been hunted in twenty years because the amount of wildlife that we saw out there on 100% public land was incredible. I could probably go back out there with just a camera and not even a tag a weapon and just have a once in a lifetime trip as well. Everybody should get out and experience just taking a backpack, hiking out in the wilderness, and seeing an elk bugle. It’s something that is unexplainable.

WR 318 | Trophy Bucks of Iowa Brandon Dahms
Trophy Bucks of Iowa Brandon Dahms: It’s all about the work you put in before and the research you do.

Thanks for that. I know you’re connected with Scent Crusher. Anybody else that you want to give shout outs to?

We on Trophy Bucks of Iowa and myself are teamed up with Scent Crusher to this year. If a person is not familiar with it, look into it. We have not been busted downwind this year. It’s where you just stick your clothes in the duffle bag or closet. It uses ozone technology and it helps. Still try to hunt the right winds and do everything you can to spray down, but I will say it works and eliminates the odors. I went onboard just initially to get some cool stuff and give it a go, and I am 100% a believer. Wind Pro is another one that has synthetic deer scent in powder form. If you’re running trail cameras and you want to create a mock scrape, Wind Pro is unbelievable. I was making a mock scrape. I just went out in my work clothes, probably put my scent all over the place, put Wind Pro on it, and it wasn’t 30 minutes later, I had a buck on camera making a scrape over my Wind Pro.

If you want to take an inventory on your trail camera, look up Wind Pro, it’s absolutely incredible. Last one is Stealth Cameras. Stealth Cameras help us out. We have been using some of theirs and happy with the results. Stealth cameras are at StealthCam.com. The final one is Antler King. We had food plots this year. Antler King partnered with us and my turnips and radishes we’re twice as big as anything I ever grew. I was extremely impressed. I didn’t do that much maintenance to them and they were unbelievably lush, lots of tonnage of food for the deer. It’s going help us shed season as well. Look into Antler King products for food plots and see.

Thank you so much, Brandon, for being on the show and sharing about Trophy Bucks of Iowa. Folks, if you haven’t yet on Facebook submitted something, go right ahead because they’re just waiting to share your story and your memories with everybody on social media. On behalf of the audience across North America, thank you so much for being a guest on the show.

Thanks so much, Bruce. I appreciate you having me on. It’s been a blast.

We have a wonderful show coming up next with Jeremy Berlin of Wisconsin. He talks in-depth about taking a magnificent, mature buck. I’m not going to tell you how big, but it surely is a Mister Wonderful.

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