Editor’s Note: Tommy Nails of Milton, Iowa, is originally from Corinth, Mississippi, and grew up hunting deer and turkeys in Mississippi. He’s been hunting deer for 30 years. He moved to Iowa about 7 years ago but still travels back-and-forth to Mississippi during hunting season. After deer hunting Iowa for the first time, his dream was to live there, so he could hunt those big northern deer.
The first lease that I ever got to hunt deer on, I set-out trail cameras on the property. I had pictures from the summer months of a big, non-typical deer. Also I had pictures of the buck I took that scored 164. The following year, I put one of my buddies on this farm. On opening day of shotgun season, he took that non-typical buck I had pictures that had been taken the year before, and the deer scored 172 non-typical. The buck had put on at least 10-more inches of antlers from the first year I saw him on camera until the second year when my buddy took him.
My buddy was hunting the first week of December, and this 172-point non-typical was working a scrape about 60-yards from him. He had watched the deer work two scrapes before making the shot. He got a broadside shot, and the slug went through both of the deer’s lungs. The buck only ran about 20-30 yards, and my friend watched him fall. As soon as he went to the buck, he called me, and said, “Tommy, I think you’re going to be mad at me. I shot a little deer, and I’m sorry I shot him. But if you’ll come and help me load him up, I’ll certainly appreciate your help.” When I got to my hunter and saw the buck, I knew he’d been joking with me about the size of this giant buck. That deer was the biggest buck my friend ever had killed.
If we have some cold weather during the 2015 deer season, and if I can convince my friends to not shoot the biggest bucks they see and instead wait until that last 30 minutes of daylight when the better bucks come out to feed, then they’ll harvest bucks scoring 140 or more this season. Last year in 2014, we took bucks scoring 141, 142, 149, 151 and 153. At the time of this interview in December, 2015, I have five hunters hunting with me. I have as good a crop of big deer as I’ve ever had. I have quite a few bucks on my properties that will score 150 and another buck that should score 180 that I’ve spotted twice during this year’s bow season. So, these guys should have opportunities to see bucks scoring 140-180. That’s the reason my friends don’t mind helping to pay the lease on those lands.
One of my hunters never has taken a buck deer in his life. So, I feel certain he’ll take any buck he sees. Because the big deer generally are the last deer to come to the fields just before legal shooting time is over, if these guys see a 130-140 B&C before they spot the really big deer, they’ll probably take those 130-140 bucks. None of my hunters this year (2015) has taken a buck that has scored over 100 inches. During bow season, I only may take one or two hunters, since bow season is my time to hunt. I love bowhunting. I not only enjoy taking deer with a bow, but generally I’ll see most of the deer that my gun hunters will take later in the year. In 7 years, I’ve only taken one deer with a gun. One of the guys who bow hunted with me this year took a buck scoring 155, and the other hunter wanted to harvest a buck scoring 160 or better. So, he passed up a 10-pointer twice that scored in the 150s. Once the hunt had ended, he regretted not taking that 10-pointer.
Being able to see, take and allow my friends to harvest these big Iowa bucks is the reason I moved here from Mississippi. But I still do much of my turkey hunting in Mississippi in the spring.