Deer & Deer Hunting Contributing Editor Les Davenport recently completed an exhaustive research project in which he rated the Top 8 regions for deer hunting land buys.
What follows are his choices for Nos. 6, 7 and 8:
Best Buy #8: Southeastern Iowa
Iowa has its issues for trophy hunters, but it is still one of the best places on the continent for reasonable land prices and tagging a top-end whitetail. My pick in Iowa is south of Interstate Rt. 80 to the Missouri line and east of Interstate 35 to the Illinois border.
The southwest block of this approximately 20-county area near Missouri holds some great land buys. Many properties there are going for a low of $1,600 per acre. Even the best parcels in all of southeastern Iowa that once would have sold for $2,100 to $2,500 per acre are now available for $1,700 to $2,000 per acre.
Taxes are generally $4 to $8 per acre. Timbered land with at least 200 trees per acre (no matter the size) can be put in a state forestry program, which makes that property tax exempt with a few land-use restrictions.
Realtor Paul Fountain lives in this region and has taken six bucks scoring more than 170 inches. His best grossed 187 inches and carried 17 points. Many of “professional” TV whitetail hunters have purchased farms through Fountain.
There are several pockets of Amish families in this section of the state. They are great neighbors, but land prices near those communities are higher than other areas. Many of the Amish communities are also not into QDM.
Iowa’s nonresident permit system is one downside to buying land in this region. Bow-hunters can only expect to draw a tag once every three years. Firearm hunters draw every other year and sometimes on consecutive years.
The nonresident hunting license is $80.50, and add another $11.50 for habitat stamp. In addition, the bow or firearm buck tag increased to $295 this year.
The first 2009 firearm season (shotgun) runs Dec. 5 to 9, and the second Dec. 12 to 20.
Nonresidents can only hunt one of those shotgun seasons. Muzzleloader season runs Dec. 21 to Jan. 10.
Now here is an issue to be commented on: Iowa will not sell a nonresident archery hunter a doe tag, and the nonresident firearm doe tag increased from $100 to $125 in 2009. Undoubtedly, the DNR’s focus is to discourage nonresidents who did not draw a buck tag from buying a doe tag and hunting bucks regardless.
Iowa’s conservation police force has been depleted by budget cuts and lack of concern for proper game law enforcement. It makes better sense to me to hire more game wardens and put the fear back in possible lawbreakers. By eliminating archery doe tags and raising the doe gun tag, in my opinion, Iowa is discouraging herd management by NR landowners.
Instead of having enough game wardens in place to stop poaching, the Iowa DNR has instead decided to punish the 95 percent of honest nonresident hunters.
A group that calls itself “Friends of Iowa” hired a lobbyist and is attempting to change legislation that could benefit nonresident landowners. Thus far, their efforts have failed. Katie-bar-the-door if Iowa eventually does the right thing and implements a more non-resident-friendly permit system. Land prices will jump 25 percent to 40 percent overnight, and the tourism boost will surely help this state’s sagging economy.
Best Buy #7: Southeastern Nebraska
Although the Cornhusker State rarely comes up in conversations about big whitetails, the southeast corner of this state near the Kansas line is a true sleeper. The five counties bordering Kansas east of U.S. 81 plus Nemaha County bordering the Missouri River hold lots of mature bucks.
Southeastern Nebraska experiences high rainfall which causes more drainages and more whitetail habitat, reports Deer Program Manager Kit Hams. An estimated 15 to 20 whitetails per square mile live in this corner of the state. Blue Tongue (EHD) is occasionally seen here, but its last noticeable
outbreak occurred five years ago.
Rough ground along the Missouri River bluffs in Richardson and Nemaha counties can be purchased as cheap as $1,300 to $1,500 per acre. This is hardwood country with mixed softwoods in some sections. Counties along the Kansas line farther west have good mixes of timber, cropland, and CRP acres.
These farms go for $1,800 to $2,500 per acre due to the agricultural income. Areas of Pawnee, Gage, Jefferson and Thayer counties with creek bluffs offer the best hardwood timber. This area has limited rural water, and tax rates run from $6 per acre for timber to a top of $18 per acre for high-end tillable.
Weapon-specific permits can be purchase over the counter. A $16 habitat stamp is mandatory.
Archery and muzzleloader tags are $209 each. The rifle tag runs $521 for nine days of hunting in the November rut. Muzzleloader season is open the entire month of December. Archery season runs from Sept. 15 to Dec. 31. Nebraska offers a two-buck limit to residents and nonresidents.
Best Buy #6: Southwestern Wisconsin
There is little question that Badger State trophy buck hunters are some of the most serious on the continent.
Accordingly, they have run the cost of recreational property to sky-high levels. You can expect to pay $4,000 to $5,000 per acre for rough ground in the Buffalo County region on the
west-central side. This area is highly noted by Boone and Crockett as the pinnacle place for huge-antlered bucks. Travel south, though, to the five-county, southwest corner of the state and hunting is still great, but land prices drop dramatically.
The southwestern counties of Crawford, Grant, Lafayette, Iowa, and Richland did experience high levels of chronic wasting in the past due to deer overpopulation. However, things seem to have turned the corner and the herd has stabilized and is again producing a good quantity of older bucks.
Prices on recreational property here run from $2,200 to $2,800 per acre on 40- to 80-acre tracts. In Grant County alone, reports Realtor Mitzi Herber, there are 20 40-acre tracts and 18 that are 80 acres or more currently on the market.
“It’s a buyer’s market, and many sellers are now entertaining contract-for-deed offers,” Herber said.
Although this area does not offer rural water, well water is generally shallow and drinkable. Property taxes are very reasonable in this mostly rural setting, costing from $2 to $4 per acre. The tax rate on agricultural acreage in Wisconsin is one of the cheapest in the nation.
Signing up in a Wisconsin timber program also greatly reduces the tax rate on forested property. This area is very diversely forested, offering mixes of hardwoods, softwoods and pines.
Wisconsin’s nonresident permit is over the counter and costs $160 for each weapon-specific season (two bucks maximum — one by gun, one by bow). No additional hunting license or habitat stamp is needed. Archers have three months of bow-hunting available starting mid-September. Firearm season is nine days in late November, and muzzleloader season runs 10 days starting Nov. 30.
Which regions make up the Top 5? Pick up a copy of the August issue of Deer & Deer Hunting at your local newsstand. Click here to get a subscription and never miss a word of D&DH.