Those who've posted here a while know that I have long had exclusive access to a sweet little property in Central Iowa. I've always been a little cagey about specifics because there are some powerful and wealthy hunters surrounding it and we all know what power and money can do. Well, exclusive access is gone and I feel free to talk about it, if for no other reason than to bemoan my situation among sympathetic friends.
I stumbled into the place almost on a lark back in the mid-90's. It is a little sliver of active crop and pasture land with a small timber on the back side. It is owned by a elderly widow who rents out the farming. What makes it special is that it is surrounded on three sides by a massive, professionally managed hunting preserve, owned by a prominent millionaire. He owns several thousand acres and this piece was the only thing standing in the way of total control. Rumor has it that she has turned down some very lucrative offers from her wealthy neighbor.
Anyway, I always worked very hard to be a good steward and considerate guest. I've tried to keep close contact with the landowner and bring a small gift at the close of every season. I've never left a gate open, damaged a fence, or driven over crops. I have also worked diligently to cooperate with the hunting perverse staff. I have often gone out of my way to harvest does to aid in conservation efforts and I have never crossed their fences to retrieve game without their express permission. While I have never met the millionaire in person, his staff has always been friendly and helpful to me. It has been the scene of some of my greatest hunting experiences. I've taken multiple mature bucks there including a pair of 160 classes and several that dressed in excess of 200 lbs. I've never failed to fill my freezer for the year with does and I've often filled the freezers of friends, family and the donation program. It has been a real blessing to hunt there. The rub has always been that the farmer who rents from her is a real ass. No two ways around it and I will gladly tell him to his face. Over the years I've had very few interactions with him, but they have always been unpleasant. Again, I have never given him cause for concern but he was always rude and dismissive. It never made sense, until this year.
I visited the property to hang a gun stand two weeks ago and was surprised to find a strange blind in the way. On inspection I found my 2D buck decoy, that I had left weighted down with a log the season before and thought I had lost!!! Obviously I did some checking with the landowner and was saddened to see that in the year since I had last seen her, her memory and faculties had deteriorated badly. Not only did she not know who's blind it was, she had trouble following the conversation. I had no choice but to contact the farmer. True to form, he was rude and quickly explained that he had taken over control of the hunting and given permission to someone else. He ordered me to remove my stands at once. The curious thing was understanding why he had taken this approach, so I did some asking around the community. As it turns out, the farmer is a lackey for the millionaire and has a reputation for bulling farmers and hunters to gain favor with the big preserve.
Iowa laws state that farming leases carry hunting rights unless otherwise stated. That statement should be put in writing but it can be verbal. The verbal permission from the landowner has always been enough but given her condition I know it will no longer hold water. I packed up my gear and walked away. I was blessed with permission to hunt somewhere for the gun season but I have to start over and find a new place next year. Obviously, the real tragedy is that the landowner is not well. She has been a good friend and is in my prayers. It's just a sad situation all around.
Thanks for listening.