The Top Whitetail Bow Hunting on Midwest Public Lands

The Top Whitetail Bow Hunting on Midwest Public Lands

Bow hunting season is at its best in late October through Mid- to Late November and as I type this we are here now. The early rut is starting in many places throughout the mid-west. The young bucks are running together trying their best before the big bucks show who's in charge. 

Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri are all popular destinations for bow hunting trips. Let’s dive in and discover the best time and places for bow hunting, what type of gear and equipment you should bring, and other helpful tips for harvesting a trophy buck this season on Public Land.

When Is Bow Hunting Season?

In many cases, bow hunting season starts in September and runs through February. However, states set their own rules and regulations surrounding whitetail deer and bow hunting season. State limits on bow hunting include the type of bow you're allowed to use, the sex of the deer, and the type of game that can be hunted. Some states also feature special youth hunting dates, special lottery hunts, and different seasons for public and private land bow hunting.

What Should I Bring On A Bow Hunting Trip?

One of the most important considerations for any bow hunting trip is the equipment you plan to bring. Too much equipment and you could get weighed down and unable to hike into the best spots. Too little gear and you may have to cut your longer hunting trip short. That’s why it’s critical to bring ultra-lightweight gear that's both effective and multipurpose. 

Leg gaiters for protection, waterproof socks, and utility blankets are all great items to carry on any hunting trip that are often overlooked. These items ensure maximum comfort and safety which is a crucial component of hunting the deep backwoods where other hunters on public ground usually don't venture.

How Can I Find Public Lands for Bow Hunting?

States usually feature a website dedicated to hunting and fishing within their state. You can also check the U.S. Fish and Wildlife website for more information on any given area.

In recent years, most public hunting land is private land leased to the state during hunting season. Back in the good ole days and prior to land leasing, many bow hunters would knock on the door of a potentially good hunting property and ask the property owner directly for permission. As most know, this option doesn't work as often as it used to but its still worth considering especially with those neighbors that you are friendly with and you potentially have something to trade with them. Such as mowing or help with property maintenance. It could be as simple as sharing some of your harvest with them as well. So don't completely rule this option out.

What Are Good Spots for Bow Hunting in Illinois?

The Illinois Recreational Access Program, or IRAP for short, is responsible for setting hunting season dates, rules, and regulations in the state of Illinois. The state has three distinct periods of special archery deer hunting season — two in October and another in December. While you can hunt during rifle season, these special periods don't allow rifle hunting to create a safer space for bow hunters. 

It's widely known in hunting circles that bagging the biggest buck means heading to central Illinois. In recent years, many reports have been made of mature Trophy 190 + Inch Boone and Crocket Bucks taken in Madison, Montgomery, and Christian County. However, the area with the largest number of whitetail deer is located at the northwestern tip of the state. 

What Is the Best Time for Bow Hunting in Iowa?

If you’re looking for huge racks, head out to Iowa for an unforgettable bow hunting trip this fall. The best rut dates across the state have historically been November 1st through the 8th, but locals seem to have found great success hunting during pre and post-rut dates, especially when searching for the big dominant bucks. 

Great spots can be tricky to find in Iowa, but fortunately, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, or IDNR, features an interactive map of public hunting lands. Many folks agree that Southern Iowa is where its at for Trophy Bucks, but others have found luck in Emmet County in northern Iowa, and Carroll County in the west. 

Where Can I Find Big Whitetail Bucks in Missouri?

Missouri is another great state for a whitetail bow hunting trip. The variety of landscapes, slightly warmer weather, and friendly atmosphere make the state a welcoming adventure for avid hunters. While locals rave about their favorite hunting spots, there are a few that most can agree on. 

Rebel’s Cove Conservation Area near Livonia is one of the more popular public hunting lands in the state. Dozens of trophy bucks have come out of the area, and because of this, you’ll want to hunt these lands in the early or late season to avoid crowds. If you’re planning your bow hunting trip on the season’s prime dates, consider Brickyard Hill. 

The less traveled area of Brickyard Hill consistently produces trophy bucks without the crowd of the more popular areas. However, you’ll want to travel light to the area as many places in the forest are tight to get to. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself creating your own paths.

Key Takeaways and Tips for a Successful Bow Hunting Trip

Even if you’ve been hunting for years, there are always learning opportunities to take advantage of. Here are a few tips to make your next bow hunting trip one to remember!

  • Apply for hunting permits in advance.
  • Ask the locals for recommendations for "hidden" spots. 
  • Be sure to have protective gear, such as leg gaiters, for trekking through the forest.
  • Check local websites and maps for public hunting lands.

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