Pine Ridge Archery
SUBURBIA MONSTERS - A BOWHUNTER'S DREAM
When most bowhunters dream of big bucks, they think of hunting on some large track of land in Illinois, Kansas or Iowa. Those places produce monster bucks every year but they are not the only place to find a big buck. In fact, more and more large bucks are being found on small parcels of woods tucked in behind a subdivision or next to a shopping mall than ever before.
Finding big bucks on a small parcel of land isn’t rocket science but the truth is it requires a lot of hard work, just like killing big bucks on large parcels is a lot of work. Suburbia bucks beat to a different drum than big woods bucks. One guy who knows more about suburbia bucks than most is Steve Esker from Ohio. Esker has been featured in many magazines because he killed a 216-inch buck on a small parcel back in 2009. Since he killed that buck, he has tagged several big bucks... one with a higher score than the 2009 buck. Esker has killed over a dozen bucks that score more that 150 and most of them have been killed in suburbia, not on a large farm somewhere. “Killing big bucks on small parcels of land can be done, but it requires a lot of work,” Esker said. “What I have discovered over the years is just because a buck lived near a housing development does not mean that he is trapped. I have scouting camera pictures of a monster buck one night on a small parcel of land and a picture of the same buck a few days later several miles away. Suburbia bucks can cover a lot of ground just like big woods bucks.” One of the differences between the two bucks is many of the suburbia bucks live to a ripe old age so they sport large racks.
Killing suburbia bucks starts with having permission to hunt private land. “I recently killed a buck on 2-1/2 acres that scored over 170,” Esker said. “I get permission to hunt these small pieces of land by knocking on a lot of doors and asking for permission. Many people say no at first,but over time say yes. I always look professional when I ask for permission and am very polite. I have asked permission on the same piece of land three times before getting permission but eventually many people eventually say yes because I am always polite and never look like I just crawled out from under a car.”
Esker has dozens of small parcels that he hunts on; many of them are ten or twenty acres. Some are larger; some smaller. His key to finding the needle in the hay stack on those pieces of land is scouting cameras. “I hang many scouting cameras to try to pattern suburbia bucks. Most suburbia bucks spend the daylight hours bedded down and spend the few of daylight hours they are up and moving transitioning between feeding areas and bedding areas. I try to locate these transition areas where they travel. I try to find where bucks live and bed,” Esker explained. In 2010, Esker found a 217-7/8” buck living in a 30-acre tree nursery that had been abandoned. The buck would rarely leave the overgrown nursery during daylight hours. Esker had scouting camera pics that showed the buck repeatedly in the same area. “Because this buck never left the overgrown trees during daylight, I had to figure out a way to kill him in the nursery. It was really tough because there weren’t many big trees to hang a stand. The trees were all overgrown so I had to crawl in to hunt the area. I ended up putting my treestand in a young oak 15 feet off the ground. I eventually killed that buck.” The buck spent most of his life in the nursery that had housing developments around it.
Another thing Esker has noticed when hunting suburbia deer is that they can tell the difference between a person mowing the grass and a hunter. “These bucks are acclimated to hearing, seeing and smelling people but they get edgy, just like any other deer when they feel hunting pressure.” Esker said. “Deer will be bedded down and watch a person blowing leaves or mowing the lawn a short distance away and not have a problem with it but the moment a guy in camo comes walking into the woods, they leave. I have entered the woods with a leaf blower in my hand just to outsmart deer before. Suburbia bucks are smart; just like bucks that live in large sections of woods.”
You might think that suburbia bucks don’t care about human odor because they smell it all the time, but that is not the case at all. “I always hunt the wind. The deer really get spooky when they come in to a setup and smell human odor.” Just like when hunting big woods, Esker says the more hunting locations you have, the better so you have several backup plans. When looking for a new hunting location, Esker leaves no stone unturned and has learned over the years a monster buck can live almost anywhere. “There is one spot my brother and I hunt that the land owner has a gazebo that the deer are comfortable with. We actually put a popup blind right in the middle of the gazebo and hunt. We have killed a lot of deer out of that blind.”
The best time to kill a suburbia buck is between the middle of October to the first week of November. “I have the best of luck around the middle of October through the beginning of November because that is when the bucks are starting to move around during daylight.” Esker has also killed bucks early in the season. “Early in the season can be good as well because the bucks still have a pattern but many of these bucks only move first thing in the morning and just before dark in the evening. I like to hunt when the bucks start thinking about the does. To be successful, I must do everything right from worry about scent to hanging my stand in the right location. Every little detail must be thought out.”
One thing is certain: getting permission to hunt farms and large parcels of ground is getting extremely difficult. If you want to tag a big buck but don’t have deep pockets, consider hunting in suburbia. Like Esker says, it isn’t a cake walk but with a little hard work, you might kill a monster right behind the sand box.
BY TRACY BREEN
About the author: Tracy Breen is a full time outdoor writer, consultant and game dinner speaker who often discuss how he overcomes cerebral palsy. Learn more about him at www.tracybreen.com
BUILDING AN EDGE - FOOD PLOT SECRETS
Food Plots are more popular than ever before. Almost every serious land owner in America who hunts deer plants food plots. There are a variety of reasons hunters love planting food plots. For starters, food plots provide deer with a quality food source. Providing a quality food source on a piece of property keeps the deer on a piece of property and gives them the nutrition they need in the spring and summer when bucks are growing antlers and the does are lactating. Some food plots provide food into the fall and winter. As fall turns to winter, it is especially important to give deer a quality food source like a food plot because during the winter, finding food can be difficult for deer. If built right, food plots can provide more than just food for wildlife like deer. They can also provide cover. I recently interviewed Jason Lupardus, the NWTF Field Supervisor for the Midwest. He says research shows that food plots that offer field borders are even more attractive to deer and other wildlife than fields that go from a food source to hardwoods. “Food plots that have a transition that goes from food to cover to hardwoods is extremely attractive to wildlife and easy to create,” said Lupardus. “Instead of planting a crop all the way to the edge of a field, you stop a few rows shy of the woods. When this small area around a field or food plot doesn’t get planted with crops, it will return to native grasses. These grasses will often grow fairly tall which will provide cover for wildlife including deer, turkeys and other upland birds.” This buffer zone around a food plot gives does a place to have their fawns that is close to a food source yet gives the doe enough cover to hide her newborn. It is also a place for turkeys to nest and raise their poults. “Turkeys love to nest in the high borders around the edges of fields because they can nest without being seen by predators. When the eggs hatch, the high grasses offer security cover for the small poults. As spring turns to summer, this cover will be full of grasshoppers and other insects which provide the small turkeys with a high protein meal,” Lupardus noted. According to Lupardus, the first year that a field border is allowed to grow, wildlife, will quickly find it and use it. The second and third year the edge is provided becomes extremely beneficial to wildlife. “The second year, the border is often taller and thicker, providing even more cover for deer, turkeys and other game animals, giving them more security and in some cases, more food. For instance, ragweed often takes root and provides turkeys and other birds with plenty of food in the late summer and early fall.” Best of all, building a field border is free. Most food plot projects require time and money. Creating a field border doesn’t take much of either. You lose a few rows of crops which is the only drawback. Leave an edge this year and see what happens this fall.
BY TRACY BREEN www.tracybreen.com
Practice Makes Perfect
Fall is just around the corner. Many of us diehard bowhunters are shooting our bows daily. Most of us practice at 30, 40 or even 50 yards and feel like that is good enough. After all, most of us would never take that far of a shot in the woods. However, even if you never plan to take a shot at 60, 70 or 80 yards, learning how to hit a pie plate at those distances with an arrow can greatly increase your odds of killing a critter at 20 or 30 yards. For starters, if you can hit a pie plate at 60 or 70 yards, you have good form. If your form is off even a little bit at 60 or 70 yards, you will miss the pie plate every time. For example, torquing a bow is something all of us do from time to time. At 20 yards if you torque your bow slightly, you will never notice it because your arrow groups will still be small. At 70 yards if you torque your bow slightly, you will miss the pie plate by a mile. Perfecting your form at 70 yards will make 20-40 yard shot a piece of cake. As we all know, when your confidence is up, you will perform better. I will never take a 70-yard shot in the field but I do it all the time in my backyard. Another reason all of us should shoot at longer distances is because it will show us if we have any flaws in our equipment. Not every arrow in a dozen flies perfectly. If you shoot at long distances, the bad arrows will show themselves. I often mark every arrow in a new dozen and shoot at 60 or 70 yards. If an arrow consistently misses the mark at this range, chances are there is an imperfection in the arrow and I remove it from my quiver. At 60 or 70 yards, a vane that isn’t glued on perfectly, a broadhead that doesn’t weigh the same as the rest, or a nock that isn’t perfect is easy to spot. When I enter the woods, I want all my arrows to perform the same. Practicing at extreme distances allows me to easily weed out any bad arrows. I take my setup one step further. I spin test each arrow on a Pine Ridge Archery spin tester and weigh each broadhead I intend to hunt with. All my arrows and broadheads must weigh within a few grains of each other to make it in my quiver. To shoot consistently, my arrows must shoot the same. If you shoot with mechanical heads, make sure you practice with the practice head that comes with that broadhead. If you shoot fixed-blade heads, make sure you practice with a few of them so you know exactly how they shoot. Being accurate at 60 yards and beyond can take work, but it will also give you the confidence you need to be accurate in the field.