Editor’s Note: Longtime, avid bowhunter Terry Drury of Missouri, the president of Drury Marketing, produces videos for Drury Outdoors and is an active member of PSE and Mossy Oak’s Pro Hunt Teams. Terry still shoots his reliable PSE Dream Season X-Force bow. Mark Drury of Saint Peters, Missouri, is the founder of MAD Calls, co-owner of Drury Outdoor Productions with his brother Terry and a long-time avid bowhunter also is a member of PSE’s Pro Hunt team. This season Mark will be shooting the new PSE Dream Season EVO.
Locating the Deer You Want to Hunt:
Most of our process of finding deer to hunt involve observed movement. Terry and I spend countless hours just watching areas with deer feeding in fields in the evening. Sometimes those fields are full of agricultural crops, but early in the year, we may watch a green field source. During a dry year, deer may be coming to a clover field or perhaps a winter wheat field you’ve planted as a food plot. We use the Mossy Oak BioLogic system of plantings on all our farms.
We watch our fields containing clover plots starting in August for deer. During one part of August, deer start being extremely visible – particularly racked bucks – because the deer are in the last stage of finishing their antlers. That means that bucks have to go out and get the nutrients to put that final growth on their antlers. Last year, we filmed probably eight or nine shooter bucks in velvet on our property. During the season, we may have seen only half of those. So, just because you see a shooter buck doesn’t mean you can return to that same spot and see him again. But at least you know that shooter buck is there, and that gives you the drive to go back out and hunt him.
Finding the Specific Area to Take a Buck:
Our goal is to observe deer movement. Terry and I will intentionally sit a considerable distance away from a productive-looking area to watch deer. We like to watch a field for two to five afternoons and move in on that final afternoon we have to hunt rather than finding sign on foot and moving in and hunting that sign. Terry and I will spend 2 or 3 of our 5 days we have to hunt actually searching for a buck to bag. We know that once we spook a deer, we’re done, period. That’s what we’ve experienced, especially early in the season when the deer are in a pattern. You’ve got to be super-stealthy and super-cautious not to spook the buck. Then during the rut, we move into those best deer hunting spots. Observed movement isn’t just a 3-, a 4- or a 5-day investment. We still have some stands that we’re tweaking, and we’ve been hunting some of them for 5 to 8 years.
We may continue to move 10 yards one way, change our access slightly or switch the wind direction with which we’ll hunt an area. We’re convinced that the more you hunt a particular piece of property, the more intimate you become with it, and the better hunter you become while on it. We advise people not to hunt more land but instead to hunt less land more intensely and intelligently. You need a lot of strategy to hunt a region in a low-impact manner. I can’t emphasize that statement enough. The biggest mistake guys make is to barge into an area. Although we’ve grown up hunting that way, I think it’s the worst mistake a guy can make, because the deer just won’t tolerate human intrusion. So, we spend more time looking for the deer we’re trying to take than actually hunting them. You may say that looking (observation) versus hunting, timewise, is probably 8 or 10 in our hunt game plan.
Once we move in, we carefully refine our strategies and get the exact right tree. After identifying the very best tree to place a stand, we’ll look for the dates when they’ve had luck there in the past. We follow our notes and go by the moon phase, the weather, the wind direction and the food rotation in the crop fields around where we hunt and then go hunt that same stand when the same conditions occur.
After pinpointing the best property, observing the deer – perhaps five or six bucks – and narrowing it down to one buck I’ll hunt, I hunt from September 1 all the way through January. There are certain areas we hunt early on. In October, we’ll key in on a water source if it’s a warm, dry fall. Hunting a water source is highly productive, particularly if that water source coincides with a food source the deer are already hitting. If Terry and I observe deer coming to a bean field out of a draw with a pond right out in the field, we’ll set up where we’ll catch them going to water before they move to the food. During a hot, dry fall, you can see and take nice deer at water holes, although most people never hunt water holes. We’ve learned the value of hunting water holes in the past 3 or 4 years after seeing numbers of bucks going in and out of those types of areas. We also hunt green sources early in the year, too. But come late October when the temperatures and the leaves start to change and then fall in the Midwest, suddenly grain becomes more important to deer. Some of our favorite places then are cut cornfields or cut bean fields. We plant stuff on our farms now from Mossy Oak’s BioLogic system like the BioMass or the Fall Attractant. Or, we plant corn, beans and others. I think you need a mixture of all those food stuffs for the deer.
In the evenings, we’ll start moving in on food plots but back off the food plots in the mornings. We’ll go to a secure cover area and try to catch a buck coming back into his bedding region. In a secure cover area like a bedding place, a buck is secure enough to move around on his feet and not have to worry about being detected by man. But when deer come to a food source, they’re visible more often than not. So, we try to get into a region where we can cut the deer off between their beds and food. Most of the time we concentrate on setting up close to a bedding area or a thicket. We may set up near a south-facing hillside where we know deer like to go to lay down and warm up if the weather’s cold enough, or, we may hunt the end of a draw that has a thicket.
When I’ve done all my homework and take my PSE bow to the stand I’ve selected, I’m generally confident that I’ll see a deer but not that I’ll take a buck. You can never be confident you’re going to take a deer. That’s why when you do bag one, it’s such a precious moment, because it doesn’t happen nearly often enough. No matter how hard you work and how much effort you put into your hunting, you still don’t always take the trophy buck you want to with your bow. That’s why these bucks remain the ultimate challenge.
When we plant our major green fields, we also plant a little strip of clover or some other type of late-season planting that will be green after the rut. We usually make this planting on the edge of our major food-plot planting. Then after the rut ends, we’ll set up on the edge of that green field where we have our late-season crop, sometimes that’s clover, planted to take bucks after the rut. We developed this tactic by planting a soybean field. The whitetails usually feed on those soybeans all summer long. But from mid-September to late-September, those soybean leaves turn brown, and no longer have food value for the deer. Any green fields on the edges of those soybean patches will start putting out new foliage.
So, I plant a green field around each soybean field between mid-August to late-August here in Missouri where I live and hunt. As the soybeans begin to die, the new young green fields start sprouting, so I don’t lose any of the deer that I’ve concentrated and watched in an area with the soybeans during the summer. By October, those bucks are so patterned to the edge of the soybean field where the green field is, that we can pick and choose the bucks we want to take.
I also like Mossy Oak’s BioLogic Last Bite, BioLogic Winter Peas, Winter Bulbs & Sugar Beets and Maximum.
To learn more about Mark and Terry Drury and Drury Outdoors, visit http://www.druryoutdoors.com/. For more information about PSE’s bows, go to http://pse-archery.com, and for information about Mossy Oak, check out http://www.mossyoak.com/.
For more bowhunting tips, check out “Bowhunting Deer: The Secrets of the PSE Pros,” a new eBook for Amazon Kindle by John E. Phillips. You also can go to http://www.amazon.com/kindle-ebooks and type-in the name of the book to find it. Too, you can download a free Kindle app that enables you to read the book on your iPad, computer or SmartPhone.
To read more of John Phillips’ articles on hunting, fishing, cooking, and all outdoors pursuits (including more expert tips from the Drurys), check out his author page and article archives here on Outdoor Hub.
Images courtesy John Phillips/Night Hawk Publications