Author’s note: Mike Monteleone lives in Westminster, Maryland, and has worn Mossy Oak camo since 1988 and has hunted deer since he was 13 years old. He also is a member of PSE’s Pro Staff and has been shooting a PSE bow for five years. Today he shoots a PSE EVO Max, while primarily hunting in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.
For me, the easiest time to take a trophy buck with my bow is from opening day in September to the second week of November. Harvesting deer with my bow is fairly easy because of my trail camera surveys. After the second week of November, when gun season arrives, patterning deer in our region becomes pretty tough. I like to hunt for bucks with big antlers, so I usually will have one to three big bucks on my hit list every year. I put in a lot of time, effort, and money to try and locate those three big bucks each season. I not only scout for deer all year and purchase trail cameras for each property I hunt, but I also spend my spare time glassing these lands, or looking for big bucks. I don’t want someone to come into the woods I’ve been scouting all year and spook my deer, so I get exclusive rights to hunt the properties I hunt.
I’m often asked if finding the little acreages I hunt is hard. Well, it’s not easy. I have to wear-out some shoe leather and some tire rubber. I also have to knock on a lot of doors, but eventually I’ll get a yes. I use Google Earth to research small properties. One of the reasons I’ve been successful is because I hunt areas no other hunter hunts. If I ask a landowner to hunt his property and he says, “Yes, but I have three other hunters who already are hunting that land,” I say, “Thank you for your time. I’ll just let them have the property.”
I don’t see my landowners just during deer season. I help my landowners during the year by cutting their grass, weed-eating their property, running a rotor tiller, fixing their fences, or helping with escaped animals. Every year I try to solve at least one problem for each landowner who gives me exclusive permission to hunt his land. I make sure to see my landowners when hunting season isn’t in so that they clearly understand I’m not just using their land without giving them something in return. You need to become one of the landowners’ best friends. If the landowner solves my hunting need by allowing me to hunt on private, exclusive land, I need to help him as well.
Currently, I have 36 trail cameras that I run all year long. This way, I know what the deer are doing all year. I’ve been using trail cameras on some properties for five to 10 years, so I’m able to better pinpoint older bucks every day of deer season. For instance, I can look at last year’s September and October pictures and know exactly where to expect the big bucks this year. I also hunt exclusively with a bow, so I get a longer season than a gun hunter and I can take more deer. Most of the areas I hunt are so close to residential areas or livestock that the landowners don’t allow gun hunters. At the beginning of bow season, I’ll wear Mossy Oak Break-Up Infinity camo. When the leaves come off the trees, I’ll wear Mossy Oak Treestand.
The real secret to my style of hunting and taking big bucks is to look for long driveways and very expensive homes. Most hunters are intimidated by people who have those kinds of houses and big residential properties, so more than likely no one has ever asked these people if they can hunt on their properties, meaning the land may have never been hunted. Those people will say one of two things, “Yes,” or “No.” If they say yes, you not only have exclusive property to hunt, but the property may hold some really big bucks every season. If the people say no, I put them on a list to come back and ask again later. Their situation may change and I may get a yes from them in a few more years.
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Image courtesy John E. Philips