Cashing In On Metro Bucks by TR Michels
Whitetail hunters are learning that the place to hunt for trophies may not be wilderness areas or farms, but in and around major metropolitan areas. Many of the freeways surrounding these areas throughout the United States cut through old farm lots, agricultural fields, swamps ravines, and cross-wooded creeks and river bottoms. These areas often remain undeveloped for years, providing excellent feeding and bedding areas for white-tailed deer. Some of the property may be purchased by large corporations that wish to build corporate headquarters in wooded areas. These corporations often fence the property for security purposes, in turn creating deer refuges. Deer use the fenced property as bedding areas but must often leave through gaps in the fence or jump it to feed in nearby undeveloped wooded areas and fallow farm fields, providing hunting for opportunistic hunters.
With the spread of metropolitan areas into surrounding farmland, the expansion of wooded subdivisions, and the banning of gun hunting in many municipalities’ deer populations continue to thrive and actually increase in both the suburbs and metropolitan areas. Wildlife officials in some urban areas estimate as many as 49 deer per square mile in high-income subdivisions and city and county parks. The increasing number of deer causes complaints from city residents whose shrubs, ornamental plantings and vegetable gardens are being destroyed by deer searching for food in the winter and early spring. These complaints and increasing car/deer collisions have prompted many wildlife urban officials to offer deer hunters several deer permits each in an effort to reduce the herd. Knowledgeable hunters are quick to take advantage of the abundance of deer and the excellent trophy hunting for bucks that often die from old age or a collision with a motor vehicle. Urban deer hunting opportunities are on the increase because many cities that previously prohibited deer hunting now seek help from wildlife officials and local hunting clubs to reduce their herds.
Urban hunters also learn that there are many trophy class bucks in metropolitan areas. There are no less than twelve bucks scoring over 160 points, including a 205 typical, listed in the Minnesota State Record book that have come from the five counties surrounding Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. There are also several others that have not been registered by hunters who wish to keep their success, and their hunting spots, secret.
Deer hunters who have hunted rural or wilderness bucks need to change their mind about the seemingly tame urban deer before they pursue them. Veteran urban deer hunters have learned that metropolitan deer are extremely adept at avoiding hunters and staying out of bow range. While many of the does and younger deer are seen during the day the trophy bucks, like their rural counterparts, seldom show themselves during daylight and avoid areas frequented by hunters.
When I locate areas that look productive while scouting from the roads in late summer I talk to the local residents, asking them when and where they see deer. In particular I ask if there are any big bucks in the area. I find a resident who is a hunter and has seen deer including one or more big bucks. By asking a few more questions about where they were seen, and at what time, I get a good idea of where to look for deer. Then I setup where I can observe the buck from a distance without disturbing it to figure out the best place for an ambush.
Urban deer hunters have learned that the spot and ambush technique work well on metropolitan trophy bucks. These hunters do very little scouting of the land itself, preferring to glass known feeding areas to spot the bucks. They use a topographical map of the area and record the places, times and sightings of each buck in a journal. Once they determine an individual buck’s travel route they setup along the route and ambush the buck when it appears. Because the older bucks are extremely wary the conditions must be perfect before hunting an individual trophy buck. One hunter, who wishes to remain anonymous, with 10 Pope and Young and two Boone and Crockett urban bucks to his credit, says he gets only one chance at a trophy. If he misses or alarms the buck he may not see it again for the entire season.
I use the spot and ambush method, especially if I have access to only a small part of the buck’s territory, which is often the case when hunting urban areas. Many of these deer frequent city, county or state parks and sub-developments where they can’t be hunted. But there are often nearby undeveloped wooded properties that can be hunted, or individual landowners in the subdivisions that do allow hunting. Because many of these areas consist of 5-40 acre plots the deer may use them infrequently as travel routes, where they can be hunted only at dawn and dusk, and only when the weather conditions are right. If I have access to larger parcels of land, especially small farms that continue to operate in the city limits, I often walk the buck rub routes on a daily basis, checking rubs and scrapes to see how active they are.
Obviously I leave scent behind while I scout but I am actually familiarizing the deer to my scent. After a week or two of smelling my scent and seeing me without being hunted the deer soon become accustomed to seeing me and smelling my scent. Then when they smell me while I am actually hunting they don’t become alarmed. Urban deer are susceptible to rattling, scents, calls and decoys because few hunters have used these techniques on them. Because the deer are accustomed to the sounds, scents and sights of the city, and may never have been hunted before, they are more apt to respond to many of the techniques hunters use to attract deer than heavily hunted rural or wilderness whitetails. By scouting and patterning the deer in the winter and spring you can cut down the time needed to scout and hunt in the fall. If you have time during the fall to observe the rub routes of bucks you should be able to determine the size of the bucks, several bucks often use the same rub route in urban areas and what time they arrive at particular areas. This will make it easier for you to choose a hunting site in the fall.