by Mark Hicks
Miles Clary would make a good undercover agent. He’s inconspicuous and understated. You’d never know his walls are covered with the heads of giant bucks he’s taken with a bow from the suburban farmland surrounding Columbus, Ohio. His secret: Instead of looking for big bucks where he has permission to hunt, he seeks permission wherever he finds a trophy–but only after logging long hours in his vehicle staking out likely suspects. Here are his tips.
#1 – Learn Where They Hang Out
Late-summer whitetails are notoriously visible as they feed in open croplands. They haven’t been hunted in months, so they tend to linger in the fields long after sunrise and show up well before dark. It’s a perfect opportunity for Clary to spot the buck he’s after. He glasses fields along busy roads, but he focuses on the smaller properties other hunters tend to overlook, including hobby farms and even residential areas. “I once found a 150-class buck feeding beneath an apple tree in a suburban backyard,” he says. “And I’ve taken several big bucks on 5-acre plots.”
2 – Do a Drive-By**
When he spots deer that are accustomed to vehicle traffic, Clary can usually pull over and park without spooking them. He’s watched whitetails feeding only 50 yards from his truck. But along secluded country roads, deer typically get edgy as he slows. In that case he keeps right on driving and pulls one of two tricks. “These deer are more apt to tolerate your vehicle if you park before they come out to feed,” he explains. “So I’ll usually come back a little earlier the next day.”
If there’s a house nearby, though, Clary turns devious. He’ll ask permission to park in the homeowner’s driveway, then he sneaks back on foot. “I stay off the road, keep the wind in my favor, and use whatever cover there is to get into a good position to glass.”
#3 – Go Incognito
On every scouting trip, Clary works hard not to attract attention. He doesn’t want to tip off other hunters to any bucks he’s found. That means scheduling surveillance mainly on Saturday and Sunday mornings, as well as Sunday evenings, when traffic is minimal.
Should a car drive past while Clary is glassing deer, he puts down the binoculars and holds a cellphone to his ear. “I look like a commuter with a bad connection instead of a hunter eyeballing a big buck.”
#4 – Get the Higher-Up’s Approval
Of course, finding a trophy whitetail is only half the battle. To add any given buck to his wall, Clary also needs permission to hunt the area where the animal lives. This is far from a sure bet, especially in suburban areas where you may need to site a tree stand virtually in a landowner’s backyard. But Clary has a plan for this, too.
He films the buck with a small video camera. Then he breaks the ice by inviting the landowner to watch a clip of the deer on the camera’s display. “This usually starts a friendly conversation–and often ends with a permission slip.”