Deer Country: Suburbs
Subtle strategies get neighborhood bucks.
Rob Lucas is more than a deer hunter. He’s an actor. The veteran archer, who hunts near his home in Norwalk, Connecticut, quickly learned a simple truth about the abundant, highly visible whitetails of suburbia. “They definitely know the difference between a homeowner doing yard work and me walking out to a tree stand. If I leave my vehicle and spot a doe watching me head for the woods, I pretend I’m looking for my garden shears. I even talk out loud to myself and move tangentially to the deer, avoiding eye contact. If I spook that deer, my hunt is over before it starts.”
Is it worth the effort? You bet. Deer populations are surging in the suburbs, and the low hunting pressure means a lot of mature bucks. With more property owners looking to reduce deer damage, opportunities for suburban bowhunters have never been better. Metro-area whitetails, however, are hardly pushovers. Lucas is successful because he’s learned low-impact hunting techniques. “Scouting isn’t nearly as important as hunting correctly,” he says. “The woodlots are small-perhaps 2 acres in size-and the trails, obvious. So the key becomes staying out of good areas until conditions are right and not overhunting them. If a mature doe busts me in a woodlot one time, it’s possible I won’t see her in that spot the rest of the fall.”
Because metro covers are often minute, Lucas does his best to gain access to as many connecting properties as possible. “Some hunters claim access in suburban areas is difficult, but I simply present myself as a responsible individual able to help property owners with deer damage. When I first contact the landowner, I leave a packet of information that contains my business card, a copy of my hunting license and safety certificate [BRACKET “Lucas is an instructor”], hunting permission forms, and a contract absolving the landowner of any liability. By acting responsibly, I’ve actually been able to get some landowners to act as my agent, recommending me to other property owners who are having deer problems.”
Lucas avoids known bedding areas and focuses on funnels and travel corridors that connect the fragmented covers. “Often the deer are bedded close enough that they can hear me enter my stand area,” he says. “So I try not to sound like a person walking. I shuffle in, stop and pause, trot, or bunny hop.”
Should he bump a deer while en route to-or shortly after arriving at-his stand, Lucas abandons his planned hunt. “Using the local hip-hop slang, I Â¿Â¿Â¿bounce,'” he says. “That means I get out of there and let things cool down. If I push it, I can burn a spot in a hurry. If I stay out and hunt it right, the results are incredible: I have some stands that averaged a doe kill every other hunt last fall. That’s a pretty good average, no matter where you hunt.”