Editor’s Note: Mike Monteleone lives in Westminster, Maryland, and has worn Mossy Oak camo since 1988 and hunted deer since he was 13-years old. He also is a member of PSE’s Pro Staff (www.pse-archery.com) and is the Mossy Oak area staff manager for Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York and New Jersey.
For me, the easiest time to take a trophy buck with my PSE 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 is pretty tough. During the first week of bow season, we have an opportunity to take velvet-antlered bucks. However, I’ve learned the older-age-class bucks tend to be the first to shed their velvet. I’ve only ever taken two velvet-antlered bucks. The best buck I’ve taken here in Maryland on these small acreages was a 14-point scoring 152 on Pope & Young.
I like to hunt for bucks with big antlers. Usually I 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, 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 those little acreages I hunt is hard. Well, it’s not easy. You have to wear-out some shoe leather and tire rubber. You knock on a lot of doors, but eventually you’ll get a yes. One of the reasons I’ve been successful is I want to hunt areas where 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 that property.”
I don’t just see my landowners during deer season. I help my landowners during the year by cutting their grass, weed-eating their property, running a rotor tiller for them, 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 I see my landowners when hunting season isn’t in, so they clearly understand I’m not just using their land without giving them anything in return. You need to become one of those landowners’ best friends. If the landowner solves my hunting need by allowing me to hunt on private, exclusive land, I need to help him in return.
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 those trail cameras on some properties for 5 to 10 years, so I’m better able to pinpoint these older-age-class 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 those 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 than gun hunters can. Most of the areas I hunt are so close to residential areas and/or livestock that landowners never will let a gun hunter hunt there. 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 I 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 ever has asked these people if they can hunt on their properties, which means the land perhaps never has 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.