Bowhunting Suburban Whitetails

 Suburban Whitetails

For over an hour I fought the temptation to doze and forced myself to stay alert.  The sound of the computer chip manufacturing plant generators droning in the near distance seemed to pull me into a trance.  Even though they weren’t loud, the more I tried to ignore them, the harder it became not to.

Zan D. Christensen
Zan D. Christensen

Suddenly, a movement out to my forward right caught my attention.  I was in my newest evening stand, a small platform placed ten feet off the ground in the fork of a young oak tree.  A fence line ten yards behind me separated a wooded meadow from the low oak knoll in front of me.  A well-traveled deer trail cutting diagonally across my left intersected and crossed the fence only twenty yards away.  I was confident this set up would offer a perfect broadside or quartering away shot under any wind condition except a westerly.

As I concentrated on the movement in the woods, a small opening allowed me to confirm my hope.  A buck moving towards me, but quartering to my right.  At forty yards the buck still had not turned to follow the trail.  He angled into a dense thicket which abruptly ended at the base of my tree and being right-handed, I had to rotate 180 degrees if he did not change course.  As I began to rotate, he broke out of the brush only twelve steps away.

I could not believe what I was seeing.  My mind raced with the thought, “this buck does not belong here, that’s a South Texas buck!” He was truly the most magnificent animal I have ever seen while bowhunting white-tailed deer.  As he surveyed the fence line, I could clearly see his twenty-plus inch spread sporting ten near-perfect points.  Within a minute and satisfied with his safety, he started for the fence line.  As he did, I completed my rotation and came to full draw, which stopped him broadside at thirteen yards.

>>> While the buck was straining to determine what had made the unfamiliar noise, I released the shaft from my Predator recurve.  In slow motion, I watched in horror as the arrow narrowly passed above his shoulder and stick a small cedar behind him. 

>>> After trotting to the fence line, he began searching for whatever had interrupted his evening.  I don’t know if it was his curiosity, or that he realized he was in the open and became nervous, but cautiously he began walking directly towards my tree. 

>>> As I nocked another arrow, I suddenly realized that the thickly leafed branches which were at my back to break my outline were now preventing me from getting another shot. 

>>> The buck, advancing to within five yards, constantly looked up and down the fence line and tested the air. 

>>> Noticing the wind was still in my favor, I began to pray like God would like us to otherwise!  But, it was not to be. 

>>> Turning around, he calmly walked to the fence line, paused briefly, glanced over his shoulder and then jumped the fence. 

>>> A few moments later he disappeared into the woods across the meadow leaving me exhilarated and broken-hearted.  Oh, the thrill of bowhunting!


Reliving that three-minute ordeal still sends chills down my spine.  So have many other encounters over the past eighteen seasons and luckily, I have more success stories to tell than ones like this.  The most important story, however, is not an account of a thrilling day afield, but one which becomes a guide to exciting opportunities in your own back yard.  Imagine being only minutes away from home to your favorite stands.  It can become a dream come true if you will research the possibilities around your city.

It began for me while trying to locate an inexpensive place to bow hunt after moving to the city.  Because Texas has few public lands to hunt, we have to pay for hunting rights on private property.  Unfortunately, ranches and deer leases cost hundreds to thousands of dollars per hunter per season.  During my forays out of town, I noticed promotional road signs on vast tracts of land just beyond the city.  Out of curiosity, I drove around the perimeter of several thousand acres that belonged to a prominent developer.  Stopping frequently along the roadside to check likely deer crossing areas, I quickly discovered this land contained a sizable deer herd.  Much of the spoor contained respectable buck tracks which quickly motivated me into thinking about how to get permission to hunt an area of this property.

In addition to deer sign, I also found dumped trash, tailings from woodcutters, 4X4 and ATV tracks, and other abuses from inconsiderate boneheads.  This property was neither fenced nor posted with no-trespass signs.  An unfortunate set of conditions for the developer became a good reason for him to listen to my idea.  My plan, being simple and straight forward, allowing me the opportunity to approach him with the promise that I would do the following in exchange for the right to bow hunt.

  1. Post the perimeter and any roads into the area with no-trespass signs,
  2. Remove and keep the property free of trash,
  3. Contact authorities upon witnessing any illegal activities.

Because this man was an important businessman in our city, I was laughed at by a couple of work associates when I told them of my plan.  I guess they were intimidated by his success, fortunately, I wasn’t.  I called his office and explained my idea to his personal secretary after she informed me that she fielded all unknown callers seeking an appointment.  Later in the day she called me back and told me that he would be happy to meet with me and talk about it.  I was able to set an appointment for the following morning.

During our first meeting, we discussed and confirmed our expectations and determined what area I would be responsible for.  A subsequent meeting finalized the deal with a written agreement stating terms, including indemnity clauses protecting each of us from liabilities which could arise from my presence on the property.  Additionally, a provision allowed for the cancellation of the agreement from either of us with a written notice, otherwise, it would remain in effect.

Well, this took place in 1988, and eighteen years later I am still hunting his properties with all the expectations of that first season.  Because of the positive impact of my presence and care of his property initially, I have been given permission to expand my hunting area to include all his properties around the city as well.  Yes, some changes have taken place as projects began to appear, but not so much to have an adverse effect on the deer.  Actually, as each building project ramps up, deer movement improves in the areas I do hunt.  And, the deer are very adaptable to living in the green spaces that separate each development around the perimeter of the properties.  Considering the alternative to leasing land to hunt, I am very satisfied with our arrangement.  I also do not have to contend with other hunters on a typical deer lease, whom I would have no control over, for I have sole hunting rights on over one thousand wild, undeveloped acres.  What did it cost me?  A phone call and a little work.  What did it save me?  Since day one, for a bow only lease this size and this close to town, about $10,000 per year.  That’s over $180,000!

The following tips should be considered to help increase the odds of getting your own plan approved.

  1. Do not let negative people influence your decision to make it happen.  Avoid pessimists at all costs!
  2. Do your homework.  Find out all you can about the person you will be dealing with.  What is he like?  What are his interests and accomplishments?  How has he benefited the community and when?
  3. Treat whomever you talk to on the telephone during that first call with the utmost respect.  You’ll be surprised how cooperative a secretary will become and act on your behalf when you explain your call in genuine tone and interest on their behalf.
  4. By all means call with confidence.  A positive attitude and smile go a long way, even over the telephone.
  5. When you do meet with the person responsible, be sure to dress appropriately.  In my case, a sport coat and tie was the correct attire.  Also, remember language, posture, and eye contact are important tools which display confidence.  Use them, but do not abuse them.
  6. Clearly explain your plan.  An outline with questions and maps should be in your hand when you walk in.  Taking notes will also prevent any misunderstandings between meetings and final agreements.
  7. Remember you’re dealing with a businessman.  He thinks in terms of costs vs. profit (benefits).  Therefore, stack the deck in his favor (no cost, big benefit) and win his approval.  Just be sure you do not take on more than you can deliver.  A promise is like an arrow, once broken it can not be repaired. 

After you succeed in getting the agreement and before you start utilizing the property, I recommend you ride the property with the owner, noting boundaries, sign location sites, and other important conditions.  After that, get in touch with the law enforcement agencies you will be dealing with.  For me, that included the sheriff’s office, constable’s office, and the fish & game department.   Meet with the officers of each department that work your hunt area, explain your presence and intentions of calling on them when in need.  Ask for their department business card and get their cell phone number so that you can get directly in touch with them when needed.  Ask them what you should do in the event you catch a trespasser or witness a crime of poaching, dumping, etc.  The last thing you need to do is risk your own safety.  Remember, the land owner does not want to deal with the repercussions of an aggressive vigilante bowhunter!

In closing, remember to show your appreciation ever so often.  Simple acts like sending Christmas cards, congratulatory notes for his new business deals published in the newspaper, thank you cards, and a mixed box of venison meats will pay big dividends.  Don’t be surprised if you find yourself a new friend or business associate, I did!

Live the old saying, “where there’s a will, there’s a way”.  You don’t have to struggle through each season finding quality places to hunt, so don’t.  Get out there, take a look around, and open some doors.  The hunting is great!  – Zan D. Christensen

Postscript: 

Concerning the trash, I had to remove I found an effective way to get most of it done without me picking it up and hauling it off to the dump.  In most trash piles, in addition to the junk people got ride off, they included house trash.  In that trash, I found their mail, with names, addresses, account numbers, etc.  I would call the sheriff’s deputy to meet me out there to file a written complaint, which included instructions for the offender to call me within 72 hours of being notified.  If they did not call, we would file criminal trespass and property damage charges.  In almost every case, the dumper would call.  Those that didn’t call had moved.  We would meet at the trash site and I gave them the option to pick up their trash plus other piles surrounding their trash, take it to the dump, and mail us the receipt as proof of proper disposal.  If they squawked about the terms, I reminded them they had the option of facing the judge, a trial, fines, and a criminal record.  Reluctantly, they always chose to pick it up!

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