I collected my first speeding ticket because of my whitetail addiction. I was a senior in high school, and with the rut in full swing, I managed to convince the study hall teacher my time was better spent in a stand along a scrape line I couldn’t get out of my mind. My sit just two days earlier found me within 15 yards of a mature 8-pointer that was rubbing every tree in sight.
That encounter resulted in my first live experience of a “lip curl,” or flehmen, as the buck scent-checked a scrape and shredded an overhanging licking branch. I was hooked! Unfortunately, ground cover in the sapling-infested woodlot prevented a clean shot.
Just reliving that bowhunt from two decades ago makes me long for the smells, sounds and sights of the Pennsylvania woods I grew up hunting. It also reminds me why I was driving 68 mph in a 35 mph zone. To say the officer was upset would be a gross understatement. I’ve slowed down ever since!
I love whitetails, and I’m not ashamed to admit I’m particularly fond of old, massive-bodied bucks that grow giant and unique head gear that demands the attention of onlookers. Although I love improving my odds in my home state of Pennsylvania, I also jump at every opportunity to hunt out-of-state whitetails. I collected my second speeding ticket in 2006 while blazing west on Interstate 80, bound for the CRP, cornfields and broken woodlots of southeast Nebraska. Luckily, this officer saw my archery gear piled high in the back of my truck and decided I deserved a warning. I’ve slowed down ever since!
From Hobby to Career
I grew up hunting the farm fields, briar-infested hedgerows and deep hollows of Columbia County, Pa. Some of my greatest memories involve hunting small game, wild turkeys and whitetails on a 350-acre farm owned by distant relatives. Unfortunately, as most good things come to an end, so did my access to this sacred hunting ground.
However, my experiences on that farm lit a fire inside that eventually led me to the acclaimed Fish & Wildlife Resource Department at Mississippi State University, where I studied wildlife and fisheries science and ultimately become a Certified Wildlife Biologist. After graduation, whitetails remained my passion. My mission, however, was making sure no one could ever again take away my sacred hunting grounds. I wasn’t sure how much money a wildlife biologist could make, but I was determined to earn enough to buy my own deer dirt.
After graduating from MSU in 2001, my entrepreneurial drive, along with my passion for managing deer herds and habitats, served as my ticket to owning a piece of hunting land. In 2002, I began the planning phase of what would become Drop-Tine Wildlife Consulting. And in 2003, after a long year spent trying to convince my banker that “wildlife consultant” was a real job title, I began working with my first few clients — dedicated hunters and private landowners interested in taking their deer herds and hunting experiences to the next level.
Two years later, I bought my first recreational property — a 117-acre tract in need of a lot of TLC. Although this parcel represented the accomplishment of a major goal since high school, a second 95-acre parcel I picked up in the fall of 2006 became my future. That Pennsylvania paradise became not only my home but my textbook full of lessons on how to consistently grow and stockpile mature bucks on small properties.
After a disappointing 2006 season on my new dream property, I hit the ground running as soon as the season closed. My goal was to combine the whitetail herd and habitat practices I learned in the South and South Texas with volumes of book knowledge. I’m an avid reader of whitetail research old and new. The art of blending the science with boots-on-the ground experiences soon became my passion, and my greatest teacher has been the whitetail.
I set goals for that small property that almost seem unrealistic to me today, but I did so with laser-sharp focus on doing whatever it took to accomplish them. I learned by trial and error, but many of my most valuable whitetail lessons came from the incredibly motivated clients I’ve worked with over the last 15 years. As a result, my 95-acre Pennsylvania farm has consistently produced better hunting than I could ever have imagined.
I enjoyed the success so much I purchased another 220-acre property in southern New York. I collected my third speeding ticket on the way to plant a well-placed food plot on that property — apparently New York State Troopers aren’t interested in warnings. I’ve slowed down ever since!
Now that you know a little about me and the path I’ve taken to get here, I’ll express my genuine appreciation for the opportunity. Due to the limited space in this column, I can only give you a brief snapshot of the topics I will tackle as your Whitetails columnist. My goal is to blend science and management with everyday whitetail hunting. In future issues, we’ll discuss cutting-edge deer science, food plot math, giant suburban whitetails, stockpiling bucks and why I think the dying whitetail outfitter model can be saved through lessons in business and deer management.
Since I’ve owned and/or managed hunting properties in multiple states, I’ll also discuss what states provide the best opportunities for those who want to maximize their hunting experiences. I also plan to cover the topic of regional potential and what areas of the whitetail world make the most sense when investing money or time in the stand. Most of all, I look forward to sharing the tools and techniques my clients have employed to consistently improve whitetail hunting on their personal pieces of deer dirt.
I’ll leave you with a challenge. Whitetails are a year-round passion for me, as I imagine they are for you also. And late winter/early spring is one of my favorite times in the whitetail woods. The very headgear that excites us for most of the year is falling off, and it’s now up for grabs. In fact, I enjoy shed hunting so much that I’ve been known to pass a mature whitetail during hunting season in hopes of finding his sheds “just one more year.”
One of my favorite goals to set for my clients is to find one shed antler for every four acres. In other words, if you hunt a 100-acre property, I’d like to see you find 25 sheds. Although there have been many articles written about it, I can reveal the secret with one formula I teach my clients: bucks + food + limited disturbance + southwest facing slopes = maximum shed find.
If you aggressively commit to that formula, your shed harvest will grow exponentially year after year. So, get out there and start searching!