Bowhunting World: People see your gorgeous, intensively managed farms on TV and wonder, "How much time and money does it take to grow all those giant bucks?"
Terry Drury: Well, we've never tallied up the cost and probably never will because it would scare us! [Laughs] Yes, it takes considerable money and time to manage on a scale like we do. We don't consider ourselves professional hunters, but managing our land for mature bucks and bowhunting those deer on camera are our professions. Just like any business, you have to invest in your facilities and infrastructure.
Mark Drury: As far as time, you can never put enough "sweat equity" in the land you're managing. We could find something to do on our farms every day if we wanted to, from clearing to planting to mowing, whatever. And every bit of that work would pay off.
One unfortunate thing is that we have to deal with organized poaching rings in and around our farms. Talk about stressful and time-consuming. Due to our exposure they target us like no other.
BW: Most hunters have small and/or marginal lands, and limited time and money. How do they begin the enormous task of improving a deer herd and growing big bucks?
TD: One of the best things doesn't cost a dime. Pass the 1 1/2- and 2 1/2- year-old bucks, and in a few years you'll have more mature bucks on your property. This will be intensified if you can get with your neighbors and convince them to start passing up young bucks, too. If you combine, say, the 200 acres you hunt with 1,500 surrounding acres, now you're managing and growing older and bigger bucks on 1,700 acres.
MD: I don't think you can change the genetics of your herd much with culling, so don't worry about that. Along with letting young bucks walk, you need to have as much food on your property as you can. If funds are limited, plant as much clover as possible, scattered across the acres. It's green and deer love it. It's cheap and high in protein. If you have some extra funds and enough acreage, add some soybeans.
BW: What advice do you have for the average Joe who has only 40 to 100 acres to bowhunt?
TD: We've hunted a lot of 60- to 80-acre spots in Illinois and elsewhere over the years, and the big thing we've found—the less time you spend on a small spot, the more deer and the more big bucks will stay on it! Keep out until the wind and conditions are right—maybe go in a day after the first cold front in October, and definitely go when the rut is on early November. Your tendency is to go to a spot and walk around and scout and hang stands all the time, but the more you do that, the more you mess it up.
MD: Good access is critical everywhere and especially on a small spot. Enter the woods from downwind and in places where you don't bump bedded deer. Stay quiet and hidden. Also, hang your stands on the fringes of the woods, and hunt them when the wind is blowing out of the center of the property. All this reduces pressure, and that is a big key to killing mature bucks.
BW: Has being "reality TV hunting stars" put a strain on your relationships with your family or friends?
MD: First, we don't consider ourselves TV stars or celebrities. We're just lucky to be able to hunt a lot. What we do is stressful, just like any other business. The travel and being away from home is the hardest part. We’re gone hunting 120-130 days a year. But we've managed it well with the love and support of our wives and kids. I've been married for 21 years, Terry for 35, so we're doing something right.
BW: How much of the sponsor gear do you really swear by?
MD: All of it. From day one we made a pact that if we would not buy and use a product, we would not endorse it or promote it. Simple as that.
TD: We've had quite a few marketing opportunities where we didn't feel right about a product or the message of a campaign, so we passed.
BW: How often do you go out on your farms and get skunked like the average guy?
MD: A lot. Most days we get skunked, just like everybody. I don't care how much land you've got and how good it is and how well it's managed, mature bucks win most of the time when you're hunting with a bow.
Here's a good tip. Most of my worst days are when the wind is out of the south. That's a surefire recipe for getting skunked in my opinion! Ninety percent of the mature bucks I've killed in the last few years were on a north wind, so concentrate your hunting on those days.
TD: Want a good example? A few years ago I killed my first buck of the year on my 60th day of bowhunting. That's a lot of getting skunked!
BW: Tell us about a big buck that got away.
MD: One time in Iowa Terry and I hunted "Heart Attack," a buck that would literally make your heart jump when you saw him because his rack was so wide. He was old and smart. It took several years, but I felt like we had finally figured him out. Then one fall he just disappeared for good. The next spring on a shed hunt, we found his carcass, right in the area where I thought he was living. His 10-point rack was almost 30 inches wide. We checked with Boone and Crockett, and that was like in the top 5 typical whitetails in terms of width. We’ll never know if he was hit by a car, poached or just died of natural causes.
TD: Last fall I hunted a buck we named Mr. Christmas because one side of his rack has a lot of junk, like a tree. Man, he's big. I'd gotten 4 or 5 cam pictures of him, but I hadn't seen him in 2 years. One cold, snowy afternoon last December I finally saw him with a hot doe, but I couldn't get a shot. We knew there was a hot doe in the area, so we went back in the next afternoon. Saw him again! I missed him at 42 yards, shot right over his back. Old, fully mature bucks like Mr. Christmas fascinate me. You don't see him for years, and then you see him two days in a row. And I missed, it was just a heartbreaker.
BW: Tell us about a memorable buck hunt.
MD: In 1998 in Illinois I rattled in and shot a giant buck. It was a fast, quick hunt filled with all the emotions of hunting. Lord, I was excited to look down and see that buck, a tall 10-point with five stickers, a few yards from my tree! He just popped up! After I shot him I was shaking all over. But then it took many hours of tracking, and I was at the point where I didn't think we ever would find him. Then I saw him and ran to him, screaming and crying. It was just so emotional. Terry filmed it all, and that was special to me. It was Halloween, and we drove home with that buck and got to share it with our families. That monster gross-scored 195 1/8. At the time it was the highest-gross-score whitetail ever killed on video.
TD: Check this out. After I missed Mr. Christmas that afternoon last fall, I sat in my treestand and beat myself up for 20 minutes. I was so mad and disappointed. Finally my cameraman said, "You know, there's at least one hot doe in here, let's hang tough." He had to convince me to even nock another arrow. Minutes later we saw two more does and a shooter swaggering along behind them! He walked right in and I killed him, less than 30 minutes after I'd missed Mr. Christmas. He scored 157. One thing I love so much about hunting is that ya just never know what will happen.
BW: Have mechanical broadheads really changed the way you bowhunt, like you said in your book Giant Whitetails?
MD: Absolutely. Anybody who thinks a quality mechanical is not deadly on deer is just misinformed. If you take good, ethical shots and are careful with your shot placement, a broadhead like the 2-blade Rage that Terry and I use is lethal.
TD: To us, the Rage is more humane than the fixed blades we used to hunt with. If your shot is good, no more tough 300-yard tracking jobs.
BW: How do you see the hunting industry 10 years from now?
TD: I won't kid you, I worry about it. The loss of good, private land is the biggest problem, and that's why a lot of people stop hunting. They just don't have anywhere to go.
MD: I worry too. I would hope the industry grows, but I doubt it. Our numbers just aren't there. One bright spot is the special youth seasons that many states are opening up. I definitely see more kids hunting during these seasons. We need more of that across the country.
BW: How do you see hunting videos and TV shows 10 years from now?
TD: As far as the quality of the big bucks you see on TV and DVDs, I don't think it can get much better. Lots of people are managing land and killing some amazing, gargantuan bucks on film. Mark and I have talked about this a lot. Bucks can only grow racks so big, and you can only grow so many big bucks on any given property.
Technology-wise, I see DVDs going away within 10 years. The future of video content is on the Internet, and we're gearing up for that. I still see hunting TV shows as being popular. People just feel comfortable sitting home, relaxing and watching TV. And you know what? People who lose places to hunt or move to a city or whatever might actually watch more hunting shows and live vicariously through that.
MD: Television will still be strong. I think you'll see fewer hunting shows overall, but the quality of the good ones will keep getting better. And yes, the video content will definitely be on the Web.
BW: Some people complain there is too much emphasis these days on intensive land management and hunting for 5-, 6- and 7-year-old bucks like you guys do. They say this is not realistic for most hunters. What say you?
MD: I agree with them, it may be not realistic for people who hunt a few days a year to hold out for a 4- or 5- year-old buck. But we hunt 150 days a season or more, from early September to late January, and so we make the decision to hunt fully mature bucks. We just have more time than most hunters do. But also, the older we have gotten, the more Terry and I have evolved as hunters, to the point where our ultimate goal is a wild, 6- or 7-year-old whitetail. That is the Holy Grail for us, it just doesn’t happen often enough!
TD: We sure don't hold it against anybody who shoots a 2- or 3-year-old buck, especially with a bow. It wasn't all that long ago that we were shooting those type bucks on film and putting them on the cover! But I think that if most of the people reading this got to hunt as many days as we do, on private lands with intensive management and food, they'd raise their goals, too, and shoot for those old, thick-bodied, big-racked bucks that make your knees buckle when you see them.