Jeff Harrison is a suburban deer specialist. He’s a painter by trade which brings him into many neighborhoods where homeowners own one-to-three acres of land that makes ideal whitetail habitat. Sometimes these small tracts adjoin along a creek or stream where a building is prohibited. Add a nearby state park, commercial site, or sanctuary and you have the perfect formula for older age class and big antlers.
Scouting in suburban and rural areas is easier than you may think. When Harrison approached homeowners about hunting their small tract, he frequently was met with the response, “Kill them all.” Whitetail deer, bucks especially, can consume or destroy $1000 of shrubbery in a single night. Homes with deer problems are easy to spot because they often deploy nets, fences, or wire to keep deer at bay. Because deer cruise between these small plots, you only need permission to hunt one to succeed.
Shed Hunting is a Great Intro
Knocking on a stranger’s door intimidates many hunters and Harrison has had good success first asking to hunt sheds. He often carries a small antler with him because many suburbanites don’t know that deer shed antlers. If you find a good bone, offer to share it with the homeowner which enables you to make contact again. During the conversation, you can make your pitch to hunt in the fall. While looking for sheds, you can search for deer trails and last fall’s rubs and scrapes.
Pumpkins are a great food for deer that is readily available. If you cruise around your neighbors, you will often find pumpkins getting soft and rotting because the owners don’t know what to do with them. It may take deer a few days to investigate these orange invaders, yet once they get a taste for them, they will be quickly consumed. It is important to break the pumpkins open so that the seeds are exposed. Best of all pumpkins won’t attract raccoons, wild turkeys, and other critters that eat expensive deer corn.
Plan for Next Fall
Even at midnight, this doe took a hard look at these two strange objects that suddenly appeared in her territory. I received permission from a landowner to hunt a farmland property barely an acre in size. It’s located among crop fields with a few scattered houses and I’ve been surveilling the property with the fall of 2023 in mind. The homeowner suffers deer damage every year and was most happy to have me “help out.”
Cellular Camera Heaven
Most hunters get a yearly cellular program for their cameras so why not put them to maximum use in the off-season when they can detect deer movements and give you a jump on next fall? Suburban areas usually have great cell reception and you could be close enough to a house to use wifi. Additionally, because these brushy backyards have ticks and mosquitoes, few people go there so deer become undisturbed and very predictable.
Keep the Rut in Mind
By monitoring a small tract of land, you can be ready for opening day. Many bowhunters don’t get excited about the early season, yet Harrison loves opening day because deer are usually predictable- feeding, bedding, and traveling in the same routine. He was in his tree stand an hour before daylight to take the big buck shown in the lead photo because he didn’t want disturbances from other deer or neighbors. Should you find a “doe hole” but few bucks, keep these spots in mind because bucks will surely show up as the rut progresses.
If your state forbids baiting, consider establishing a mineral site. This is a Tall Tine block that deer visit regularly. These last a long time and are enjoyed by other creatures such as squirrels. I have a camera where a squirrel visits every day to gnaw at the block. Mineral sites don’t have to be refreshed often so you can still monitor deer actions without refreshing a feeder. Check your regulations to make sure mineral sites are allowed.
Set a Stand or Blind
I didn’t get permission to hunt my small plot until mid-October. I set up this blind which took two weeks for the deer to acclimate to it. I want to monitor this site in January to see if any late-season bucks show up and will probably erect a tree stand this summer so that I’m ready for opening day. If you live in a suburban area, look for deer crossing signs along highways and start knocking on doors. Remember the shed tactic and best of luck.