John & Jon,
I wanted to take a minute to share my personal experience during my first 2 years as a member of MAHA. I joined the association after seeing your website on the internet. I’d made 2 hunts in north central [locations deleted] in areas where we have ground in the years before joining the association but I wasn’t pleased with my experience. I loved the area and its hunting potential but didn’t like the arrangement I was in. My access to the property was through a friend and I felt like I had no control over the situation. I saw some deer and managed to kill a modest buck for my home state but left the second season knowing I needed to make a change. My access to the “club” was through a friend and I felt that even though I was paying for the privilege to hunt I was really not getting the same benefits the others were. I was given options of where to hunt each day and saw plenty of small bucks and doe but I soon came to the realization that I wasn’t really “in the game”. I was hunting burned out stands, I wasn’t hunting the wind and I was blowing out deer most times I entered and exited the stands because I didn’t know where I was going. On the long 20 hour drive home I thought about the mistakes I was making and decided that I needed to find a situation where I had more control and could invest the time it took to succeed.
I must admit that I looked over the club website a number of times before I called to make my membership application. I liked the idea of managing my own hunt but was a little uneasy about driving 1,000 miles and just starting to hunt on a piece of ground that may only be marked on the corner boundaries. I spent a lot of time the first summer looking at aerial maps of the [location deleted]. I copied them to flash drives for my PC and studied/ranked them when I had some free time. Eventually I narrowed my choices down and made some reservations for my first hunt. The property turned out to be pretty good and my partner and I set up in adjoining sections. We didn’t hit the seeking/chase phase of the rut like we’d hoped but my buddy saw a 140 class double droptine buck his second morning. He had him in range but couldn’t get a high % shot when the deer turned hard to its right and headed out into a grassy field rather than staying inside the wooded draw he was set up in. My luck wasn’t as good as I had some equipment challenges with a new tree stand and had a landowner decide to cut up a fallen tree 75 yards from my stand the 3rd morning. I did get a chance at a decent buck for me our 4th evening and decided to take him as a warm front was headed in and he was bigger than any deer I’d taken at home with a bow.
Heading into our second year we clearly saw the advantages of preseason scouting. The problem was, we didn’t know if we’d be able to draw a tag or not so we waited until after the draw results and flew out the 2nd weekend of September. Clearly this was not a perfect situation. All the crops were standing, the woods were green and the weeds were tall, the mosquito’s and spiders were brutal but the time spent was worth the effort and the road trip was fun. We scouted hard for 2 full days in 90 degree heat and found a couple properties we really liked. We knew what was planted where, knew what the cover looked like, thought we knew where there might be cattle and had a good idea of the hotel, restaurant, gas, grocery and stores in the area.
We arrived for our hunt the day after pheasant season opened. We’d each reserved a property in advance but decided to both setup on the property I’d reserved since it was close and big enough to spread out a little. Imagine my disappointment when I found the perfect creek bottom “pinch point” I’d been dreaming about had been trampled by cattle pastured in the area after the corn had been harvested. Too late to change that night so I moved a little up the bottom and found a place to get setup. The evening hunt was uneventful except for the farmer pulling into the other end of the field where I’d hoped the deer would come from and spending the best part of the evening working on something along the edge of the field. We didn’t have any problems like this the next day, I guess the 35 MPH winds kept the normal people out of the woods. We pulled out of this property at mid day and headed to our other reservation. The corn was still up in this location and there were no cattle in the woods so we felt better. The winds were still strong that evening but I did see a shooter buck about 100 yards away. He had no interest in any form of calling or rattling and just disappeared into the corn after a while. I saw another decent buck the next morning from the same stand but passed a long shot when I felt like he was just a little smaller than I was looking for. We hunted hard the rest of the week with some long range sightings of good bucks and close range encounters with small bucks. The rut just wasn’t on and we were going to have to succeed by hunting more normal travel patterns than aggressive rutting activity. It seemed like we were really starting to figure things out when the next curveball came our way. The afternoon of our 5th day the combines rolled in and they started cutting the corn all around our creek bottom. We didn’t really know what to do. We already had stands up and felt like we were on to the travel patterns so we decided to stick it out. My partner who is less mobile than me stayed put but I went to a far corner of the property where the wind was favorable and the combines would be less of an issue. I saw another good shooter buck that night but like the first one, he seemed to be on a normal feeding pattern rather that cruising for doe and had little interest in my calling or rattling. The next morning was another decision. What time would the combining resume and where to go? I opted to go back to the area I’d hunted the first morning even though I knew the corn nearest the inside corner I was hunting hadn’t been harvested yet. If they started at daybreak my hunt was probably ruined. If they waited until early afternoon like the day before I’d have a chance. After struggling to determine which of the two trees I’d picked would be best for the swirling wind that morning I got up and settled in one of the few trees that would support a climber 20+ft off the ground. I saw my first deer shortly after daybreak, a half rack 3 point that consistently bedded near in the cover along the stream. So far, so good. Nothing else happened until about 9:30 when I head the sound I was dreading, the combine parked a quarter mile away firing up to start the day. As the sound grew louder I thought about what to do. He was working the edge of field nearest me and would pass within 40 yards when he cut into my little corner. I finally reasoned that the deer deal with this every day and they sure weren’t going to hang out in the corn that was being cut so what the heck, stick it out. By 10:45 the sun was up high and the coolness had given way to a beautiful, sunny November day. Perfect for everyone but an eastern bow hunter dying for the Midwest rut to kick in. With the combine roaring in the field and coming close enough now to see the face of the driver when he passed my mind was drifting to the evening hunt and the decision to pass what would have been my best bow buck to date on day 2. I was starting to think of the long drive to Pennsylvania and the possibility of going back home without a deer. I’d have considered the hunt a failure only a few years ago but I was really positive about the enjoyable trip I’d had, the quality property we’d hunted, and just the chance to take in the beauty of God’s creation for a solid week. It was at that minute that I had that experience we’ve all had and the one that keeps us coming back year after year. I looked over my left shoulder and there he was not 5 yards from the base of the tree, the buck I’d passed up on day 2. This time there was no hesitation. Rather than continuing on the trail he was taking and giving me a perfect quartering away shot he turned hard to his right and started straight away from me. The tree I was in forked right above my seat and I had to decide quickly, turn right, turn left or try and shoot through the fork of the tree. I split the difference and opted to shoot through the fork in the tree. The buck was walking directly away at 10 yards, presenting no ethical shot. I continued to hold on him at 15 yards, 20 yards and finally at 25 yards he committed to turn slightly to his left. My pin went quickly to his last rib and I released the arrow, which ran nearly the length of his body taking out the far side lung. He took off on a hard run but I knew it would be short. We found my buck about 75 yards from the point of impact and my 2007 season was over.
I think my first two years are probably pretty typical of what most traveling hunters could expect. Some initial confusion and apprehension over the unknown but overall a great opportunity to hunt some real quality properties. I’ve spent most of my hunting days on heavily pressured public land in Pennsylvania and Maryland. The opportunity to hunt older age class deer on lightly pressured property is a real treat. I set a personal goal when I joined the club of taking a P&Y whitetail within 5 years. The buck I got this year is 3 inches short of making the book but is easily my best bow buck to date. I’m confident that I’ll achieve my goal eventually but am most proud of the fact that I’ve done it on my own with only the help of you guys to find such good property to hunt. As I’ve tried to share in the summary of my first two years no situations are perfect. I’ve scheduled my hunts both years on the week the so called experts said would be the peak of the rut and have yet to see my first buck chasing a doe on club ground. I’ve taken a decoy for two 1,000 mile trips only to leave it on the trailer because the bucks weren’t in that phase of the rut while we were here. I’ve had 70 degree days in November both years I’ve been out and have had landowners working their ground impact me on both trips. All that said, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to join MAHA and I’m counting the days to this fall's trip. I read the update page on the internet almost everyday, especially when I’m traveling for work in the fall and wish I were home hunting. I think I’ve read and studied everything on the website at least two or three times and from my experience so far all your points are spot on. One of the biggest values I see in the club for the traveling hunter is flexibility. This point will save my 2008 hunt as a business trip that was supposed to be scheduled for mid October is now the first week in November. If I’d have booked with an outfitter I could be out of luck. Instead, I’ll just switch my plans to the next week and hope this is the twist of fate I needed to encounter the trophy of a lifetime. In closing I’d like to thank you for all you do to keep us in quality hunting land and offer myself as a reference for any eastern US hunter contemplating joining the club. If I can be of any assistance in this regard please don’t hesitate to call me or email me at this address.
Thanks again for all that you do to make the club so enjoyable.
...saw more deer and turkey than ever before in my life. I saw well over 100 does and many bucks, as well as at least 150 turkey, on several different farms. I actually had does and yearlings within 10 feet of me on several occasions, both in my ground blind and in the open on the ground. If that isn't testament to unpressured deer, I don't know what is. I had a yearling walk up to me so close that I could have reached out and touched his head. No joke, he was within 5 feet of me and didn't spook until his mother was behind him, approx. 15 yards and was eye to eye with me, before she bolted away and scared him off...
I had seen a good approx. 160" class earlier while scouting, as well as a few other shooter bucks, but never anything big enough during the hunt that was a close enough shot to close the deal. Many deer were out in the Milo fields, as is to be expected at the time, in this area, keeping them out of sight at just the right times. However, I spent time both scouting earlier and during the hunt on some really great farms, that offered some of the best hunting opportunities I've ever seen. No complaints from me, as I loved every moment in the field and can't wait to return....