On this week's episode of the Pennsylvania Woodsman, Mitch is joined by friend Phil Holcombe. Phil is a familiar voice on the show as well as a variety of others and for good reason - he is a well rounded deer hunter and outdoorsman. From managing micro parcels of private land, to hunting big woods public, he loves deer hunting from the beginning to the end. This show revolves all around rifle season deer hunting. Phil discusses his strategies to get around pressure the first few days of season after some close calls in archery. From here, he and Mitch discuss safe and successful deer drives. This involves effective communication, leadership roles, set up strategies, and more! Use some of these tips this year, you won't be disappointed!
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You're listening to the Pennsylvania Woodsman powered by Sportsman's Empire Podcast Network. This show is driven to provide relatable hunting and outdoor content in the Keystone State and surrounding Northeast. On this show you'll hear an array of perspectives from biologists and industry professionals to average joes with a lifetime of knowledge.
All centered around values aiming to be better outdoorsmen and women both in the field as well as home and daily life. No cliques, no self interest, just the light in the pursuit of creation. And now, your host, the pride of Pennsylvania, the man who shoots straight and won't steer you wrong, Johnny Appleseed himself, Mitchell Shirk.
Mitchell Shirk. Mitchell Shirk. Mitchell Shirk.
What's up everybody? Thanks again for tuning in to another episode this week. Hope you guys had a wonderful Thanksgiving. If you were like me, you ate way too much. I can still feel I can still feel turkey and filling and all that other stuff. And [00:01:00] places in my gut rumbling around. I think it's going to be joshling around yet when we're doing some deer hunting this week.
Speaking of deer hunting, hopefully you had some good deer hunting success. Rifle season, the big gun season, the orange army, whatever you want to call it. It's among us. You either love it or you hate it. There's very few that are in between. As I say that, I'm trying to think about that if I love it or if I hate it.
I don't hate it, so I guess I love it. I do enjoy it. I'm, as I'm recording this here, and as you listen to this, it'll be Wednesday, I'll be headed to my deer camp in northern Pennsylvania. And we're going to be doing our annual group hunt with with family and friends, Thursday, Friday, Saturday.
Friday is usually the day, the big group where the camps get together and we'll make some drives and it's a lot of fun. I'm really looking forward to it. I do every year. I don't know what I love more, the hunt itself or, going back to camp and just the dinner and the time and the stories and everything else that we have.
It's an annual tradition and I love it. [00:02:00] And, yeah, I'm just, other than that I'm just going through the motions here, I'm busy with work, I'm trying to keep busy there, actually, I shouldn't say that, I have no problem keeping busy, it's just a matter of Staying focused on work when all I want to do is, deer hunt.
And I'm sure a lot of you guys can relate to that. Even for me, I've, I filled a bunch of tags and still, all I can think about is going to the woods, going to the woods, going to the woods. Hey, I'm going to get that break here and I hope you guys do too. Hopefully you've had success regardless of what it is.
Stay fun, stay safe. This week we're going to have a great deer hunting conversation like we always do, and it's going to be catered to this time of year. It's going to be catered to rifle hunting strategy, pressure, post archery season, the post rut. And we're also going to get into a little bit of a fun discussion of making deer drives.
We're going to talk about safe deer drives executed deer drives, good communication, and the [00:03:00] whole nine yards of a dynamic when it comes to group hunting. And all this conversation is going to be happening with my good buddy, Phil Holcomb. Phil is an all around He's just a well rounded outdoorsman.
He's one of those where if it's something in the outdoors, he dabbles in it, this guy has done anything from small property manipulation quality deer with quality deer management principles and killed deer on micro parcels to hunting the big woods to. Group hunting and drive hunting.
And heck, I even think he did a podcast on talking about curing meats and, game processing. He truly does just enjoy every aspect of the outdoor outdoor world. And he's just a, an avid deer hunter. And I've had a lot of conversations with him in the past. After I did some of my other group hunting episodes and we just conversed about drives and philosophies, and he's been part of some groups where, he might've been the leader of a group or, Had helped with leading a group to make drives and I thought he'd be a [00:04:00] real fitting person to have on for this episode So big thanks to phil and having this conversation Hopefully you guys pick up on something and can use it this week and maybe even in the late season So let's get to this episode with phil real quick before we do want to give a shout out to our partners Radix hunting guys if you have not looked into radix if you've been listening to me all year long talk about radix Yet haven't checked them out.
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Maybe you found some of those cameras you had weren't working the proper way and you wanted to do some updating and I suggest racks because fantastic image quality, fantastic response to those to those cameras, trigger speed is what I'm getting at. And I just love my Amcor cell cameras.[00:05:00]
They're simple and they just work great. Really hard to beat though, so check out Radix Hunting and all the other stuff they have to offer at Radix Hunting and also Huntworth. I have been running some of the colder season stuff, the stuff with heat boost. Their hoodie with heat boost. I'm a hoodie person.
I love to wear hoodies everywhere I go. But when you get into archery season, it's great But we get into rifle season and it's just cloth hoodies, there's no liner there that heat boost technology Excuse me. I wore that this year Bear season was completely blown away and I'm going to be using it the rest of rifle season and the rest of muzzleloader season.
We get any of these colder temperatures, heat boost is the real deal. So check it out, check out hunt worth gear. And with that, let's get to this episode.
You know what I mean? Yeah. So they would always basically [00:06:00] not be able to hunt opening that.
At least you're going to get the hunt opening day and I'm looking forward to talking about with you. But joining me on this week's show is is my good friend, Phil Holcomb, man. How you been? It's good to catch up with
Oh, I've been pretty good, man. It's good to good to get back on and and talk to you. But yeah, I had a good, good archery season. Yeah,
you were giving me the play by play quite often. You had some close calls, but we're we're still we're still sitting pretty waiting for rifle season here.
It's been a while since you could say that.
Yeah. Yeah, it has been, it's been I think 2017 was the last time I had a buck tag for for rifle season. Definitely looking forward for that opportunity. I always liked, uh, Hunting with a rifle. I just hunting deer in general.
I don't, I won't let choice of weapon or season or whatever, limit me on it and Just like to get out there and I've had the [00:07:00] past couple of years actually had a lot of Really good encounters with really good bucks in the first few days of rifle season, but didn't have a tag so
Yeah, hopefully we can switch that around this year
You took on a unique challenge this year. We were talking about it the other day. You were talking about the challenge of a new piece of property. We want to touch a little bit on that because it was like, for me, it would have been outside of my comfort zone what you were trying to accomplish this year with the bow.
It was a little bit different.
Yeah, and in some ways it was a little bit out of my comfort zone. But in a lot of ways, I had been working towards making that kind of that I guess adjustment for the past couple of years anyway but opted out of of hunting my my own property that I've been very successful on in the past and decided to hunt some Property that [00:08:00] basically it's a club property.
It's got a lot of members. It's got a lot of pressure. It's got a lot of different types of pressure. In addition to deer hunting, there's a whole lot of small game hunting. They do things like stock upland birds. There's a whole lot of ATV and UTV access throughout the property. There's a lot of recreational ATV and UTV usage.
And so it's just, it's it's definitely a very high pressure environment. There's a whole lot of of human presence, human disturbance. It's a good size property. So there's always going to be. Those little overlook pockets there's always going to be ways to figure out how the deer are adjusting to, or habituating to human disturbance and then trying to, capitalize on that.
There was a pretty big learning curve. I hadn't spent a whole lot of time in [00:09:00] archery season in the past there. There was a lot of like question marks, a lot of unknowns, like that you're just like, I, you can scout it in the off season. You can see the the remnants of the hunting pressure and stuff, but you don't really know until you like start to get into the thick of it.
And still managed to have, a really good encounter with with a very good mature buck in bow range for over two hours without presenting a shot opportunity. And then the same year ended up probably spending probably some total of time about four hours with within a hundred yards of where I was, uh, where I was set up over the course of that day.
It was really awesome. It was a great experience. I got to observe a lot of really cool behavior. But the end of the day when he was in range didn't have shot opportunities, he spent a lot of that time bedded down. When he did get [00:10:00] up and start moving towards me pretty much had a head on view of him the entire time.
And then just when he did turn, didn't have. Didn't have a clear lane. He ended up bumping some does back into the area chasing them around for a while. And so there was various times where I was just starting to draw because it looked like it was going to happen. And then the chaos of, a buck chasing a doe.
Would would make make the dough go zig and he would zag and it just never worked out, but it still was was pretty pretty awesome. And that was like on a very typical for me for this year, which wasn't my typical style anyway, just got into a, picked a spot that I had been in previously, but hadn't been in this year, figured that it would, had the right ingredients for a good rut hunting location had a good terrain feature and habitat kind of coupled together.[00:11:00]
I should say there was actually probably three terrain features that kind of came together with good habitat and basically was doing the old starting in after daylight had already broke so that I can scout my way in and be able to pick, pick a tree to get into that offered as much opportunity as possible while it was light out.
And, and did that and got in, got set up, and I actually wasn't even completely done getting set up when that deer came in and and then bedded down. But so it was cool. I did that quite a bit this year, just picking different spots that I had previously scouted and didn't necessarily have particular trees in mind or anything like that, but.
Just scouted my way in worked it off the sign that I saw and then made the call on getting set up and, resulted in some really good
encounters. Yeah. I'm curious, what was the allure of the draw to [00:12:00] this property in particular? What made you go to a property that has higher hunting pressure and take on a unique challenge?
Was that something you've been part of for a long time or was this a beginning, a new beginning, so to speak?
It's relatively new. I haven't been in the club all that long. It was the second hunting season. Some of it has to do with the fact that like a good chunk of it is literally in my backyard.
I step out of my lawn and I'm there. That kind of helps a lot. But even that, with that said, I, I hunted a lot of different parts of it. Just trying to keep bouncing around and getting on new grounds as much as possible, but my, my property is a small property.
And so by its very nature especially when you consider that there's a number of neighbors. Because it's all on one side is all smaller parcels as well. And on the other side is a [00:13:00] larger parcel, but a larger parcel that's hunted by a lot of people. So even my property is subject to quite a, uh, to, to hunting pressure.
There's a lot of pressure around it. I can control obviously the pressure that I put on. Internally, but externally, there's a lot of pressure in that neighborhood. So it's not like I was used to dealing with the impacts and negative impacts of hunting pressure from that standpoint, but this was just a more of a, like, I just wanted to change things up.
I wanted to challenge, I wanted more of a challenge. Yeah, like I said, I've been pretty successful on my property. I want to say it was seven bucks from the same tree. I had that pretty dialed in. It was a matter of just showing up and putting the time in and getting the opportunity.
Not that's a bad thing, but it just became I [00:14:00] feel like I need to, just get a challenge in order to like keep trying to level up,
You were looking for what was next in that case. Talking about what's next, we've got rifle season coming up, is this airs?
We're going to be just starting out with rifle season and I'm curious your play on things here. You've been hunting The, this general area, I'm assuming that you're going to continue to hunt this general area and hopefully put the clothes on one of the buck that you've been after does the play change much with gun season in the loop, toward the tail end of the rut here, getting into the, post rut type thing.
What's that going to look like in your mind?
I think the first week is going to be really pretty good. Almost the entire week has November. On the calendar, and a pretty I think in a lot of ways underestimated part of November. I think in a lot of years we [00:15:00] don't in Pennsylvania, we don't get a lot of opportunity to hunt kind of one of the best parts of the month cause we have the rifle bear season.
And Thanksgiving, like that week, is I think, like a really strong week
for buck movement. I think you're right with that too, because I will have to say even bear hunting this past weekend and over the years, I can't tell you how many times we've run into rut crazed bucks fighting, carrying on, chasing dough coming 10 yards from us and not.
bothering with us because they were so fixated on the, they're so love drunk. In some cases, it's been mind boggling. The experiences I've had, it's not just this year. I had a, we were sitting on a drive and I had a four pointer chase a doe up literally less than 10 yards. And he stopped and looked at us blue ran.
But then stopped and then came right past us again at 15 yards. It was like the [00:16:00] stupid things they do that time of year. So I definitely think you're on to something there. And aside from, special regs, it's closed.
Yeah. And I think this year is as close as we will get most years being able to capitalize on that phase of the rut.
A lot of the does at that point have been bred we're past like kind of the peak. The peak breeding phase, we still have elements of lockdown and we're starting to see, those bucks that are breaking out of lockdown and are actively and aggressively searching out the last few opportunities of November.
So I think this year, our rifle season, the way it falls that we are, we It's going to be on the tail end of what kind of that phase where that kind of a lot of that chaotic activity is going to be happening. [00:17:00] And then I think coupled with the human pressure of the orange army invasion is going to result in just a lot of movement.
So there'll be pressure driven movement. There'll be rut driven movement. And I think a lot of times the hard part with that is it's just going to be, you have to be in the right place at the right time. And a lot of that, unfortunately, with those things is going to be, there's going to be a lot of luck because you may have put all the time in the world to figure out this spot where everything's coming together.
But then 15 minutes after the crack of daylight Billy Bob and his three brothers come tromping through and completely put kibosh to what you were planning on [00:18:00] happening, but also likewise. Two hours later, those guys decide to go, they need to go come back out to go to breakfast and they push, a bunch of does right by you and The sound of those does running was enough to catch the ear of a couple of bucks that recognize it as Hey, wait a minute.
There's a chase going on over there. The next thing you know, you got a bunch of bucks coming in hard To check these does out because they haven't, they're still completely out of their minds, in rut mode and don't really, they haven't been all been shot at or shot yet. You know what I mean?
So I think we, we have a perfect perfect storm type scenario. I think it's going to be a longer, you can, stay put the better, um, so I think it's gonna, I think the first week's gonna be really pretty good this year. [00:19:00]
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Find out more about this system and get your seed at vitalizedseed. com. And be sure to check them out on Instagram and Facebook. Let's break that down a little bit. So you got the first few days of the season, right? We're at the tail end of November. You talked about a lot of really possible, good possibilities of what's to come there.
Just play out in your mind. What you've got planned for that, what are you looking for as far as finding a [00:20:00] place, or what, without giving a spot away, obviously what does it look like? What are you looking for in those first few days to try to capitalize on a deer?
Is it something close to bedding? Is it something that's a good transition of multiple ridges, like a hub coming together? What does that look like in your mind for those first few days?
To me, it's terrain. If I can get multiple terrain features again with habitat or that connect habitat and play into what I think hunting pressure will do, then that's the spot.
So I want it to be a place where the deer if there were all things being equal, you remove the hunting pressure. Bucks are going to be moving through because they're going to be looking for another, another breeding opportunity. But it also add the hunting pressure in, if you can [00:21:00] figure, or at least best guess where that pressure is going to come from, how that would force a pressure movement through those terrain features to the habitat, right?
Cause I think. In a lot of ways, you get a good terrain feature between bedding areas and you think that you're going to have more pressure coming from one bedding area than the other chances are the deer that are exiting the bedding area with the pressure are going to use the terrain feature to get to the other bedding area, so I think that's really yeah. What I'm leaning towards I got two particular spots in mind that I think will work just from that standpoint Do you have a pretty
good sense of what you think the pressure is going to be like in those locations and how you think the deer might react to it?
Yeah I did manage to locate quite a few[00:22:00] and then knowing where some of the ATV, UTV access that would have allowed people to, to get in and out of those stands or would promote people getting in and out of those stands.
JUst really looking for stuff like that. Where the hunter sign has been traditionally, where it is in terms of what I've seen and observed this fall, uh, and then where the access is, and then basically trying to get the other side of that. And. If the wind stays this forecast right now two of those spots or those two spots, both I think it'll be a flip of a coin, which one would be which one would be better.
Yeah, there's just using those terrain. Features and then particularly the terrain features that connect the [00:23:00] different habitat types especially habitat types that are cover. And to me a big facet of that is going to be covered at equals food and food that equals cover.
So the real obvious, version of that is basically, any of the clear cuts, timber harvest, stuff like that. Where depending on the age class of those cuts you're gonna have that food that equals cover and cover that equals food. Because then the deer are just gonna have that security.
Not need to travel too far to, to fill up during daylight hours and the cover to, to, feel safe. I, again, I just, I think those terrain features that funnel the movement between them are. Really pretty much the hot spots
on speaking of terrain features. One of the things I wanted to converse with you about tonight was was something that I do every year and I know you've done a lot of in the past and it's very popular [00:24:00] during gun season.
It's also. Very popular in a negative sense. A lot of people want to talk bad about it, but that's making drives and hunting with a group. And it's definitely an effective tactic. There's a lot of thoughts and a lot of different opinions on how to do it effectively. There's a lot of thought on, is it safe or not?
And it is with a lot. And you and I have talked about that a lot. And I wanted to bring that surface back resurface that conversation a little bit. The past I think it's the past three or four years. I've done a group hunt at my camp and we have a good group of guys and it's ranged anywhere from 15 to 21 ish guys.
And we do some organized drives. Sometimes it's big woods swamp. Sometimes it's a clear cut. Sometimes it's a side Hill. But working together with the group. There's a, it's not as easy as so many people would think. A lot of people think when you do that style of hunting that you're just going through orange [00:25:00] army and you're killing everything.
And the reality is if you don't have things buttoned up, number one, you can really have low success, low odds. And it's a lot of work to organize that many people and there needs to be moving parts and I, somebody was explaining it to me almost an army in a sense generals and commanders and everything else.
And tiers of who's going to have leadership and, or the other saying would be, who's going to be your chiefs and who's going to be your Indians. And that's very important when it comes to having a successful group hunt. First and foremost, off the bat, let's talk a little bit about safety.
I think it's so easy to get carried away. When when game is moving, the way a lot of drives work, there's potential that you're going to be shooting in the wrong direction and you got to keep mindset of that. If you've been part of a group, whether you've been a leader or a follower, like what's been some of the logic of the conversations you've had with groups of people when it comes to approaching [00:26:00] the day safely?
Yeah. We always start every day with basically, the old safety talk. Which I think some people will shit on that and think we don't need to go over this. Oh, okay, here comes the old, OSHA certified inspector, oh, safety.
Okay. But it's you know what, that's the number one thing, no matter what, when we're doing this, if you can't respect that we're going to talk that every day at the beginning of the day, then chances are we don't, we really don't, you should probably go hunt somewhere else. That's there's no reason, no good reason for that.
I've always, in all leadership it's extremely important to define the expectations. You can't. There will be no success if you can't, uh, if everybody doesn't know what's expected, right? And you can't assume that everybody [00:27:00] knows what's expected. Especially once you start to get outside of, you get, start to get north of six, seven, eight people.
You start to get into a certain amount of people that know each other, but maybe don't know each other super well, or, hunt together all the time. And so you can't assume that everybody thinks the same way and that everybody's going to react to things the same way.
Or that everybody's going to perceive certain situations the same way. So you have to first and foremost, just lay that out, define the expectations, and. That way also, you get people get an opportunity to go, yeah, maybe this isn't for me, or maybe this isn't how I want to do this or, oh, that seems different or whatever it is, no matter what you got to put that out there first.
You got to make sure, okay, safety, we, nothing. There's no deer out there that's worth taking a risky shot. There's nothing, there's not anything out there. So [00:28:00] if you have any doubt in your mind, you are not pulling the trigger. Don't do it. Let it go. Okay, we can always try to hunt, hunt it again, right?
We can always try to make a plan to get back in there. If it's something out, big buck Whatever we can always figure something else out try to make another move on it But once you pull that trigger you can't undo that. So that's the first thing you do not shoot at anything You know, the basic, basic gun rules.
Don't shoot anything you don't wish to destroy, So
yeah, that's real important. And one thing I want to talk about to you touch base on it and it's really important. I learned this from my. brother in law's dad, he was talking about this with me. Cause he's got a lot of experience running drives.
And, when I started to take a little bit of leadership in some of the drives that we do, he made a comment about group hunting and that mentality side of things. And he said, and one thing, opinion I've [00:29:00] formed was based on this. And he said, when you. Go with a group and you come back from a hunt like that and you go home and you go to work, you go to a Christmas dinner or whatever, and you're showing pictures to people and you say, we were at camp we got two buck, or we shot a doe and a buck the first day and you have that mentality of we instead of I killed a buck, and I killed this, and I did that that's really important, and that's Abnormal to think about with mainstream big buck, whitetail hunting today, because it's a selfish individual pursuit.
But when you put yourself into a group atmosphere, if you have that same mentality of I'm in this for me and I want to put myself in the best situation possible, hunting with other people, you're going to set yourself up for, tHose kinds of relationships are those kinds of things that take place that ruin friendships or ruin relationships that just aren't worth it for [00:30:00] a stupid deer or a bear.
So I, to me, that is extremely important that like it's set that we're in this together. This is a camaraderie thing together, and there's going to be hunting opportunities that are,
Yeah. And I, dovetail on that thought is everybody. It's gonna have a different vision of okay, like what they want to shoot, what they don't want to shoot, they're someone doesn't want to shoot a a one year old legal six point or whatever, but the next guy down might be just as You like would make his season, site hunt with a pretty diverse group, like where there's people who are more than happy with a legal buck.
And then there's people that are, not going to, shoot anything, but probably, a rack buck in our area, a two and a half year old typical 14, 15 inch, eight point. And there's [00:31:00] some guys that just probably aren't going to shoot a buck unless it's it's a big deer that's, and that's fine.
And that's the beauty of it. We can all hunt together and all of that can be, everybody can still have a good time and everyone can still congratulate everybody and everybody can still be happy for everybody, and. I think that's important that it doesn't have to be we all have to have the same mentality, because I think I've seen that before where some people are, in, in some ways, their own ego, uh, couldn't allow them to be happy for someone who shot a buck that they felt like was, quote, too small or too young.
And it and that caused them to not want to hunt with certain people anymore because They, they were like, Oh I don't want to be associated with shooting those, young bucks or whatever. And, which [00:32:00] I get, but to an extent, management has its place. And sometimes when you're doing these drives and it's a very dynamic situation.
There's a lot happening very quickly. And even the most well intented person who's like. Trying to shoot a mature deer, gets a a look at a rack buck from the side, shoots it, it's a, a two year old eight point with great potential and they're like, Oh man, but that's what I'm getting at.
You have to. You have to go into it knowing, what the scenarios could be, and be okay with it and also be okay with other people, taking what they, what's legal for them to do and what they're happy with. And have that, but still be able to have that mentality of we,
I Never wanted to impose like my thoughts and opinions on the hunt to [00:33:00] anybody I've hunted with groups of people that had an expectation of if a certain size, if we chase you a certain size.
Buck and it comes out and you don't want to shoot it. That's taboo because we worked and therefore you should shoot it. And I don't like that because it's not your tag. Yeah I had that experience in a, in one of the overlap hunts. I think it was back when the first opened archery bear with archery deer.
And I was hunting with a group of guys and we were hunting with the bows. And some of us were there for bears. Some of us were there for either or didn't care. And I know a buck went out to somebody. It was a very nice buck, but it was not what he was after and passed it. And there was a little bit of controversy within that.
And that's really hard to. Know that ahead of time when it's a new thing like that. Like it's hard to communicate that until something like that happens with those expectations. So I ask you the question. When you come into group hunting, what [00:34:00] in your mind does a good leader look like?
Somebody's gotta have good leadership skills, organizational skills somebody that's gotta have work ethic. And somebody that's not somebody that's not gonna shy away from kinda confronting those situations but in a way not in an adversarial way, but in a way that says, hey, okay, wait, I see this happening, listen, this is the situation,
getting that conversation going between the people so that it there, there isn't a need for any of that, it takes a lot of organization, if you're going to get a group of people to give up their time, whether it's one day or two days or three days or whatever it is to come hunt with the group you had better have it very well thought out.
organized [00:35:00] and not waste time trying to figure out, Oh what are we going to do next? You should have a pretty good idea on, first drive of the day, uh, second drive a day, third drive a day, however many you think you can do in a day. Do you have done them in the past? You generally are going to know takes us this long to set this one up.
Takes us this long to run it through. Takes us this long to get something out of the woods. If we get something here, it takes us this long to get back in the trucks and move into the next spot. Takes us this long to get to the next spot. Take, you should have that worked out. You should know, okay, we have this many people on this drive.
We need say you have 18. We need 10 people to push it, 8 to watch it. The 10, on the upper piece need to be about 50 yards apart. Or the 5 on the upper need to be about 50 yards apart. The 5 on the lower probably need to get spread [00:36:00] out a little bit more because it's a little more open.
The 5 on the top are going to be slower so that, because they're going through something thicker or rougher terrain. The five on the bottom, you guys really need to make sure you're keeping your pace so that you're not getting too far out front, maybe you guys give them a head start of this amount of time, all these type of things you really want to have thought out if you're going to work in, that it's a brand new group that's never hunted together.
And a brand new group in terms of the drives that they're doing. They've never really all done them, stuff like, yes, there's going to be a learning curve there, but it's going to be, it's going to be the kind of the leadership element of the group needs to be capturing that data and analyzing it, and I think a big part of it too, is everybody likes to get done with, get done for the day, get the trucks.
Get back to camp, crack the beers open, start [00:37:00] eating, have a great time. Next thing you know, everybody's half in a bag or telling stories and Passed out already, but I think you need to have a
debrief. That's part of the camp experience right there. We don't want to miss that, but at the same time, what an awesome opportunity it is when you have that.
end of the day discussion or what I've been trying to do with our group hunts the past few years, I've been blessed to be in a situation where I'm calling a lot of the shots, but I can't do it without some people that I can trust and rely on and knowing that I can say to a person a, Hey, can you please take five people with you in line this section off?
And I need you to spread this group out from this road to this corner of the Ridge, or I need XYZ people to be in a driver or, let's talk about making the drive. And let's say, in your scenario where you had eight and 10 if I'm taking the 10 drivers in and we're going through maybe [00:38:00] a really nasty spot and we're not that familiar with it.
One thing I really like to do is I like to have a pivot man in the middle, somebody that can communicate with three on one side and three in the other. And you can give me that pivot point of saying, Hey, we are getting a little bit farther ahead on this end than that. And we need to. Need to coordinate that and work your end guys.
I always thought when I was leading a group like that, I needed to be in the middle of it in the worst section because I was leading this entourage through the nastiest Laurel and rhododendron and multiflora rose and stickers and briars. And, if I'm going to lead a group of guys to that, I need to be right in the heart of it.
And there's truth to that, but at the same time it's hard to communicate and fully do your job in that respect. And then, the other thing you talked about your debriefing at the end of the day, it's really important. And for me to communicate with everybody, what did you see throughout the day on, on this drive, where were you sitting and, how did the deer react in this area?
Or was there something that we [00:39:00] missed in the drive that you saw or just little tidbits like that, especially the people that have a lot of experience doing drives. Like for me, I'm a little bit younger in in. like this, but then when I've got people in their mid fifties and stuff that have done what I'm doing now, 20 years ago, getting their opinion on what worked well and what didn't, what do I need to improve upon?
I'll tell you last year, one thing that I messed up on when I was doing those drives we had a Big group of guys that already had buck tags filled. So when we went to go to do this one drive I had a few people, most of the guys that had buck tags filled were drivers, but I had a few people that had buck tags and were drivers as well.
And one thing I didn't do, and it bid us for an opportunity. I didn't stagger those buck. tags going through as drivers. I had a clump dispersal of people who didn't have a buck tag and guess where the buck backed out right? Where those guys were. So [00:40:00] little things like that to pick up on and being open to, being acceptable of a little bit of criticism, Hey, this would be, something to improve upon.
So little things like that go a long way. If you want to have a successful group on.
Oh, yeah, no. That, and that again, the attention to detail. And organization and stuff like that's huge, and yeah, I was the same way for a long time was oh, there's no drive that you can't put me in the worst spot.
And I'll take the worst spot all day long, every single drive I'm going to be up to my waist in water, battling through the thickest, nastiest stuff that's trying, everything's trying to cut you. And drag you down and trip you. Yeah, that was the, what you had to do, and, but, a lot of times when you're in that situation, you don't have the situational awareness of what the whole picture of what's happening. And [00:41:00] so after a while I started basically being a flanker. Dependent on the terrain quite often. That could give me the ability to tell. What part, what my line is doing, what my driveline's doing.
Especially if you're the high man, you kinda can hear down the line of how it's going. And I've always been one. I'm not, I'm not completely all all in silent drive. I'm not all in full on. Hootin and hollerin I, I just want enough noise where we can tell what's going on.
And, but there are some drives that we will, we'll do, especially when we get on the smaller side groups that are going to be more silent and it's going to be more reliant on the people having been in areas before and done and walked, have actually walked these routes before and [00:42:00] understanding the timing.
That it takes to execute those, but with the bigger groups tend to need to have that certain level of of yelling and whatnot for the communication in and of itself, and but yeah I think I think a lot of times you end up having to be flexible in being, deciding where you need to situate yourself in order to get the get everything going according to plan.
Sometimes that's actually being a watcher too. It took me a little while to figure that out because I always prided myself on, I was a full time driver. I'm walking the whole day. I don't, I'm not sitting anywhere. I'm constantly going. And at some point, some drives in order to figure them out.
Especially, in terms of. Looking ahead for the future for doing these, in, in the future, [00:43:00] sometimes you almost have to be one of the watching positions to fully be able to hear it and see it the way it unfolds from the from the watcher, perspective, because sometimes that'll give you, the intel you need to fine tune How the drivers need to navigate, but I think it's just a matter of of, staying open minded and flexible.
Also, we had the reference, the, chiefs and Indians. There's, a certain point where, uh, you don't need a whole lot of chiefs. You just need Indians, and then there's certain points where you need that input. You need that that feedback so that you can you have people that are able to tell you what was happening, where you couldn't see it or hear it or whatever.
Staying flexible I think is probably a big, probably a a One of the bigger [00:44:00] qualities needed for somebody in that position.
Yeah, staying flexible, but also being decisive too, because you can also find yourself you'll be in a situation where you're flexible and you what do you think?
What do you think? I don't know. And that can be tough too. You need, you almost need somebody like almost in the sense when you go from drive A to drive B and you're going to say. Who's going to who's going to drive this one and who's going to sit this one. And you almost at a point to have to say you're as a leader, you're going to be a driver this one, you're going to be a standard.
This one, does anybody have a problem with that and move on with your day? And that's a really tough thing. And I think it takes, number one, it takes time in order to do something like that. I think in order to. To gain somebody's respect in order for them to listen, you have to be respectful yourself, any leader who's not respectful and is, says and does things that's less than ideal in a group setting, it's going to slowly bring that group down.[00:45:00]
Let's one thing you were talking about was drivers and. This is a hard one to communicate. Now, I'm just curious where your mind goes. I've been in groups where it was, exactly what you just said, barreling through making noise, almost like a sense, like you're not even hunting as a driver, you're just.
Making noise and it seems like you're just trying to stuff, chase stuff, to Timbuktu. And I've also and this is where I lean let's try to be a hunter as we sneak through this piece, game have great senses, they've got better noses than us, they've got, as good or better ears than us pretty good eyesight. They know the woods better than we do. Let's navigate this this piece of woods, some semi methodical and try not to chase, let's try to just nudge stuff. And let's maybe even put it that we have an opportunity as a driver. So like your mentality, where does your mind go when you're talking about drives?
Maybe it's. Different terrain, different topography, different [00:46:00] vegetation type or just hunting style. Where do you, where does your mind go in that Phil? Yeah,
I think it has a lot to do with the size of the crew and terrain and vegetation type just from a safety perspective.
On the smaller side of groups that I hunt with, it's usually the the drivers usually end up being the guys who get a lot of the shooting. Because we're operating on a more still hunting with escape routes covered kind of philosophy, right? Like we have this area where we believe there to be what we're after, right?
We think that if we come from this way, uh, and they detect us coming, they're going to go. Out of that area in this way and this way, and we're going to put people to cover the escape routes. [00:47:00] And then the rest of the group is going to hunt their way through it. So in that regard, drivers, uh, are more like just still hunting and if they get beat, the watchers are there to keep it, keep Yeah, play cleanup in a sense exact back cleanup, right?
And then on the bigger groups Especially with all that manpower that's usually we're looking at, some of the real thick vegetation We're gonna go out and beat that, just beat the brush and just pound it less worried about noise we ideally have the wind, cross wind, but maybe it's going to be crossed our backs at times.
Your main goal or mission really is primarily to try to move our quarry towards the Watchers.[00:48:00] With the bigger groups, I think from a safety perspective that's Depending on the group, and the numbers, and who I have in the drive, and the type of terrain it is, a lot of times I will say, Like your rifles probably gonna be slung over your shoulder for the majority of the time.
We're going through this. And You're most likely not gonna get a shot at opportunity so Try to stay focused on keeping the line going go up making sure we're staying in line. We're keeping the right pace And we're moving stuff along. If you can get an opportunity, take the opportunity by all means what I find a lot of times in that kind of scenario and that particular type of habitat is when when the drivers are getting in on the shooting, what it usually is.
Is a very big buck and it's a one shot and the buck is either [00:49:00] dead or some piece of a tree or sapling is dead. And a lot of times those big old deer, when that happens, just hunker right down and they don't move until the drive has actually just gone beyond that. And what almost all in those cases, a lot of times it's the drive.
Line gets told to stop and as the drivers are coming to a halt Because they're trying to get lined out or get somebody caught up when they stop That's when the deer gets up and goes, I've seen it. I don't know how many times where I've been driving and it's I Walked past not knowing walk past the deer Walk past the buck only to stop and as soon as I stop [00:50:00] that's when hey, they said, okay, I gotta get out of here and usually that's when those shot opportunities come in that real thick nasty stuff with a lot of guys where generally speaking the drivers aren't really gonna be Getting too many, shot opportunities.
That's usually when it comes and that's the best one because you know what you're doing, you're shooting away from everybody. And so that's a perfect opportunity for a driver there. And I always tell people tell the crew that like you got to watch behind you. If you stop for one reason or another, more than a brief pause.
You better be watching the backside because that's usually when they decide they're gonna make a break for it. There's just something about that where they know when you're moving that you don't know they're there. You know what I mean? There's something about that. When you're moving away from them, they're like, okay.
They don't know I'm here. As soon as you stop, that's when they're like, oh crap. I
think [00:51:00] game does it way more than a lot of people think. I've seen it doing many drives over the years, that deer slip out the back. I'Ve seen one or two bear do it. I often wonder how many How many game animals do it?
You don't even know that they do it. They're good. There's a gap, but there's something that goes on and they just slip out the back and you never know it. But, instances like you were talking about, sometimes you learn when you do a drive like that. Hey, here's an opportunity for a backdoor stand or escape route, or, as I talked about with Mark Lesher and Rob Henney and on the podcast a couple of times, Hunting with a group of hunters and working through some, sometimes you get into a situation where you're partway through a drive and maybe there's a terrain feature or a vegetation pinch or funnel that somebody comes up to and maybe this is a spot where they should hang back and let the rest of the drive continue.
And that's something that you can rarely. gO into a new drive and know this is where you're going to do it. It's one of those things you got to learn over time [00:52:00] or really know the woods well and how animals behave in it to make a decision like that. And that's, to me, that's part of the fun of group hunting because you slowly learn and piece things together like that.
Yep, exactly. And those are usually places that you're not gonna necessarily pick off of a map and pre plan that. When I was a kid we've talked about it before and actually it's interesting because as it turns out where I grew up, hunting is not too far from a camp that you hunt out of.
And we, opening day, everybody went out, sat in the morning, came back to camp, lunchtime. Depending on what happened in the morning, we either immediately went straight to doing drives or. Went back out and sat. And then Tuesday morning, second day, [00:53:00] started with driving. Sun up, sun down. So we had a couple of stands, camp was down in a hollow, and there was two stands basically straight up the ridgeline on either side of the hollow from the camp, like wooden planks, and two by fours pound, hammering the crotch of the tree type of stands. And what we would often do when we drive those tops off is we would have people go to those stands. Even if we were driving the ridge to the right, we had a guy in the stand on the ridge to the left, because they would break just above where camp was because it actually, topography wise was Before the hollow got real steep.
When they came off those tops, they usually tried to get up to that and cross there and go up to the other side. And we would [00:54:00] drive the one side off to in line. The watchers would go, the first watch, they'd go up from camp. One guy would get in on that stand, which was right on the ridge line. And the rest of them would go straight out across.
The rest of the crew went all the way up out, and they pushed that top to that point. And then, basically, they switched, they dropped down in the hollow, and the next round of watchers went all the way out around to the point. And then they drove away from that tree stand. But somebody stayed in that stand the whole time.
Because usually, when they push that second half, deer would break through the drive, they would run the ridgeline. So where that stand is to drop down and cross the hollow, go up to the other ridge, okay? The ones that broke out and got through, that's what they did every time. You had someone there in that, in that stand [00:55:00] when they were a watcher, traditionally speaking, with the drive coming to them.
And then they stayed there and they were the backdoor guy as the drive, next drive went away from them. And then, likewise, there was a guy all the way over on the other, the ridge on the other side of the hollow. And then we drive that top off in the same fashion while the other guy, you might switch out who was in the stand.
But there was always somebody in those
two stands. Yeah. And it's amazing. Like stuff like that, the longer you do certain drives, you learn certain little skate breaths. When you put somebody like you are in the spot, you're probably going to see a good buck or get an opportunity or maybe a bear.
I, it was funny just this weekend, we were doing a drive and I actually I sat with my uncle. Cause we had so many guys in this one watch and we were talking stories and he was telling us the year that he shot his bear actually. And it was a cool story. They got set up and he was actually going to be a driver.
They were going to have three drivers. And when they got set up, [00:56:00] they found out. that when the watchers went in at this area, it was completely loaded with other people hunting. I don't know if they knew they, that area was going to get pushed and they were just sitting there waiting. The last minute they flipped a switch and they said you guys are going to be standers and we're going to drive it to you.
We're going to do it the complete opposite way. And there, there was three guys, two of the three had already killed bear. My uncle was the only one that never killed the bear. And the guy who was leading the entourage, he said, I said, I'm not shooting. He said, I don't need to shoot a bear.
He said, I'm staying right here at the top. He said, you need to be in the middle. He said, and the other guy needs to be at the bottom. He said, that one bear's going to come right across that middle. And sure enough, it did. And he shot a bear and it's stuff like that. When you have those experiences, you run into we're running, we're closing in here on an hour.
Phil, one, one other thing I wanted to touch. base on with you and gain your thoughts on is communication communication, not just from the leadership side, like we talked to her, but communication throughout [00:57:00] the day. And a lot of times guys are using two way radios of some sort and two way radios can be helpful.
They can also be a pain in the neck because you get people who are chatter boxes and, bang who shot stuff like that. One thing I learned again, this was another to learn from hunting with experienced group hunters we made a rule now that when the guns crack the radios are silent Until the person who shot or the person next to who shot can give you an update of what is going on Do we have a wounded game animal?
Did it go back into the drive? Do we have something like that? You have and I'm going to preface this by saying stuff like that. You really have to watch what you say because Folks that is illegal to use Communication of some sort like that to say there is game moving. It's mostly for a safety side of things be like, Hey, we've got something going on here.
To me that, that's important that way you can have good quality [00:58:00] communication. The other thing too, is you don't need somebody who's a a standard that's, just chattering away when drivers need to. iNterfere with the radios. That's a, that's just an annoyance. And the other thing that I've always done, this is just me personally.
A lot of time, if I've been a stander, I turn the radio off because there's nothing more that I can stand than having something come in and I'm getting ready to shoot and the radio goes beep beep, like stuff like that. It can burn you. To me, that's really important. Now, do you have anything to add to that Phil or different thoughts on that?
Yeah. So watchers, no radios, one person. That's the guy who sets the watchers out. That's the guy usually is the furthest most watch. He's the guy that is trusted to set the watchers out where they're supposed to be, where they need to be when that person reaches their destination as a watcher. They get on, we're all set.
That's it. Radio gets turned off. [00:59:00] And again, shots fired I will tell usually that person, Listen, if there's shots, go ahead, turn the radio on, because we may need to let you know something. Some sort of important information in terms of, Hey, yeah, go ahead. Get everybody, fall back, go to the trucks, everything's, meet us at the blah blah blah, cause we're gonna need three other guys to do this, whatever that is. But for the most part, on the watch side, one person with a radio, and that's the person who's setting them out and needs to let us know that they are ready. And that's it. Roger beeps, do whatever you need to do to figure out, on that radio, how to turn the damn Roger beep off. That's like the most
annoying thing on the face of the earth.
god, I can't tolerate it. I will, that's the one thing that'll make, I'll take the radio. [01:00:00] Give me that thing. I'm going to make sure it doesn't make this noise ever again. I don't know what buttons I have to push, but I will find them. And and then within the drivers I don't think every single person needs a radio within the drivers, one end, middle, other ends.
Type of thing, usually
verbal communication can happen from there so I like to keep the number of radios actually to the bare minimum possible, and again, you bring up the the legal aspect of it, because people get excited, and they'll be like, oh, there's one running over here, and you're like, you can't do that, you can't say that.
Yeah. You can't do that. It's hard to police, all of that and make sure that everyone's using them the way they're supposed to. So I just, ideally to me, even with a big group there's four radios, there's three on the drive side, there's one on the watch side. That's it.[01:01:00] Because I just, again, it gets back to where they.
Where you have that, too many chiefs and not enough Indians. And then the other thing that happens is the rest of the group, though they get talking, something happens, shots fired, people are dealing with something and then the rest of everybody's talking on the radio and somebody's oh yeah.
Oh, okay. Let's just go back to the trucks. And it's we didn't want everybody to go back to the trucks at this point. Like we wanted everybody to stay where they were, just I think the bare minimum number of radios Possible and a lot of the places we hunt cell service is not a thing like we just right not gonna have it but It seems to be like more and more every year more of these places have some level of service Maybe you can send text messages and stuff.
So there's always that there's always gonna be outside of the radios People are gonna have the ability to text message each other or call each other no matter what you know It's just [01:02:00] that's just the way I look at it. But Just keeping the radio usage to the bare minimum
And getting out there and just hunting and enjoying it. And the group hunting thing it's different, but to me, it's a shifting gears throughout the season. It's a, it's, if you've never experienced camp tradition, you probably don't know what I'm talking about. And I've brought people that never did. And when they experienced it, they're like, man, this is fun. I'm, I wish I would have been doing this for longer and it's fun, but there's a, there's certain things to keep in mind that we already talked about in order to keep it fun and not ruin the fun. And yeah, it's a, it's an effective way to do it.
Man I appreciate you having this conversation about right funding, man. It's one of those things that a lot of people yeah. Almost deem it like a curse word or, their season's over when bow hunting, I used to be there. Yeah. And I can't say that's the case for me anymore, appreciate it. Yeah. Anything you wanna leave us with? yeAh,
I think along the same lines, ev keep it fun, have, go out, have a good [01:03:00] time. I was the same way for a long time where it was, if it was bow hunting or it was nothing. And, over time, it's just, it, got to the point where that in and of itself started to take the fun out of things.
And so I just I'm like you I'm a part of the, um, camp and we have a good time, we everybody works together. We past couple of years started doing actually, a rut camp during archery season. And then we always try to do at least something during during rifle season.
And then also a lot of the guys are into flintlocks. So the late season also presents another opportunity, but. Yeah, I just I think I think Driven gets a bad name uh, mainly from people who have a limited experience with it and that experience may be of it, of it not being done in a very sporting manner.
I Think there are [01:04:00] scenarios in certain places certain types of habitat and landscapes where it definitely can be an unfair, completely unfair advantage if you do a drive a certain certain way. The, it comes down to just making the shots, not if you're going to get the shots,
and I've also seen them where people doing the drives don't necessarily put the, uh, animal in high regards and they end up with a lot of wounded animals. And for people taking shots, they had no business taking what I think that comes from a different environment.
I think up in the big woods, the mountains you're dealing with much lower deer density. You're dealing with a different terrain, different habitat types where you're just, [01:05:00] you're, you're, by doing drives. In some ways you're almost at a disadvantage because you're making it known that you're hunting them.
And it's their world. They live there. They escape predation there all the time. And the ones that are alive and standing on the landscape are, aside from the fawns, are the ones who have repeatedly done that. So usually my money's on them. I bet that they make it out more times than not.
I think same thing, a lot of people that don't have a whole lot of experience with it if you get the opportunity and you previously had some sort of a negative. Perspective on it give it a try. And the same thing, like a lot of the, a lot of the other aspects the camp and the camaraderie portion, like worth the price of admission in and of itself.
I just everybody keep an open mind, stay safe, have fun. [01:06:00] And that's really
all you can do. You betcha. Hey, good luck. I hope you hope you wrap your tag around something here this gun season. And man, hopefully you can have a good time with the kiddos too.
Oh yeah, absolutely.
We'll catch you later, Phil. All right. Thanks a lot, Mitch.