The Drivers

My friend and crazy-good wildlife photographer Dusan Smetana emailed me a photo the other day of a great whitetail. But it was the note that accompanied the photo that caught my fancy.

"Look at this buck that my friend got behind my house with a recurve and wooden arrow this week," Dusan e-mailed. "Every 4-5 years we get a nice one on the river bottom here. The guy is my UPS man."

It was that last sentence that resonates with me. The best eyes any hunter can have -- next to his or her own -- are those of route drivers in your neighborhood. Think the school bus driver, especially on those morning routes, sees some good bucks? Bet on it. How about your postman? Or your FedEx or UPS driver? How about the county man who maintains rural roads?

These guys are out every day, often covering the same ground. They have a finger on the pulse of seasonal change. You can bet they know the patterns of big bucks, when they lose their velvet, when they cross the road, where they're headed to find herds of does or hidden food sources. Talk to these folks. Find out if they're hunters. Ask what they've seen, where they are seeing animals.

Their observations aren't limited to big game, either. My mailman knows hidden pockets of rooster pheasants and where turkeys are frequently seen in little stands of roadside timber. He also knows when a certain pickup -- belonging to a rogue hunter who frequently crosses fences he shouldn't -- is parked at my back gate.

Back when I covered hunting and fishing for regional magazines, some of my best information came from county road maintainers. These were the guys who noticed whitetail carcasses on roadsides and were the first to report blue-tongue epidemics. These were the guys who know when the rut activity starts and when it peaks. And they're the ones who can tell you about a particularly remarkable bull or buck to tom.

Sure, they have their own jobs to do. But they also can be really useful eyes in the field. And, like Dusan's UPS driver, it's satisfying to see them make good use of their own observations.

Photo by: Dusan Smetana