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Buck in the 'Burbs

Scott Esker

By Ed Waite

Scott Esker and his twin brother, Steve, hunt seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. When not carrying a bow, they're packing a camera.

"We scout every day as we go about our jobs, and every evening throughout the spring, summer, fall and winter," Scott says. "We are always looking for new places to hunt and taking care of the places we already have. We are definitely dedicated, maybe addicted to it. And we hunt urban deer almost exclusively."

Scott sells new houses for Trinity/Ambassador Homes in a large Midwestern city. His familiarity with all of the properties he handles and the new homeowners he closes help him professionally and as a deer hunter.
"I try to be good friends with all the homeowners in our developments. It is good for business, and it has fringe benefits you cannot buy," says Scott.
He was sitting in the office one day in November 2008 when he got a call from one of his homeowners with questions about refinancing. But before delving into interest rates, she told Scott that she and her husband had been seeing a huge buck in their back yard for two or three days at about the same time - 10:30. She also asked if he would like to see a photograph of it, which she offered to e-mail.

"A few hours later, I opened the e-mail and saw a monstrous buck standing in a field. I drooled," Scott said. "What an incredible rack on that monster ... at least five long tines on each side, plus double brow tines and more ... much more!

"I was excited because I knew I could hunt behind where those folks live. My brother and I had scouted that area many times. There always was lots of great deer sign, but we had no inkling that this fellow lived in the neighborhood," he continued.

"I called the woman right back," Scott said. "I was skeptical, at first; almost sure it must be a joke. I even tried to get her to admit that she had copied the photo from a magazine just to get me going. But she said, 'No, I have the pictures on my camera right now.' So I asked if could I come have a look.

"She said, 'Yes, come on over and I'll show them to you.'"

Scott went to their house the very next morning, pretty much stopping everything else he was doing. Already familiar with the property,  he stood to the side of their home and surveyed the large field that borders their property on two sides. It was an immense section of his company's holdings that had not yet been developed.

It consisted of a large fallow field, overgrown with ragweed, goldenrod and every other weed that grows, and farther back, a tree line at the border. To the distant left was an apartment complex; to the right, another housing development. After a good look, Scott went to the door and rang the bell.

He was ushered into the home and soon began a serious inquisition of the owners. All doubts were erased when the camera was produced.

"I turned it on and started to scroll through the pictures. There stood the buck, just off to the side of their property. I was able to recognize several distinct landmarks," he said. "No doubt: The pictures were genuine, and I was in awe!

"I asked them if they minded if I set up a ground blind just beyond their privacy fence and tried to take this deer," he continued. "They told me I was very welcome to do that. It had been one of the reasons they had called me in the first place!"

Scott's ground blind, however, was on another piece of ground several miles away. And he didn't really want to move it. After a quick survey of the area behind the fence, Scott picked out a spot in the field next to the lone tree on the other side of the fence. He would use it to help break up his silhouette and build some kind of a blind.

After hurrying home, Scott surveyed the contents of his garage. In one corner lay the remnants of his wedding reception: beach stuff, including several hula skirts. He decided they would be just the right color to match the dried weeds in the field. Several of them, tied between metal fence posts, should provide adequate cover. So Scott hastily grabbed them and headed back to the ambush site.

He quickly set up his makeshift blind and readied it for the afternoon hunt. He then returned home to shower and suit up for the evening.

Once back in position, he set up his buck decoy along a cleared shooting lane and got out his rattling antlers.

After a short rattling session, he scanned the field with his binoculars. He also realized that his perfect ambush site was on low ground. He could see only a small portion of the field. The ground next to the fence, 20 yards away, was at least 4 or 5 feet higher. Curious, he quickly made his way to the fence so he could peek over and see the rest of the field.

After a quick consultation with the homeowner, Scott moved his "hula blind" to higher ground right behind the privacy fence, and he cut another shooting lane through the 4- to 5-foot-tall weeds. But that presented another problem.

Scott EskerBeing up against the fence meant he could no longer survey the right side of the field because he couldn't see through or over the barrier to where the buck had been photographed.

The issue was resolved when he borrowed a small four-step ladder to lean against the fence. He had high hopes for the following morning.

"I was worked up all night about my setup," he said. "As soon as I awoke, I showered and dressed in my Scent-Lok clothing. When I arrived, I knew I had to sneak around the fence and get in place without disturbing any deer that might be in the field beyond. "I moved down to the end of the fence and slowly peered around the corner to see a small 8-point buck, so I hunkered down at the end of the fence and waited for it to leave.

"As soon as it disappeared, I hurried over to the blind, set up my decoy and waited for daylight. I rattled as soon as dawn broke, glassed the field continuously for 30 minutes, and then did another sequence.

"Seeing nothing, I stepped up on the ladder to peer over the fence. Even without binoculars, I could see the huge buck about 200 yards away and coming toward me. But it stopped at 70 yards.

"The buck started milling around the middle of the field at that point," he continued. "I eased down and picked up my video camera to film the buck, but I was anything but calm. My heart was pounding, and I was shaking. There it was, right in front of me, but no longer interested in heading my way. Rattling and grunting were having no effect, and I was perplexed.

"I needed to talk to someone, to get my mind settled down and to soothe my nerves," Scott said. "So I called my brother, who was sitting in a treestand about half a mile away."

Steve Esker answered his phone, hoping to hear that Scott had tagged the buck. He was surprised when his brother told him he was looking at it from 70 yards.

"Steve could tell I was nervous," Scott said.

"Calm down now," Steve warned. "Stop rattling and just watch. The buck's too close now anyway. Have you tried grunting?"

'"Yes, but nothing seems to be working. Wait ... I haven't tried a doe bleat yet. Maybe I should try that?"

'"Yeah, that's it. Try the bleat."

"I pulled the call from my gear bag and gave it a try while my brother was still on the telephone," Scott said. "And that did it. Suddenly, the buck was coming in my direction. I whispered into the phone, 'Gotta go ... It's coming my way now!'"

Scott grabbed his bow and prepared for the shot he was convinced was moments away.

"I crouched low in the blind and attached my release. I just had to remain calm until it showed up in my lane," he said.

"I waited for what seemed like hours, but nothing. My legs were starting to burn from squatting. My nerves were tingling. 'Where is it?' I wondered. 'Did it wind me? Has something else happened to spook the deer?'

"I was sorely tempted to stand, step up on the ladder and take a look, but my experience told me not to do that," he added. "I was going crazy with worry. I finally decided I just had to take a look, and as I started to rise up, there it was, almost in my shooting lane.

"I didn't have time to think. I was still squatting when I drew. The buck was less than 5 feet from my shooting lane before it saw the decoy. At 17 yards, it turned and began quartering away from me. I rose, placed the pin on the last rib and released the arrow."

Scott watched as the immense whitetail rocketed away, heading for deep cover. He even stepped up on the ladder.

"At about 100 yards, I watched the giant tip over beside a small tree. I zeroed in on the spot intently, hoping it was down for good," he said. "In my mind, I kept repeating, 'He never got back up. He never got back up.' I was ecstatic!"

That's when he noticed the buck's girlfriend and realized that the doe must have been the cause for its hanging up in the middle of the field.

Not wanting to rush things, Scott sought even higher ground so he could perhaps see his buck on the ground. Before long, he was beyond the fence and standing on the sidewalk in front of his friends' house. But the weeds in the field were too tall to allow a glimpse of the deer.

Scott almost melted onto the ground, mentally exhausted, physically drained and simply tired from a sleepless night. He lay down and called his wife to share the news. He also called his brother, who said, "Hold tight until I get there."

While all this was happening, a neighbor saw the strange man in full camo lying on the sidewalk across from her house. She dialed 911 to report the unusual situation.

Subscribe Today!Meanwhile, Scott got up and went over to sit on the porch of his friends' house to wait for his brother.

Within minutes, Scott was startled when a police car pulled up and stopped on the street in front of him. Scott rose from his seat, waved to and approached the officer. The policeman asked what he was doing, and Scott told him he'd been bowhunting behind the house, had just shot a monster buck and was waiting for his brother to arrive to help find it. The police officer was cool, obviously familiar with urban hunters and not the least alarmed with Scott's demeanor.

"We talked for several minutes. I told him about the deer and that I was cooling off while the deer expired," Scott said. He asked if I had permission to hunt here, and I told him I had the paperwork in my truck, and he asked to see it. I showed him the permission papers, and he was satisfied. After that, he went across the street to assure the lady that everything was okay."

Steve arrived soon afterward, and they went straight to where Scott saw the buck fall. Sure enough, it was lying right there. Once they found the deer, they asked the officer if he wanted to come down and see it.

All three men exchanged high-fives.

While they were standing there, the cop got a radio call from another officer checking on him. Within minutes, a second police car pulled up to the curb. Two more cruisers arrived a short while later.

It got even more exciting when a team from Wolf Creek Productions heard about the harvest and arrived on the scene with their cameras rolling. Steve knew they were in the area trying to film a hunt, so he called them.

Hunter: Scott Esker
Official Score: 214 2/8
Composite: 234 2/8
Compound Bow

-- Reprinted from the Winter 2009 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.

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