New York State is a diverse hunting habitat that produces great bucks from east to west, north to south. The Adirondack Mountains are steeped in deer hunting tradition, with great trackers and still hunters roaming the ridges and draws. The central and western farm country is a great mix of food, hedgerows and big woods — a veritable deer hunters’ paradise. But southern New York holds some of the best bow-hunting opportunities in the state.
Photo by Jeff Brown.
In counties like Westchester and Suffolk, suburban bucks in little pockets of woods can grow old without ever seeing a deer hunter. In these densely populated counties, access to hunting land is a big challenge, and even limited hunting pressure on small pieces of woods can make it tough to get close to a big buck. It takes a combination of access to good properties, careful planning, flawless execution, and a good dose of optimism to put a hunter in the right place at the right time.
Bjorn Holubar of Long Island found himself in that position last season, and the result was this state’s biggest gross-scoring archery buck of the year, and possibly of all-time!
At 41 years old, Holubar has been hunting and running pointing labs since he was 8-years-old. He started shooting .22′s, then worked his way up to shotguns, hunting rabbits and grouse in upstate New York and Maine. He switched to ducks and pheasants on Long Island when he was in high school. It wasn’t until 1984 that his father introduced him to deer hunting in the Adirondacks. He froze his toes off, literally, that first day of deer hunting, but he would not be deterred.
He spent the next six to eight years still-hunting the Adirondacks, Vermont, Western NY, Maine and Canada with his gun, and shot several deer each year, including a few nice “little wall hangers.” He picked up a bow for the first time in 1995 and although he enjoyed using it, he was a big fan of jump shooting deer with a rifle during still-hunts. But as time passed he switched to still-hunting with a bow.
Over time Holubar realized that he had many more opportunities to hunt locally on Long Island with a bow, and he began using it exclusively. He “put down” the rifle for deer in NY in 2000, and never looked back.
As time has passed he transitioned from hunting public lands to hunting little private parcels, as well as some select public lands between subdivisions. He gained permission to hunt several 10-20 acre suburban pieces, but these small pieces can only be hunted a few times a year. Over the years he has perfected a careful approach to hunting these small pieces, and it was beginning to pay off!
Holubar arrowed several nice bucks on Long Island in recent years. A few very large bucks were lost to other hunters, which is always a potential problem when hunting these small pieces of land. His best “recovered buck” was a 120-class, and he also took a bunch of 110-120-inch bucks. He even shot a big non-typical that would have scored around 170 if one side had not been a spike!
NO ONE KNEW HE WAS THERE!Despite the size of this great buck, and the fact that it had been roaming these woods for several years, Holubar had never seen this deer before. He was hunting a 150-class buck in the area, and had shot a wild looking non-typical in this area several years earlier, but as mentioned earlier, the deer had a spike on one side, so it did not score well.
It is amazing that even though the area gets hunted fairly hard, and there are three sporting goods shops in the area, there were no reports of this giant. The first, and last, time that Holubar saw this deer alive would be a memorable day indeed.
Holubar had been hunting one part of this woods for several years, but decided to “explore” one day into a small, but very thick part of this parcel. It’s a small piece by most standards, but in suburbia this was a prime spot! Holubar saw two huge rubs and a few scrapes, and figured this place was worth hunting. He set up on one side of a rise and immediately saw two does. This was going to be a good spot, he thought.
A DAY TO REMEMBER IN 2009
The next day Holubar had a “bad morning” so he decided to go hunting. He grabbed a sandwich and decided to head out around 1 p.m.. He decided to go back to where he had seen the does the day before, and thought he needed to be in a choke point rather than a funnel, as he had been set up the day before.
So he set up so that there was thick impenetrable brush on one side and a steep embankment with runs on the top of the hill on the other. The deer trail would choke to less than 80 yards across, so by setting up in the middle he would have a shot either way.
He got into the woods around 2:30 p.m. and moved his stand location to the other side of the rise and into the choke point. He picked a good tree, set up his Lone Wolf climber and started to break branches to clear two lanes, kicking up dirt and leaves as well as rattling and grunting for about five minutes to help cover his noise. He climbed the tree grunted again.
Despite all of that work, nothing happened for the first one and half hours. Then, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed movement. It was a buck, but Holubar did not know how big. He recalled that he had promised his son he wouldn’t shoot any more 8 points. (His son wanted him to shoot a big 10 point.) He watched intently as the deer alternately walked and stopped.