Amazing Deer Hunting Success with Alex Burke

WTR 577 | Deer Hunting

 

To be successful at hunting, you must have the skill and the passion for it. Kentuckian whitetail hunter Alex Burke has been enjoying the outdoors since he was a kid. His family has been privileged to hunt along the Ohio River for over twenty years with phenomenal success. Whether hunting the Golden Triangle with a bow or rifle, they have this funnel dialed in and have the trophies to prove that their strategies work year after year. Alex shares how he got started fishing and hunting, his hunting success and traditions, choosing trade school over a four-year degree in college, and the story about shooting a mature buck 250 yards away from the road.

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Amazing Deer Hunting Success with Alex Burke

I’m in Kentucky and we’re going to check in with Alex Burke. Alex and his brother have been pulling some nice bucks off the Golden Triangle on the Ohio River. Alex, welcome to the show. I’m glad we connected on Instagram.

Bruce, thanks for having me. Thanks for having the patience.

We were talking about what you’re doing at school. Here’s a young man who is playing college ball, baseball and decided to switch up to trade school. Why did you do that?

My twin brother and I had always had a thing for aircraft. My dad used to work on 747 flight simulators. By the time, we were eleven years old, we knew how to fly what would have been a 747 Boeing. If you ask me, I wouldn’t know off the top of my head how to work the thing. That always put it in the back of my head there. When I was playing college ball, I had a love for the game. I’ve played it since I was old enough to hold a bat. My dad being my coach and my brother playing alongside me. I decided to give it up because I switched from business school to trade school and any trade school is not going to offer a sport. It was either play baseball or pursue what I wanted to do.

I’ve heard that a lot of guys and gals are going to trade schools because they go out, they’re making $80,000, $100,000 a year. They go and take care of business. Is that what you hear?

Aviation, if you’re looking to get into it, now is the time to get into it. There’s a large shortage in almost any trade out there now. Aviation is very lacking in the mechanical side and the piloting side of the trade.

Why is that?

The generations, for the most part, are convinced that they have to go to four years of college to do any good in a career. Trade school is a bit of a loophole for that.

You pay a bunch of money to go to a trade school. It isn’t cheap.

It’s not cheap, but I have friends that go to Eastern Kentucky, Louisville or Kentucky and they pay several thousands of dollars, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars and they wound up in debt. At a trade school, what I have is a state-funded scholarship that funds every bit of my education. I’ve been fortunate enough to come out of this debt-free. I’ve yet to get sent to any school.

You must have been pretty good if you’ve got a full ride up in Illinois for baseball and then the state is paying that. I wanted to get into this a little bit because sometimes people think, “I got to go to college.” That’s not true. Don’t let your parents get mad at me but that’s not true. I went to college. I got a degree. I played football, ran track, had a great time in college and did it help me in my career? I don’t know. I followed it up with an MBA that certainly helped me. I know guys that are making as much money or more money than I made in trades. There’s no question about it. Back in the day that I was going to school, that wasn’t the case at all.

If you’re young thinking about this and saying, “I don’t know if I want to go to college or not.” If they’re going to give you a full ride to go to college, get an education, come out of that, then go to trade school and make some money so you can go hunt and fish any place you want. Things have changed. There are events where people are paying money and bribing people to go to elite colleges. I don’t understand that at all. I’ll leave that where it is. I don’t understand that. You’re not teaching kids anything.

What dumbfounds me is people who will go and spend several thousands of dollars to go to school but come out with an art degree and making maybe $40,000 a year. If you’re going to spend the money for the education, you might as well spend it on something that you’re going to come out with a great degree and you’re going to make halfway decent money.

If they want to, if you’re a writer, if you’re an artist, unless you make it big time, $40,000, $50,000, $60,000 is what you’re going to get, then you go in with your eyes open. Some people want to pursue an education because that’s what they feel they want to do and hats off to them. You and me, Alex, I like to hunt. I like to fish. That costs a lot of money.

I like to get all the money that I’ve spent on fishing tackle alone. I’d like to get that back.

My wife every once in a while reminds me and she said, “If we had all your hunting, fishing gear and then trips, we’d have a couple of bucks.” I said, “I wouldn’t be who I was, I wouldn’t have all the fun, go all the places I’ve gone and I haven’t lived life.” That’s the biggest thing. I did a podcast with a bunch of people Why We Hunt. Why I hunt is the journey to go places that other people won’t, to get up on mountains where other people won’t, to ride horses where other people won’t, to mix up with wolves and grizzly bears where other people won’t.

You wouldn’t be the person you are now.

That made me who I am, right, wrong and different. We’re not a little off, Whitetail Rendezvous is about adventures and whitetail hunting. Alex is not so unique person for choosing a trade school over a college baseball and a four-year degree. Let’s talk about your hunting tradition. How’d you start getting into hunting?

My father, myself and my twin brother, Sean, we started fishing before we start hunting because we’re big enough to hold a fishing pole well before a rifle or a bow for that matter. We started going to ponds. We’d watch our dad bass fish because at that time, we didn’t necessarily have the casting capability. We’d watch him catch left and right. We would try to convince him to teach us and he would always turn it down because “I’m not going to babysit somebody. I’m catching fish.” I understand those. I would do the same thing. We moved onto bass fishing and catfishing. I’m an avid bass fisherman. I love lakes. I love ponds. Farm ponds produce some very nice fish.

Are you out on the tournament circuit?

No, I’m completely recreational.

There’s big money in that. It’s hard to break into but the good guys are making good money.

Some of the guys that I hang out with, one he’s on the Kentucky Bass Fishing Team and the other one is on Western Kentucky’s Bass Fishing Team. I go out to the lakes with them and spend some time with them and learn a few things, but that’s about it. My stuff is usually recreational.

Are you catch and release or are you eating some of that bass?

I don’t eat them if I pull them out of a pond. Most of the time its catch and release. If I’m at Lake Cumberland then I’ll keep about anything, smallmouth and striper.

Because of the water quality?

It’s water quality and fish size.

You started fishing hard and then when did hunting come up on the radar?

I was about eight years old is when I killed my first deer. I went hunting before then. I was about six years old sitting in a stand with my dad. I watched him kill a deer. I would spot a deer for him. At one point, I remember we sat in two different stands, I spotted the very deer that he harvested and a coyote about fifteen minutes later. I fell in love with it. Finally, I got to hold a rifle and go to get my own for the first time. I got 164. I scored ten-point.

Your first year?

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In the first year.

No.

Yes, sir.

You’re spoiled.

No, my dad managed that property. I’m very fortunate for the work that he’s put into it. He came along that property long before we did, long before we were there.

Was your dad managing the property before QDMA, The Quality Deer Management was up and running?

He started about seventeen years ago. We were too young to go at the time whenever he first got it. By the time we were old enough for him to trust us in a deer stand and then we started heading out there. I went when I was eight years old, that’s when harvested my first buck. There’s no feeling like your first buck fever. I was shaking. Everybody knows the sensation.

I hunt because it’s incredible when I’m covered up with deer, especially during a rut, anything can happen. I was caught up with four bucks, chasing one doe and it was unbelievable. I shoot a crossbow. I didn’t shoot anything. It was exciting.

Do you mostly crossbow hunt?

Yeah.

I’ve never personally carried a crossbow in the woods.

You can get very proficient, myself out to 80 yards from the right rest. 50 yards is a chip shot. Everything else being equal. They’re so accurate. They got some Ravins that I know guys continually shoot 100 yards with. They’re extremely accurate. They have a place like shotguns and muzzleloaders or rifles. I went to a crossbow because I can’t pull back a compound anymore. I’ve got two pins in my shoulder so I was done. I moved over to crossbow. I shoot Excalibur Crossbows.

I personally shoot a compound. I shoot Hoyt.

I would be shooting a compound if I could but I can’t. I live in Colorado so I have a lifetime crossbow use during archery season.

What day does your season start? It would be here in Kentucky, it’s usually middle of November for us.

WTR 577 | Deer Hunting

 

I don’t hunt white whitetails in Colorado for a couple of reasons. One, all the deer tags are limited tags for mule deer and whitetails in specific areas. There’s a lot of whitetails here along with all the river drainages and there are some public lands. It’s hard to DIY public land. Out East in Colorado, you can pay up to $8,000 to get on a farm and with river bottoms or good quality whitetails. I don’t hunt Colorado at all. I’ve been told that there are some places if you know how to do it. Where I live, I haven’t put in the time to figure it out. I started elk hunting early. It’s on Labor Day weekend. It might be the 28th, 29th, September 1st or someplace in there. I’ll get up in the high country, 10,000 feet and I’ll hunt elk for the first part of the season. After the full moon in September, I’ll hunt another five days. I’ll get about ten days of elk hunting with my crossbow.

I’d love to take an elk.

It’s very similar. I remember the first elk hunt I went on and talked to a number of people. The guys from Wisconsin are good elk hunters because they know how to hunt whitetails. They’re very similar except it’s helacious where you have 100 acres and elk have 10,000 acres. That’s the hardest part of elk hunting is finding them. Once you find them, then if you’re a hunter, you can close the deal or have adventures. An elk ten yards away and you can’t get a shot. A cow elk streaming by you like does will stream by you. You know there’s a bull coming and it’s amazing. Once they start lighting up, bugle and stuff, that’s a whole new game.

It’s like the interaction you get with a turkey but a whole different scale.

I’ve known some good turkey callers and such. They said, “They love turkey calling because it reminds them of elk hunting” because you get to the response of communicating.

I love the interaction back and forth between you and the animal.

One thing that I’ve learned over the last few years of the show, there’s a lot of deer vocalization that we don’t know about or we don’t hear because we don’t spend the right time in the right places. Everybody knows about rattling, grunt tubing, snort, wheezing and all the different vocalizations, but they’re not as loud and so you don’t hear them. You could have bucks grunting, tending grunts and stuff like that. You won’t hear them if the wind is wrong. In my upcoming Deer Hunting Institute, I’m going to be talking about elk vocalization. Tell me about your experience with hearing deer talk.

I’m personally never rattled. I have grunted and snort wheeze and I’ve been snort wheezed at. It was the first time I’ve been snort wheezed at. I had gotten ready to climb out of a stand. It got dark and I heard walking around. My father was with me. I snort wheezed and we had that deer stomped around looking for us for a solid fifteen minutes before we could get out of that stand.

Was it a deer, a buck or a doe?

It was a buck. Have you heard of snort wheeze? He’s ready to fight. It was an eight-point that we had seen before the sun went down. It’s the same deer.

It’s a dominance thing. It a challenge response. It’s like, “Who are you? What are you doing here?” It’s communication.

The second time, this is where it escalates. I got out of a stand right on the river. I’m on the side of the river. I’m on this grassy knoll is what we call it. I climbed out of the stand. We have a road cut out in the bottom that goes all the way from the river, all the way to the bottom of the hill. The road goes up the hill to where we park our vehicles, a four-wheeler and a barn. I step onto that road and I take off walking, turn on my flashlight and a buck jumps across tall grass, clears the road and takes off running. It goes halfway up the side of the hill. I snort wheezed at him. He came stomping right back down. I heard him crashing towards me. I ran over next to a tree, knelt down. I had the flashlight on the side of the rifle ready to shoot anything I saw moving.

It’s an adventure.

I was about fourteen years old at the time. It was a very dumb thing for me to do.

That’s how you learn. Experience is the best teacher.

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It was one of those situations that I didn’t take as seriously as I should have and I learned.

Do you like to rifle hunt more than bow hunt?

With the density of trees that we have in some areas, there are particular areas that you can bow hunt and can only rifle hunt in my property.

The terrain, the foliage and everything, you can’t.

It’s a tree farm and in some of the areas are wild. It’s very thick stuff. I prefer archery more than anything. I’ve taken almost half my deer with a bow. I feel like the rush that you get off of killing a deer with a bow is much more than that of a rifle. There’s more challenge to it with a bow.

I would agree. Typically they’re up close and personal, archery tackle or gears has extended the range significantly. A traditional archer, 20, 30 yards is his max for 99% of the traditional archers. That’s close. This fall, I had deer at ten feet and they were moving. I had bucks at ten feet and they were moving. There was no shot opportunity. With a bow, in the woods, typically with right set up, 30 to 40 yards maybe. You get on a bean field. You get on wheat, corn or something like that, then you might have a little longer shot just how you’re hunting with decoys. There’re a lot of variables in there.

I figured out a couple of years ago, for those people that hunt fields and tend to see deer at night but not in the day whenever you’re in the stand. Around 1st of October, I figured out is when the acorns drop. They leave the fields for cover and food rather than standing in the open to have food. They’re going to be found in the woods more so than in the fields.

You pattern deer July, August then all of a sudden September hits. As soon as their horns hardened, the velvet comes off, the horns harden and that’s when the rut begins. That’s when dominance begins. All the different things that happened in the dynamics of your deer herd, it’s when it begins. The rut is a breeding season, but their behavior starts changing. Because they don’t want to be around other deer when the velvet is coming off, their horns are still soft so they stay away. They’re changing up to different food groups because they know what’s coming. You have to study this, look for deer and not hunt them sometimes. Try to find out where are they coming out, where are they going. If you’ve got a great mass crop, then that’s where they’re going to be. That’s a very valid point that people say, “The deer aren’t coming out to the beans anymore.” No, because they’re eating acorns. They get better protein. They know at this time of year that’s the best food source that they can eat.

It’s the best thing out there for them at the time. What I’m getting at here is around the time of acorns dropping is about the time that you need to be in a stand somewhere around an oak tree, figure out where the oak trees are on your woods.

The thing I think about that, are they feeding on the acorn during the day because they get more cover or are they not? What’s been your experience?

They’ll only be found out in fields during the night, I’ve found. During the day, they’re going to take cover around the oak trees.

They can be vetted within 50 yards of where the acorns are, get up, have a snack, go back and lay down.

If it’s ideal for them, certainly. If it doesn’t require them moving much and if it stays windy, certainly they’re going to lay down. If they only have to walk 50 yards to their food, their water and their bed, they’re going to stay right there. What else do they need?

Nothing. They have food, bedding, and water. That’s all a deer needs. In your property, you can get all those things in close proximity to each other and minimize the pressure, no matter if you got 5, 10, 40 acres, 100 acres or more, you’re going to have deer around because you need all three of those things. That’s a good segue way into the Golden Triangle where you hunt along the Ohio River. How long have you been hunting there?

My father has been there for about eighteen, twenty years roughly. I started there when I was about six. It’s only for people that hunt there. It’s myself, my dad, my twin brother and one another man that has been there as long as my dad. He may have been there before my dad. He’s a very good friend of ours. That man knows more about hunting than I’ll probably ever know in my lifetime.

Let’s get him on the show. Everybody that comes on our show has some insights that I love to share with my audience all across North America.

We made a walking stick for him in memory of how many deer he has harvested. It’s 163. We marked them each on that walking stick and gave it to him. He has a record of each and every deer that he has killed. He has a story for each and everyone that he has written out. He’s a fanatic. I love him to death. He and my father have both been a key to my success as well as my brother’s.

Let’s talk about your buck because it’s a mature buck. It’s a gorgeous deer. You sent me some trail camera pictures. Let’s go back and find out when you first put them out in your hit list and how it all came down.

He was easily a five-year-old deer. We watched this dear grow up on trail cams throughout the years. We had only three pictures of him. When we went to collect camera cards, we only found two more pictures of him. He was in the same spot every day at around 12:00 to 2:00. He was coming through strong through in the middle of the day when things were slow. That’s what I went off of given when the right comes, you’re not going to know what those deer are going to do. They don’t know what they’re hardly doing. They’re chasing tail. I stuck to that. I got there and stuck around through the middle of the day. I made sure that was in that span. Sure enough, he walked through. He was crossing a road from one property to the next. That’s why he was so evasive and elusive.

Was he coming from the neighbors then?

He was going back and forth. He slept in our property. During the early mornings and evenings, he would go into the other property.

Was he doing that for food obviously?

Yes, that would be my guess. I haven’t wondered over into those woods.

You caught him on the road, you shot him on the road?

He was not on the road. He went about 250 yards past the road is where my stand is. It’s the walk from my car on the road to my stand. In the bottom, we have a cut road. We cut our roads to our stands and stuff. We have it marked, that way when we’re going through with a flashlight, we know where our stands are. He was about 250 yards away from the road but that’s where he was crossing. He had a giant rub right on the side of the road on our property. We knew what dear this was. I stuck to the cameras and sure enough there he was. I dropped him at 2:00. We were chasing him. Three of us were. Kerry was after a different deer that he wound up getting. My father and my twin brother were at home at the time. My older brother, Andrew, was with them. I called them. I told my dad what I had done. I heard a little bit of disbelief in his voice at first. Pictures were clarification for him. He said, “I’m on my way. I’ll come help.” He had to take a look at it.

You saw the deer, did you try to hunt him close to his bedding area or you knew that you were hunting with a rifle, correct?

Yes, I was with a 270 pump rifle.

You can shoot that a couple hundred yards?

Yes, that’s probably about the distance I have to shoot.

How did you stop him? When they’re moving, they’re moving and they’re hard to stop.

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He had a doe with him that showed up separately. I showed up from the opposite direction of him. However, I think they may have been together but split off at one point because there is a big field straight out ahead of me. The road was off to my right. Maybe they had split on each side of the field, across and were trying to rejoin. He crossed right back across the road to come towards me where he wound up. The doe was about 45, 50 yards away from my stand, under an oak tree. She was eating acorns. He approached from the opposite side of her. I let him get behind a tree before I could do anything. This deer was blind in one of his eyes for most of his life. His good eye was facing me when I shot him in my defense. However, he had been blind for most of his life. He was a smart dear. He was a very smart creature. When he was about two years old, he got into a fight. He came out on the losing end.

He lived for a long time. He lived for three years.

He lived a long time with that one eye. He was a smart creature.

Why do you think you’re pulling big bucks off this property?

I don’t know if you’ve heard of Brown-Forman, the distillery. That’s the property area that we’re on. It’s a fertile land. We’re in a river bottom. It’s shaped like you gave the name, the Golden Triangle. It’s shaped like a big triangle. It’s on a river bottom. The way this works is I have the river to my back, the Ohio River. I have large, very steep hills on each side of me that narrow all the way into a point. We have stands set up in a triangle formation. We call it the triangle of death. That’s where we tend to harvest most of our bucks. It’s such a large bottom that they have to cross when they’re going from field to field, property to property. They have to go across that triangle. Typically, they’re going to walk down that funnel. That’s where we find them. We’ve been very fortunate to pull some decent deer out of there.

You get topography that creates a funnel. You set up and you don’t have a lot of pressure on the property. Do you get more of your dear with archery gear or with rifles?

I’ve got about half of my deer with a bow. However, I own more rifle and firearm accessories than I do in archery. I have shot archery for about nine years. I love to shoot. I tend to do it on my off time whenever I find free time to do something or I stand next to a pond and fish that one or the other. I’ve killed almost half of my deer with a bow.

At your age, you said that the one gentleman had killed over 100 deer. You must get multiple deer a year?

He does, yes. He tends to harvest multiple deer. He does a lot of volunteer work for people. He tends to give to foundations like homeless and stuff. He goes out and harvest deer and donates the meat.

How many tags can you get in Kentucky in any given season?

You can kill one buck and as many does you want as long as you pay for the tag.

It’s one buck with a bow, one buck with a rifle, one buck with a muzzleloader or one buck?

You get one buck every year.

If I didn’t get a buck during archery season, can I get a buck during gun season?

Yes.

WTR 577 | Deer HuntingIt’s transferable.

It is transferable through any part of the season that you so choose.

How much management do you do on the property? Since you only can shoot one buck, you’re not going to probably call many deer. How about for does? How many doses do you take?

Typically, other than Kerry, my family hardly takes any does. We leave that up to him because he’ll want to take in six, seven does. We let that be it.

You’ve got a river bottom. You’ve got a good healthy population of doe. You get heavy cover. All they need is food. Do you have food plots down there?

We don’t do any plots. We have a lot of oak trees. We’re on the river. It’s a large tree farm. We have plenty of oaks to choose from. We’re also surrounded by horse farms. There’s one cornfield in the area. We are a deer highway, so to speak.

They’re coming from someplace, going to someplace, you got red oaks and white oaks?

We’re closer to their bedding and food source. We’re able to catch them between bedding and their eating.

Is it a transition zone then?

Yes. At each hill, at the top of this river bottom that I’m hunting is a horse farm on each side. The majority of the property, North and West of us, is owned by the Forman distillery heirs, their whole family. They own thousands of acres in Oldham County, Kentucky. It’s ridiculous. They built a tunnel to go onto a bridge across the Ohio River into Indiana. They built a tunnel underground because the Formans told them that they could not do it. They cannot build an overpass over their property. They tunneled under it.

Who did? The state?

The state. Now, it’s a toll bridge. They’re getting their money back on that. We are surrounded by horse farms. We’re in a big bottom, a transition zone, which is what you called it. Catching them from their bedding to food. We set up every year by relocating stands based upon their tendencies, whether their sources of food changes. Some years acorns drop from an oak tree, some years they don’t. I’m not sure if you’re particularly with oak trees or not. Some years they will drop, some years they won’t. That changes and we change depending on that along with signs of scrapes and other sorts.

How do you know if the oak trees bear fruit?

You won’t. I personally do not know. I’m not that scientific about it. I went off of one tree in particular. Whenever I was hanging a stand, one year, they dropped, next year, they didn’t. They didn’t for the next two years, I believe and then they dropped again. I’ve set up closer to other oak trees as well. I’ve noticed it from those trees as well.

You better keep a journal of what trees are dropping, where they are in the cycle. I’m serious because that’d be frustrating. It was a great place. You harvest a deer. You go back and they aren’t anywhere to be found because there’s no food.

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I like to shake the man’s hand who’d be willing to keep that journal. That’s a lot of thought going into it. If I could keep track of something like that, I’m sure I would if I had found it very useful to myself.

Put a tree number one through how many oak trees, put it on a computer, then put a program up, spreadsheet and away you go.

I feel like it would take a lot of time to get the information about how long each one would take to drop.

That’s observation. The thing is when they’re dropping, you want to be hunting and not looking for trees dropping. Alex, this has been great. How can people find you on social media if they have any follow-up questions?

I have Twitter and Instagram. I’d no longer have a Facebook. My Instagram is @ABurke02. My Twitter handle is @Alex_Burke15. You’ll find more outdoor posts on my Instagram than you will on Twitter.

It’s been a pleasure visiting Alex. On behalf of all the readers, you gave us some insights and I certainly appreciate it.

Thank you for having me, Bruce. It’s a good time. I’ve not been too experienced in podcasts and this is my first one. Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity.

You’re welcome.

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About Alex Burke

WTR 577 | Deer HuntingI’m Alex Burke and I have been enjoying the outdoors since I was big enough to hold a firearm and a fishing pole. I harvested my first buck when I was eight years old and I believe it goes without saying, the first buck fever is the best one.

I began hunting and fishing with my father, David and my twin brother, Sean. My dad has been a great outdoor coach and a key to our hunting and fishing knowledge.