In this episode, Mark Hammer of Ohio talks about his huge kill, the Hammer Buck 260’’. In the 2014-15 season, Mark shot the largest free ranging whitetail taken in North America. Learn how he prepared for that and why he prefers traditional scouting. Mark also get into his product, rattle calls, and his company Antler Action Outdoors.
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Mark Hammer Tells All Hammer Buck 260″ B&C Gross
On this show, we have Mark Hammer of Ohio and Antler Action Outdoors. Mark is a proud owner and harvester of the Hammer Buck which grossed over 260 inches Boone & Crockett with a net score of 254 1/8. It was the largest free-ranging whitetail taken in North America in the 2014-2015 season with archery gear. Mark prefers to scout long range. He sets up, uses his spotting scope and sees what’s happening with the deer. He doesn’t go near them until he’s ready to hunt them. One thing about Mark is he’s good at reading signs. He uses the skills he was taught by his father about being a great woodsman.
We’re heading to Ohio to talk to Mark Hammer, Antler Action Outdoors. Mark, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me Bruce, I appreciate it.
Antler Action Outdoors, what’s it all about?
It’s a small business that I started by myself. I make rattle calls. They’re my own design and my own patent. It’s unlike any rattle call ever made. It’s the lowest motion call ever made. It’s a call that lets you get the sound away from the hunter. That way, the deer will come to you.
How does that work?
There’s a mechanism inside. I have a hammer and some spring essentially in there, with a three-inch pull of a small string coming out of the top. It works the internal mechanism. You can put it as far away from yourself as the string you would like to put on it. You can make a variety of different volumes and sounds.
Talk to me about your sequence. I hear a lot of stuff about rattling. You’ve got to do a sequence for five seconds, wait ten seconds, do another ten-second sequence. There’s a lot of different information about what works. I know what works for me in certain areas where I hunt in Iowa or Wisconsin. Talk to us about sequencing your rattle.
Early season rattling and very late season rattling, for that matter, are different than your pre-rut and rut rattle. At least to me, they are. I don’t do any loud crashes. I do a lot of rally light sparring and light tickling. It would be 30 seconds of fairly quiet rattling, then a good break for maybe a minute and then some more light rattling. As you get closer to pre-rut and rut, I’ll amp that up with a couple of hard crashes and then similar may be up to a minute of mediocre sounds followed by one or two crashes and then I’ll wait.
How long are your crashes?
The crashes will probably only be two or three seconds of loud rattling, maybe five seconds. If you watch deer fight, they don’t sit there and bang their heads back and forth together. They lock up hard with a few seconds of violent crashing and then it turns into a shoving match with some not quite as loud noises. I frequently pause to listen to see if I can hear anything coming. I’ll have a lot of two or three-second pauses in my rattling where I’m making sure nothing’s running up on me obscured by brush.Once the deer have seen you, the game’s over for the day. Click To Tweet
When I watch deer fight, they do make noise but to our ears, it isn’t that loud. I’ve heard and talked to Adam Lewis from Sound Barrier. It’s louder than we think. Other deer can hear that.
Our ears are made to hear certain tones. Those are not the same. It probably does sound louder to the deer than it does to us. The main thing is that deer fight on the ground and everyone’s rattling in a tree. Many people get busted up in the tree because the deer pinpointed or saw them up there moving. They give up on rattling thinking it’s the sound that’s scaring the deer away. That’s not the case.
Here’s one technique that I’ve done. When I rattle, I’m really hidden in my treestand. If I have a double set, I might get in the higher set and get behind the tree when I rattle. It makes it interesting if somebody comes screaming in because I’ll never get a shot. It won’t work. I use it especially during an early rut to check the deer. What’s around? Are they within 200 yards of me? In some places, they are. One place along Buffalo River, it’s thick cover all around me. It opens up to a pinch point. It’s a dynamite place, but I can’t see 50 yards into the woods. That’s just one technique. You said that you got busted, too, rattling. Tell us about that.
Right before I made my own calls, I had some success with rattling antlers. They sound good and they bring deer in. I rattled in a buck that was clearly a Booner. It came in so fast out of the brush that I could not set the antlers down and pick my bow up in time. The deer stopped on the side of the hill twelve yards from me, a Booner. I couldn’t set the antlers down and pick my bow up in time to shoot it. It was staring almost directly at me from twelve yards. It stood there for a minute, but I couldn’t put the antlers down quietly enough and then get my bow and get it in position in time to get the shot. It haunted me for a couple of years.
Could you have dropped the antlers, grabbed your bow and shot?
If it had been the gun season, I would have definitely done that. The bad thing about antlers is they’re made to make noise. When a deer comes in and you’re holding them, it’s hard to set them down quietly and pick your bow up. It haunted me. I played a thousand scenarios of what I could have done differently. I did get the antlers down and my bow picked up and drawn by the time the deer got 25 yards away. By then, it was behind too much stuff to make an ethical shot. It’s an opportunity lost.
You saw him. Few people have seen, on the hoof, a Booner buck, a 180-class buck.
That was Wayne National Forest. That was public hunting property. I’ve killed a lot of nice bucks down there. At that time, that would have been the biggest one ever. I don’t know what to say. It was easily 180 inches, typical twelve-point. He was at twelve yards and he walked away.
Mark’s being humble because the Hammer Buck is his buck. It grossed over 260, net at 254 1/8. It was taken 3 miles from his home in Huron County. It was not on public land. Tell us about that buck. That’s a once in a lifetime animal.
It definitely changed my life quite a bit. It’s the largest wild deer I’ve ever seen alive. It was 7.5 years old. That deer lived three miles from my home. I’ve only seen it twice before I killed it. He didn’t come out in the daytime much.
Tell us the story. You saw him twice. Did you have him on trail cameras during the night?
No, I didn’t run any trail cameras in that area. I was driving home one evening and I took a sharp curve in a road. I’ve seen two monster bucks out in the field. They were huge. It got in my head. I took my spotting scope and did old-school scouting. It was in July. I sat 30 days in a row for two hours every night with the spotting scope trying to find this deer. The 21st day I found him about ten minutes before dark. That was the only time I’ve ever seen him in the daylight before I killed him.
It’s not DIY. Do you have permission previously to get on the land? Did you have to ask for permission?
I could not get permission for the place I saw the deer. I had permission for some land very close. I decided that would be my only opportunity. I could not get permission for where the deer was spending most of its time. The spot that I hunted, twenty guys had permission to hunt. The main wood lot had a lot of pressure on it. I shot the deer in the little chunk of brush that most rabbit hunters wouldn’t even pay attention to.
Why did you pick that?
It was the only place that there wasn’t any pressure that I could hunt. It was 50 yards off an interstate highway where I shot that deer. There were trees big enough to put a stand but nothing that looked like the woods. It was mostly brushy, little grass. It was a skinny little strip. There was deer sighted there. There were no treestands for several hundred yards. That made all the difference.
Did you use a climber to hang on, a ladder?
I hung a stand up the first week of August and I shot the buck on November 4th, the second day I hunted him.
How did you decide to hunt those days?
The wind is the main thing. It’s 90% of it. I waited until the last week of October and all the conditions were right. I had good wind. I thought by then that the buck might be leaving his core area and come into where I could hunt him, hopefully in the pursuit of does. I hunted it one day and I had a beautiful 140 and some inch eight-point come right under me. The next day I hunted it, everything was right. An hour and a half into the hunt, I had him on the ground.
This is just a synopsis. Were you written up in other magazines?
It’s interesting how Mark thought this out. He got away from the pressure. He knew the deer was there, that was a given. He had to figure out how to hunt him. He hung a stand in August and didn’t hunt it until November. He let a 140 go because he knew Mr. Wonderful was there. The next day, he came through. How did you decide where you’re going to put your stand?
Fortunately, it was fairly easy for me to decide. There weren’t all that many big trees in the section that gave me enough cover and that we’re on a good enough trail that I thought I could get a shot. The main thing was everyone else that hunted that whole section walks in the same way every time they hunted. I’ve hunted that place before. The deer bed right at the front of the woods and they watch people walk in the trail. Once they’ve seen you, the game’s over for the day. Every person I’ve seen hunt walks the same trail. I walked three-eights of a mile out of my way to avoid anywhere where the deer can see me from where they normally bed. It made all the difference. If I’d walked on the same trail everyone else walked in, I don’t think I would have ever seen that deer.There’s no better big game animal in North America to hunt than the whitetails. Their senses are almost unrivaled. Click To Tweet
There’s a tip, folks. Any time we go into the stand, forget the habit, change it up, specifically on the wind, but have different pathways into there. Do not go the same way two days in a row. Mark, what are your thoughts on that?
I would almost never hunt the same stand twice in the same week. I try to make myself hard to pattern and keep the pressure on the spots light. Everybody nowadays practices the same control, which is great. I’ve talked to many of my friends. They spray down, they take showers and they do all stuff. They go sit in the tree for four hours or six hours. Almost nobody ever sprays down again before they come out. There you are breathing all over yourself and building scent the whole time. You crawl down and touch everything at the base of your tree. Nobody ever thinks about being scent-free again then. I would strongly suggest people have a bottle with them and spray everything down thoroughly before you come down out of your stand. That’s when you’re going to leave the scent behind.
You are a scent control freak, aren’t you?
I have a little OCD about it. I’ve been made fun of a bit not quite as much since I got the Hammer Buck though.
I’ve got a pleasant surprise. You have agreed to do a scent control episode. Let’s talk about detailed hunt logs. Guys talk about them. I keep a hunt log, not as thorough as I’d like. I do write up every session I’m in the woods. Talk to me about your hunt logs.
When I look back on a hunt log, sometimes it’s not as detailed as I would have liked either. You get caught up in the moment. You get busy and you forget. I try to write the wind conditions, direction, wind speed and temperature, moon face and position, and the number of deer sightings. That only takes two or three minutes to jot down. If you look back and start paying attention to that, it starts putting things into perspective. You do the same thing with trail cameras. If you keep an accurate log of the weather and then compare your trail camera sightings to those conditions, you’ll start seeing when those big bucks are going by there. You’ll start seeing that it’s not random.
Do you call deer come in 9:00, 12:00, 3:00 or 6:00? How do you denote how they came into the stand?
Most of my stands have more defined travel routes than that. They would probably be 9:00 or 6:00, 6:00 or 12:00. There wouldn’t be so many but yes, I usually put down what direction the deer were coming from. I would say 90% of my sets, the deer are traveling one direction in the morning and maybe the opposite in the evening.
Left to right, or right to left?
I’m getting granular or micro on this, but it’s important because then you can combine the moon phase, the wind, the barometer, all these things you throw in. A deer would come in one way or another with these conditions and then you can anticipate which way they should come from. Mark, what are your thoughts on that?
The barometer is another thing that’s often overlooked. The wind is number one. To me, the primary of all is the wind. The barometer and the moon position, they have to be right there neck and neck. Everybody knows that if it’s been hot for a week and you get a cold front, the deer are going to move. The barometer will tell you a lot more than watching the weather will.When hunting, the barometer will tell you a lot more than watching the weather will. Click To Tweet
The other thing you do is food plots. They are in your family but you have never hunted deer there. What’s up with that?
If I had hundreds of acres, I’m sure we probably would have. I’ve had food plots for a few years now. I had a 170-inch buck that was feeding there fairly regularly one year. I only own ten acres. I’m bordered by National Forest property all around me. All my neighbors are trying to shoot him, too. I do hunt a few hundred yards off my property in the National Forest ground. I like them to have one place where I know they’re safe and they can feed at their leisure. I’ve got an eight-year-old son who’s going to take up hunting in another year or two, bowhunting. I’m pretty sure he’ll be the first person to kill a deer off my property.
That’s the hunting tradition. Talk about where your hunting tradition started.
It has to be with my father. I don’t remember it so clearly, but my mom and everyone tells a story of what I asked for my third birthday was I wanted to go coon hunting with my dad. He took me. I do remember us getting coon. That’s probably my earliest hunting memory. I was in the woods with him every day I got a chance after that. He taught me everything I knew to get my first deer. I’ve been working with him and myself and building on it from there.
One thing you said when you turned and you saw a couple of monster bucks out in the field is you went old school and took out your spotting scope. I call it long-distance scouted those bucks. Tell me about that and why you do it.
That’s my primary scouting method. I have a couple of cameras. I keep them on my property so I know who’s there and if I’m getting trespassers. I keep track of my deer. Hunting the national forest property so much, I don’t have any exclusive permission. Any place I hunt is high pressure. Cameras get stolen. To me, it takes a little bit away from it. I think people get so caught up in the camera sometimes that they forget how to hunt deer. You might not always find the biggest deer in the woods, but you’ll find the big buck that’s leaving that sign if you’re willing to look for him. When the leaves come off especially, I sit the hilly national forest ground. I’ll sit right on the road and I can see for half a mile. I’ll sit at a high spot. In the winter when the leaves are off, you can watch those deer coming out of the bedding spots and see where they’re feeding and how they’re traveling. That’s more rewarding to me than looking at pictures.
Do you have a window mount for your spotting scope so you can sit, drink your coffee, and stay warm?
I do have a window mount, but more often than not I have a tripod set up in the back of my truck. I’m right there standing to get a little higher vantage and glassing all over. I glass the bean fields around my house in the summer months. My son, my wife and I go out and do it together. You’re so far away that you’re not doing any damage. It’s no impact at all rather than go back every week and chase the deer around, pulling my camera. The camera only watches a tiny spot. I can watch a square mile almost.
Hunting as I do out west, I learned a long time ago from an old outdoor guide guy. He said, “Bruce, forget about walking ten miles.” He told me a ridge to go to. He said, “Put your buck there, pack your lunch, stay there all day and tell me how many elk you see.” I had a nice spotting scope with some pretty good glasses. I was amazed. That changed how I hunted everything.
Those guys out west, they’ve been doing that kind of scouting for years. You don’t see it around here. It’s surprising to me. It’s an invaluable tool. If more hunters tried it, they would take a lot of pleasure in it, too. It’s a good time. You’re looking at deer. You can hang out with your family. You don’t have to go through all the rigors that you go through during the season. It’s laid back and you’ll see a lot of deer.
The proof is in the pudding. I’m not going to promote any one company but there are all sorts of adapters that you can put your smartphone on your spotting scope and take long-range pictures.
I haven’t gotten one of those yet but I’ve seen them. I’ve seen some of the pictures. It’s amazing. It’s like you bought a $5,000 camera just to get the zoom quality.
There’s no question about it. My sheep hunting friends, goat hunting friends, people that are a mile or two away, they’re spotting game. They do that all the time. I was with one guy and we were glassing for mule deer bucks. He put the phone adapter on and took a picture and sent it to a guy that he had as a client. The guy was there the next day after that he shot it. It’s a true story in Colorado. I’m not going to tell you the unit. It’s amazing what technology can do for us. Don’t overlook it.
No, it’s definitely come a long way. I don’t have a problem with the trail cameras. They’re a great tool. I just haven’t got into them as much as a lot of people do. I said a lot of it is probably because if you put them out in the national forest ground, especially during the season, you might as well be donating them. Unfortunately, a lot of hunters aren’t ethical about that stuff. Not only will they steal your cameras if you got them in a good spot, then they’ll know you have a great, big buck there, too. That’s almost worse.
Tell me why you DIY hunt all the time.
It’s more satisfying to me. I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to become what I think is a fairly efficient hunter. It means more to me to go out on my own and do the work. Even if the reward is not as great, I know I earned it myself. That means something to me. I would love to have a large section of private property to hunt, don’t get me wrong. I get more satisfaction out of the public land hunting than I could anywhere else. You feel like you earned everything you get there.
We’re going to throw a little family humor. Talk to me about Mark and Mindy. Where did that come from?
That’s an ongoing thing. My wife’s name is Mindy. We’ve heard about every Mork and Mindy joke there can be. The scent control section or little addition I do with you, half of that time is going to be me apologizing to her for what she has to go through every fall.
I’ve been married for 46 years. My wife knows when hunting season is coming. She sees me morphing about July, getting all my gear ready depending on what I’m hunting and where I’m going. She says, “Could you just sit down and tell me where you’re going to be?”
The worst thing I make her do is every year around Labor Day, I clean our washer and dryer out thoroughly. We only use scent-free hunter’s washing detergent from that point until the end of deer season. Every garment in our house is washed only in scent-free detergent and scent-free fabric softeners.
There are some tricks to that. We’ll talk about those tips and techniques about the options you do have for finding no brighteners, no scent, just detergent. There are some interesting tips on that. Let’s talk about why whitetail deer are your passion.
Growing up in Ohio, I started out hunting squirrels and rabbits. Those things are great. Every kid should start out doing that. I still enjoy it. As far as a big game animal goes, the whitetail is the only option we have. I don’t think there’s a better big game animal in North America to hunt. Their senses are almost unrivaled, especially if you get a mature animal. They’re readily available. It was a no brainer for me to start hunting whitetail deer. I fell in love with them. I’d love to shoot some other species. I have an elk hunt planned but it’s going to be hard for anything to ever replace the whitetail deer to me. They’ve got it all.
It’s incredible when you get to talking about whitetails. You’ve got a great resume. You’ve got a great background. I’m so pleased that you’re on the show.
Thank you, Bruce. I enjoyed being on. Hopefully, you’ll ask me again if I wasn’t too boring.People get so caught up in the camera sometimes that they forget how to hunt deer. Click To Tweet
It’s outstanding. Before we go, do you have a couple of shout-outs you want to give?
I’d love to shout-out to Nick Percy in Killer Food Plots. They’re the guys that keep all the big bucks coming to my property year after year. I’ll probably shoot one for them. Conquest Scents by Doug Roberts has a great product, EverCalm. Lou Grace from G5, Grace Engineering. They make the best bows and broadheads on the market.
I shoot G5s. I’ve talked to them. They’re out of Michigan, I believe. Is that correct?
Yes, they are.
I’ll give a shout-out for G5. I haven’t seen a moose taken with them yet. From elk to bear to whitetails, they’re deadly. They’re well-made, well-balanced and you can spin them. They don’t wobble at all.
I’ve shot 28 deer in a row with my T3 from G5. I have recovered every one. I’ve seen all but two of them fall. You’ll never see me shooting another broadhead.
The guys from G5, who’s the guy you know there?
Lou Grace is the owner. He’s a super guy. You’d never think he owned a corporation like that. He’s easy to talk to like you or I and probably friendlier than me.
You’ve done pretty well here. Mark Hammer, thank you for being a guest on Whitetail Rendezvous.
Thanks for having me, Bruce. Any time. It was my pleasure.
A quick shout-out to all those who have left an iTunes review and feedback. I get those and appreciate them. It’s awesome to see what you have to say. We do read every single one of them. I want you to know that I’m incredibly grateful for your kind words regarding the show. All the ratings and reviews help us attract more audience.
- Mark Hammer
- Boone &Crockett
- Sound Barrier
- Bowhunter Magazine – article
- North American Whitetail – article
- Killer Food Plots
- Conquest Scents
- iTunes – Whitetail Rendezvous
About Mark Hammer
He is an avid sportsman and owner of Antler Action Outdoors. He has been a passionate bowhunter for over 25 years and a fishermen for over 30 years. In 2014, he shot the “Hammer Buck ” with a compound bow. It was the largest free-range whitetail buck taken in North America that year, with any weapon. He has written articles on deer hunting for many national outdoor publications.
He also have a patented deer call of his own design, the Antler Action Rattle call. He is currently on pro staff for 9 outdoor companies and have successfully guided hunts for whitetail deer and black bear. He has also guided fishing trips for walleye and steelhead trout, both on open water and through the ice. He has been a journeyman bricklayer for 16 years, but hope to replace this portion of his income with something in the outdoor industry in the near future.