When Mark Drury talks about the bond he has with his daughter, Taylor, he often reaches for his cell phone and starts calling up photos.
No, not school pictures. Or pictures of his daughter on her first bike. Or cheerleader photos.
There’s one with a toddler dressed in a camouflage dress, perched on her dad’s knee as he displays a turkey he shot. There are a progression of photos of Taylor through the years, both as a hunter and as a young lady. And there’s also one of her all grown up, sitting with her dad, bright-pink fingernail polish showing, as she poses with the huge buck she took last winter.
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“She has taken probably 50 deer and 20 turkeys, and every one with me,” said Drury, who is one of the stars of the nationally known Drury Outdoors operation that is seen on dozens of hunting videos and several television shows. “And most of them were captured on video.
“She has been hunting with me since she was able to walk. I cherish my time in the woods with her.”
Taylor, 19 and a junior at the University of Missouri, blushes just a bit when Mark acts like a proud dad. But not much.
She takes pride in the fact that she is part of hunting’s “first family.” Drury Outdoors is an institution to serious hunters of deer, turkeys and other big game. Mark, his brother Terry, Terry’s son Matt and Taylor are familiar faces to those who follow the family on videos and television shows.
They also represent the changing face of hunting. Yes, there are still plenty of father-son trips taken each fall. But there also are are a growing number of father-daughter outings.
That was obvious last weekend when Mark and Taylor greeted their fans during the Fall Hunting Classic at the Cabela’s store in Kansas City, Kan. One girl sheepishly approached Taylor and said, “I’ve never hunted, but I’ve watched you on TV and it looks like fun. I’d like to get started this year.”
Taylor smiled and answered, “That’s great. You’ll have to email me some pictures after you take your first deer.”
For the Drurys, that’s what it’s all about — spreading the word that hunting can be a family sport, an inclusive venture.
It’s not always easy. Mark soberly notes that his daughter has even had death threats over her enthusiastic support of hunting.
But the good times far outweigh the bad times, both say. They have been featured in dozens of videos and television shows, giving the viewers the true view of what hunting is all about. You don’t just sit down in the woods, pull the trigger and that’s it. It takes scouting, strategy, attention to detail, scent control and a little bit of luck to take a big deer.
Taylor still smiles broadly when she recalls a memorable moment in January when she took a giant buck, her biggest ever, on family land in Iowa.
“It was freezing cold and I didn’t want to get out of bed,” she said with a laugh. “But my dad said, ‘Come on, the deer will be on the move today. Everything’s perfect.’
“We got in this box blind, and about an hour into the hunt, this huge buck walked out. It had a very distinctive rack. My dad had seen it in 2010, but we thought he had died. We hadn’t seen him since.
“He was like a ghost from the past.”
Taylor shot the deer and later found that its huge rack grossed 177 points, a trophy in anyone’s book.
Mark also has been on many exciting hunts. He can tick off the stats on his most memorable hunt, when he took a buck that had a rack so big that he called it “Sky Scraper.” “Shot it at 9:05 a.m., Nov. 9th,” he said.
The pursuit of deer and turkeys has always been in his blood. He remembers growing up in a rural area, where 4 miles of timber stretched out the back door to the Mississippi River.
He got started on his own when he was 14, taking off not far from the back door. But the results weren’t exactly Drury-like.
“I sat in the woods for seven days and never even saw a deer,” he said. “But that didn’t get me down. It just inspired me to learn more about deer.”
The next year he traveled farther into the woods, following the advice of his brother, and shot his first deer. And that started a career in hunting.
Mark and Terry became known for their success in hunting both deer and turkeys, and Mark attracted attention by winning several national turkey calling contests. At one point, Mark made a video of a hunt and submitted it to a distributor.
“I thought it was pretty good, but he told me I’d have to do better,” Drury said. “He gave me some advice and we followed it.”
Mark and Terry released their first video in 1989, and they’ve been going strong ever since. Today, they use innovative camera angles and a distinctive type of storytelling to make viewers feel as though they were along for the hunt.
“When we first started making videos, we just wanted to make enough money to pay for a few hunts,” Drury said. “This has far exceeded anything we ever thought it would.”
Tips on deer hunting: From the expert’s mouth
Mark Drury, the star of Drury Outdoors videos and television shows, knows deer.
He has taken dozens of trophies over the years, and his advice has helped many hunters succeed over the years.
Here are some of his tips:
▪ OBSERVATION: Become a student of whitetails, he advises. Get in the woods as often as possible and determine the habits of the deer — their trails, their bedding areas, their feeding grounds, the places they make scrapes and rubs. Invest in good optics and observe the deer from a distance. Don’t push them during scouting trips and ruin your chances for getting a close shot in the fall.
▪ TRAIL CAMERAS: Keep tabs on the deer by setting up trail cameras in those key spots. Determine the size of the bucks and what they are doing. Set up trail cams in numerous spots so that you can determine which area has the most potential.
▪ PLANTING THE FOOD: One of the keys to deer hunting is “sweat equity,” Drury said. That means doing plenty of work on your land to ensure that deer have food plots to attract them and provide them with good nutrition .
▪ TREE STANDS: Mark and Terry believe in putting out many tree stands on the land they will hunt. Then they mark them with a GPS so they can get to a specific stand in the dark. They select the tree stand they will use on a specific day by wind direction, which area trail cameras indicate a big buck is using, and time of the year.
▪ LEAVE LITTLE TRACE: The Drurys have all their tree stands in place by mid to late August. Then they leave them alone until they are ready to hunt. That way, there is no human scent.
Tuning in: When to watch Drury Outdoors
The series “Thirteen,” starring Mark, Terry, Taylor and Matt Drury, airs on the Outdoor Channel at 9 p.m. Tuesday and is repeated several times during the week.
The series Bow Madness, starring Mark and Terry Drury, also airs on the Outdoor Channel at 5 p.m. Monday and is repeated several times during the week.
Two other series produced by Drury Outdoors, Natural Born and Dream Season, air on the Pursuit Channel at varying times during the week.