Every single deer taken is a trophy. However, archery hunting enthusiast Marv Shear believes the deer may the target but all the other things make the hunt, not the deer. Marv’s introduction to archery hunting was by a guy he was working side-by-side with. They didn’t like each other that much until they both learned they shared a passion for hunting. From that moment on, he was taken under his mentor’s wing who happened to be big into bow hunting, and that got the spark started. Marv shares some family hunting traditions, hunting with his sons, the ins and outs of hunting Buffalo County, and the lessons he learned from it.
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Buffalo County Secrets Exposed with Marv Shear
This is a real treat for me with Marv Shear. He’s the youngest of the Shear brothers and a good friend of mine who passed a few years back, Harry Shear, who helped me get into hunting. He was a hunting mentor for me. Marv lives in La Crosse, Wisconsin and hunts Buffalo County and has for a number of years. I wanted to get Marv on the show and share his hunting tradition and all about hunting Buffalo County. Welcome to the show, Marv.
Thanks for having me.
It’s a pleasure. Let’s talk about that hunting tradition and how you started off as a kid doing deer drives up at Eddie and Lester’s along the Buffalo River and all of the places that your dad took you to. Let’s talk about when you started hunting and how all that developed.
Dad was always big into hunting and fishing, but he worked out of town Monday through Thursday. He’d get home late Thursday night. Friday was usually his day to catch up around the house, vehicle maintenance, all that stuff. If we’re lucky, we got to do some hunting or fishing on Saturday. Sunday was the day that was dedicated to the family hunting. That was always a favorite day of most of us in the family. Even my sisters hunted small game and they deer hunted and everything. Before I could hunt legally, I tagged along Gary and my dad and squirrels. There was a lot of grouse around at the time so we did some grouse hunting, rabbit hunting in the winter. We ate a lot of wild game on the table and grew up on that. It was part of the family tradition and had lots of relatives, aunts, uncles, cousins that hunted. We always look forward to the gun season. Back then nobody bow hunted, but it was always about the gun season and the anticipation of the gun season. We didn’t do a whole lot of scouting for deer per se. We went along with small game hunting. The weekend before the gun season we would select our favorite rock. Nobody used tree stands back then, but a favorite rock or a tree to sit by and wait for daylight opening morning and good things happened from there.
Where were you guys living at that time?
We lived in Hillsboro, a little town in Vernon County. There’s a rich hunting tradition around there. It was pretty rare that somebody didn’t do some form of hunting in that area.
Do you remember the deer drives that we used to do? I first came and met your dad and Dick Rogers and all the family in ‘66. How old were you then?
I was born in ‘62. I didn’t start hunting until I was twelve. I was always into it even before I could carry a gun myself. I always enjoyed tagging along on the drives and stuff. Typically, what would happen was opening morning we would all have our stand site and you’d hunt until noon. We’d go down to Lester for lunch and then the big group would form and pretty much from then on it was deer drive.
The groups were pretty big, weren’t they? They were fifteen, twenty people?
We had a pretty good-sized group, twenty to 25 people. It was different back then as far as getting access to properties. Neighbors hunt and fence lines didn’t mean as much as they do now, good or bad. We didn’t have any problem finding places to hunt. We got plenty of venison because of it.
I can remember the days after the drives and everything, we’d hang up all the deer and then we’d go to work skinning them. They’d let them hang for a couple of days, but I remember those meals and everything. That’s part of the hunting tradition. That’s part of my hunting tradition because that’s where I started hunting. Harry was big on going out west.
I don’t remember the year that he started going out there. I know that he made several trips within, even right up to when dad was diagnosed with cancer and was having a tough time getting around. My mom went out a few times. She loved to antelope hunt. It was a pretty rare year that dad didn’t go out antelope and/or mule deer hunting, rifle hunting. They started out in South Dakota initially and then they started getting further west into Wyoming. Buffalo, Wyoming is where they finally ended up planting their roots and they hunted there many years. We as a family still go out there. Somebody goes out there almost every year.
Aren’t your brothers out there? Aren’t they going out for elk hunting?
We are leaving on an elk hunt.
You’re going with Gary and Jim?
Gary, Jim, and I and then a mutual friend of ours. We’ve been trying to draw this elk tag for a few years. It finally took nine points when we finally do the tag. We’re pretty excited about it.
What are some of your memories going back to when you first shot your first deer? Do you remember that?
I do. Back then it was four people per doe tag. It was a party tag and any one of the four people could shoot it. Once that deer was shot, you were done with that tag. It was a cherished thing. I remember hunting up on Lester’s. I know Eddie was in the area because somebody had kicked out a deer and Eddie maybe shot at it first and I don’t remember if he hit it. I do know it came by me and I shot it. I didn’t make a good shot on it. We caught up with it and got it harvested. I don’t remember my age. I probably was twelve or thirteen, either my first or second year of hunting. That was pretty exciting but I didn’t shoot a buck with my gun until I was nineteen years old. I hunted a few years. The deer weren’t as numerous then and it wasn’t as easy as it seems like it is now. I was nineteen when I shot my first little basket rack eight-pointer. I was pretty proud of that too.
Every single deer I’ve taken is a trophy. I know your whole family feels the same way about that. We didn’t archery hunt. When did you start archery hunting?
I’m a left-handed shooter and my brother Jim had a right-handed recurve. That’s what I hunted with for a couple of years in high school. Luckily, the deer were way smarter than I was and I don’t believe I ever got a shot at one even. Me and a couple of high school buddies, we had a blast going out with our bows. We thought we were pretty good stuff back then because there weren’t a whole lot of people bow hunting at that time. That was my introduction, but I didn’t seriously pick up a bow until I got out of college and I started a job. I met a guy who was working side-by-side with a guy who went to a high school nearby us. We were both big into sports and pretty competitive.
We didn’t like each other that much until the first break of the morning we went into the break room. We started work early and it was about 9:30 in the morning. Like always, I picked up a hunting magazine and he came over to me and he was like, “Marv, do you hunt?” I was like, “Yeah.” From that moment on, he was big into bow hunting and he took me under his wing and it got the spark started. I got a different bow and got that up and we spent a few years hunting together. We did some hunting over, around Lester and Eddie’s. It’s the same thing. I hunted for maybe three, four years before I got a deer with my bow. A nice little basket eight-pointer, but I was sure proud of that deer. From that point on, I gave up all other hunting as far as small game hunting. I got into bow hunting. To this day, I love it as I did on day one.
You’ve turned pretty good at it. You’ve hunted hard. It’s evident that you’re a true student of archery. What are some of the lessons that you learned early that you’re still applying now regarding archery hunting?
This gentleman I’m talking about also begun to target archery. He was a great instructor on not only becoming a good hunter but becoming a good archer, which is important because archery takes up a lot of time and money. If you don’t go out there with a lot of confidence in your shooting ability, it can distract from your experience. He was a great mentor because he was a good hunter. We got along great, but he focused in on the technical aspect of archery. Making sure your equipment was as good as you could afford. Making sure it was tuned well, paying attention to those details. Unfortunately, due to raising a family and time constraints, I don’t get out and shoot the 3D tournaments like I used to but I get to a few every summer and still enjoy them. To me, a relaxing evening is in my backyard with a couple of 3D targets and slings 30, 40 arrows. That’s my quiet time, my relaxation time.Archery hunting can be a complicated sport if you make it; the number one goal is to kill something. Click To Tweet
Your son’s starting to hunt with you. Has he killed his first buck yet or doe?
Both my sons, my oldest son is 23 and my younger son is 21. They both have been successful. In fact, my younger son has got a horseshoe. He’s killed a couple bucks with his bow. Twenty, 21 inches wide, nice deer. He seems to have that knack. A few years back, he was still able to hunt during the youth gun season. He hunted five times and it was back when we could shoot more than one buck in Wisconsin with a bow. He killed two bucks with a bow, one buck with a gun, and a doe each with his gun and bow. He’s patient. He’s a good hunter. He shoots pretty well. Both my kids are pretty accomplished hunters. My older son gets into other types of hunting. He likes to waterfowl hunt too. He has to split his time between some of those other sports, but he too enjoys deer hunting, bow hunting. They both have been pretty successful in their young careers.
Were they ever able to go out west with Harry and antelope hunt?
They haven’t. Pretty much all the other cousins who are older than my kids have been able to go out at least once. The year before dad passed away, he went out there with us. It was a tough trip for him because he was pretty much totally deaf and wasn’t able to get around well. He wanted to go and we wanted him to go. We took a separate vehicle out there so if something happened it would be easier to get around. I don’t remember the numbers but Gary, Jim, and I and there was probably five of the cousins, my dad, and then this mutual friend of ours that went out. We had a pretty good group. My nephews, three of them are going out to Idaho on a do-it-yourself backpack rifle, mule deer hunt. Dad did a nice job of planting that Western seed in us. We’re not going to be able to do it every year, but it’s a neat thing that he did to get that spark going in all of us.
You’ve heard me say this before but he lit the flame in me. I’ve hunted quite a bit and it’s all due to your dad and the stories and the passion that he instilled. I’m thankful for that.
There are lots of choices in life. Like I tell my kids, thankfully not every person on Earth has elected to become a hunter or fisherman because it would create an overcrowding situation. I’m thankful that we did get that seed planted and we’re fortunate in that we’re able to have a property to hunt and have the time and the financial means to do that.
What’s the one big thing that you wish you knew when you started archery hunting that you know now that you want to share with the audience?
It can be a complicated sport if you make it. What I call it is the evolution of a hunter. Our number one goal is to kill something. That’s important because that is a success. As we go on through your 30s and 40s and I’m into my 50s, I didn’t even draw my bow back. I certainly could’ve shot many deer. I passed up some pretty nice bucks. I never even drew my bow on a doe or a buck. I had a great year because I saw some things I’d never seen before. I always take at least two weeks off in the fall and I enjoyed every minute of it even though I didn’t harvest anything. I didn’t draw my bow back. I always have a video camera in my pocket. I videotape and I get as much joy out of going back home and putting it on the computer and showing people what I experienced. It’s what I refer to as the evolution of a hunter. You go from being a killer to coming down to the experience of all of it. It’s great when you get something to put your tag on, but if you don’t at least you’re not working.
I haven’t shot a deer in a few years. The last one I shot was on Eddie’s at the point stand. It was a gorgeous high tine buck. That was a fun opportunity to take a deer. I was excited because the way he was moving past me and I swung on him like shooting pheasant or a duck. I drilled them through both shoulders. It’s the whole experience. He’s in the bunkhouse hanging on the wall hanging up. I need to shoot. Eddie wants us to shoot some does, I know that. He has more does than he needs on that farm.
There’s that lake property right next to his and it’s a deer factory because there’s no hunting allowed on it. It’s a big sanctuary.
The problem is the bigger bucks and Garrett killed that 180 a couple of years ago that came right off there. It’s a gorgeous deer. There’s more of those deer like that, but they go nocturnal. I know you’ve got some pictures of big deer also off your trail cameras and they see them.
It’s amazing how these mature deer can look it. It’s almost like they have a clock on their wall and a calendar because it seems as soon as they shed velvet, they’re pretty hard to come by. That’s why even when it’s warm on opening weekend, it’s important to get out there because that’s probably your best chance to target a specific deer and certainly get something else. After that opening weekend, those mature bucks get smart in a hurry and it’s pretty tough to get one after that unless you spend a lot of time or have some luck on your side.
Let’s switch it up and let’s talk about hunting Buffalo County. How long have you been hunting Buffalo County? They don’t quite remember but I know you do have a place that you’ve been hunting for many years. I’d like to get into hunting Buffalo County because, by all accounts, Buffalo County is the number one Pope and Young and Boone and Crockett County in the country. Everybody knows about Buffalo County. Let’s go back to the beginning and how you found the farm you hunt on. Let’s talk about some of the bucks you’ve taken off it.
A friend of mine worked with this farmer’s wife and the farm was in an outfitting business. There was some conflict between the outfitter and the farmer because when the outfitter had his hunters out hunting, the farmer would be out trying to harvest his crop and the hunters and the outfitter didn’t like that. The outfitter went to the farmer and said, “You can’t be out in the fields when I’ve got hunters out.” I’m not going to use his name but he was like, “This is how I make my living. I’ve got to harvest my crops.” To make a long story short, he pulled the farm out of the outfitting business. A friend of mine who worked with the farmer’s wife, she came to him and said, “I know you’re a hunter. Would you be interested in hunting our farm?” He was fortunate to have access to a lot of property. He came to me as a friend and to this day I am thankful. He said, “Would you be interested in sharing this farm with me?” We went up and took a look at it. The answer was yes. We hunted together up there. Unfortunately, he was killed in an auto accident about a few years that we had it.
It was a tough decision to make on one hand because he was the one that got me there. I sat and talked with the farmer and his wife and my kids at that point were becoming old enough to hunt with me. They had young kids and they love my kids, I love their kids. They were like, “We want you to stay here,” so we did. It’s been myself and my kids for probably a few years. We’ve had it for many years. I’ve taken Jim and Gary up there. Gary shot a pretty nice buck up there the first year he came up. Jim has had some neat experiences up there with a decoy. The farmer’s kids came of age. The farmer’s so busy that he didn’t have time to introduce these kids to hunting. I took his two oldest kids out for their first hunt. It was a neat story. It was youth season and I took the daughter out. She had turned twelve and she’d never shot a deer before, never shot at a deer. We were sitting over a bean field and a deer started coming out. She was going to be happy to shoot a doe. There was some getting closer. We were getting ready for that.Opening weekends are a great chance to kill one of those big mature bucks. Click To Tweet
All of a sudden, these three bucks came out of the woods probably 300 yards away. I’m like, “Oregon, some deer came out of the woods and I think they’ve got horns.” She was like, “I’d like to shoot one of those.” I was like, “We’ve got a little time here. Let’s be patient.” To make a long story short, the biggest buck came about 100 yards away and she had trouble finding it in the scope and finally, she found it in the scope. I borrowed her a single shot of 0.243. She found it in the scope and she was like, “I can see it.” I was like, “Put it right on his shoulder and squeeze that trigger.” She did and she shot the buck. Unfortunately, she got scoped in the process and ended up with a nasty cut on the bridge of her nose as we all do at some point in time. This buck ended up field dressing 243 pounds. It didn’t have a big rack. It would have grossed in the 130s.
It was the biggest bodied deer I’ve ever seen in my life. We walked up to that thing and I couldn’t believe it. I may never see anything close to that. We took care of it that night, hung it in the shed. After school the next day, her dad took her into town with that buck. It was 24 hours after she shot it, that thing field dressed 243 pounds. That’s one of the things that I’ll never forget. The experience of hunting with her and talking with her and her first hunting and shooting that deer and getting scoped. She fell back off her chair and she was lying on the ground. We were in a ground blind. She was laying there dazed, didn’t know what happened. I’m trying to keep an eye on the buck and it ran twenty, 25 yards and stood there for a few seconds and dropped over.
She didn’t need stitches, did she?
No, she didn’t. It didn’t cut her deep but it gave her a half-moon. We’ve all been there. We’ve all done that one. I felt bad but she was speechless. First off, she didn’t realize she hit the deer. It’s a neat experience. I got some great memories up there.
How do you hunt Buffalo County? What’s your technique to making sure those mature bucks don’t know you’re there?
It’s all about limiting your imprint. The farm is about 500 acres, which sounds huge. There’s less than 100 acres of woods on it, maybe three or four little pieces. I don’t have any stands in the interior of those woods. Everything is on the outside of it. You got to try to play the wind direction. I’ll go up there opening weekend and hunt for a couple of evenings. I don’t hunt in the mornings. I’ll hunt a couple evenings to see what’s around. Maybe stay. Opening weekend is a great chance to kill one of those big mature bucks. After opening weekend, I lay low. I’ll go up there once a week for an evening and I’ve got a couple of stands that I call observation stands. They’re out in pastures where I can see the farm pretty well. I don’t go up there with the intention of being able to shoot anything but keep an eye on things. See what’s around. See if the deer are coming out in different spots or whatever. Usually, about the 20th of October is when I start getting daylight pictures of mature bucks. It will start out with the two-and-a-half-year-olds and then you’ll start catching some three-and-a-half.
Usually, around the 25th of October if the weather’s cool is when I’ll start getting the mature deer, but it’s a short window. In my opinion, some mature does will start coming into estrus right around that 22nd to 25th. Those biggest mature bucks are the ones that’ll lock down with them first. I moved my vacation up a week. I usually used to take the last week of October, the first week of November off. I moved my vacation up so I’m off starting about the 20th of October. Once those big bucks lockdown, it gets tough. They stay well when they’re between does. When they’re between does is at night and they hook up with another doe and then they’re back on lockdown. That’s just me. I’m not an expert. I spend a lot of time out there and I do a lot of reading. That’s my approach is low impact until the time is right and then you go to your best stand. I’ve got a handful of stands up there that are my go-to stands and I leave them alone until the time is right, and then I go in. I used to able to do all day. I can’t do that anymore. I have a bad back. I usually try to skip until noon or 1:00 and then I’ll go back and take a quick break. Maybe go to a field, that stand or something for the rest of the day. It’s all about low impact with those big mature deer.
Thinking about your trail camera set up, how many trail cameras do you run on those 100 acres?
Up there I only have a couple because Joe farms the farm hard. Even most of the woods get pastured in the summertime and the cattle love those cameras. They love to mess them up. I’ve only got two spots up there that are in wood that are protected by fences so the cattle can’t get in there. I only run a couple up there. There’s a nice creek that runs through there. I know the deer are using that creek but the cattle have access to it and I only run a couple up there. I was using some mineral but it got illegal. Unfortunately or fortunately those sites have been established for a few years and they’re still working those areas pretty hard. There’s a lot of mineral in the soil. They’ve got some pretty good holes dug there.
You had a creek running through it. Do you have any waterholes for the deer that you built or the farmer has?
No, it’s just the way the farm is set up. There is one good-sized pond but it’s out in a pastured area. I’m sure the deer use it. It’s pretty much at night I’m sure because it’s fairly exposed. Now that the season starts, I’ll start making some mock scrapes and I put my cameras over those mock scrapes. That’s where my cameras will stay until I’m done with them for the year.
With your mock scrapes, are you using rubbing posts and a licking branch? Are you putting the dripper above it?
This is a home contraction. I’m not an expert but this is what works for me. You always got to have a licking branch. I go in with rubber boots, rubber gloves when I establish it. Make a nice good sized scrape area and then I urinate in it. Every time I can get close to those scrapes, I urinate in them. That’s the only scent that I use. I know some people will say I’m a coot but I can tell you that is effective.
Why? Is it the salt in your urine? What do you think it is? I’ve heard that before.
It’s a curiosity thing. There’s a lot of urine out in the woods. Some people say human urine. It’s human urine but it’s urine. It’s fresh here and it’s pure. I’m one of these that I don’t take a bottle with me into the stand. I go right from my stand and I’ve had deer not want to leave because they’re curious about that scent. I don’t hesitate to use what nature gave us. It’s sure a lot cheaper than what you can buy in the stores and it’s effective. You got to have a licking branch. I’ve got some areas, some traditional scrape areas that I reopened every year and get a camera on them. I get some great pictures doing it that way.Don't hesitate to use what nature gave us. Human urine is a lot cheaper than what you can buy in the stores and it’s effective. Click To Tweet
What’s the largest buck you ever got on the trail camera?
There was a buck up there that we had nicknamed Tenner because he was a perfect ten from about age three-and-a-half up to six-and-a-half. A beautiful, tall, not super wide maybe had an eighteen-inch inside spread. G2s, G3s that were over a foot. When he was seven-and-a-half, he grew two more points. We still called him Tenner even though he was a twelve-pointer. He was a Boone and Crockett deer. He was somewhere in the 170s, might’ve pushed 180 as a typical giant deer. I only saw Tenner one time in the flesh. I had been to a stand. It was early October and the wind had switched and I got picked off by a couple of lesser deer and I’m like, “I’m out of here.” I left, got out of there, went down to where my camper was at but I could still see this field.
I was down there chilling, keeping an eye on the field. The sun was still well out. A good hour before it got dark. Tenner came out of the woods. Had I been there, he would’ve busted me long before he came out of the woods. That was the only time I saw that deer in the flesh, but I have thousands of pictures of him. As soon as I would put mineral out in the spring, he’d be the first buck on that mineral. He was not camera shy. He grew up around cameras and he would pose. That was when he was seven-and-a-half. That next January after he shed his antlers, he was taken with an ag tag with a rifle. That was the end of Tenner. He was a Booner. He was a giant deer.
What’s an ag tag?
Farmers can apply for them and they can shoot antlerless year round with those ag tags. At the time, there was a lot of deer up there. The farmers in the area were getting these ag tags and they were having sharpshooters come in. They were doing whatever they could do to cut down on the numbers of deer. In Buffalo County, there’s a ton of quality management, there’s a ton of outfitting. A lot of people go up there for horn and there’s not enough does shot. The farmers answer to that is when they get these ag tags for free through the state and they can shoot. It’s not unheard of for some of these guys to get twenty, 25 tags a year. They’ll shoot antlerless deer. Starting in December and well into January, especially these mature bucks are dropping their antlers. They come out of the woods at dusk and they get popped with a rifle. I know for a fact that Tenner was killed that way.
Did you ever find any in the sheds?
What he would do is he was on the neighboring property because it was lightly hunted, recently bought, and it was thick. That was where he was doing most of his bedding. He would come over for the crops and for this mineral. I would get lots and lots of pictures of him. In daylight, he was on this neighboring property where there was very little hunting pressure. He was at a nice sanctuary there. I was never able to find his shed because I’m sure they were in that sanctuary area.
What’s on your hit list? It’s September 11th.
It’s been a weird year. I’ve been behind on everything. We bought this new house and I mow two-and-a-half, three acres and that takes up a lot of time doing that. I’m behind on everything and then once we drew these, I’ll pay. That became my focus. I’m going to hunt a little bit, but I focused and geared up for this. Once we get back from that and I’ll switch gears and go back into whitetail mode. I’ve got a couple of weeks off in October, early November. I’ll get some quality stuff but at least for now I’m focused on this outcome.
I wish you well on that. I can’t wait to have a beer with you at Fishies or Remedy House. I’m not hunting Buffalo County but I’m going to be going up through there. I’m going to hunt birds with my friends from up there. They have that nice ten-pointer but nobody got him. We don’t have trail cameras yet but he’s a wonderful mature deer. I’m hunting Minnesota and I’ll be hunting Nebraska. I’m hunting in three states. I’ve got a busy October and November. I’ll be in your country about the whole month of November. I plan to be there for Halloween, forward someplace in Wisconsin hunting.
That’ll be great. We’ll have some stories to tell.
I hope you guys score in your elk. I know you’ve played in a number of years to get it. It’s been a tough year as far as I know. The place that I hunt, the elk were in the basin over the weekend and then they disappeared. I’m not even going to hunt again because I called the local and he goes, “Bruce, they’re not here. We can’t find them. We won’t be hunting here.” That’s what happens in elk hunting. Marv, it’s been a joy to have you on the show. I can’t wait to catch up and share some stories. I look forward to some pictures. Thank you so much and safe travels. I can’t wait to connect with you.
That sounds good. Thanks a lot.