It was a chance with fate that placed Jeff Kaiser in a stand overlooking a small watering hole on a Licking County farm last November. The brushy hillside behind him was ideal bedding cover and the fields around him were chest high with thick weeds, but this place was not his ideal setting that morning.
Growing up in Minster, Ohio, Jeff began pursuing deer when he was 18 years old, hunting in the flat farming country around Auglaize and Shelby counties. Now 45, Jeff has harvested several nice bucks over the years.
Five years ago, Jeff and two partners, Mike and Jon Wente, received word about a Licking County farm they might be able to hunt.
“So we called and (the landowner) said no,” said Kaiser. “He said that he and his nephews hunted the farm, so we couldn’t. We told him that if he changed his mind to please let us know. Later he called back and said, ‘We’ve got deer problems here, so it isn’t going to hurt if you guys bowhunt.’”
Licking County is one of the top deer counties in Ohio, and is also a top county for entries into the Buckeye Big Buck Club in Ohio. Last year, Licking County hunters tagged 7,819 whitetails and Auglaize County deer hunters harvested only 737 deer during the same period. It’s easy to see why Jeff and his pals jumped at chance to hunt there.
It’s a large farm with plenty of crops and cover and lots of elbow room, according to Kaiser.
“It’s got rolling hills with a lot of oaks,” said Jeff. “Most of the fields are small with woody fingers, creeks, brushy cover and fence lines. It’s a good mix of habitats, with corn, soybeans, alfalfa. Good deer food.”
Jeff and his two buddies make the 2 1/2-hour trip east across the state to the Licking County farm about four times a year to hunt.
“We load up on a Thursday night, hunt the weekend, then come home,” said Jeff. “During the rut, we’ll take vacation and spend the whole week (there).”
The trio usually starts hunting the opening weekend of bow season and tries to get in as many hunts as possible before gun season arrives, but hunting season is not the only time they make the trip to Licking County.
The three hunters try to scout the property as much as possible during the off-season.
“We’ll try to get there three times during the off-season,” said Jeff. “We’ll make a trip in spring to look for sheds. In July we’ll split up and watch bean fields. Then just before season opens, we’ll set out some portable stands.
“We use a lot of hang-ons, and I bring some climbers. We stay portable and move around a lot. We’ve nicknamed the various spots — the Pine Thicket, the Straights — and they’re far enough apart we’re not interfering with one another. We respect each other’s space.”