September 26, 2018
By Lynn Burkhead
Since their humble beginnings in 1989, brothers Mark and Terry Drury have turned their passion for hunting big deer into one of the most successful businesses in the outdoor industry. Known for their superb videos and television shows, Drury Outdoors has steadily meshed the art of depicting entertaining deer hunts with ongoing down-in-the-dirt level education.
With the addition of Terry’s son, Matt, and Mark’s daughter, Taylor, to the DOD team in recent years, the bar continues to be set even higher in terms of deer hunting entertainment and education.
But as the show continues on, Mark and Terry both desire to leave behind a deer-hunting game in the woods that is better than they found it. That’s where the brand-new DeerCast hunting app enters the picture.
“It's something that we've talked about for a long time, but we didn't know how to convey it,” said Mark. “We get asked a lot of questions each fall about deer hunting, so I guess in a way, it’s kind of a little self-preservation. Now, I guess we can say, tongue-in-cheek of course, just check the app.”
Brother Terry agreed, noting that the project is an easy outflow from the close to 90 years of hunting experience that he and his younger brother have chasing big whitetails in the woods.
“I’ve been hunting something like 50 years and Mark has been hunting 40 plus years,” said Terry. “We’re both very analytical and very observant, so we’re constantly thinking about deer hunting. That’s particularly true when it comes to thoughts about what makes a whitetail deer move during daylight hours, particularly when it’s a mature deer.”
In recent years, the Drury brothers began to distill all that experience of chasing big whitetails into the revolutionary THIRTEEN television program that airs weekly on Outdoor Channel.
While deer hunting literature and TV programs of the past talked about the pre-rut, the rut, and the post-rut, Mark and Terry have taken those ideas even further by breaking down the whitetail season into thirteen different phases. Their hunting tactics are tailor made to each phase in an effort to help hunters put a big daylight walker buck on the ground.
While the DOD television programs and the company’s corresponding video products have done a superb job of conveying the concepts of Thirteen to the deer hunting community, in this age of social media and mobile devices, Mark and Terry were convinced there was a better mousetrap.
According to the two brothers, the idea of DeerCast has been in place for a couple of years now, with Mark noting that work on the app began in earnest after the 2017 SHOT Show.
“We worked with an app developer, who is coincidentally also a pilot, and understands weather intimately,” said Terry. “Together, we created an algorithm that incorporated 11 deer movement influencers during the 13 different phases of the fall.”
After several months of putting the app together and tweaking it, the project went live and into beta testing during the fall of 2017.
“We chose the 11 influencers that we felt like were the most influential in terms of daylight deer movement,” added Mark. “Sometimes those influencers, they suppress it (daytime deer movement), sometimes they enhance it. They include temperature, change in temperature, wind direction, wind speed, change in wind speed, cloud cover, barometric pressure, change in barometric pressure, precipitation, change in precipitation, and moon phases.”
Mark noted that all of these influencers are carefully weighted for how they influence deer movement during the 13 different phases of the whitetail autumn.
“As you know, we believe wholeheartedly that there are 13 phases each fall when it comes to whitetails and what they do,” he said. “But the influencers can cause different things at different times of the season. For instance, cloud cover certainly influences deer movement positively in phase one, but not so much later in the year during phases 12 and 13. The algorithm picks (that) up.”
Currently available for free on iOS and Android devices, DeerCast shows five days of information when a user opens it up. With the day’s predicted weather conditions, forecast temperature ranges, temperature averages, the current moon phase, sunrise and sunset times, current barometric pressure, and wind information, there’s a wealth of data in one place.
But when a user clicks onto each individual day, that information gets turned into a deer hunting forecast for the day — either through a daily summary page or a detailed hour-by-hour page — that analyzes expected deer movement through four predictors (great, good, poor, and bad) that are displayed on a timeline that progresses from morning to evening hours.
Add in numerous videos and explanations from Mark and Terry that help hunters understand the day’s DeerCast and appropriate hunting tactics, and there has never been anything quite like this in the deer hunting community.
“We feel like we've cracked the code to some extent,” said Terry.
Both brothers note the algorithm is only as accurate as the weather forecast, with data from the Weather Channel being fed into the DeerCast app for your location on an hourly basis.
“It tells you when you can optimize your days afield, stacking the odds in your favor as you play the chess match with the deer you’re hunting,” said Terry. “While it can’t seal the deal for you, it does tell you when you’ve got higher odds of seeing whitetails on their feet during daylight hours.”
Mark notes DeerCast also depends on the peak of the rut in the local woods that a user hunts.
“We gave the user the ability to either slide a scale for the peak rut dates in their location, or to simply let the app plug in the peak rut data automatically,” he said. “After that, the algorithm does the rest.”
All of this sounds cool, but deer hunters can be a skeptical bunch, which begs the question of “Does DeerCast really work?”
“We learned a lot last year as we and some of our hunting friends tested it out,” said Mark. “I personally tested it across four different states and it was spot on, regardless of the location or geography that you’re hunting. With various family members, partners, and hunting friends, we tested it in 13 or 14 different states last fall, and again, overall, it was close to 90-percent accurate.”
While the Drury brothers have cut their deer hunting teeth in the big-buck-rich midwest, Mark is quick to point out that it works in any geographical location, tailoring forecast information to the weather and rut data for that particular spot. Add in some tweaking that includes some built-in algorithm “pessimisms” like increased hunting pressure in heavily hunted states, and the result is a superb tool in the modern-day deer hunter’s arsenal.
Beyond helping hunters achieve big buck success, the Drury brothers also believe this could be their most important contribution to the deer hunting community at large.
“It’s a great educational tool,” said Mark. “It gives you the influencers that are working that day, then uses video content that helps you understand why we said it is going to be a great day or a poor one. In essence, we’re giving you the answers to the test.”
“It’s a free app, how can you go wrong with a free app?” chuckled Terry. “Try it, pick it apart this fall, give us feedback so we can make it even better. Now if you don’t play the wind right, if you take a bad route to your stand, there’s some coyotes that show up, or a neighbor runs through your property with a pack of dogs, this isn' t going to work as well. When it comes to outside influencers like people, farm work, or predators, we cannot control that. But what we can control is predictors of daytime deer movement and the weight that they are given throughout the season.”
The bottom line is that the Drury Brothers believe in this app, its instructional and entertaining videos, its bonus content from folks like Mossy Oak, and its educational opportunities.
“I’m very confident in this app,” said Mark. “Add in over 30,000 minutes of edited content, including 10,000 minutes from our friends at Mossy Oak, and you’ve got our entire Drury Outdoors video library accumulated over 30 years’ worth of time. And this year, we’ve got a new feature where we’re going to show every single kill this fall from our DOD team members and then explain and talk about how it went down. What we’re ultimately trying to do is build up a hunter’s base of knowledge.”
Mark also notes he and his brother are simply building even more upon the shoulders of many other deer hunting experts and pioneers.
“I read everything that Gordon Whittington writes in North American Whitetail, I listen to what Stan Potts says, I listen to what Lee Lakosky says, I listen to what Don Kisky says, and I certainly listen to everything that brother Terry says,” said Mark. “A long time ago, I figured out that oftentimes, the smartest guy in the room is the one who asks the question, is quiet during the response and soaks it all up like a sponge.
“That’s why it pays to listen to the Bill Winke’s of the world, the Dan Perez’s of the world,” he added. “My deer hunting career goes back to Roger Roathaar and Barry and Gene Wensel, the ones who were writing books and stories when I got started back in the 1980s. They all helped light a fire in me, that there is more to this deer hunting thing than simply going out and finding a deer trail and sitting on it.”
With all that knowledge in mind, Terry says DeerCast aims to give today’s deer hunters another tool in their backpack designed to help stack the odds more in their favor.
“We’ve got better scent control, grunt tubes and rattling antlers, deer scents, etc.,” he said. “Our bows are better, our rifle scopes are better, our bullets and shooting ranges are better. This is simply one more tool to add in and use in your chess match with the buck that you are chasing.”
A tool that helps a deer hunter make a successful shot from a treestand or ground blind, quietly whispering “Checkmate!” at the end of the woodsy game.