The Wildgame Way
Busbices' Deer Camp mixes hunts with extensive product testing
Deer mounts taken by guests and clients sit on the floor waiting to be picked up. (Mike Suchan photo)
OLLA, La. – Big Bill Busbice was under the gun. The largest buck on this year’s Wildgame Nation hit list finally showed itself in daylight, but it was dwindling.
Available light to run cameras ends more hopeful TV hunts than anyone can count. It threatened to end Bill’s trophy quest, one he had spent the previous four days without a sniff.
“After the first little cool spell, he finally came out,” Bill said. “It was almost too dark for the camera. It was almost too late.”
There’s about a 10-minute window between not being able to video and the time you legally can’t shoot, and both Bill and cameraman Jordan Walden knew there were up against it if they wanted to capture the kill for “Wildgame Nation.”
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“It’s always difficult,” Walden said. “You always want to call them off when it’s getting too dark, but you can’t, not with a big buck like that.”
The buck and other deer with him nearly ended it for them, staying 200 yards away.
“That dude was looking right at us,” Bill said. “He looked at us for five minutes and the camera light was going down. Finally, he began walking toward the Sugarbeet Crush we had out.
“One thing Ryan always says, and I don’t do it all the time, is try to kill him using the product. You want to try to show the people how it works.”
There was still time, and light, but the deer were coming in slow. A small 8-pointer went off the trail and the big buck began to follow him.
“Thank God he stopped. He came back in to the products. For an old man, the heart start beating a little bit,” Bill said. “Time, time, time. Here we go. I shot and I saw the arrow on the other side of him. I missed.
Golly, I missed him.”
Walden reviewed the video and said, “Mr. Bill, I think you hit him.” They watched it three more times and finally got down in darkness and found the arrow covered in blood.
“I knew it was a good shot when I saw the color of the blood,” Bill said.
They trailed it for 80 yards then came upon Bill’s largest buck, a 168-inch trophy weighing 235 pounds. It is the second largest deer taken on the Wildgame property.
Bill’s son, Ryan, holds bragging rights of the largest there, a 173 while Matt has killed a 164. There have been other trophy deer taken, a number of bucks scoring in the 160s and 150s.
The Wildgame Way
Big Bill sold off his hot shot trucking business that expedited products for oil and gas companies. It afforded him the luxury of buying 56,000 contiguous acres in the piney woods of Louisiana. He built a gorgeous home and a Deer Camp for the Busbice boys and their business.
“It’s forestry,” he said. “We raise trees, sell trees, logs, lumber, paper products. That’s what we do, as well as we love to hunt.”
Bill was on the Louisiana Game Commission for 8 years and passed his knowledge on his sons, Ryan and Matt. In 2002, Ryan began Synergy Outdoors, which develops and markets a variety of hunting products under the Wildgame Innovations brand.
The Wildgame Nation property is a working testing ground for Ryan and Matt’s products. As Bill said, “We feed the heck out of them.”
Where there was a sparse deer herd, now it is strong, with trophy after trophy spotted on the numerous game cams around the 36,000 acres they hunt.
“We started managing it; We feed them and once they’re fat, they grow horns,” Bill said. “We do hunt it hard, but we don’t shoot little bucks. You got to let them get older.
“Another thing we try to do, we take out one to one. Kill a buck, kill a doe. If we take a buck out of stand A, we try to take a doe at stand A. There’s method to our madness here.”
While their Outdoor Channel show might make hunting appear simple, Matt said there is much more behind the scenes.
“People think we pour out this attractant, like Apple Crush or Sugarbeet Crush, and a monster comes up and they’re dead,” he said. “It looks easy, but it’s just not.
“From our stand placement, to cutting shooting lanes, to knowing what wind to hunt it, to monitoring it for months before, to building the roads into areas, everything from A to Z.”
Restraint on shooting decent bucks comes from extensive studying of game cameras. There are nearly 100 Wildgame Innovations cams set up and firing up the computer to check out the cards is a daily occurrence.
“I consider myself an average hunting, I am not a professional hunter,” Matt said, “but a lot of the deer I let walk, if I didn’t know I had something better in the woods, I would shoot.
“We have an obligation to practice the best deer management we can. Our company is about growing bigger deer, harvesting bigger deer and trophy hunting. It’s important our products work both for meat hunters and for trophy hunters.
“It needs to appeal to both, from our electronic products, our trail cameras, feeders, range finders, all the way to our feed and seed products, attractants, supplements, minerals. That’s a part of our Deer Camp. Here’s a prototype, we want to revolutionize the way people hunt with this product.”
The Wildgame Saloon
Adjacent of Big Bill’s home is the epicenter of the Deer Camp, the Saloon. And it’s nice digs.
Walk in through the double doors to a large fully customized deer hunter’s dream: full kitchen, dining area, lounge area with big screen blasting Outdoor Channel, pool table, apartment upstairs and three-car garage below for the hunting equipment.
A row of trophy mounts are over the plate glass windows allowing a view of the lake, and most Pope and Young class – “It doesn’t have to be a hammer, it has to be a man.” A row of clients’ mounts sits on the floor waiting to be picked up.
“After every hunt,” Matt said, “everybody comes in here. We fix a drink, we eat and we tell what happened on the hunt.”
Some wild things have happened in the saloon, wilder than the practical jokes and arm wrestling.
“Last year this turned into a tattoo parlor,” he said. “Willie Robertson, Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean all got tatted up in this room. They flew in a guy from L.A. and he was tatting them up with the Buck Commander logo.”
Jackie Bushman has visited several times and the Wildgame crew pranked the ophidiophobe.
“We actually Bushwhacked him,” Matt said. “We put a live snake (nonvenonmous) in a box right outside the Saloon. ‘Hey Jackie, one of the sponsors sent a box for you, some product you need for a hunt.’ ”
Deathly afraid of snakes, Bushman opened the box then squealed and tossed his knife in the snake’s direction.
Big Bill set up one of the best gags. He came in the Saloon one evening and told the group he hit a huge buck and needed help tracking it. Ryan jumped at the chance.
“They put some fake blood and made a trail that led to Terry Carr (6-5, 280) hiding in the woods in a full sasquatch outfit. They scared the crap out of Ryan, and our cameraman, he got freaked out.”
“What’s mom want?” Matt whispered as his phone vibrated. “She knows I’m out hunting every afternoon.”
He thought it might be important so he texted to check while sitting 25 feet up in a stand. Matt was going out on a warm, still afternoon for one of the deer on his hit list.
He rode 15 minutes deep into the property on a Bad Boy Buggy, switching from gas to stealthy electric mode several hundred yards before his stop. Several deer bolted from the road as he backed into his parking spot, a tight turnoff with a water-filled mudhole on one side. He said he got stuck in it the day before and got stuck in it again this time.
He and cameraman Jacob Armstrong loaded up for the quarter-mile walk down another path leading to a wooded area barely 10 yards wide and 20 deep. The buck over 150 was captured on a game cam the evening before.
“We know our deer,” Matt said. “We take our inventory and try to monitor everything we can. Then we can always go kill the ones we feel are old enough. It’s just like anything, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.
“If you know the wind is right, and you got this buck patterned and he’s on the hit list, you take him out. And you feel better about the hunt. It wasn’t crap shoot luck. Due diligence and homework pays off.”
Matt quietly spread the two bags of Crush on a pile, made a buck scrap and sprayed it and the branches above it with attractant. Trying something new, he set up a game cam on video mode in hopes of capturing the deer and him in the blind.
Armstrong had taken his camera equipment into the tree to set up and was videoing the prep work. They settled into the stand. While the area calmed down, Matt caught up on some texts, keeping an eye on the field.
A doe approached from the field to the right but never came in. A buck was spotted bounding in the field. Finally a doe did come into the spread, feeding for a half hour. Matt’s buck never showed. But he knows he had to remain patient and ready.
“I’m just wanting that big one to make that mistake,” he said.
“It’s tough to explain how much gratification you get because at the end of the day it’s just deer hunting, but if you really think about it, it’s really become a lifestyle.
“You got three months to really get after them. You kind of live out here and try to monitor every move they make. When we’re not, our trail cams are monitoring every move they make. For your hunting show, you want to kill quality deer.”
As the Busbice boys do.
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