Major League Mobile Hunting - #2 “Mobile Origins” Ft. Tom Murphy

October 21, 2022 9 min read

Major League Mobile Hunting - #2 “Mobile Origins” Ft. Tom Murphy

Mariner’s Tom Murphy on Mobile Hunting

 By: Justin Hunold

 When we get word of how very best hunters in the mobile game operate we hear about time spent. Time spent post season scouting, spring scouting, shed hunting and summer cameras. Time spent e-scouting, in season scouting and time spent on stand. But what if you were limited to only the later, welcome to the life of a DIY deer hunter who happens to be a Major League catcher. When you’re hitting up the woods for those nice post season scouting sessions Tom Murphy is reporting into Mariner’s camp with the other Pitchers and Catchers. So, how does Tom connect on good public land bucks while being an amazing family man and pursuing his childhood dream of being a pro ball player? And what can you take from his insights?

Welcome to Major League Mobile Hunting.

Tom is my cousin, and we talk about deer hunting on a daily basis. So, at some point I figured we should sit down and do an “interview” to give a behind the curtain look at the strategies Tom currently uses to be a successful public land deer hunter and why he chooses to go the mobile hunting, DIY route. What transfers from the diamond to the woods and works in the other direction?

Tom’s resume on good New York bucks speaks for itself. Between encounters, shots and mounts I can attest to the fact that this is someone we should be listening to about deer hunting, but with that aside also his commitment to doing the hard things. I’m going to give the topic and then a summary of Tom’s insights, which will be a bit different than a lot of the “In the know” hunters because of the time crunch.

 What Inning are We In: When does Tom’s Whitetail Work Get Done?

Generally, injury and Playoff years withstanding, Murphy will get home sometime in early October. His first priority is his family, so he will spend a couple weeks of uninterrupted time with his wife and three kids. And although New York has a October 1 opener normally he is getting in the woods seriously in that mid-month time frame.

From Mid-October through about the second week of November Tom will be in season scouting, moving cameras, checking for hot sign and using that intel to dictate his setups. He uses big tracks and sign post rubs to key in. He is looking for the largest buck in a given area. So, smaller rubs, and scrapes with no other signs of big bucks get passed by.

A typical hunting day will look like this for the ball player. Up at 2-3am for a pre-hunt workout, then to the woods to get to his spot before daylight, hunting until mid afternoon and then home to spend time with the family, going to little league practices or horseback riding lessons then eating dinner with them and tucking his kids in for the night. Evening hunts become rare, but his priorities are in line.

When the calendar turns to mid-November and early December Tom will be in the Adirondacks chasing big mountain bucks with a rifle, on foot, tracking and still hunting. This will last until the end of the New York season in December.

As the Holidays roll through He will spend time with family and friends but sneak out for post season scouting. Tom starts here to put miles on his Ram and check multiple locations for that post season scouting we all normally start in February. Deer in upstate NY can be yarded up at this point, and with the snow major travel corridors become apparent. So do big individual tracks and beds. If there is a time Murph will be able to key in on a big bed and begin to dissect that for future hunts, late December and into January is when it happens. This is also when camera placement for the rest of the year happens. High traffic area, need inventory, camera goes up. Trails into and out of a bed with big rubs, time for a camera. Known community scrape with unknown bucks you get a camera.

So, between morning hunts, a month of bow hunting and a month of gun hunting, both in totally different areas, family, workouts lasting hours, and all the typical things that fill up anyone's schedule Tom has a goal of getting one good buck in his sights with both a bow and gun, putting out all of his cameras and beginning to put the following season into play in the time from Mid-October to Mid-January. He consistently checks all of those boxes, so I am asking myself what are my excuses? What are yours?

 Calling A Game: What Big Buck Tactics Is Murph Using & When?

 Much like in his career Tom is constantly analyzing the woods situations like calling a game from behind the plate. His limited time plays into the analysis and the decisions that root from the data given. Like deciphering a line up after watching tape and knowing his pitcher.

 If possible Tom will still key in on big buck beds, if he has found them previously or in his in season scouting. With his limited time finding beds can be tough though. With that, he will key in on the previously mentioned sign, rubs, tracks, scrapes with beat up licking branches or even a community scrape for camera placement and then work the plan backwards from there.

Traditionally Murphy would set up on a good rut travel location, funnel, saddle or other corridors and wait it out when a big buck has been confirmed in the area. Even though he has been successful with that tactic he’s going to change it this year. He wants to be more aggressive.

 In the upcoming season his plan consists of getting visuals on the big bucks he would normally wait out, bumping them up out of their core and then setting up. Or getting a visual and building a plan on closing in with the correct conditions. This is commonly known as a bump and dump but is normally defined to a bed, but this tactic can be used anywhere in the bucks core area and that fits Tom’s time frame a little better. With condensed time come expanded definitions.

 When he heads north to the Adirondacks he is hunting deer densities of less than 1 buck per mile in some places. The tactic is simple, use the sign, and hunt the deer, just like bow season. The sign in this case is normally a good track in the snow and then following that track until the day ends or the buck is dead. Terrain features can lead to finding a good track, so can miles walked. This tactic has proven deadly and is Tom’s favorite way to hunt. It’s his competitive nature that fuels this type of hunting. Getting on bucks on their terms and truly taking it to them on their own ground.

 What are you taking from this? I’m taking away that even though he has success with his older tactics that he wants to get to that next level, and has set up a goal and a plan to get there. The pitch count might change because that’s out of his control, but the basics of in-game strategy and smart hunting don’t. He is willing to say ahead of time, I need to get aggressive with this season, really get in on these deer. But aggressive doesn’t mean sloppy. Aggressive means smart and tight, don’t leave that fastball hanging out over the plate because you get too excited and aren’t paying attention to placement.  Big League Bucks don’t let you make mistakes…just like Big League Batters.

Home Field Advantage: Why Public Land Hunting and Why Mobile Hunting?

 

“Mobile hunting is just hunting”

Murphy makes this point very clear, he hunts this way because that is what hunting means to him. He feels connected to the animals of his home state and is perfectly happy to bounce around public land trying to get a crack at the biggest bucks he can locate that we all have access to.

Knowing Tom like I do I know where this comes from. But understand when we were younger he wanted to own a farm, and have a place to hunt big home grown monsters much like a lot of other current or former pro ball players we see in the media. Over the years this has morphed into something completely different.

“The competitor in me has no interest in that. I get intimate with those deer through the year even though I’m not home.”

This dude is a homebody, hailing from the little town of West Monroe, NY , Tom and his family live a spitting distance from his parents during the off season. The travel and days away during the 162 game season make falls in Upstate NY that much sweeter to Tom. Traveling is the one part of baseball Murph doesn’t love. So, when it’s time to be home it's time to be home, and that means matching wits with the bucks in the area he grew up in. In a season where I may travel to Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey Tom stays home and gets cracks at some of the toughest bucks in the world. Whether its an Adirondack Buck’s track in the snow or a Buck that may be bedded within sight of Lake Ontario, Tom hunts those highly pressured home boys and those low density, long legged snow bucks. He often notches a tag or two as well.

There is nothing in Tom’s nature that would make him ever want to have anyone else do the work for a buck he puts on his wall, other than maybe asking a friend or cousin to occasionally change a trail camera battery or two.

 Hall of Fame Lessons and Killing Big Bucks with Kaizen

 Murphy grew up as a fan of the Yankees, I know this because I remember him from basically the very day he was born. Hell, I can even tell you that he used to pronounce the word bicycle in the cutest way when he was a toddler. I’m eight ish years older than he is and as he grew up I remember telling my mom spending time with Tom was like spending time with someone my own age. He was always different in his level of maturity.

As he progressed into his career Tom stopped being a fan, he was paid to play against and with these guys. Save one. Ichiro Suzuki, luckily Murph is a catcher for the Seattle Mariners. In spring training Ichiro opened up about the principle of Kaizen, the quest for constant improvement. Forward progress, no matter how small or miniscule the step, even if it seems like a step backwards is the core of this principle. Ichiro still acts as if every day is game day, he practices still, bats still, suits up still and he has been retired for years. He has done this since the age that Tom couldn’t say bicycle.

Murphy will tell you he believes he is the least talented player in all of the Majors. I truly believe this isn’t his home grown humbleness coming out, he really thinks this. Tom believes hard work and dedication is how he got to where he is, and the quest for constant incremental improvement. I believe talent withstanding this might be the case. Tom is an extremely hard worker. His parents are hard workers, our family is a competition of hard work.  What Tom knows is small changes lead to big gains.

This applies to his swing and his deer hunting. This is apparent in his goals for 2022. He has an injured shoulder so goal number one is to be able to draw his Mathews in time to practice and be ready to draw it at a full 70lbs for bow season. At the time of writing this he is 4 weeks ahead of pace for rehabbing the injury.

Moreover, Tom could sit in a funnel during the rut and smash a 125” buck in all likelihood, but he is choosing to get aggressive and get eyes on bucks to make his moves earlier. I can’t blame him with his small window to fit it all in either.  Plus, there is no such thing as an easy buck in the Adirondacks so more time will help that.

Interestingly though Tom has some killer spots to sit a stand up there watching major swamps and he chooses to hunt on his feet with his 30-06 in his hand. Are you making small constant improvements? Can you move just one needle to help your hunting? Tom helps me keep this in focus everyday with our text chain back and forth.

Swinging for the Fences: A Final Thought on Mobile Hunting

A big buck is like a veteran pitcher in Tom’s estimation, they know how to play it safe, they know when to take risks and they know how to capitalize on your mistakes, and much like a veteran pitcher they win way more than they lose. You need to capitalize on their one mistake to put the ball in play let alone hit a homerun.

Tom watches a lot of tape, plays the odds and knows when to swing hard and when that the advantage is in the pitcher's favor. This is shown with the fact that Murphy has some of the longest hit home runs of the past decade. Can you put the barrel of the bat on that fast ball that hung just a bit too much, or maybe play that slightly off wind when that mature buck thinks everything is to his advantage?

To put Tom J. Murphy Jr. into a simple sentence when it comes to life, hunting and baseball I will leave it to him.

“I wanna grind, I wanna be miserable, because that feels more like hunting to me. Mobile hunting is just hunting.”


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