Hook & Barrel’s Josh Honeycutt takes a deep dive into the interesting lives of Terry, Mark, Matt, and Taylor Drury of Drury Outdoors.
Drury Outdoors is a household name among hunters, especially deer hunters. This family has been producing top-shelf content for 34 years, and they aren’t showing signs of slowing down anytime soon. But we aren’t here to talk about the knowns.
Today, it’s all about the lesser-known aspects of Drury Outdoors. As such, here is everything you never knew about Drury Outdoors.
Top Drury Superstitions
A lot of people have superstitions. For Mark Drury, it’s the lucky song. “It’s been music for 25 years,” he says. “If you hear the right song that day, you’re going to kill a deer. That is a major superstition with me. That’s the one I pay the most attention to.”
“We’ll get in the truck to go track, and the lucky song is playing again,” Taylor, Mark’s daughter, says. “It’s wild. When we hear it, we know we’re going to find the deer. I honestly can’t think of a time that we heard the lucky song and didn’t go kill or recover the deer.”
Some of those “lucky” songs include “Red Light” by David Nail, “Lover Lover” by Jerrod Niemann, “Til My Last Day” by Justin Moore, and any Rascal Flatts song.
According to Matt, Mark and Terry also share a superstition. For decades, they’ve felt that if they get a small scratch or scrape while hanging a treestand or positioning a blind, they are going to fill a deer tag there. The accidental drawing of blood (from themselves) translates to intentionally drawing blood (from a deer).
Family Hunting Traditions
Taylor started hunting at eight years old, and one of her fondest family tradition memories is opening week of the Missouri gun season.
“It’s our main tradition that we never skip,” Taylor says. “When mid-November hits, the entire family is in the group text talking about it They’re talking about what they’re going to cook, which groceries to bring, other things they want, and who is going to hunt with who. It’s something I really look forward to.”
Tips and Tactics from Drury Outdoors
“Deer are much easier to kill when they don’t have a doe,” Mark says. “They are slaves to their stomach. In my opinion, the best way to kill a mature whitetail is on food with the right weather system, right time of year, and right setup. That sums up our success. Terry and I succeed most on food without a doe.”
Of course, these factors and more are rolled up into the Deer Cast app. It packages a variety of data points and produces a deer activity forecast, among other things hunters can use it to help manage the hunt.
Trail cameras also play a major role in Mark’s hunting. “These changed the way we hunt in general, a paradigm shift,” he says. Cellular cameras are especially impactful for more recent information. “It gives you a heightened awareness of what the deer herd is doing, the population dynamics, etc.” Mark says. “That’s been the biggest change I’ve seen the past 34 years.”
Hunting Before Entering Industry
Mark and Terry’s father didn’t hunt much, but the two brothers ended up joining a 640-acre hunt club with him and several other men. “They were very regimented, and there was nothing but respect,” Terry says. “There were no game law violations. If you screwed up, you were out. It was a very stringent time, even back then.
“They were serious about it, and so were we.” Mark adds, “It was a great upbringing for us. Our dad didn’t hunt a lot, but we had some great mentors that showed us how to handle ourselves in the woods.”
Choosing a Trade
In the summer of 1989, Mark took a step in a direction that would change the family history forever. He left the family trade—construction—and dared to dream.
Mark was planning to go in to construction—his father and Terry were both in the trade. “That seemed like the logical path,” Mark says. “But meeting Toxey changed all of that. I went to that contest, and I told him when we met, that I wanted to come work for him during spring break.”
Toxey was Toxey Haas, the owner of Mossy Oak. “I met Toxey at the World Voice Calling Contest in Natchez, Mississippi,” Mark says. “He had me interview for a rep group called Advanced Marketing Specialists. They hired me, and I never went back to construction after that.”
Instead, he continued his college journey while repping camouflage. While working full time, and jumpstarting Drury Outdoors, Mark obtained a degree in Industrial Technology. “It’s a tough degree I got,” Mark says. “I actually went where Terry had gone, and I was seeking an engineering degree. I left with a 1.9. Well, they left me, I think. Then, I went to Southeast Missouri State and graduated with a 3.4, so I brought it up substantially.
“That’s not easy to do,” Matt says. “It’s easier to go down than back up on the GPA.” Mark continues, “I also got married in 1989, so it was a big year. It helps me remember how long I’ve been married based on how old Drury Outdoors is. [Insert chuckles].”
Mark went to West Point, Mississippi, stayed with the family, and went to work. “I was stuffing invoices, packing boxes, whatever I could do to learn the business,” Mark remembers.
The Start of Something
Today, Drury Outdoors runs most of its business on the management and pursuit of monster whitetails. That isn’t where the story started, though. It began with one camera and some wild turkeys. At the time, they only had one camera, a Panasonic AG-450. “That’s how we started Drury Outdoors,” Mark says. “I told Terry that these were $2,500, and if he’d throw in half, I’d throw in half. That’s how it began.”
“We started with the turkey titles,” Matt notes. “As I recall it, we used to watch these videos. It was a guy calling turkeys in, but he wasn’t killing them. It was all about the sounds.”
That man was Denny Gulvas. “I told Terry, if we call ‘em in and kill ‘em, this will do well,” Mark says. “So, we did.”
“We killed a lot of jakes,” Terry laughs. “You savage,” Matt jokes.
After two years of production, they released two turkey titles. One was King of the Spring, and the other was The Sound of Spring. Both were sold to a distributor in Oklahoma City and released at the same time. But it wasn’t as immediate as they’d have liked. “The first time Mark called the distributor, he said he didn’t want them and hung up,” Terry recalls. “So, I called him back, and said, if you don’t tell me what I did wrong, how can I improve?” “You just said the magic words,” the man replied. “How soon can you be in my office.”
So, Mark and Terry booked a trip to Oklahoma City. After working with the company, the videos were released, and Drury Outdoors had additional capital to expand. Of course, most of that cash went right back into cameras and hunting gear, such as bows, guns, arrows, bullets, and treestands.
“We didn’t draw an actual paycheck for the first seven years,” Terry says. “It wasn’t that lucrative, and there wasn’t a lot of money to be made there. I think our first paychecks were $1,200 to $1,400.” According to Mark, that was actually them paying themselves back for the initial camera equipment.
But they were enjoying what they were doing, and all the re-investing was about funding the next hunting trip. “That [company] had the market cornered on the rental shelf,” Mark says. “What we didn’t realize was he was paying us a bare minimum to produce the tape and a little more for enough money to go on a few hunts. But he was selling thousands of these things. So, while it was not lucrative, it created brand awareness for Drury Outdoors, particularly when we got into whitetails.”
In fact, they didn’t realize how many of their videos were on shelves. They were going to Pennsylvania, Michigan, and other places, and they were getting recognized. “We were like, ‘I think he’s selling a few more of these than he’s telling us,’” Mark laughs. “But that was the original seed that was planted those first few years.”
Eventually, the Drurys moved from the rental space to the retail market, then to television. And now, in 2023, media stretches across many platforms, including television, digital, podcasting, and social media.
The Shift to Whitetails
While the turkey videos—which were performing well—gave life to Drury Outdoors, their DVD distributor urged them to start filming whitetail hunts. “The first few years, they were good, but not great,” Terry says. “We weren’t killing record-status deer because of where we grew up in Bloomsdale. With the type of deer we were hunting, it was hard for us to pass a deer, back then. We thought they were big. To us, a 140-inch deer was a monster.”
The first buck Mark killed on camera was 144 inches, and we thought we’d killed a Booner. “Much like anything else, it continued to evolve as we moved deeper into the whitetail world,” Terry says.
A Magical Moment in Time
The fall of 1998—October 30, to be exact—was an incredible milestone in the Drury Outdoors journey. Mark and Terry were hunting in Illinois along a river bottom. “At the time, it was the largest ever wild whitetail captured on film,” Matt says.
The hunt appeared on Whitetail Madness 2. “There weren’t trail camera photos,” Mark says. “Terry just found a giant track. He hung the set. Back then, we would swap. You’d hunt the evening, and then the following morning. Then, we’d rotate out. That way you were hunting every day. It just so happened, it was my day to hunt. But it was his stand. He’d scouted it. I’d never walked the place before.”
They rattled the buck in and even grunt-snort-wheezed at the deer. “It was a rush for us to kill a deer of that magnitude,” Terry says. “It was something we hadn’t done and weren’t prepared for, and it was quite an ordeal.”
Making the Drury Classics
Mark and Terry didn’t have experience in video filming or editing—the proverbial learning curve was steep. “It was horrible,” Terry says. “We had to formulate an edit decision list (EDL) because typically we were paying someone by the hour. This was before non-linear—everything was linear. So, when you laid the tape, you were stuck with it. There was no changing it. Like, today, you can move stuff around.”
So, they had to review the footage and create the EDL by playing the footage on a small television. They’d fast forward, rewind, and rewatch just to make notes for the editors on where to cut, dissolve, jump back in, etc.
For those who want to see some of the classic hunts with Mark and Terry, they’re on the DeerCast app. But beware, the lead-ins are especially long. “We’d sit with a musician and compose,” Mark says. “We’d tell them what feeling we wanted. How do you think that was … having Mark and Terry compose with you?”
The Drury Outdoors Signature Look
Back in the day, cameras were different. Camera bodies were bigger, batteries were bigger and less efficient, and the cameras didn’t have image stabilization. The Drurys were even designing and crafting their own camera arms, because that type of equipement wasn’t being manufactured at the time. “Every little bump or jolt was in there,” Terry says. “It was laid to tape, so there was no getting it out. We had to put a camera arm in every tree.”
Once image stabilization was available, the Drury Outdoors signature film look took shape. “Those arms went away immediately, which became a trademark to our footage,” Mark says. “Everyone else stayed on some sort of tripod, but we were handcuffed with these camera arms. We were missing footage. So, we just shifted to handheld everything, and that created a look that differentiated us.”
The Big Drury Machine
Those looking from the outside in might wonder what it takes to do everything that Drury Outdoors does. Producing television shows, creating digital content, pumping out podcasts, maintaining the DeerCast app, managing people, killing big deer, and on and on. These things require manpower.
“Our company, as a whole, has about 25 employees, plus ourselves, and plus 60-some contractors,” Mark says. “We’re a group of nearly 90-strong. People likely don’t realize just how many of us there are, especially when you sit down to watch a single show. That’s something we’re proud of—just how many people are a part of the company.”
Brother vs. Brother
In the early days, Mark and Terry filmed each other in the tree. In the 2000s, they hired cameramen. Terry says it was due to a need to increase productivity. Matt and Taylor think it had something to do with a Mark and Terry “brawl” in the deer woods.
They were in two different trees, yet trying to communicate. “There was a deer coming,” Taylor says. “Dad was signaling to Terry that he’s supposed to be rattling. But he never rattled. So, dad starts aggressively doing a rattling motion behind his back. Well, Terry is 10 years older than my dad, and the aggressive hand signaling made Terry mad. So, he climbed down his tree, climbed up Dad’s tree, and said he’s going to kick his butt, all while a 190-inch deer is coming in.”
Mark and Terry’s Favorite Moments
In the 34 years of Drury Outdoors, Mark and Terry have made many memories. From hunting with A-list celebrities, to shooting big bucks of their own, to owning grade-A farms, and much more. But those aren’t the things that mean the most. “For me, it was Taylor’s first bow kill,” Mark says. “That was a big moment for me. To see her take that deer, make a good shot with her bow, she had worked so hard to get to where she could pull 30 pounds and be legal. That was a big moment. I shed some tears that night in the tree.” Terry’s story is similar. He started Matt hunting with a rifle, but when he eventually connected with a bow, it was something truly special.
The second-most memorable for them? “Hunting with Mom,” Terry says. “Memories with our mother are priceless. She’s funny to hunt with, but it’s a little challenging. She’s 90 this year. She killed one at 88 and 89 and wants to do it again this year.”
According to Matt, Mark, Terry, and their mother love aggravating each other playfully. “It’s always been that way,” Matt says. “It’s a close family—they’ve been like that with her from the beginning.”
Mark remembers, “That time I forgot to load her gun, and that big 10-pointer was standing right in front of her. We tried and tried, and several deer slipped through our grasp. Finally, there was one right there and standing still, and she pulled the trigger. But I’d forgotten to load the gun. I grabbed her by the shoulders, and said, ‘I’m sorry, that’s on me.’ She looked at me and said, ‘No [$h!%].’ Mom has never been one to mince words with Terry or me.”