Leaving his job on Wall Street for the day, Eugene Burger boards the subway with hundreds of other people. Within a couple of hours he’s alone in his treestand. The stand provides a view of the Manhattan skyline and, sometimes, of the Boone and Crockett class bucks that call Long Island home.
You’d expect a successful Wall Street financier and a passionate whitetail bowhunter to be two completely different people, but for Burger, these are just two sides of the same coin.
“My career in finance, by many measures, is extremely successful,” Burger says, “but I don’t really put it up there as a thing I’m most proud of. It’s a way for me to facilitate a lifestyle that is really driven by my love of the outdoors. The funny thing is finance and the outdoor lifestyle, they’re just so contrasting. Finance is completely black and white. Your results are measured by a number on a piece of paper, but hunting and fishing and the outdoor experience couldn’t be more different. Some of the most ‘successful’ experiences I’ve ever had in the outdoors and the most memorable experiences produced no results at all. In a way, I feel like I’ve lived two completely separate lives.”
Burger’s passion for the outdoors began as a kid, the flame lit by his father. He grew up near the city, learning to hunt and fish, and never really considering himself a “city person.” He attended business school at NYU because it was the first college to accept him.
“I never envisioned myself as someone who’d go to college in the city, let alone live in the city,” he says. “It’s just one of those things that happened to fall in place. It just kind of worked out that way and led me down the path to where I am today. My family’s roots are here, and my wife’s roots are here, and it would be hard for us to leave.”
Burger’s passion for the outdoors isn’t limited to hunting. During the financial crisis, he purchased a commercial fishing boat in need of repairs for a good price. He and his brother put in the effort of fixing up the boat and building it into a successful commercial and charter fishing operation that follows the school of tuna up and down the east coast. That aspect of the outdoors takes him out on the water throughout much of the year, but in the fall, hunting is what’s on his mind.
Burger acknowledges that the metropolitan areas of the northeast aren’t exactly known for great hunting, but in many ways, the conditions are prime for growing big bucks.
“A lot of people try to keep it quiet, which I can understand, but we have world-class deer here on Long Island which is just really crazy to think about,” he says. “Our soil is incredibly nutrient rich, and it creates an incredible gene pool. It’s a bizarre situation that’s really hard to explain, but the deer on Long Island have no natural predators—no coyotes, no wolves, no mountain lions. The only things that keep the deer population in check are hunters, cars, and natural causes. We do have a lot of hunting pressure like most places in the US. But if the bucks are able to get of age, they are legitimately world class. It’s incredible to have this opportunity so close to an urban environment where most people wouldn’t think about it. I’ve been fortunate to be able to take a hobby and turn it into a lifestyle.”
As can be imagined, the deer habitat in the shadow of the Manhattan skyline is not the kind of habitat traditionally thought of as prime whitetail territory.
“Some of the neighborhoods we hunt, we’ll be in somebody’s backyard, ten yards from their pool house facing a wood lot that they own,” he says. “It’s a ten-acre piece of property that they live on. It’s probably worth ten million dollars, and there’s world-class 180, 190-inch deer that are traveling through on a daily basis. They live amongst these mansions, jumping pool fences and feeding on people’s lawns and out of their bird feeders. It’s really crazy.”
The prominence of large whitetail on Long Island, however, does not mean the hunting is without its unique challenges.
“They’re a completely different animal to hunt when they’re in that environment. They don’t really have patterns. They’re moved around by landscaping crews and by people walking dogs just as much as they’re moved by moon phases and the desire to feed and drink, so it’s an incredible challenge. The biggest woodlot in the entire area might be two, three, four acres. That residential area might hold two or three world class bucks, but they learn to hide amongst the backyards. They find their little spots and their escape routes, and they just become incredibly smart. They adapt to the environment, and as hunters we have to try to adapt to figure it out. It’s frustrating at times, but it’s made me a much better and smarter hunter.”
Burger feels exceptionally fortunate to be able to find balance between the outdoor lifestyle that he is passionate about, the life he intends to pass on to his children, and the high energy demands of a high-pressure job. But come deer season, he’ll always be arranging his meeting schedules to be able to leave work early to maximize his time in the stand. If you see him on the New York City subway, he’ll be the one on his phone—checking wind and weather conditions, and hopefully glancing at trail cam photos of the old buck out there waiting for him.