Cold Windy, Rainy and FUN! Deer Hunting This Past Weekend

Collin Shumate took this nice 8 pointer hunting with me last weekend! ~postoak~

Cold, windy, rainy, and FUN!! This past weekend was pretty good for hunting in extremes of Alabama weather and the deer were really moving well. The rut was on full bore in west central Alabama this past weekend!

I hunted in Tuscaloosa and Greene county and the deer hunting was great all three days. The deer moved well in the a.m. and mid day hunting was unusually good.

Friday morning  was the worst part of the three day hunt, even though I saw several young bucks and over 20 does. My nephew from Tennessee and north Alabama were down for a hunt and their kids shot at deer with one 8 point taken by Hayden Harris. It was a nice 180 lb buck that had him grinning, and giving a “thumbs up” to everyone who came by the cleaning shed to take a look.

Friday at noon, the rain started for a soaking rest of the day so I assembled a couple of ladder stands I had brought over to add to our stand count on the two tracts we hunt.

Saturday morning was a cold, raw, windy day that had me shivering on my hunt in the swamp and while the deer were easy to spot, they were also hard to hide from as far as scent detection goes. In an attempt to block out some wind, I sat in a ground blind for a couple of hours but, the deer have “patterned” us hunters and they all avoid the hut area. Every deer I saw from the hut was running an open lane about 200 yard to the east and I decided to move over for a better vantage spot. I like to hunt out of a folding camoflauge canvas chair so long as I can find a good hiding spot. I found a large amount of dead vines around an old stump near the lane and it offered me a front row seat to watch the deer that kept running the open lane between 2 swampy areas that were covered with about 6 to 8 inches of water the deer kept sloshing through to get to the lane where they could run a dry, open path. The lane is over 400 yards long and about 20 yards wide. The bucks were rutting like crazy, running does up and down the lane and across the swamps on either side. Most seemed to be “throwing caution to the wind” literally, running and grunting behind the does, some of which seemed to be almost smiling and others just seemed frustrated by the attention the bucks were exhibiting. The winds were strong and shifting all morning and despite all my scent cover, scent elimination and use of estrus based attractants, I got busted by several deer , mostly does. However, one old buck that busted me certainly made a life saving decision and stopped just out of a reasonable shot range for me.

 

Saturday afternoon, I was pleased to host a couple of folks from Birmingham, a father and his son trying to find that “first buck” for the son. I showed them to a nice double hut that overlooks a huge green field and had favorable wind for the afternoon hunt. They had a great hunt, saw lots of deer, several turkey and the son, Collin Shumate, tried a long shot on a 6 pointer but, did not connect. I was hunting from a tripod on another, smaller  field and saw 14 does, two six pointers and a nice young eight pointer with a nice symmetrical rack. The big buck I was hoping for never showed up. But, a thoroughly enjoyable hunt was had by us all.

On Sunday morning, it was 24 degrees when I parked my truck for the predawn walk to the same swampy area I hunted the morning before that is a favorite of mine.  The walk is over a half mile and I did not spook any deer on the way to my “hiding spot”  overlooking the lane the deer have been using. The wind was much lighter and the direction generally sustained from the east so I found a spot that would keep me from getting “winded” so much by the deer.  The activity was almost non-existent until around 7:30 when 5 gobblers came out about 150 yards to the south on the lane and one went into a full fanned strut like it was spring and started drumming and pirouetting for the next 45 minutes. As a “turkey-holic” that made the trip worth the effort and I was just wishing I had a nice camera with one of those huge telephoto lens to snap some of the “January strut” activity.

All of a sudden, I heard the unmistakable sound of antlers clashing violently so I turned around and stood up next to a vine covered tree to use it for cover and a rest aim if I got a shot. I used my grunt tube and made several very loud and prolonged grunts as the buck’s antlers were smashing each other just out of my sight .  The next sound was sweet as I heard the sloshing noise of several deer coming directly to me across the flooded thicket.  Those bucks stopped fighting and ran straight to me!

The first buck was a nice 10 pointer with heavy horns but, the tines were short so I let him pass the opening I had for a shot window though the thick brush. I could see two more rack bucks coming in at a trot. The second buck bounded through the opening so quickly that I was unable to tell much except he was a rack buck. The third buck had a nice tall rack and was walking fast in a fighting posture with his hair bristled out so I figured he was probably the best of the three and when he stepped in the small opening I sent him a 30-06 round that dropped him immediately.  I chambered in another round and watched for a few minutes to make sure he was down and walked over to admire the nice 8 point, 190 lb buck.  While he was not a “wall hanger” for me, he was a very nice older buck and I count it as a blessing to make the good shot on such a fine animal. It was a very memorable hunt with the bucks coming to my call!

Sunday afternoon, Chuck Shumate and his son Collin of Birmingham, came back down for another hunt and I felt like Collin would be very pleased with the 8 pointer I had seen in the green field I was on the afternoon before so I sent him out to it and his father opted to sit another field to do some deer watching and did not bring a gun. He was focused on providing a good father- son experience for his son and I applaud him for that. Well, his son Collin, did his job, and he put the nice 8 pointer down with a perfect shot around 4 p.m.

A great hunting memory was made for Chuck and Collin. I had a great weekend hunting with my nephews and we all took some deer meat home to enjoy in 2013.

Just using the grunt tube was a special memory maker for me. You see, the grunt tube is a “one of a kind” made for me a couple of years ago by a good friend, Gary Johnson, who passed away last spring out in the turkey woods. Gary was a very gifted call maker and I am fortunate to have several turkey calls, a crow call and the grunt tube he made for me. Gary was a NWTF Committee member for the Elmore County NWTF and all of us miss him alot. He was a special talent and a great guy.

 

Happy New year to everyone and may you make some great hunting memories in 2013!

~postoak~

 

WOW! (week off work) Was Great in the Outdoors!

Muddy trucks and big bucks..

Deer Hunting! Sometimes all you get is a muddy truck and great memories!

This past week, with the exception of Monday, I have been off work and enjoying the great December weather in the outdoors. Cold, wet, wind blowing, man it was great! I know many folks think that is terrible weather but, I like all of it when I am away from my daily “grind” at work and I can leave the cell phone in the truck and spend time away from everyone and just enjoy the solitude that is found in the deer woods of December.

I sure wasn’t disappointed either, On Tuesday, I travelled to Livingston for a visit with my first cousin Macks. He has a beautiful camp house on the banks of the Tombigbee river and I always enjoy the time I get to spend hanging out with Macks. He was ready to go hunting when I pulled up and I jumped out of my truck into his and off to the prairie land of north Sumter county we went!  In just a few miles he let me out and pointed the direction to a ladder stand he had that overlooked a nice green field nestled up to a hardwood bottom and flanked by a number of the ever present red cedars that are a predominant land feature in the West Alabama Black Belt. Soon after I got up in the stand, several does and yearlings appeared from the woods and began feeding. The youngsters would eat a little and then buck and prance, chase each other around the field while the mature does quietly fed and watched.

 Like every hunter, I scanned the wood line intently for that “big buck” to join them and he may have, after dark and long after I had left to meet Macks for the ride back to his cabin. His wife Sarah, greeted us and we enjoyed a nice rack of baby back ribs and great fellowship, followed by time on the front porch in some massive red cedar rocking chairs reminiscing about hunts up and down the Tombigbee as we watched it roll by in the darkness. Macks is one of those guys who can imitate a Bard owl call perfectly and as he “talked” to several owls that returned calls to him, His wife and I talked about Macks and what a “hoot” he is to be around. We continued to talk about old hunting trips and the hunting victories he and I shared in as kids until we realized the clock was past 10 p.m. and we were starting to “drag”.

The next morning instead of deer hunting, Macks wanted to shown me his quail hunting operation and since his bird dogs need weekly training, we went over to the quail property called Feather Hill hunting preserve. He set out about 16 quail in sets of two and we enjoyed watching the dogs find and point them and of course, getting in our shots as the quail burst into the air when prompted by the “flush” command that Macks gave to the dogs. He had a new English Setter that reminded me of one my father owned who gave us many thrilling quail hunting moments when I was boy. The pointers were great! But, the Setter worked the ground a bit slower and was more attentive to the commands and the whistles from Macks as she worked across the sage covered hills tracking down the released quail from their hiding spots.

Around noon, the dogs and we were all tired from the morning hunt, so while Macks watered and loaded the dogs for the return to their kennel, I dressed out the 12 quail we had taken and l sealed them up in a ziploc for a planned supper.   We spent a couple of hours riding some of the property that Macks manages for hunting and he had to swap SD cards and make sure all his trail cams were working so he would have images to show his hunters for the upcoming weekend. An afternoon bass fishing in a local farm pond gave us a choice of fried bass fillets or fried quail and I enjoyed both of them as well as the company of my second night on the Tombigbee listening to the owls from the dark front porch of the cabin. A thoroughly relaxing but, exhausting, day outdoors!

The next morning, I “slept in” as Macks had an early morning appointment in Meridian and a line of storms was approaching so I enjoyed the storm and several cups of coffee on his front porch before leaving and heading up to Tuscaloosa for an afternoon hunt at my family’s farm. I opted for a hut due to the strong wind following the storm line and made sure to use all the cover scent and masking scents to inhibit my spooking any deer. However, the afternoon hunt was a very poor one where only two does and a yearling came into the field. My nephew and a buddy of his was also hunting and they reported similar poor results from the strong wind that apparently caused most of the deer to stay bedded.

Friday morning was cold but, still with a strong wind so I again sought the aid of a hut to block the wind in a location we call the “peninsula”. This is a beautiful hardwood section of woods that is surrounded by an old swamp area that has been mostly drained. I have taken many deer from the stand in previous seasons so I felt the “deer hunting fever” build in my old bones as I made my way through the woods in the dark to get in the hut well before daylight.

I always love watching the dawn break sitting in a deer stand, shaking a little bit from the cold and a little bit from the anticipation of the hunt. It is a sure-fired way for me to feel like a young man again for a few hours as I am totally absorbed in the hunt, scanning for deer, watching the movement of the does and young deer while I watch for the buck that is the purpose of my trip to appear. And then, he did appear! As I looked down the shooting lane that is cut to the south of the hut a huge bodied deer stepped from the swamp and walked into the lane! My first thought was to get him in my scope to see if he was indeed a “shooter” buck. But, just as quickly as he appeared, he was gone, trotting into the woods on the other side of the narrow lane. The buck had a very wide rack but, the tines were not very long from what I could tell in the brief look. The rack was a dark one and was reddish brown in color, that made me want to get him even more since the color and width were both very impressive.

I was on high alert for the next 45 minutes scanning intently for the buck and he showed up in the eastern lane chasing a smaller buck away from several does who were showing signs of estrus. He then came back to the lane and chased the does back and forth across the lane and out in the thickets on each side of it in the swamp. There was not much way to make a decent stalk attempt so I just sat in the hut hoping he would show up on the peninsula for a shot. At a little after 11:00 two small rack bucks came running out of the swamp and across the open woods so I got ready for “big red” to show up chasing them like he was earlier but, as luck would have it, he never came out of the thicket out in the swamp. Like many old mature bucks, he didn’t get that big by being stupid!

But one thing is for sure, I will be back after him next weekend unless I find out one of my relatives found him first!  Oh well, that is why it is called hunting,not just shooting!

Alabama deer hunting, what a way to spend some December vacation days! Only bad part is, I am exhausted, my truck is muddy, and I can’t go hunting for the next few days!

Until next week,

~postoak~ OUT doors..

How To Pattern a Deer Hunter, A Survival Guide for Bucks

Big old bucks survive by learning to "pattern the hunters" and stay out of the way. Use some unpredictable hunting strategies to find you one! ~postoak~

Each season we start off with trail cams over corn piles, trail cams along travel corridors, trail cams over freshly planted clover patches and various other protein rich tasty “greens” to entice the deer to come out in the field  and feed.

We are making a “concerted effort” to determine where the deer are at on various parts of our property or lease. We are attempting to “pattern them”. We are finding out their favorite feeding spots, bedding spots, and their preferred travel routes to get from bedding to food and back again. Then, the big buck we saw on the trail cam over and over in the pre-season suddenly vanishes. We lament that somebody on an adjoining property must have killed him but, they are keeping it quite to reduce their poacher numbers. Maybe he got hit by a car, or maybe he trailed a “hot doe” across a river or across several miles off  your property and he is never seen again.

That could and does happen but, sometimes if you leave your trail cam up in February with another corn pile in front of it to see what deer are “left”. Then, what do you see? That dog-gone big buck that left in October has done come back!

IT is a very distinct possibility, that he never left ! Now I know some of you are saying he must have left or somebody would have seen him at some point during the season, or you think to yourself, “I hunted almost every day and sat in every stand at various times all season and he just was not on our property! Well, I agree to a point but, hate to admit that my experiences in the deer woods for over 50 years now have not all been positive ones.

I have had more than one big buck show me that I am the visitor to his “neck of the woods” and I might think I am smarter than him but, he is craftier than me. After all, if I am unsuccessful in bagging that old big buck, I just shoot a couple of does and a “cull” buck and I have plenty of venison for my freezer. If he is unsuccessful, he winds up with a hole in his chest and it is “game over” for him!  To use the old cliche’ “he’s got more skin in the game than me” is a vast under statement from his view point! The situation is best described as hunters aren’t the only ones to pattern animal movements, the older bucks learn to pattern the hunter’s movements. Learn this part of deer hunting and use it to your advantage.

Here an example, several years back I partnered with two other guys to lease a 1500 acre tract over in west Alabama and the location,our scouting, and trail cam information proved the property had a good many deer on it. There was a couple of places on the access dirt road where deer trails crossed over  it that looked like cattle trails! One such trail was between the front gate and the main body of woods with only a few patches of cedars and scrub brush along the 3/4 mile path across an old pasture on the way to the hardwoods. One morning, right after a big rain,I did not want to run the risk of sticking my 2wd truck so I parked at the gate and walked the dirt road for over a half mile to where the first deer trail crossed the road. The rain had washed away all the deer tracks so the path was swept clean. About 10:00 a.m. another member of our lease trio drove in from Birmingham and drove all the way to the “big woods” where I was hunting. I hunted until noon and as I was walking back to my truck at the gate I noticed the deer trail across the dirt road was again populated with dozens of sets of deer tracks and the lone set of truck tracks across them. I am not claiming to be Sherlock Holmes but, I quickly surmised what was happening. The deer were bedding out in the cedars and scrub brush up near the gate and anytime a vehicle came through it on the way to the woods they would flush far enough ahead of the vehicle to not be seen and then cross the dirt road to the big woods. Later that day, I spoke with Robert who was the other hunter that had came in and asked him if he was hunting the next day. He said he was so I got down there an hour before daylight and again walked in on the dirt road, sneaking to a good vantage spot to watch the deer trail where it crossed the road.

About 6:45 I heard the gate swing open and clang against the iron pipe that was the gate stop and I heard Robert’s truck as he pulled through the gate, got out and closed it behind him. He started to approach my position but, before he got within a quarter mile the deer started appearing out of the scrub brush and slipping across the road. More than a dozen deer, does, yearlings and a couple of “basket sixes” came across and then there he was, the 10 point buck that had eluded us since October! He came across the road with his head down, sniffing out the scent trails left by the does to determine which escape route we was taking, until he felt that 150 grain bullet in his right shoulder and his route changed to the back of my truck! Later that year I took a couple of other deer by stalking around in the scrub brush near the gate with my shotgun in some places so thick a rabbit would get burrs.

Often to survive, bucks, especially old ones, will find parts of the property that you would not expect them to be in and they hide out for as long as you are on the property. They pattern you and know when you come in and when you go out!  While you are trying to pattern them, they are often doing the same thing to you!

Get out of your “pattern” and surprise that old buck by being unpredictable!

Good Luck in bagging a good buck!

~postoak~

Free Or Almost Free Deer Hunting In Central Alabama

8 point buck

Not a trophy, but a good swamp buck like this can be found on public hunting land in central Alabama! ~postoak~

I routinely spend a lot of money to join two or more, hunting clubs each year and I am lucky enough to have access to many other private properties to hunt. But, I know not everyone has the money to join a club, or has access to private property. Times are tough but, there are an abundance of places around Central Alabama that offer deer hunting to the general public.

Alabama’s “Forever Wild” program has several tracts of land in our area that offer some good hunting for deer. You may not bring back a “trophy” but if a good “freezer deer” is more your desire, they can be a winner for that! The Yates Lake West Tract in Elmore County consists of 3,518 acres of a pine-hardwood hills and creek valleys on the western shore of Yates Lake. Habitat components include long leaf pine stands and mature hardwood creek bottoms, as well as the protection of 3 miles of shoreline along the Tallapoosa River. The tract is to be managed for a broad assortment of public recreational opportunities, as a nature preserve, and an environmental education study area. Location:T19N, R21& 22E, in Sections 10,11,12,13, 14, 15, 22, 23, 24, 25, and 7,18,19,30 respectively

Alabama also has a number of State Wildlife Management Areas, WMAs, that are a good place to get outdoors and find that buck.Wehle Tract-Bullock County, 1,505 acres. This tract is cooperatively managed by the State Lands Division and the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division as a Nature Preserve, Recreation Area, and Wildlife Management Area. The hunting and fishing programs on 626 acres of the tract are managed by the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division and have been included within the Barbour County Wildlife Management Area. Hunting regulations for this tract follow the seasons and limits established for the WMA. A WMA LICENSE AND PERMIT ARE REQUIRED TO HUNT THE 626 ACRES AT THIS LOCATION. Contact the office at Barbour County WMA for additional details on regulations, seasons, limits, and trapping regulations (334)529-3222. Location:Township 12N, Range 22E, Sections 28 & 29

Riggins Tract and Big Swamp Creek Addition- Lowndes County, 624 acres. Managed by WFF as part of the Lowndes WMA. Hunting regulations for this tract follow the seasons and limits established for the WMA. A WMA LICENSE AND PERMIT ARE REQUIRED TO HUNT AT THIS LOCATION. Part of the Riggins Tract is restricted to bow hunting only. Contact the office at Lowndes WMA for additional details on regulations, seasons, limits, and trapping (334) 874-4471 Location:T16N, R15E, Sections 19 and 30 Lowndes WMA- Big Swamp Creek Additionin Lowndes County consists of 1,343 acres of upland and bottomland hardwoods, pine plantations and open fields on gently rolling alluvial land within Alabama=s black belt. The tract is being managed, along with other federal and state land acquisitions in the area, as part of the Lowndes Wildlife Management Area. The tract abuts Highway 80 and offers new access to other WMA land in the southern quadrant of the public hunting area. Location: T15N, R13E, portions of Sections 8, 13, 18, & 19  Coosa WMA: Cahaba & Columbiana Tracts – Coosa County, 9,746 acres. These tracts are cooperatively managed by the State Lands Division and the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division as a Nature Preserve, Recreation Area, and Wildlife Management Area. The hunting and fishing programs on the tracts are managed by the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division as part of the Coosa WMA. Hunting regulations for this tract follow the seasons and limits established for the WMA. A WMA LICENSE AND PERMIT ARE REQUIRED TO HUNT AT THIS LOCATION. Contact the WFF Prattville Office for additional details on regulations, seasons, limits, and trapping (334) 358-0035. Location:Township 22N, Range 16, & 17E, Multiple Sections Flag Mountain, Mitchell Dam, Mitchell Dam Northwest, and Richville Quads

There are also Federal Lands open to hunting in Central Alabama that could be just what you are looking for.  The U. S. Forest Service has thousands of acres open to public hunting outside of the Alabama WMA system. These properties include significant tracts of land on Bankhead National Forest, Conecuh National Forest, Talladega National Forest, and Tuskegee National Forest. The following website contains information for hunting on National Forests in Alabama.http://www.fs.usda.gov/alabama

The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers also has some hunting tracts along the Alabama, Tombigbee, and Warrior Rivers that offers some quality hunting places but, most of them are only accessible by boat. Often they are worth the hassle though. I have taken some great swamp bucks on core lands in previous years so that may be a place for you to find one too! Hunting permits for the Alabama River properties are issued at the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers office located at 8493 U. S. Hwy 80 West, Hayneville, AL 36040. The phone number for the office is 334-872-9554. 

Hope these will provide locations, courtesy of ALDCNR, will give you some ideas for you to go hunting that won’t break your bank! Times are tough, but your hunting trips should not be out of reach. Take a kid, take a friend, get outdoors and enjoy this great state we are fortunate to live in!

~postoak~