John’s Note: There’s nothing worse than getting a call a week or two before deer season and you hear over the phone, “We’ve lost our lease.” You have memories that will last a lifetime from that hunting property. You understand all you can know about deer movement on that hunting property. You’ve been to the work day, and you’ve already put up tree stands and trail cameras. Now your hunting land is gone. So, how will you find a place to hunt on short notice, or, how will you hunt the changed land?
I stepped out of my truck onto the land at my hunting club in June to fish a little creek running into the river on the lower end of the club. I’d only walked a few yards from my vehicle when I realized my hunting land had disappeared. The river-bottom hardwoods that had held so-many white-tailed bucks, longbearded turkeys and bushytailed squirrels had vanished – eaten by chainsaws, skidders and logging trucks. I saw only a windrow of brush where once huge oaks, beech and hickory trees had stood.
I drove back to the club to tell my friends that our land had vanished, and only dirt remained. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers not only had taken the hardwoods, but also removed the brush and even the stumps. You could go in and plant cotton, peas or corn on the same land where a forest had grown the previous year. When I saw the devastation to the land, I only could draw one conclusion. The Corps had lost its mind, and we had lost our land.
Desolate, clear-cut land now lay where lush hardwoods once thrived. A huge mound of dirt surrounded a large hole measuring between 80 and 100 acres in circumference. The Corps had created a pond complete with everything but water. The best river-bottom hardwoods on our hunting club had disappeared. I dreaded the coming of fall and the beginning of bow season.
In September, I decided to scout for the upcoming bow season, although I feared what I’d find. I had learned that the Corps of Engineers had dug the hole to use as a settling pond for sludge it planned to dredge up from the bottom of the river to straighten the river’s channel.
When I arrived at the club to scout, first I went to look at the big hole. To my surprise, over the summer, blackberries, pokeweed and small shrubs had grown up in the settling pond. As I walked around the earthen dam, I saw deer trails cut deep in the earth with tracks going into and out of the pond.
White oaks, water oaks, willow oaks and pin oaks bordered the edge of the dam with one or two swamp chestnuts on the outer perimeter. This stretch of hardwoods measured only about 70-yards wide before it intersected the earthen dam. I realized as I studied the lay of the land and the deer’s trails that the deer probably fed on the acorns at night and bedded in the pit during the daytime. I examined the deer trails leading into and out of the Corps’ pit and followed the trails from the dam through the hardwoods to an old brier thicket 5-6-feet high. I set-up my tree stands at strategic sites along the trail leading from the brier thicket through the hardwoods and into the Corps of Engineers’ settling pond.
The first morning of bow season, I watched 12 deer move from the pit to the hardwoods through the briers. That afternoon, I saw 20-more deer. I’d like to report I took a buck, but honestly, I missed three does. However, before the season ended, I bagged several good-sized bucks just off the edge of the dike where hardwoods once stood. I also learned a valuable lesson. Often when your woods vanish, what you get in return may provide as good, if not better, hunting, because new growth attracts deer like a magnet.
For information on making jerky from your deer to provide a protein-rich snack, you can download a free book from http://johninthewild.com/free-books.
To get John E. Phillips’ eBooks and print books on hunting deer, “How to Hunt and Take Big Buck Deer on Small Properties,” “How to Hunt Deer Up Close: With Bows, Rifles, Muzzleloaders and Crossbows,” “PhD Whitetails: How to Hunt and Take the Smartest Deer on Any Property,” “How to Take Monster Bucks,” “How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro,” and “Bowhunting Deer: Mossy Oak Pros Know Bucks and Bows,” or to prepare venison, “Deer & Fixings,” click here on each. Or, go to www.amazon.com/kindle-ebooks, type in the name of the book, and download it to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer. You also can find John’s books on Nook at www.barnesandnoble.com.