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How to Hunt Swamp Deer Day 1: Learning Why to Hunt Swamps for Deer

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Editor’s Note: Hunting in a swamp isn’t as mysterious or as difficult as some hunters may believe. Often you’ll encounter some of the biggest bucks ever there because these waterways can provide a sanctuary for deer. The definition of a swamp, one of the most-valuable ecosystems, is an area of land permanently saturated or covered with water. Swamps generally are dominated by trees. Many animals live in swamps, as well as nesting birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles. Swamps act as giant sponges by absorbing excess water and thereby moderating the effects of flooding. Swamps also act like water treatment plants, filtering wastes and purifying water naturally.

The water sloshed under my friend Frank’s thigh-high waders, as he walked deep into flooded timber before daylight. Frank had scouted this flood plain of the Tombigbee River on the Mississippi/Alabama border the day before and had stuck fluorescent tacks into the trees to easily find his way through the swamp before daylight with a flashlight and his GPS. He had set-up his tree stand earlier to enable him to get into his stand before good light. Frank had forded the first slough, walked across about 20 yards of dry ground and went through another knee-deep slough before he finally arrived at his tree stand on the edge of flooded timber where the water was about 2-1/2 – 3-feet deep. When Frank had climbed 12-feet high, he sat in the darkness and awaited the dawning of the new day.

Frank heard the beating wings of wood ducks as they came into the flooded timber to feed on the acorns floating up from the bottom and now forming a brown ribbon around the edge of the slough. The woods birds woke up next and began their chorus, as a few squirrels stirred in a nearby tree. Frank watched and saw movement off to his left. With his camo binoculars, he observed two does in chest-deep water, eating the white oak acorns that had floated-up. The does continued to move on up the slough to within about 50 yards of Frank’s stand, came out of the water and then went up a ridge. From the deer tracks along the edge of the slough and the large number of acorns floating on the surface, Frank knew that deer were feeding heavily in this area. By scouting the edge of the slough earlier, Frank had found a place where several trails converged and led into the water. Unless the outdoorsman who hunts understands what’s under the water, he won’t know where to hunt in a swamp. Once Frank located the trails and looked 30 – 40 yards across the slough, he saw that the trail also came out of the water there. Walking across the slough, Frank discovered that the water was only about 18-inches deep. Apparently the path the deer were funneling through across the slough was on top of a natural underwater ridge.

So, Frank replaced his stand 15 yards from the ridge, to catch deer coming from both sides of the slough and from either end of the slough, if they crossed the ridge. On another morning, Frank watched 12 does walk beneath his stand. Finally about 10:00 am, a fat 4 pointer approached from the other side of the slough, feeding on acorns and slowly meandering across the underwater ridge. He then turned broadside to Frank’s tree to continue from the other side of the slough. Frank let his arrow fly when the deer was 20-yards away, causing the buck to leap and race across the slough into deep water. However, when the nice buck reached the far bank, he stumbled and fell. Frank continued to hunt that water for several seasons, taking eight deer in the swamp – all from the same stand.

To learn more about hunting deer, check out John E. Phillips’ book, “How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro,” available in Kindle, Print and Audible versions, at (

Tomorrow: Understanding the Ingredients Needed to Take Swamp Deer

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