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.
Several ingredients enable some hunters to be more successful than others. Frank (see Day 1) took so many deer because he:
* knew the area, and Frank had hunted this region for several years. He’d gone in the swamp during dry weather when the swamp was completely dry, and in wet weather when it was flooded. He knew where the ridges were, and where the water concentrated the deer. He’d located the acorn trees where the deer fed too. In regions other than swamps, deer hunters find that hunting around acorn trees is productive because the acorns are under the trees. But when you’re hunting in a flood plain, you not only have to know where the acorns are, you have to determine from which direction the water comes into the swamp. Knowing the movement of the water is critical because as a swamp is flooded, the acorns that are on the ground float to the top. Then the current carries them to a place where they’ll collect against a shore, and that’s where you’ll find the deer. This collection spot may be as much as 1/2-mile away from the oak trees that produce the acorns.
* had identified the deer’s natural crossings, including underwater ridges, beaver dams, and/or large trees that had fallen into the water that forced brush to collect around them. Knowing where the water will be, where the ridges are, and where the acorns collect only solves a portion of the riddle of where the deer should be when the time comes to hunt. Although deer will swim a slough if frightened, most of the time they look for natural crossings. When a swamp’s flooded, these natural crossings may be underwater. The casual observer only will see a vast region of flooded timber and never realize that in some places this water may be 6-inches or 6-feet deep. When large trees fall across the sloughs, then year after year, as the swamp floods and drains, leaves, sticks and sediment will build-up behind these fallen trees and form ridges.
* had learned the deer’s feeding and bedding patterns away from hunting pressure and realized that the more hunting pressure exerted on the outer edges of a swamp, the deeper into the swamp hunters had to move to find higher concentrations of deer. Most of the time deer will be in thick cover on a ridge during times of extremely-high hunting pressure. Discovering a deer bedding down in the middle of a slough with water all around it isn’t unusual when hunting pressure’s high. I’ve seen deer bedding on small knolls of ground that appear to be nothing more than an old tree stump in the middle of a vast expanse of water. But the further away from the hunting pressure that the hunter travels, the easier the deer are to pattern, and the more reliable the deer hunting will be. When the hunting pressure isn’t that high, the deer may bed-down in fairly- open terrain on hog backs or ridges out in a swamp. The water still provides a barrier from the hunter. Many times after a swamp has been flooded for several weeks or months, and the hunters have more or less stayed out of a region, the deer will follow very-predictable feeding and bedding patterns along well-established trails on ridges and high ground.
To learn more about hunting for deer, check out John E. Phillips’ bowhunting books, available in Kindle, “Bowhunting Deer: Mossy Oak Pros Know Bucks and Bows” (http://amzn.to/1QGvdQx) and “Bowhunting Deer: The Secrets of the PSE Pros” (http://amzn.to/VBr1qW).
Tomorrow: Knowing What Equipment You Need to Hunt Swamp Deer