Get out of the tree and find your deer
BY ERNIE MARTIN
I begin this article while enjoying some fresh-smoked venison that I harvested on my first trip to the shooting house. The good Lord blessed me with a nice doe that I gladly shared with my cousin Steve, who helped me clean the deer.
I must give a shout out to Chef Tingle, the culinary instructor at Crestview High School. He took a ham from the deer and smoked it to perfection! On the last day of school before Christmas break we had a feast. We had fresh collards from the garden, provided by Deputy Joiner, cornbread, and smoked venison smothered in gravy. Very little made it home to my fridge. I thoroughly enjoy sharing good food with friends and family.
Before any eating can begin, you have to harvest the food. So what technique did I use to harvest the doe? I used the shooting house for a couple of reasons. First, it is located on private land that I have antlerless deer tags for. Secondly, the cold wind was blowing from the North and this stand requires a North wind for the deer to feel comfortable in coming to the food plot. I had reached the shooting house by 3:15 p.m. Around 4:45 p.m., three deer walked out. I picked out the oldest doe and brought her home.
STUCK IN A RUT
Now for this article, the question on the minds of deer hunters is when the mating season will begin. Mating season – commonly known as the rut – typically starts around the winter solstice, which begins on Dec. 21. By the time you read this article the pre-rut sea- son will be over, and the mating season will be in full swing.
What is the pre-rut and how do you know that it has started? First, you look for the signs. The bucks are rubbing small trees (also known as hooking) and making scrapes. Bucks will start setting the stage and marking their territory before the does are ready to mate. This is called the pre-rut. My hunting party has found these signs in the woods where we hunt. In order for me to have acquired this information, we needed to have boots on the ground and in the woods.
I have read and heard that there are certain things that you don’t do during the rut.
1. Never neglect the pre-rut. Bucks moving will lend a pattern that you can stick to until mating season starts.
2. Don’t overuse your deer calls. The best technique that I have witnessed was during the rut. The hunter used a doe bleat with a young buck grunt. Big Daddy was not about to let the young buck mate one of his does. It worked perfectly and the hunter harvested a nice big 9-point.
3. Pay attention to the does. When I harvested my doe, she was cautious but by no means was she nervous. She never stopped and looked back into the woods from where she came.
She was not being chased by any bucks. The does will let you know by their mannerisms if there are bucks in the area.
4. When the rut starts, look for places that are normally passed up by hunters. Fence rows, sage fields and unusual topography maymake the difference in a successful hunt.
Now to end this article I want to share my favorite technique for hunting deer. It is called, making man drives. Let’s face it: with our busy lives, we go hunting when we have the time. Time shortages aren’t always conducive to sitting in a stand, and running dogs can get rather expensive quickly.
Man drives are a great way to learn the lay of the land and to see a lot of wild game. I started making man drives at a very young age with my uncles. My uncles were excellent hunters who grew up in Escambia Farms and they knew every inch of the Blackwater Forest around their farm. I would listen to them and my brother-in-law and would gain knowledge of the next drive we were contemplating.
The setup for making drives is quite simple and very effective. You select a section of woods you want to drive and place standers on the perimeter of the section. The pushers or drivers will then en- ter the section and push the deer out over the standers. I have made man drives with as many as 20 hunters and as few as three. We have been 80 percent successful in seeing deer during the drives.
I have always enjoyed walking in the woods and learning my wayaround the creeks, briar patches, cane breaks, and sage fields. A GPSis great for learning new territory and Google Earth is a big help, but getting in the woods and seeing what is out there with your own eyes is hard to duplicate. Deer, turkey, wild hogs and small game of all shapes and sizes will get moving when you make man drives.
If you want to see more game, get out of the tree. Find a great group of hunters who know the woods and start stomping through the forest. Until next time, good luck and God bless.