Category Archives: Hunting

Do You Hunt or Just Shoot Game Over Bait?

It is now legal to shoot deer over bait in our area, in north Georgia. This change from last season came because of pressure from people wanting to kill deer easier. In meetings around the state, a fairly high majority of those attending wanted the change. The legislature sets hunting laws but could not come to a decision, so the governor passed the decision on to the DNR.

To make shooting deer over bait legal, the DNR changed the rules, not the law. They simply shrank the Northern Zone, where baiting is still illegal, to include only some federal lands in the area, where baiting was always illegal. Almost all of Georgia is now considered the “Southern” Zone, where baiting has been legal for several years.

I very intentionally said it is legal to shoot deer, not hunt them, over bait. Drawing animals and birds to you to shoot them is not hunting. That is why we go quail hunting but to a dove shoot. You look for quail in their habitat. You draw doves to a field to shoot them.

There are good and bad things about shooting over bait. For young hunters, especially those seeking their first deer, they are much more likely to be successful over bait. That is also true of some of us older folks as well as those with other handicaps that keep us from really hunting. But it does not teach hunting skills and the pride in working to take your quarry.

Deer tend to browse while feeding, moving a lot as they seek natural food sources. Even with food plots they will walk through them, pausing to eat but not staying in the same place for very long. But a pile of corn makes them come to the exact same place every day and spent more time in a very small area.

This concentration tends to make diseases spread among the deer. And it also makes it easier to predators other than us to pastern and kill them. There are many pictures from trail cameras set up around feeders showing coyotes and bobcats hanging around feeders, waiting on an easy meal to come to them.

To me there is no difference between putting out a corn feeder to attract deer to you and planting a food plot to do the same, except for the amount of work involved. Food plots have always been legal, and they do have the benefit of providing food for deer year-round, not just during hunting season.

I try to stay legal although I do not consider myself a deer hunter. I simply want to harvest two or three deer, preferably does, each year for the freezer. I’m a meat harvester. When younger I did thrill in looking for bucks in their natural habitat, figuring out their movements and patterns, and placing a stand in exactly the right place to get a shot at a buck.

I am proud of the first buck I killed 50 years ago this fall, a small eight pointer. I went out on public land, found signs and figured out where to put my stand, all on my own. It was tougher back then with fewer deer and fewer open days to hunt. I have killed much bigger bucks since then around my food plots but there is no pride in taking them.

I found out a few years ago how effective baiting is. I have 75 acres I hunt on in Spalding County. I plant a small field with wheat, clover and winter peas each year hoping to make it easier for me to get my meat. I have also planted crab apple trees and fertilized persimmon trees. For years I was successful.

About four years ago I stopped seeing deer in my food plots. They had changed their movement patterns. I was told a neighbor withless than ten acres of land had put a corn feeder and I found it. His stand was on his side of a gulley between his land and mine, but his feeder was actually on my property.

Deer had changed their routes, going by the corn in preference to coming by my field. I found lots of signs around the corn and trails that led to it from bedding areas, then to other areas that bypassed my field. That was frustrating.

Since baiting is now legal, I will put out a couple of corn feeders. I will continue to plant food plots if for no other reason than to have food available year-round for them and keep them healthier. And I will move my feeders every few months, so the deer will not stay in one small area all the time and help spread disease. And moving them will confuse other predators, at least a little.

Baiting is not a bad thing for some animals. Wild hogs are not game animals, they are a serious problem for farmers and the environment. So, putting out bait and shooting or trapping as many of them as you can is a good thing.

Baiting bears in some states has been legal a long time, but not in north Georgia. Bait gets bears to come to where the waiting person can shoot them. In some areas it is almost impossible to actually hunt bears due to their inconsistent movement and impenetrable habitat. Still, it is bear shooting, not hunting.

Are you a hunter or a harvester? You can be both, but not on the same property unless it is huge. Putting out food for deer and shooting deer over it but hunting for a quality buck is possible, but if your bait changes the bucks habits you are not really going after him on his own natural habitat. Since bait will attract deer for an area covering at least a square mile, you really need two different places to separate the two.

What will you be this year?

Have You Ever Been On A Snipe Hunt?

If you grew up like I did in rural Georgia, you may have been invited to a snipe hunt. You had to go at night and one person, you, got to hold the sack while your “friends” drove the snipe into the sack. Of course, they left you “holding the bag” out in the dark while they went home.

There really are snipe around here. They live in wet area and probe the mud for worms with their long bills. When spooked they make a strange squawk and take off in irregular, darting side to side flight.

When young I was very curious about them and other birds. Like James J. Audubon, I wanted to examine them up close, so I shot them when I could. Over the years I shot everything from field larks and starlings to killdeers. If they were not good to eat, I killed one to examine and was satisfied.

One bird that was very elusive was a brown one that lived in a marshy area on our farm. I would see them every year but could not get very close, and when I did get into range I could not hit them with my trusty .410 when they flew.

I finally killed one. It was brown with a long, thin bill and I found out in my Encyclopedia Britannica, my google back then, that it was a snipe. I discovered they were related to woodcock, hard to shoot as I knew from experience, and good to eat. But that was the only one I ever killed.

Tomorrow is the last day of woodcock season in Georgia. Woodcock are popular upland game birds further north but here they are mostly limited to the north Georgia mountains. Some folks do hunt them in Georgia and they are good to eat. I think woodcock and snipe are considered the same for the season since they are closely related. And you need a shotgun and dog, not a sack, to get them!

Deer Hunters

From three weeks ago:

Deer hunters statewide are buzzing. Some have been hunting with bows for a few weeks now and others will hit the woods with muzzleloaders in a couple of weeks, but the big event is in three weeks. Gun season opens statewide on October 21.

Some hunters are prepared for gun season. They have zeroed in their guns, checked their stands for safety and placed them in key areas they have carefully scouted. Others will wander into the woods opening day totally unprepared, with guns that are not accurate and stands they may fail and cause injury or death.

The worst of the unprepared will simply drive dirt roads until they find woods without “posted” signs on them and look for deer. These folks are breaking the law since they do not have permission to hunt on private land. It does not matter if the land is posted, the law requires you to have permission from the land owner to hunt.

Some people have put out corn or other bait and will sit near it opening day. That is legal in south Georgia but those in north Georgia, including this area, risk a hefty fine if caught. It seems unfair that half the state can do something legally that the other half can not, but that is the law.

If you are trying to kill a deer over bait, or in my opinion even over a food plot legally planted to attract deer, you are not hunting. You may harvest a deer but it is more like farming than hunting.

I have no problem with killing deer in food plots, I do it. But I do not consider what I do hunting. I am interested in harvesting venison to eat so I do what the law allows to help, but hunting involves much more effort to locate a deer in natural habitat, figure out the way it moves during the day and set up to shoot them.

I respect hunters that put out the effort to kill a trophy buck. It takes a lot of work to truly hunt a wise trophy buck and kill him. But it is not for everyone. Choose what you want to do, harvest or hunt, and act within the law to accomplish your goals.

Planting Food Crops for Deer

The rains came just in time. About three weeks ago the weather guessers said it would rain several days in row. I knew the soil in my food plot still had good moisture a couple of inches down from the rains from the hurricane in early September. A little more rain would make wheat sprout and give it a good start, so I sowed wheat.

I should have known better. There was not a drop of rain for over two weeks. The wheat sprouted and got about three inches high, but started to die from the hot sun and lack of rain.

Just before the last hurricane rains hit, I put out winter peas, clover and turnips just as it started sprinkling. The surviving wheat and the new seeds responded to the new moisture and should have a good chance of growing well this fall, providing an attraction so I can harvest my venison for the next year.

A week later, everything looks good – wheat about five inches high, peas three inches high and good leaves on turnips. Clover has sprouted and growing thick.

Hunting Rituals

Hunting Rituals are important

If you have hunted much you probably have rituals you go through. Some, like sighting in your rifle, are critical for success. Others, like carrying a buckeye in your pocket, are more mental that critical. But even those mental ones can be important since confidence breeds success.

Being member of a deer club that has a camp each year will introduce you to many more rituals. For years at Big Horn Hunting Club a big iron pot hung over the fire. Not only was a fire burning constantly from camp opening until the time we all left, water was added constantly all week to keep it full for washing dishes or other hot-water needs.
Then we got a gas fired water heater that produced all we needed. Guess what? The kettle stayed over the fire and we still kept if full of water.

Don’t dare shoot at a deer and miss during camp. You have to admit missing when you come back to camp since others have surely heard you shoot. And the ritual at many camps and even in non-camp groups is to cut out your shirt tail if you miss. I’m pretty sure some guys carried an old shirt they didn’t like in their truck just so they could change if they missed a deer.
Blooding is another common ritual. When a youth kills their first deer some blood from it is smeared on their face, usually just a finger mark down one cheek. And the youth will not wash it off for days, it is a mark to wear proudly!

In many clubs it is a ritual to eat the liver of a deer the day you kill one. There are some good reasons for this. It tastes good – if you like liver. It is easy to process in the woods. All you have to do is set it aside when gutting your deer then slice it up.

Showing respect for your kill is another ritual some of us stick with. Most of them come down from Native Americans who depended on killing game for their survival. From the time I shot my first bird with a BB gun I have always felt a tiny spark of regret for killing something. So when I read about ways to show respect to the animal for giving up its spirit for your needs I liked them.

Of course the most important way to show respect is to make a good shot, killing the animal with as little suffering as possible.

As soon as I confirm the deer is dead, as the Native Americans would do, I pause for a minute looking at the beauty of the deer and thank it for its sacrifice, remembering what it took to outsmart it in its natural habitat, or just the luck I had that day.

That makes me even more determined to use every bit of the deer I can and waste nothing. That is another way of honoring a deer or any other animal you kill.

In Europe a similar practice developed. A successful hunter would place a sprig of an evergreen into the deer’s mouth then put a spring of the plant into their cap, connecting the two. The sprig in the deer’s mouth also honored its last meal.

Some of my rituals bring back good memories. On my first dove shoot when I was about ten years old one of my uncles gave me an old army surplus gas mask bag for my hunting stuff. I killed my first dove that day and to this day I carry some necessities for the hunt in my bag. It has my skinning knife, bullets, a couple of plastic garbage bags, some rope and a spool of cord and toilet paper.

I mentioned a buckeye for success earlier. When I was a kid many of us had one we carried for luck. We would cherish it and polish it often, making I shiny and bright. It was as necessary as our pocket knives and we went nowhere without both.

Zeroing in your gun is critical, especially if you have a scope, which most of us do. Old iron sights didn’t change much but a scope can change a lot from year to year, causing you to miss your shot. A few shots fired at the range before season opens, and again if you drop your gun or hunt in widely changing temperatures, makes sure if you get your shirt tail cut off it is your fault, not your gun’s fault.

The Griffin Gun Club opens its range each year, usually the first Saturday in October, and members are there to help you make sure your gun hits where you aim it. They are experts at sighting in a rifle and can fine tune with just a few shots.

Get ready for hunting by going through all your pre-season rituals and zero in your gun. Then, as you hunt and experience your rituals, remember where they came from and why they are important.

Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation Sues Department of Interior

Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation Sues Department of Interior
from The Fishing Wire

Editor’s Note: No Valentine’s notes passing between sportsmen and the Department of the Interior today. Sportsmen are angry over Interior Department actions they call a serious overreach into game management- an area that has largely been a state matter. Today, the Sportsmen’s Alliance explains the reasoning behind their lawsuit seeking to overturn a pair of Obama-era restrictions governing management of National Wildlife Refuge and National Preserve Lands in Alaska.

On February 10, the Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation, the Alaska Professional Hunters Association and two rural Alaskans filed suit against the federal government seeking to overturn two Obama-era restrictions governing the management of National Wildlife Refuge and National Preserve lands within Alaska’s borders.

The Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation and APHA believe the rules are an overreach of the federal government into the traditional state role of game management, and this action in Alaska sets a dangerous precedent that puts hunting at risk on hundreds of millions of acres of public land nationwide.

The 96 million acres of National Wildlife Refuge and Park Service lands at stake in this lawsuit cover an area slightly larger than Montana, the fourth-largest state in the union.

“Game management belongs in the hands of boots-on-the-ground state biologists who understand the traditions, goals, game animals and ecosystems better than anyone, certainly better than a federal bureaucrat simply reading a report in a Washington, D.C. office,” said Evan Heusinkveld, president and CEO of the Sportsmen’s Alliance and Foundation. “These two rules represent yet another act of the Obama Administration that sets a bad precedent for states across the country that, if not stopped, would allow federal bureaucrats or a future administration more in line with anti-hunting activists to continue seizing control of traditional state decisions.”

The enacted rule changes banned commonly accepted hunting methods, including the extension of wolf and coyote seasons to summer months suitable for hunting in the colder Alaska climate, and use of bait while hunting bears.

“These changes even go so far as to completely outlaw normal wildlife management practices involving seasons, bag limits, and methods and means, even when that is the only feasible way to restore other wildlife species such as moose, caribou or deer,” continued Heusinkveld.

Alaskans and sportsmen around the country have shown broad support for the position of the Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation and APHA. The State of Alaska has filed suit to overturn the rule changes, as has Safari Club International. All of Alaska’s senators and representatives oppose the changes, as does the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), along with numerous other national organizations. AFWA, which is a partnership made up of state wildlife management professionals across the country, has stated that the rules compromise state authority to manage fish and wildlife.

“This is nothing but blatant federal overreach that will destroy Alaska’s predator-prey balance, impact and set precedent for sportsmen and public-land users nationwide and, moreover, decimate residents both economically and in their ability to provide for their families from a subsistence perspective,” said Heusinkveld.

Alaska has specific protections that have been set out in law. On three occasions Congress has directed that the state–not the federal government–has the primary authority to set hunting and fishing rules in Alaska: 1959 in the Alaska Statehood Act, 1980 in the Alaska Lands Act (that created most of the Alaska refuges) and 1997 in Refuge Improvement Act (which also made hunting and fishing priority public uses on all refuge lands).

“It is clear that the federal government has overstepped its authority in this issue, and we’re confident that our lawsuit, coupled with Congressional action and the formal review promised by Interior Secretary-nominee Representative Zinke, will ultimately restore proper and commonsense authority to game management in Alaska,” said Heusinkveld.

About the Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Sportsmen’s Alliance protects and defends America’s wildlife conservation programs and the pursuits – hunting, fishing and trapping – that generate the money to pay for them. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation is responsible for public education, legal defense and research. Its mission is accomplished through several distinct programs coordinated to provide the most complete defense capability possible. Stay connected to Sportsmen’s Alliance: Online, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Is the Electronic Deer Reporting System Working?

The 2016/17 deer season is over and results are in. This past season successful deer hunters had to report their kill to the state electronically, either through a smart phone app or home computer, or call it in. This system seemed to work well and gave fast results.

You can go to https://gamecheckresults.gooutdoorsgeorgia.com/DeerByCounty.aspx and see the results. This site allows you to look at the number of deer killed statewide, by county and by region. It breaks it down by buck and does and firearm, muzzleloader and archery kills. It is interesting to see where and how deer were killed, and compare your results.

In Spalding County there were 694 deer killed, 401 bucks and 293 does. Not surprisingly, most were killed with firearms, with a total of 584, with only 17 killed with muzzleloaders and 93 with archery equipment. Compare that to more rural Pike County with 1187 total killed, 669 bucks and 293 does with 1033 killed by gun, 123 with archery equipment and 31 with muzzleloaders.

Those numbers make me think I should hunt with a muzzleloader. I know it is harder to kill a deer with one but the woods are much quieter and deer not nearly as spooky. I have one I bought at an outdoor writers meeting several years aqo but I have never shot it.

Turkey hunters this year have to report their kills the same way as deer hunters did. It will be interesting to see how turkey season goes for local and statewide hunters this year.

Why Should I Join Ducks Unlimited?

Are you a duck hunter? Do you like standing in freezing water before daylight hoping to get two or three shots just as it gets legal shooting light? Are you addicted to the thrill of duck hunting?

Or are you an environmentalists, not really interested in hunting but really concerned about conserving our natural environment? Do you want our wetlands kept wild and conserved for the future? Are you rational enough to know our environment can be used while keeping it, which is conservation, rather than totally left alone with no human use like a fanatical preservationist demands?

If you can answer yes to any of those questions you should join Ducks Unlimited.

Ducks, Unlimited (DU) was started in 1937 and currently has about 600,000 adult members in the US, with over 125,000 more in Canada and Mexico. And there are about 47,000 youth members in the US. There are a lot of people interested in conservation and hunting in North America!

The DU mission tells you what the organization does. It says: “Ducks Unlimited conserves, restores, and manages wetlands and associated habitats for North America’s waterfowl. These habitats also benefit other wildlife and people.“

As of the beginning of this year Du had conserved almost 14 million acres in North America, with projects that affected another 118 million acres. Conserved acres mean land dedicated to wildlife while affected acres may be an area with a project that does not dedicate the total area to duck habitat but improves it.

The most important factor of any organization is the percent of funds raised that actually go to their cause. With DU it is an admirable 87 percent. Only 13 percent of all money they get is used for administration, human resources, fund raising and development. That is better than many other conservation organizations.

DU does not think duck hunting is only for private land owners. Here in Georgia their efforts have helped improve duck hunting in 16 WMAs and other areas open to public hunting. These areas are spread out over the state so most Georgia hunters have easy access to one.

Some of the ones closest to us here in Griffin include Rum Creek, where a perimeter dyke and water control structures that improve 25 acres there. Also, at West Point WMA, Glovers Creek, 90 acres of land were improved through replacement of an old water control structure that gave better use of water on the project.

And on Blanton Creek WMA on Bartletts Ferry Lake, two water controls structures were installed to conserve 50 acres. Water controls structures like these two and others are sometimes as simple as a valve or gate on a dam that allows an area to be drained so grain can be planted then flooded to enhance it for ducks when the grain is mature.

On some areas these devices use natural flow of water but on Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge there are big diesel pumps that drain huge fields each spring so they can be planted, then they are flooded in the fall when the grain is mature.

All wildlife, from deer and raccoons to quail and rabbits, benefit from the habitat improvements of DU. And nongame wildlife benefits, too. All kinds of bird species use the same habitat as ducks. Like bluebirds and cardinals? They definitely benefit from the things DU does.

The ways DU conserves includes: Restoring grasslands since many kinds of ducks nest in grasslands near wetlands and restoring them improves survival of young ducks, replanting forests because flooded bottomland forest give ideal wintering habitat for ducks, and restoring watersheds since the land around wetlands have a big effect in everything from nutrients to contaminants on the wetland.

Other areas of conservation include: working with landowners since nearly three fourths of wetlands are in private ownership and most of those private owners are willing to manage them for wildlife, working with partners from other conservation organizations to government agencies, and outright acquiring land to dedicate to conservation, usually by getting it in government agencies control.

Conservation easements protect land from future development, management agreements give financial incentives to private land owners to improve conservation and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) enables DU to find where habitat work will be most effective. GIS includes combining satellite images with other information like wetland inventories, land use, soil type, wildlife use and other information to give a complete picture.

If you are a duck hunter DU can help you with everything from information on waterfowl migration patterns to identifying different species of ducks. The can help you learn the best decoy setups and how to train your retriever. You can even get shooting tips so you hit more of your targets and calling tips so you get more targets to try to hit.

Check out their web site for more information at http://www.ducks.org/ and consider joining DU to help conservation of all kinds. Its not just for the birds!

Do You Hunt or Harvest?

Are you a hunter or a harvester? Do you hunt or harvest? In my opinion, and many may disagree, if you put out bait for deer or any other animals, even when legal, you are not hunting, you are harvesting. You are not hunting, you are waiting on the quarry to come to you.

The same applies to planting food plots. Don’t get me wrong, I plant food plots and sit in a stand watching the for deer. And I would put out corn and other bait if legal in this area. But sitting near a food plot waiting on a deer to come to feed is not hunting.

Hunting is going out into your quarry’s natural habitat, studying its movements and patterns and then trying to intercept it on its terms. That is why we go quail hunting and dove shooting. To find quail you go into their habitat and try to find them, usually with the help of a dog. But for doves you sit around a food source someone has planted, waiting on them to come to you.

I am not interested in killing a big buck with a pretty rack. The only reason I go after deer is to harvest three or four for the freezer. I am happy to shoot does.

Most of the time I am sitting where I can watch a field where I plant clover, peas and wheat each year. The deer come to it to feed, usually right at dark, and I can harvest one to eat.

Early in the season I do actually hunt. I go out and look for signs like rubs and scrapes near white oak trees. And I put up my climbing stand in an area where I can be hidden from approaching deer but get a shot at one.

I have shot some nice bucks with big racks but most were by accident while I was out harvesting, not hunting. I can take no pride in killing a big buck when all I did was plant something that attracted it. I am much more proud of my first deer, a small eight pointer I killed when I was 18. I actually went out and studied the area where it lived, set up my stand in a good place and was able to shoot it.

It takes some effort to plant a food plot, much more than just putting out corn for deer. But neither is anywhere near the effort it takes to go out and hunt a deer.

The bottom line to me is hunting is going out looking for your quarry, harvesting is waiting on them to come to you because of something you have done to alter their habitat.

There are exceptions. I grew up hunting wild quail and it was hard to find them, even with a dog. And you never knew exactly where they might be until the dog pointed. But one time I went to a paid trip on a quail plantation. It was fun, but it was not really hunting.

A few plantations where you pay to hunt have wild birds but they are rare and expensive. Most put out pen raised birds in an area and you follow a guide with a dog. You do get the experience of watching the dog point the bird, walking close to make it fly then shooting it.

But the guides know where the birds were placed and they usually don’t go far, so they can help the dogs find them. And pen raised birds don’t fly very fast or far. The one time I went I hit 12 birds with 14 shots, highly unusual for me. They are much easier to hit than wild birds.

To show how slow they are, on one point on my trip the bird got up a couple of feet in front the dog. The dog jumped as it flushed and caught it in the air. In a video on the internet you can see a guy actually reach out and catch a quail as it flies by him. That had to be a pen raised bird.

Doves are fun to shoot at, which describes what I do much better than saying I shoot them. And it takes some skill to pick a good place to set up you blind so you will be where they fly coming into the field. But that effort pales in comparison with going out looking for wild quail.

I have never had much interest in killing a bear. Most bear hunting is done by putting out bait and waiting on them to come to it. In many cases it is impossible to find them without bait since they range over such a wide area and are very hard to pattern. In some areas it is also legal to chase them with dogs, letting them do most of the work of finding the bear.

I doesn’t bother me when people say they are hunting when I think they are really harvesting. As long as it is legal it is fine. But I do make a distinction in my mind between hunters and harvesters.

Bare Branch Squirrel Hunting

The leaves are finally falling in large numbers. The moisture in the air from the rain and colder weather is making them drop fast. This should help deer hunters see better in the woods, but it makes it even more important for hunters to stay still since deer can see better, too.

When I squirrel hunted a lot I loved it when the leaves finally fell off the trees. With leaves on them, a squirrel could run to the top of most any tree and I would never see it again. While trying to find one, seeing them shaking leafy branches as they moved gave them away sometimes but usually I had to get close.

With bare branches I could sit on a hillside and see one move up a tree trunk or through overhead limbs for a long way. And I could usually slip up on them before spooking them. Sometimes I would just take off running to the tree they were in. They would usually run to the top of the tree but I could make them show themselves by throwing a limb or rock to the opposite side of the tree from where I was standing. That would usually make them move to my side.

Sometimes they would hide in nests. Some of my friends would shoot the nest and hit the squirrel, and it would crawl out and fall to the ground. I did that some until I heard my .22 bullet hit one and it did not come out. I did not want to waste any animal I killed. I kept shooting until the nest would no longer hold the body and it fell, but it was too shot up to eat. That is when I quit shooting nests. I figured I could get the squirrel on the next trip in a more sporting manner.

I would try to wait one out that was hiding in a nest, but never was able to. They had a lot more patience than I did. I could sit for 30 minutes without moving and they would not come out. That was about as long as I could stand not moving around!

Deer season ends in about a month. Plan a squirrel hunting trip with a kid then. They will definitely have good memories for the rest of their lives, and so will you.