Category Archives: Hunting

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 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.

Dangers of Deer Hunting

Do as I say, not as I do!

Every year I try to warn hunters to check their deer stands carefully before using them. You can get hurt in many ways, and deer stands account for the majority of hunting accidents every year.

A couple of weeks before season I checked all the bolts and nuts on my climbing stands, tested the plywood and canvass to make sure everything was strong, then hung them on the trees I usually hunt. I climbed up removing any new twigs that might be in my way and also made sure my shooting lanes were clear.

I then went to my tower stand and climbed it. The wind made it rock some so I went back down and made sure feet were tied down, and leveled them. I then went back up and checked for wasps, made sure the chair was in good shape and didn’t squeak when turned, and made sure I could still see the areas where I expected a deer to appear.

I went right by the box stand in the middle of my field several times but never stopped. I don’t hunt it until December, when deer are more likely to come to food plots after all acorns are gone, and where I expect to see does only.

The wind was so bad Saturday morning I decided to get in the box after all. When I got to it in the dark I shined my flashlight all around and spotted some old wasps nest. I cleared out spider webs with a stick and eased inside, checking under the chair and everywhere else I thought wasps might hide.

Wasps get off their nests and get in cracks in wood or under anything they can when it starts to get cold. They try to survive the winter that way. But on a warm day they will get active during the winter. I had a very bad experience many years ago that has made me paranoid about them.

Uncle Adron took me hunting when I was about 19 and told me to climb up in a tower stand on an old fire break. It was a fairly warm afternoon and I was almost sweating when I got to the top and settled in the chair.

There was carpet on the floor to dampen any sound. For some reason I moved a piece of it in the corner. There was a solid red mass slowly moving under it. I swear it looked like thousands of wasps!

I carefully lowered the carpet and didn’t move. No wasps came out from under it so I stayed put, too. I have no idea if a deer came by that afternoon since all my attention was on that carpet all afternoon!

Saturday morning as it got barely light enough to see there was something dark crawling on my thigh. I knew immediately it was a wasps and thumped off. When I turned on my flashlight to kill it there were about six crawling on the floor and walls. It was too cool for them to fly or move very fast. I killed all of them.

I kept checking as it got lighter and lighter and saw no more. But at about 9:00 I felt something crawling on the back of my neck. I knew it was a wasps and did not want to hit at it, but was afraid it would crawl down under my shirt.

When I tried to brush it off I could feel a very light sting. I killed it and stayed in the box another hour without seeing any more wasps. When I got home I ask Linda to check my neck. There was a small red spot she touched but it was not where I had felt the sting, it was right on the scar tissue from my surgery.

The next morning my neck was swollen in two places, the one where I felt the sting and the one on my scar. I guess there are no nerves in the scar tissue to let me feel the pain.

I have heard stories of folks being in stands way up trees on in towers when they woke up a snake. So far I have not had that problem. But I did almost have to heart attacks one morning while deer hunting.

My stand was on the far side of a clear cut that had grown up with weeds about knee high. I was walking across it before daylight with my 30-30 on my back, shining my flashlight on the ground to stay on the path. As I made a step a covey of quail flushed beside my foot.

I guess it was a good thing my gun was on my back or I probably would have emptied it at the unknown critter. It is unreal how much noise a covey of quail flushing from under your feet in the dark make! I stood there a few minutes and my heart finally returned almost to normal, and I realized it had been quail.

About ten steps later another covey of quail flushed. That almost did me in. I don’t know how long I stood still breathing deeply, trying to recover my wits. I was afraid to take another step in case I found another covey!

I finally made it to the tree and climbed it and settled down. I don’t think I saw a deer that day. I may have been shaking so hard the tree was trembling all morning, scaring the deer away.

Sometimes the most memorable things about a deer hunt have nothing to do with deer.

Guns Everywhere and No Problems

Gun deer season opened Saturday in Georgia. If you were out before daylight you saw trucks and SUVs, many pulling trailers with 4-wheelers on them, headed south toward favorite hunting places. Every one of those vehicles had a high powered rifle or shotgun in it. Many were the dreaded “semiautomatic” type. There were guns everywhere and no problems.

There are about 320,000 deer hunters in Georgia. We have a gun season that lasts 85 days. Last year, with all those guns in the woods all those days, there were only 20 accidents involving firearms, and as far as I can tell no one was shot on purpose.

Compare that to Chicago, where guns are pretty much impossible to own legally. If Chicago could go 85 days with only 20 gun accidents, none of them intentional shootings, it would be a miracle.

Guns are not the problem.

As far as the hunting, whiteoak acorns have been falling like rain for the last week. I don’t like that, they started falling a week too soon for me. If they had started falling this weekend the deer would be moving, looking for a place where there were a lot of acorns. By now they have found the motherlode of their favorite food and won’t move far from it.

I have a hillside with a lot of whiteoak trees on it so that is where I hunt when the acorns are falling. Hopefully some deer decided it was a good place to feed and I now have some fresh meat in the freezer.

That is a little unlikely since doe days don’t start where I hunt until November. I prefer shooting does, they are easier to clean and seem to taste a little better, but I will have to wait a couple of weeks for that to be legal.

Ticks Are Terrible

Several people got on me about saying I didn’t hear any shooting on opening day of deer season. They pointed out it was bow season. They are right, I had forgotten bow hunters almost always use string silencers nowadays.

Ticks are terrible again this year. I get bit just going out in my back yard and picking tomatoes. If you are bow hunting or scouting for gun season you need to be very careful. Don’t go out without spraying with a good repellant.

Although the CDC says there are almost no cases of Lyme Disease in Georgia each year, a blood test showed I had it about seven or eight years aqo, and every time I mention it someone says they have been tested positive or know someone who has.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection ticks transfer from one host to another. It is supposed to be cured with a round of antibiotics but some doctors say there is kind of chronic Lyme Disease that is very hard to cure. I was sick for over a year, taking round after round of antibiotics, and ended up going to Mobile, Alabama to a doctor that specialized in it.

Growing up we almost never saw a tick, and I don’t think I ever got one on me. But the spread of deer spread ticks, too. Now they are all too common. About 20 years ago I took some ticks I had captured on sticky tape to an entomologists at the Experiment Station and got information on them.

When a female tick lays its eggs there may be several hundred laid in one spot. When those eggs hatch the tiny larvae crawl up a piece of grass or weed and wait on a host. It can be a mouse, squirrel, deer or you. At this stage the ticks are smaller than a pin head and hard to see.

When they bite you or another host they drop off almost immediately. Since you don’t get the itch from the bite for a day or so they are long gone by the time you know you have been bitten. After their blood meal they go into the ground and molt, coming back out bigger. If the host they bit the first time had Lyme Disese in its blood the tick can now infect you.

The small tick climbs back up on something and waits on another host. This time it may be attached for a few hours before dropping off, but are again usually long gone when you know you have been bitten. They are still so small you won’t feel them crawling on you and they are still very hard to see. Since they are more scattered now, depending on where they dropped off, you will have fewer bites. At the first stage you may get dozens at one time.

Again they go into the ground and molt, coming back out bigger. This time you may feel them crawling on you and they stay attached a day or so and is at what we often call seed tick stage. After they drop off the females will breed then get one more blood meal, this time filling up with blood to the big gray stage we often find on dogs. This takes several days.

Than the female, full of blood, drops off, digs into the ground, and lays her eggs, starting the cycle again.

If you find an attached tick get it off and watch the bite to make sure you don’t get the red, infected “bulls eye” typical of Lyme Disease. Even without that sign if you start feeling bad, like you are getting the flu, run down and slight fever, insist on being checked for Lyme Disease if it does not get worse fast like the flu does.

By the way, you don’t have to go hunting and it does not have to be in the fall to get it. I am almost positive I got infected at West Point Lake. After a bathroom break in the woods in April I found three ticks on me, and started feeling bad in late May or early June that year.

Bow Hunting In Georgia

Although archery season opened yesterday I don’t think many deer were killed. I didn’t hear any shooting at all.

I haven’t tried to throw sticks at deer for many years. When I was about 13 years old I got a bow, supposedly suitable for hunting. It as a 40 pound straight limb bow and was legal, but I am not sure it was strong enough to kill a deer.

At 15 I got a 50 pound recurve and shot it a lot,

enough to be fairly sure I could kill a deer. My parents did not want me deer hunting with a gun at that age but they felt comfortable with bow hunting, so they let me go with an uncle that was an excellent hunter.

They were not worried about me knowing gun safety but were a little worried about others with high powered rifles in the woods. This was back at the very beginning of open deer seasons in the state. There were a lot of rumors about how dangerous it was to go deer hunting and I think it scared my mom a little. My dad had gone deer hunting one time and hated it, so that did not help.

Uncle Adron taught me a lot about looking for sign and about stand placement. Opening day when I was 16 I missed shots at four deer, using all the arrows I had with me. That was my first experience with buck fever! The next year I got a 30-30 for Christmas so I hunted with it and didn’t spend as much time in the woods with a bow.

In college I hit the only deer I ever stuck with an arrow. A doe came directly under my stand and I shot her between the front “shoulders” straight down. I was so excited I tried to follow too fast and found half my arrow and a big pool of blood, but no blood trail leading from it. That ruined archery hunting for me for several years.

After moving to Griffin I didn’t hunt much for a few years with bow and when I started shooting it again I found I had some arthritis in my right shoulder and could not hold the arrow back long enough to make a decent shot. I never tried a compound bow, I was still using my old recurve.

I got a crossbow and learned to shoot it. But that was before they were legal to use unless you got a special permit because a doctor said you physically could not use a regular bow. I did get the permit but never hunted with the crossbow.

Hunting deer with bow is a challenge and I admire people with the skill and patience to kill a big buck with one. But I will wait until October when I can use my 7 mm mag. I have enough trouble hitting a deer with it nowadays!

Trying To Learn To Hunt Wild Hogs

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but I am excited and having fun trying to learn to hunt wild hogs hunting and trapping them. Although I have hunted for about sixty years and have been hog hunting one time with some guys with dogs in South Georgia, trying to figure it out on my own is very new.

For example, I now know hog and deer tracks are very similar. Although I grew up on a farm with hogs and saw their tracks many times, that was a very long time ago and there were no deer around to leave tracks to compare to the hog tracks.

Learning about hog habits, food sources, bedding preferences and movements has been interesting. They definitely behave in different ways. And trying to figure out how to trap them leads to all kinds of possible traps and how and where to build them.

I am getting more exercise than in many years from walking creek bottoms and hillsides looking for signs. My goal is to get some wild hogs for meat but the process has been fun so far!

Wild Hog Hunting

Got wild hogs? I have beenn wild hog hunting one time, on a trip to South Georgia, and the two we killed were great when I took the meat home and cooked it. Although I have tried to find a place to hunt them around Griffin, so far I have not had any luck. My place on Buck Creek does not have any on it, which is good and bad.

Frank Harris called me last week and said he got a report of some wild hogs spotted not too far outside Griffin on North 2nd Street. There is a lot of wild land out past the city and hogs adapt to just about any kind of habitat. They will eat anything and reproduce like crazy.

Farmers hate them. A group of wild hogs can root up acres of planted seed like corn or soybeans in one night, ruining the chance of getting a crop. They eat and ruin many crops after they start growing, too.

The problem is so bad the state DNR has started a program where land owners with a hog problem can sign up and people wanting to hunt the hogs can be matched with them. Hunters get to hunt and get meat and the land owner gets the numbers of hogs reduced. Sounds like a win-win situation!

We hunted with dogs in South Georgia, making it much easier to find them. They don’t move around much during the day so night hunting is the best way to get them without dogs, especially where they have been hunted and have become wary.

Get yourself some pork and do a farmer a favor – shoot a wild hog!

Trapping Rabbits, Possums and Hogs

Can I make a rabbit box big enough for a wild hog? I grew up making boxes that I set out for rabbits and possums and was fairly successful with them. For rabbits no bait was really needed. But I put old apples from the local school cafeteria, where my dad was principal, in some, and possums loved them.

I could get 75 cents to a whole dollar for a live possum back in the late 1950s and early 1960s when I was catching them. Rabbits usually bought 50 cents. All was good money, I could buy a whole box of 50 rounds of .22 long rifle bullets for one sale of either!

And even at 12 years old, I could buy .22 bullets.

It was weird, in 1968, just before I turned 18, I suddenly could not buy .22 bullets I had been buying for years because I was not old enough! A new federal law that had nothing to do with hunting, kids or common sense banned selling .22 bullets to anyone younger than 21 since they could be used in a handgun. That was the first time I realized how stupid gun control laws were.

I always kept my rabbits and possums alive by shaking them out of the box into a croaker sack, tying it up and taking it to town to sell. Back then a lot of folks did not have refrigerators so they bought fresh meat every day and cooked it that night.

I could stand in the parking lot of one of the six local stores that sold groceries – and everything else you could ever need, from bullets and hooks to boots and overhauls (overalls now). Anyone seeing a kid with a croaker sack in the parking lot knew what they had!

Rabbits were eaten that nigh but possums had to be cleaned out. They were put in a small pen and fed food scraps until they were deemed clean of the possibly rotten food they had eaten in the wild. Then they were baked with sweet potatoes!

I have been told there are hogs running Buck Creek where I have some land and have a possible place to hunt out there. I have done some research and found out the only problem is that hogs are nocturnal and you need to hunt them at night unless you have hog dogs. So I am thinking about trying to build a trap for them.

Wild hogs are very smart and I have been told their sense of smell is much better than a deer’s, so you have to be very careful when hunting or trying to trap them. And if you set out a trap and catch one you have to move it. The rest of the passel of hogs will avoid it.

I was happy to hear about a processor that will take hogs locally since I want the meat but really don’t want to have to butcher one if I get lucky.