Category Archives: Hunting

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.

Small Game Hunting

If you like deer hunting, the bad news is, “deer season is over.” If you like small game hunting, the good news is, “deer season is over.” For another month those of us that like to hunt squirrels, rabbits, quail and other game have the woods and fields to ourselves.

There is little danger from a deer hunter shooting someone in the woods hunting squirrels, but you still worry a little, even if you are wearing fluorescent orange. Even when on my own land I wear an orange vest when walking in the woods during deer season. Nobody else is supposed to be out there, and I try to be safe, but still feel a little uneasy.

During February there is little worry anyone will be in the woods deer hunting and you can enjoy trying to outwit a tree rat as it goes around a tree trunk to hide from you. With the leaves off the trees you can see them moving a long way off and stalk up to them. But the leaves off the trees also means they can see you coming so you have to be even stealthier.

Hunting rabbits without dogs is difficult but can be done. It is easier to find where they are feeding now that most plants are dead and kicking a brush pile near a green field might give you a shot. Quail hunting it just about useless without a dog, though.

Unfortunately, coyotes, fire ants and changing land use means rabbits and quail are much more rare than when I was growing up. So take up coyote hunting. There is no season on them and this time of year is tough on them, too, so they are more likely to come to a wounded rabbit call.

I have had the chance to shoot a coyote from my deer stand a few times but it is hard for me to pull the trigger, they just look too much like my pet dogs.
But if you concentrate on the damage they do to native wildlife, and the fact they are not native and should not live around here, it is easier.

Growing up I hunted squirrels as fanatically as I bass fish now. I often went in the mornings before school and almost every afternoon after school. And every Saturday in season I was in the woods at daylight and stayed till dark. Back then you could not hunt on Sunday so that was my only day off.

Squirrel hunting is a great way to train a kid on safe gun handling in the woods and how to stay quiet and learn the ways of nature. It is also a good way to teach them to use what they shoot since there are many ways to cook tree rats. If you have a kid that wants to hunt, take them squirrel hunting. They will be a better deer hunter in the future if you do.

Planting Crab Apple Trees for Deer

Yes, there is a seedling in that cage

Yes, there is a seedling in that cage

Winter is the time to plant crab apple trees for deer, as well as other trees like persimmon and pear. Deer love fruit and if you have trees where you hunt they will attract deer. You may be like me and call that harvesting rather than hunting, since you are putting something out to attract the deer to you rather than going and hunting them, but that is open to your opinion.

I ordered my crab apple seedlings from the Georgia Forestry Service. They sell a variety of trees at very good prices. Ten crab apple seedlings were $30, much cheaper than I could have gotten them anywhere else. They start taking orders in June for delivery to your nearest Forestry Service office in December or January, the time to plant them. i wanted to order some persimmon trees, but they were sold out by the time I tried to order.

Since my soil is poor I bought some bags of topsoil at Lowes and a bag of 10-10-10 fertilizer. I also took some wire I had and made tubes to protect the saplings from deer and other animals. To plant, I dug a hole a little deeper than the seedlings had been growing and much bigger than the root spread with post hole diggers. I put the sapling in and added topsoil, compacting it as I added it. When the hole was full I poured water on it to settle it good and sprinkled a cup of fertilizer around it about a foot out. After staking the cages down securely I flagged them with surveyors tape.

These wild persimmon trees are in my field

These wild persimmon trees are in my field

I also fertilized some wild persimmon trees in my field and a white oak tree as well as some saw tooth oaks I planted a few years ago. I have been watching about a dozen persimmon trees that came up in my field, hoping to see some fruit so I would know they are female trees. I finally saw some persimmons on this group of trees this year so I fertilized them.

I hope to harvest venison around these trees in three or four years.

PETA Loses!

PETA Loses Last-Minute Bid to Block DC-Area Urban Bowhunting
Editor’s Note: Today’s feature first appeared in our companion service, The Archery Wire.
from The Hunting Wire

A judge in Bethesda, Maryland on Friday ruled that the Pilot Archery Managed Deer Hunting Program in two Montgomery County parks could proceed as planned, despite a desperate, last-ditch effort by the notorious and publicity-mongering animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), to block the bowhunt through a court order.

Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Callahan denied a motion filed Thursday, September 10 for a temporary restraining order sought by Bethesda resident and PETA member Eilene Cohhn to stop the managed archery deer hunts approved earlier this year by Montgomery Parks.

Bethesda Magazine reported this week the ruling marked the second setback in two days for PETA’s the effort to derail the archery deer hunt, after seeking an immediate restraining order upon filing the suit Thursday. Judge Callahan refused to issue the order before an initial hearing Friday, at which she formally denied the restraining order.

PETA’s legal attempt served only to temporarily delay the parks hunt, which was originally scheduled to begin Sept. 11, the same day as the regular Maryland archery deer season. As a result, the bowhunts designed to control the problematic deer population were free to commence yesterday (September 15) at sunrise and will run through October 21.

The hunt will mark the first time the parks department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, will use archers to safely cull the county’s deer population.

The archery program utilizes pre-approved hunters to take part in managed hunts over a combined area of 733 acres in the Watts Branch Stream Valley Park in Potomac and one section of the Great Seneca Valley Stream Park in Germantown. Candidates for the hunting program were required to provide a resume outlining their archery-hunting experience and written, verifiable references. Further, hunters must have completed the Maryland Hunter Education and Safety Course and a National Bowhunter Education Foundation (NBEF) course.

Other participation qualifications included:
– Minimum age of 18 years.
– At least 3 years of archery hunting experience AND harvest records indicating harvest of at least 5 deer with archery equipment.
– Fulfillment of the requirements of a background check.
– Successful completion of Montgomery Parks Archery Shooting Qualification standards (at specified ranges, only).
– Current Maryland Hunting License and Archery Stamp.

Predictably, a statement issued by PETA this week contained the usual handwringing and anthropomorphic references to animals using human terms and pronouns.

“We are extremely disappointed by the ruling and deeply saddened about the fate of the deer, who are Montgomery County’s gentle Cecils. The day will come when human beings must recognize that wild animals have a right to live on their ancestral lands and not be forced out and slaughtered simply for living as they have for generations.”

Here at The Archery Wire, we believe the only thing better than a victory for bowhunting over animal-rights extremists will be the taste of venison loins in Montgomery County, Maryland during the coming weeks.

– J.R. Absher

Dove Shooting Memories

Did you get a chance to shoot at some doves yesterday? Opening day of dove season was always a highlight of my year while growing up. Although it was bittersweet, since it always was about the time school started back, I really looked forward to trying to hit the little gray birds. Opening day always bring back greet dove shooting memories.

Dove shoots were a big family affair back then. My Uncle J.D. always had a field and I got to go with daddy from the time I was able to walk to the blind and stay still. I was daddy’s retriever and I prided myself on never losing a bird he hit, no matter how thick the briars were where it fell.

I finally was allowed to carry my .410 shotgun on those shoots when I was about eight years old. On the first hunt that I was allowed to have my gun Uncle J.D. gave me an old army surplus gas mask bag to carry my shells and other supplies. Although that was almost sixty years ago I still use that bag when deer hunting.

I had a tough time hitting doves with my .410 since I didn’t get much practice shooting at flying birds. I was deadly with it on squirrel in trees but hadn’t learned to hit moving targets. And I didn’t shoot much since I think the adults put me and my cousins my age in blinds out of the main fly routes.

Sometimes I shot five or six times all afternoon, and didn’t hit a bird for the first couple of years I tried. I still remember the first dove that actually fell when I shot. I was very proud of it!

Daddy was the Agriculture teacher at the local high school and knew all the farmer in the area. So he got invited to many shoots and there were very few Saturdays during season we didn’t go after I proved myself at Uncle J.D.’s farm. On one exceptional shoot, when I somehow ended up in a good blind, I actually killed five doves. And it took only one box of .410 shells.

Back then most people didn’t pay much attention to the limit on doves and would kill all they could. Time were different and the doves provided good eating for the family, but you needed a lot of bird for a big family.

On one shoot when I was about 16 years old I killed a lot of birds. I was shooting a 12 gauge shotgun and it was more efficient, but at the end of the day I had shot five boxes of shells! Even on my best day I missed about three out of four shots!

My uncle Adron shot a 16 gauge shotgun and was deadly with it. I watched him many times in amazement. He almost never missed a bird – you could count on one dropping when he pulled the trigger!

Dove shooting is expensive, especially if you try to have your own field. It is bad enough shooting up several boxes of shells to kill a limit, but that is cheap when you consider the cost of plowing, planting, fertilizing and taking care of a field.

When I moved to Griffin in 1972 I wanted to go to a dove shoot that first fall but knew no one with a field. I saw an advertisement for pay shoot in the paper and went to it. Some farmers set up a dove field and charge people to hunt it to recoup their expenses.

That was my first and last pay shoot. I didn’t really pay much attention to the field, just watching the doves flying around when I checked it out. The day of the shoot I set up on a fence line and had killed two birds when I saw two game wardens coming across the field, checking each hunter.

I wasn’t worried since I was doing everything legally – I thought. But when the federal agent took my license and put it in the stack he was carrying I knew something was wrong. He said I needed to take my stuff to the parking lot and wait there for my ticket. The field I was on was baited.

The field owner had a legal field and sold all the spots on it he had, and had more people wanting to pay him to shoot. So he spread wheat on a nearby hay field and sold shooting spots on it. There were about 30 of us that got fined in federal court for being on a baited field. Each hunter paid a $75 fine and I heard the field owner had to pay a $2000 fine!

If you have a place to shoot doves, enjoy it. Make some great dove shooting memories! Just follow the laws. Don’t get that sick feeling I had when the game warden took my license! It is the only time I have ever gotten any kind of fine for anything related to hunting or fishing, and I never want another one!