Category Archives: Hunting

Ducks, Unlimited, A Conservation Organization for All

If there were no hunters, there would be no wild game animals in the United States. With no Ducks, Unlimited, there would be no wild ducks in the North America.

    Hunters are the original conservationists.  We prize natural areas and the wild animals and birds that inhabit them.  Ducks, Unlimited, founded in 1937 with the goal of preserving natural habitat that ducks require, started a movement of similar groups.

    Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and many organizations have followed Ducks, Unlimited’s lead.  All raise money to preserve habitat and study the habits and needs of their favorite game animal or bird, and all want to increase the habitat needed.

    Ducks, Unlimited holds banquets where money is raised to further those goals.  For the price of a ticket, a good meal is served and there are raffles and auctions of items mostly related to duck hunting. Locally, the Pike County Sportsman’s Night Out will be held Thursday, October 10 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM at the Strickland Building in Concord.

    It will be a fun night of fellowship with like minded sportsmen and conservationists, and you can go home with a full stomach, happy face and some great equipment.  Plan to attend, some tickets are still available by calling Roy Brooks at 678–858-6482 or Kel Brannon at 770-468-7871 and tickets will be available at the door.  Individual tickets are only $35 and couples are $60.

    Ducks, Unlimited looks at the big picture, working all over North America to accomplish its goal of wetland conservation. More than 14 million acres of waterfowl habitat in North America have been conserved across our continent since its founding, focusing its efforts and resources on habitats that are most beneficial to waterfowl. 

    But it pays attention to smaller details, too.  Here in Georgia, more then 27,000 acres of habitat have been conserved.  Georgia is part of the Atlantic Flyway and some waterfowl hatched in more northern areas of the US and Canada depend on Georgia wetlands for winter habitat.

    Our coastal wetlands provide necessary winter habitat for diving and puddle ducks, from lesser scaups to green wing teal and wigeon.  Interior parts of the state include river bottoms and beaver ponds where thousands of mallards and wood ducks survive the winter.  Reservoirs are important to ring-necked ducks, canvasbacks and wood ducks.  

    Last year in Georgia, 150 events raised 2.1 million dollars to help conserve 27,310 acres in our state. And 97 thousand dollars from our state were used for habitat in Canada, where many of our ducks are produced.  Without those nesting areas, our duck population would be greatly reduced.

    Some of the projects in Georgia include restoration of managed wetlands on the Altamaha Wildlife Management Area, a priority for our coastal area.

    Ducks, Unlimited works with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources on the coast and other places, like the Silver Lake Wildlife Management Area near Lake Seminole. There, an additional 2840 acres of mostly upland habitat that protects the wetlands, a necessary precaution, have been secured. And upland habitat benefits deer, turkey and small game.

    At the Cordele Fish Hatchery in Crisp County a Ducks, Unlimited project helped restore an existing 48-acre lake where the levee was damaged by heavy rains.  Vegetation control helped remove trees and bushes and allow the types of vegetation waterfowl need to grow. This area is a wildlife viewing area where you can see songbirds and ducks and the efforts will increase numbers as well as diversity of those species.

    At the Penholoway Swamp Wildlife Management Area high quality bottom land hardwood forest as well as nearby uplands have been enhanced.  This area has tidal swamp forest as well as other habitats in Wayne County, and is open to many kinds of public recreation as well as hunting.

    At the Blanton Creek Wildlife Management Area on Bartletts Ferry Lake, two water control structures were built near the Chattahoochee River to increase vegetation suitable for ducks and other water birds. It covers 50 acres and Ducks, Unlimited worked with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources as well as the

Georgia Power Company on it.

    In Colquitt County on the Mayhaw Wildlife Management Area 50 acres were restored through the installation of a water control structure and perimeter levees to provide suitable habitat for emergent marsh vegetation.  Some waterfowl foods were also planted there.

     Working with the University of Georgia and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources near Eatonton, Ducks, Unlimited helped construct a series of dikes and water control structures on Indian Creek to form a pond in hardwood habitat.

    Near Gay in Meriwether County, 50 acres of waterfowl habitat on the Joe Kurz Wildlife Management Area on the Flint River was restored with a water controls structure that will help wood ducks and mallards as well as others.

          These and many other projects in our state have already made a difference here and will continue to help wildlife in the future, thanks to Ducks, Unlimited and their partners.

          Ducks, Unlimited’s efforts benefit all wildlife, not just ducks, and provides recreation benefits to everyone to all who value nature.

    If you don’t want to attend a local banquet, join this conservation organization to help their efforts.  Right now, your $35 annual membership fee includes a nice fleece jacket.  Anyone that values natural habitat, from hunters and bird watchers to fishermen and hikers should be proud to be members.

    Go to https://www.ducks.org to join and find out more about this important conservation organization.

Archery Season for Deer

Archery season is in full swing and the cooler nights have deer moving.  I still can’t shoot a rifle due to my port, but I got out my old crossbow and put out some corn about 20 yards from my box stand.  Deer are eating it, so I hope to harvest some meat this year although I have never killed a deer with a bow.

    I say “harvest” not hunt, since I do not consider shooting game over bait hunting.  But since it is legal now, it is ok to shoot deer over bait. Just don’t call it hunting.

    Some big bucks are already being killed with bows this year. Many of them are killed in metro counties where there is no gun season. Those bucks have adapted to living around houses in small wooded areas, and avoiding cars, growing big.

Big Laser WMA Profile

Big Laser WMA Profile

Georgia’s public hunting areas include a mixture of National and State land, including Wildlife Management Areas, Natural Areas, National Forest and State Parks open for hunting. The choices are scattered all over the state and include a wide variety of habitat and hunting opportunities.

So how do you choose one if you are looking for a place to hunt on public land?

A little over two years ago Randy White started planning his move to Georgia from Virginia where he had lived and hunted for many years. While looking for a house, he discovered Georgia Outdoor News and started subscribing. He studied the Public Hunting Area information and chose three areas that met his requirement, and applied for quota hunts on them for the 2003 season.

The three areas he applied for were Big Laser, West Point and B.F. Grant. They were chosen based on being Quality Deer Management areas, having relative high hunter success rates and producing big bucks each year. He was drawn for a gun hunt on Big Laser where he killed a 10 point buck that scored 116 4/8 points on November 12th. On a muzzleloader hunt on West Point he got an 8 point buck.

Randy chose a good area at Big Laser for several reasons. The area is 9 square miles – 5900 acres – of land on the Flint River south of Thomaston. The river valley in that area is steep with high hills dropping to the river, so there is not much river bottom. But there are a lot of hardwood ridges, rolling hills, pine woods and thickets.

Stacey Koonce killed a 14 point buck at Big Laser that scored 102 1/8 points after having a 17 point deduct for sticker points and a spade brow tine. It was killed two days after Randy got his big buck, and Stacey says the buck was hard on a doe. When it walked up on him its tongue was hanging out and he was ignoring everything else.

The fact those two big deer were both killed in mid-November should give you an idea of the best time to hunt Big Laser. Although all the hunts can be good, the mid-November hunt is going to be during the height of the rut.

Stacey killed his deer at about 11:00 AM, close to the same time Randy killed his, and after many hunters have left their stands. That is another factor to keep in mind, stay in your stand as late as you can stand it, then wait longer. Many big deer are killed in the middle of the day on public hunting areas.

Lee Kennemer is the wildlife biologist in charge of Big Laser. He says Big Laser is a beautiful area to hunt with big hardwood groves on ridges around the river and on the hills away from the river. These open oak woods look like perfect deer habitat, and they do produce acorns for the deer in the fall. It is pretty, but it does not produce food for deer year round.

There is a lot of other kinds of habitat that produces food for the deer. The deer are healthy there even though the body weight is down a little due to the drought conditions the past few years. Antler growth has held up, though.

There are 30 permanent food plots on the area that cover 110 acres. Due to budget restrictions, not many new food plots are being put in, and the current ones are being managed for long term food production with Bahia grass and some overseeding of wheat. A few also contain some clover. Most are winter and summer plots with few fall food plots in production.

Although there are not many changes for the past couple of years, DNR personnel are working to keep older food plots from becoming shaded in and expanding existing plots when money is available. The wheat that is overseeded is the major effort for the fall, and the plots with clover in them also produce food in the fall. Last year there were about 30 acres planted in wheat for the fall.

Deer at Big Laser have abundant acorns to feed on most years in the fall, and oak woods are where most folks hunt. But Lee says you are not likely to see a big buck walking in open woods during the day. They may feed on the acorns, and use food plots, too, but they retreat to the thickets during hunting hours.

Lee suggests finding a good thicket near acorns or a food plot where the deer are feeding and set up near it to see a buck moving at daylight dusk. Lee also says that if you walk more than 400 yards from an open road to find a place to hunt you are much more likely to have the hunting to yourself.

Moving just a quarter mile away from a road to be able to hunt alone does not seem like too much trouble, but most hunters are not willing to carry a stand that far, much less try to drag or pack out a deer that distance. But you increase your odds of finding a good buck by hunting away from the roads.

Randy hunted away from the roads and said he did not see another hunter in the woods the three days he was hunting. He camped during the hunt and met a lot of nice folks in the camping area, but he had the woods he hunted to himself.

Linda Guy has managed Big Laser for the past 24 years and says they keep 25 percent of the roads closed during hunting season. This allows hunters to walk away from open roads and find a secluded place to hunt. No traffic, including 4-wheelers, is allowed anywhere except on open roads. You can use a wheeled push cart to get your deer out and Linda says that is a popular method.

The way Randy scouted for deer at Big Laser is an excellent way to find your deer there or on any other hunting land. He had never seen the area before, so he got in the woods before the hunt and walked with a hand-held GPS, marking every scrape and rub he found. By studying the GPS he located a good scrape line and set up his portable stand near the middle of it the afternoon before the hunt.

The next morning at about 10:45 Randy used his rattling horns a little, and spotted movement through the trees. He then used a grunt call to lure the deer in and it came toward him, circling to get downwind or uphill of him. When it got within about 60 yards Randy saw it was a good buck, meeting the QDM requirements, and he grunted with his voice to make it stop.

Randy hunts with a shotgun and slugs, something most Georgia hunters have abandoned for rifles. But at 60 yards the slug from his shotgun did the job and Randy got a buck any hunter would be proud of on any hunting land, public or private.

Stacey also scouted for his deer, but he had an advantage. Last fall was his third hunt on Big Laser. He had hunted several other public hunting areas and liked Big Laser best, because of the habitat and QDM regulations. The habitat is excellent with the rolling hills away from the river his favorite place to hunt. He says you can find ridge after ridge to walk up in hardwoods to pines on top then down the other side through hardwoods to a creek or ditch.

He found one a little different, with thick pines running all the way down to the bottom of the hill. The buck he killed was near a scrape line and was in the thickest part of the area. He and his partner had scouted the area and both set up there, and Stacey says working together they felt one had a good chance of getting the buck they were after.

Another thing Stacey likes about Big Laser is the distance between open roads. He says you can get away from the roads and away from other hunters by walking a little while. He likes to get away from the roads to find bigger deer and fewer hunters.

Lee says what Randy and Stacey did to find their deer is the key. Hunters must scout out the area and find signs of a good buck if that is what they want. Walking a short distance from a road and putting up a stand in open woods or near a food plot probably won’t get you a shot at a quality buck. You need to put in some time in the woods to find one.

Some of the areas at Big Laser are difficult to get to. The ridges and ditches running down to the river valley make hunting right on the river tough, and there is one section of the area where you must wade a creek or come up the river to get to it. Hunting areas difficult to reach are more likely to produce a good deer for you.

There are several hunts this year on Big Laser, starting with sign-in archery hunting September 11 – October 7. It is open for quality bucks and anterless deer. On October 9 and 10 there is a sign-in Adult/Child hunt on the area.

Randy plans on hunting Big Laser during archery season this year and use that time to scout the area better for another big buck. Lee suggest coming down and hunting for squirrels and scouting at the same time. You can squirrel hunt there starting August 15th and trying to get a tree rat adds to the fun of the scouting trip.

Use Randy’s and Stacey’s system to hunt Big Laser. Play the odds, apply for all the hunts and be prepared to do some scouting before hunting. Locate a thick area near food and try to find rubs and scrapes if it is during the rut. Set up and stay in the tree all day if possible. You just might have a truck buck entry before the hunt is over.

The QDM regulations are popular but Linda says each year she finds 4 or 5 big bucks killed illegally and left when they don’t meet the requirement. She asks hunters to be sure the buck they see meets requirements, don’t “ground check” your deer after shooting it.

Linda also reminds hunters that the campground is primitive at Big Laser and quiet hours are from 10 PM until 7 AM. That means no generators, no radios and not loud noises. You will get a ticket if you violate quiet hours.

Hunt Early Season Squirrels in Pines

If you plan on squirrel hunting anytime soon, check out big pine trees. Everywhere I go I see signs squirrels have been cutting pine cones. It seems a little early for that and it may indicate limited food supplies, or maybe I just don’t remember timing very well.

I grew up on a small 15 acre farm where we raised a few cows, some hogs and 11,000 laying hens. A branch ran down one property line and was wooded, but most of the rest of our land was open. Fortunately, all around our property were woods and I knew everybody around us and had permission to hunt their land.

Behind our house I could follow the branch upstream and cross a property line. Not far from there was a ridge with a huge white oak tree on it. That white oak was a great place to hunt squirrels when acorns were mature and I spent many hours sitting under it.

A little further up the hill there was a big old pine tree, and it also was a good squirrel hunting spot. The squirrels would come from a long way to cut the pine cones in that tree and eat the acorns in the white oak. There is no telling how many squirrels I killed out of those two trees over the years.

There is something special about sitting in the woods as it gets light early in the morning, with everything slowly coming into focus. I got that thrill while squirrel hunting and now get it from a deer stand.

Learning to hunt squirrels is great training for deer hunting, teaching you to sit still, move carefully and slowly when you have to, and to stay quiet at all times. Shooting squirrels is also great training learning to hit a target.

We never let squirrels go to waste. Young squirrels were floured and fried just like chicken. Older squirrels were boiled then the meat was used to make squirrel and dumplings. We also made BBQed squirrel, squirrel stew with carrots and potatoes and baked squirrel with onions. It was all good.

Give squirrel hunting a try. And don’t hesitate to cook them and see how good they taste!

Getting Ready for Deer Season

Getting ready for deer season. Deer hunters are getting all excited, planting food plots, scouting for natural food sources and getting equipment ready. Archery season opens this Saturday and hunting a food source, or the trail between feeding and bedding areas, is usually the best bet now.

On October 15 Primitive weapons season opens for a week. That week you can continue to hunt with a bow but you can also use a muzzle loader. Then gun, or modern fire arms, season opens on October 22 and stays open here until January 8, 2017.

Like last year hunting is buck only in area counties until November 5, then you can shoot does until November 13. It is buck only again until November 21 when doe days are open until January 1. There are a wide variety of different doe seasons around the state. Those dates include Spalding and surrounding counties but doe days are different as close to us as Merriweather and Bibb counties, so check before going.

If you hunt with a long bow you should have been shooting it for weeks, making sure you can hit your target. If using a cross bow it is more like shooting a gun but you need to practice with it to learn its range limitations and accuracy.

Gun hunters should never go into woods without zeroing in their guns. I have heard all too many times a guy say “I don’t know how I missed that big buck.” Than they shoot their gun at a target and the sights are way off. Their excuse is usually something along the lines “It was dead on four years ago when I checked it.”

Griffin Gun Club hosts a sight in day, usually the first Saturday in October, when the public can bring their guns and some ammo to the range and members will help make sure your gun is accurate. It is a great time to have someone that is good at sighting in guns help you.

Right now deer are feeding on a variety of things, from grass and vines to mushrooms. After the rain this weekend there should be a lot of mushrooms to attract deer on opening day. Deer love mushrooms and I usually find them in pine woods, growing in the pine straw litter. The only problem with hunting mushrooms is they are scattered and it is hard to pattern the deer, and they last for only a few days.

It won’t be long before acorns start falling, and they are deer’s favorite food. Find a big whiteoak tree dropping lots of acorns and you are almost guaranteed a deer will find it too and feed around it. Set up on a hillside with lots of oaks and you should see deer feeding through the area.

Squirrel Season Opens In Georgia

Squirrel season opens August 15th. This opening day always brings back memories of my experiences growing up hunting tree rats. They were the main game available to kids back then, and I hunted them every chance I got. We ate every one I killed, too.

I got a BB gun when I was six years old and “hunted” birds around the house with it. When I was 8 Dad bought me a used Remington semiautomatic .22 and taught me to shoot it. I was not allowed to take it out of the house without an adult with me, but my friends and I managed to get to shoot a lot by convincing one of our fathers to go out for a time with us most every weekend.

That fall I was chomping at the bit wanting to go squirrel hunting. Dad did not care for squirrel hunting but loved to shoot dove and quail. He took me with him on dove shoots and we had a couple of pointers and I got to follow him and the dogs, too. All of the time he had to go hunting was spent looking for birds.

One afternoon after school I was home and the only adult there was a woman that helped at our farm. I saw a squirrel grab a pecan from the tree in the front yard and head back across the road to the woods. I told Gladys to come with me as I grabbed my .22. She fussed at me but followed.

Across the road I looked up the big hickory tree that the squirrel had gone up. As I walked around the tree the squirrel would circle, keeping the trunk between us. I told Gladys to shake a limb on the opposite side of the tree from me, and the squirrel came around where I could see it.

That was my first squirrel. My parents were a little upset that I had made Gladys go out with me, and she was not happy, either, but Dad showed me how to clean the squirrel and he seemed proud of me that I had been able to kill one. After that they let me go out on my on, by my self for a couple of years, then allowed me to hunt with friends once they were sure I was careful enough.

I spent many hours in the woods around the house learning the habits of the wily squirrel. Wild squirrels are not like city squirrels that are not afraid of much of anything. Wild squirrel is a favorite menu item of everything from hawks to foxes and they are very wary. You have to stalk them or sit very still until one comes close enough to shoot.

And wild squirrels don’t fill every tree in the woods. You learn to find what they are feeding on and locate the areas where they are active. Squirrel hunting taught me the importance of cleaning a place to sit so I would not crunch any leaves, and how to stay very still for a long time, not an easy lesson for an eight to ten year old.

I remember Dad going squirrel hunting with me only one time. It was a Saturday afternoon before bird season opened and he said he would hunt the woods across the road with me. I was thrilled, and it was one of the best days every for me. I felt real grown up showing him oaks and hickories where the squirrels fed, areas where mushrooms grew after a rain and attracted them, and pines where they cut cones.

Somehow that afternoon I killed 10 squirrels, the first time I had ever got a limit. Looking back I remember that Dad never fired a shot, somehow he was always the one to move around a tree to make the squirrel move, the one that moved around while I sat still and made the squirrels think the danger was gone, and the one that was slow raising his gun when we both saw a squirrel.

That happened over 50 years ago now, but I still have vivid memories of him in the woods, whistling to me and motioning to me to move a certain way. I remember the pride I felt showing him my knowledge, and the pride I felt from him toward me. It is a very good memory.

Squirrels are great game to teach youth hunting skills. Learning to hunt squirrels will prepare you to be a better deer hunter, too. And you can build some great memories with between parents and kids while squirrel hunting. Consider a trip to hunt squirrels with your kids this fall.

Big Laser WMA Profile

Big Laser WMA Profile

Georgia’s public hunting areas include a mixture of National and State land, including Wildlife Management Areas, Natural Areas, National Forest and State Parks open for hunting. The choices are scattered all over the state and include a wide variety of habitat and hunting opportunities.
So how do you choose one if you are looking for a place to hunt on public land?

A little over two years ago Randy White started planning his move to Georgia from Virginia where he had lived and hunted for many years. While looking for a house, he discovered Georgia Outdoor News and started subscribing. He studied the Public Hunting Area information and chose three areas that met his requirement, and applied for quota hunts on them for the 2003 season.

The three areas he applied for were Big Laser, West Point and B.F. Grant. They were chosen based on being Quality Deer Management areas, having relative high hunter success rates and producing big bucks each year. He was drawn for a gun hunt on Big Laser where he killed a 10 point buck that scored 116 4/8 points on November 12th. On a muzzleloader hunt on West Point he got an 8 point buck.

Randy chose a good area at Big Laser for several reasons. The area is 9 square miles – 5900 acres – of land on the Flint River south of Thomaston. The river valley in that area is steep with high hills dropping to the river, so there is not much river bottom. But there are a lot of hardwood ridges, rolling hills, pine woods and thickets.

Stacey Koonce killed a 14 point buck at Big Laser that scored 102 1/8 points after having a 17 point deduct for sticker points and a spade brow tine. It was killed two days after Randy got his big buck, and Stacey says the buck was hard on a doe. When it walked up on him its tongue was hanging out and he was ignoring everything else.

The fact those two big deer were both killed in mid-November should give you an idea of the best time to hunt Big Laser. Although all the hunts can be good, the mid-November hunt is going to be during the height of the rut.

Stacey killed his deer at about 11:00 AM, close to the same time Randy killed his, and after many hunters have left their stands. That is another factor to keep in mind, stay in your stand as late as you can stand it, then wait longer. Many big deer are killed in the middle of the day on public hunting areas.

Lee Kennemer is the wildlife biologist in charge of Big Laser. He says Big Laser is a beautiful area to hunt with big hardwood groves on ridges around the river and on the hills away from the river. These open oak woods look like perfect deer habitat, and they do produce acorns for the deer in the fall. It is pretty, but it does not produce food for deer year round.

There is a lot of other kinds of habitat that produces food for the deer. The deer are healthy there even though the body weight is down a little due to the drought conditions the past few years. Antler growth has held up, though.

There are 30 permanent food plots on the area that cover 110 acres. Due to budget restrictions, not many new food plots are being put in, and the current ones are being managed for long term food production with Bahia grass and some overseeding of wheat. A few also contain some clover. Most are winter and summer plots with few fall food plots in production.

Although there are not many changes for the past couple of years, DNR personnel are working to keep older food plots from becoming shaded in and expanding existing plots when money is available. The wheat that is overseeded is the major effort for the fall, and the plots with clover in them also produce food in the fall. Last year there were about 30 acres planted in wheat for the fall.

Deer at Big Laser have abundant acorns to feed on most years in the fall, and oak woods are where most folks hunt. But Lee says you are not likely to see a big buck walking in open woods during the day. They may feed on the acorns, and use food plots, too, but they retreat to the thickets during hunting hours.

Lee suggests finding a good thicket near acorns or a food plot where the deer are feeding and set up near it to see a buck moving at daylight dusk. Lee also says that if you walk more than 400 yards from an open road to find a place to hunt you are much more likely to have the hunting to yourself.

Moving just a quarter mile away from a road to be able to hunt alone does not seem like too much trouble, but most hunters are not willing to carry a stand that far, much less try to drag or pack out a deer that distance. But you increase your odds of finding a good buck by hunting away from the roads.

Randy hunted away from the roads and said he did not see another hunter in the woods the three days he was hunting. He camped during the hunt and met a lot of nice folks in the camping area, but he had the woods he hunted to himself.

Linda Guy has managed Big Laser for the past 24 years and says they keep 25 percent of the roads closed during hunting season. This allows hunters to walk away from open roads and find a secluded place to hunt. No traffic, including 4-wheelers, is allowed anywhere except on open roads. You can use a wheeled push cart to get your deer out and Linda says that is a popular method.

The way Randy scouted for deer at Big Laser is an excellent way to find your deer there or on any other hunting land. He had never seen the area before, so he got in the woods before the hunt and walked with a hand-held GPS, marking every scrape and rub he found. By studying the GPS he located a good scrape line and set up his portable stand near the middle of it the afternoon before the hunt.

The next morning at about 10:45 Randy used his rattling horns a little, and spotted movement through the trees. He then used a grunt call to lure the deer in and it came toward him, circling to get downwind or uphill of him. When it got within about 60 yards Randy saw it was a good buck, meeting the QDM requirements, and he grunted with his voice to make it stop.

Randy hunts with a shotgun and slugs, something most Georgia hunters have abandoned for rifles. But at 60 yards the slug from his shotgun did the job and Randy got a buck any hunter would be proud of on any hunting land, public or private.

Stacey also scouted for his deer, but he had an advantage. Last fall was his third hunt on Big Laser. He had hunted several other public hunting areas and liked Big Laser best, because of the habitat and QDM regulations. The habitat is excellent with the rolling hills away from the river his favorite place to hunt. He says you can find ridge after ridge to walk up in hardwoods to pines on top then down the other side through hardwoods to a creek or ditch.

He found one a little different, with thick pines running all the way down to the bottom of the hill. The buck he killed was near a scrape line and was in the thickest part of the area. He and his partner had scouted the area and both set up there, and Stacey says working together they felt one had a good chance of getting the buck they were after.

Another thing Stacey likes about Big Laser is the distance between open roads. He says you can get away from the roads and away from other hunters by walking a little while. He likes to get away from the roads to find bigger deer and fewer hunters.

Lee says what Randy and Stacey did to find their deer is the key. Hunters must scout out the area and find signs of a good buck if that is what they want. Walking a short distance from a road and putting up a stand in open woods or near a food plot probably won’t get you a shot at a quality buck. You need to put in some time in the woods to find one.

Some of the areas at Big Laser are difficult to get to. The ridges and ditches running down to the river valley make hunting right on the river tough, and there is one section of the area where you must wade a creek or come up the river to get to it. Hunting areas difficult to reach are more likely to produce a good deer for you.

There are several hunts this year on Big Laser, starting with sign-in archery hunting September 11 – October 7. It is open for quality bucks and anterless deer. On October 9 and 10 there is a sign-in Adult/Child hunt on the area.

Two quota hunts of 400 hunters each will be held this year at Big Laser. The first is October 27 – 30 and the second is November 10 – 13. Both are check in hunts and are quality buck with anterless deer allowed the last two days of each hunt. There is a Honorary License holder hunt that is sign-in on November 23 and 24 that allows quality bucks or anterless deer.

This year there is also a third gun hunt that is sign-in and open to all, there is no drawing or quota. It is scheduled for December 3 and 4 and is quality buck only. This was done since a lot of folks have stopped hunting by December and the quota hunts were not being filled at that time. Although the rut will be over by them, you might have a good chance to find a big buck if you are willing to work at it.

Randy plans on hunting Big Laser during archery season this year and use that time to scout the area better for another big buck. Lee suggest coming down and hunting for squirrels and scouting at the same time. You can squirrel hunt there starting August 15th and trying to get a tree rat adds to the fun of the scouting trip.

Use Randy’s and Stacey’s system to hunt Big Laser. Play the odds, apply for all the hunts and be prepared to do some scouting before hunting. Locate a thick area near food and try to find rubs and scrapes if it is during the rut. Set up and stay in the tree all day if possible. You just might have a truck buck entry before the hunt is over.

The QDM regulations are popular but Linda says each year she finds 4 or 5 big bucks killed illegally and left when they don’t meet the requirement. She asks hunters to be sure the buck they see meets requirements, don’t “ground check” your deer after shooting it.

Linda also reminds hunters that the campground is primitive at Big Laser and quiet hours are from 10 PM until 7 AM. That means no generators, no radios and not loud noises. You will get a ticket if you violate quiet hours.

Fake News from CBS and 60 Minutes – Guns of Autumn

The below was part of my Griffin Daily News column in 2004 about their lying report on President George W. Bush during the election – the one Dan Rather lied about constantly. They have just gotten worse and worse, but my wake up call was a BS hit job on hunters called Guns of Autumn back in 1975. I have not believed anything on news shows since then.

I have watched the news about CBS and the fake documents they ran on 60 minutes with interest. I lost all trust in CBS and 60 Minutes back in 1975 when they ran a segment called “The Guns Of Autumn.” I had not been out of college very long way back then and still believed in the accuracy and fairness of the national media, but that show put an end to my trust.

That show was nothing but a hatchet job on hunters. It showed some slob hunters and emphasized everything negative on hunting they could dig up. Since I knew most hunters were not like they portrayed us, and I knew they were not being fair to hunters, I started questioning everything I saw. If they would be that inaccurate and unfair about something I knew a lot about, I suspected they would do the same thing on other topics.

I have refused to watch CBS news and 60 minutes since that day 29 years ago this month. The current mess at that network does not surprise me at all.

Deer Camp Fire

Deer camps are special places during hunting seasons, but some are much more. They are places where friends and families meet year-round to relax, eat good food and share traditions. One special camp is the Deer Trail Sportsman Camp in Tolbert County near Columbus.

In that camp established around 1974, about 20 families and friends from Griffin have built a retreat where kids grew up riding four wheelers, hunting, playing and learning about nature. They gathered to watch sports on TV and cook feast for all to enjoy. They have become an even more close-knit group over the years.

The camp consisted of a variety of campers that formed a small village, with covered roofs, eating areas and decks to relax. Each had power and water run to them providing all the comforts of home. Many of the members considered it a home away from home where they kept everything from clothes to toys for the kids.

On January 12, the last weekend of deer season this year, at about 2:00 AM a fire of undetermined origin started. It was probably electrical but the fire marshal in Tolbert County was not sure. The fire spread quickly, engulfing and destroying nine campers, two trucks, three Ranger ATVs and two four wheelers.

Several members were there that night. Something woke one of the members just in time to yell warnings and everyone, including the seven-year-old daughter of one of the members, got out safely. It was a very close thing.

I met with about a dozen members to talk about their experience. In an emotion filled discussion, they told of the memories from camp. They told of first deer and turkey kills, watching each other’s families grow and learn, and great experiences and times there

They are determined to rebuild the camp and continue their way of life there and have started clean-up work in preparation to rebuld. Although they lost at least half a million dollars in things, they all survived and for that they are most thankful. They can continue and replace the things that were lost.

Friends established a Go-Fund Me page to help them achieved their goals. Visit it at https://www.gofundme.com/deer-trail-sportsman-camp-fire-relief-fund

Hunt the Rut

Depending on where you live, if you want to kill a big buck, the next couple of weeks or so is your best chance all season. The rut is starting in our area and bucks that are normally careful and spooky lose their minds, looking for does and putting themselves in places where they are easier to kill.

Georgia Outdoor News publishes a rut map each year based on hunter and biologist input. It shows the peak of the rut in Spalding and nearby counties to be mid-November, with November 15 being the peak. Counties not far east of us start a little earlier, with the peak on November 9.

The rut seems to have started a little early in this area, with online pictures showing big bucks taken last weekend and comments from hunters about them chasing does. And I saw scrapes a little earlier than normal on my hunting land.

When bucks start shedding the velvet on their antlers, they rub them on small trees, helping to get it off. A good sign that a buck is in your area in early October around here are saplings and small trees with bark peeled off near the ground.

The bigger the buck the higher off the ground these marks will usually be, and bigger bucks use bigger trees. They seem to favor cedar saplings, but rubs are found on pine, sweetgum and others.

When hormones start flowing in November, the bucks paw a scrape near trails and urinate on it, leaving their scent. They also rub their head and antlers on overhanging limbs leaving more scent.

When a doe’s hormones make her ready to mate, she stops at scrapes and leaves her scent. Bucks leave scrapes in lines spaced out along trails and will run them as often as they can until they locate a suitable doe. They move at all times of day and night in this quest, throwing their usual caution to the quest.

In the Georgia Outdoor News Truck Buck competition where big bucks are entered into a contest, data from them show 43 percent killed from daylight until 9:00 AM, 18 percent from 9:01 to 11:00 AM and 1.6 percent from 11:01 AM to 1:30 PM. Then it goes back up, with 2.4 percent killed from 1:31 to 3:30 PM and 34 percent from 3:31 to dark.

Part of the reason 77 percent are killed early and late in the day is that is the time most hunters are in their stands. Every year some very big bucks are killed during the middle of the day, so it is a good idea to be on your stand all day if you can.

The rut timing is based mostly on length of day with some influence from weather. “Common sense” would seem to tell you the rut would get later due to climate change, but I guess any change fits that narrative.

It is interesting to me to compare the rut map for Georgia to the one for Alabama. Again, “common sense” would tell you areas with the same length of day and temperatures would be similar, but science shows they are not.

Directly west of us in Alabama the length of day and weather are the same. But in Alabama, south of I-20 in the same area of the state we are in here in Georgia, the rut peak is late January. Even further north in Alabama the rut peak is in January, about two months later that similar areas in Georgia.

I killed my first two bucks, way back in the 1960s, while they were following does. I try to be in the woods during the rut, not to kill a big buck but because does also move more during it. It offers meat shooters better odds, too. Doe days here run from
November 4 until January 13.

This season is frustrating. I had a port put in just before gun deer season. Although I asked it to be put in on my left side, so I could shoot my 7 mm mag, it is on my right shoulder very near where I put my gun stock. I switched to this higher power, and stronger kick, gun about 20 years ago after hunting deer with a 30-30 for 30 years.

I do have an AR-15 with a good scope on it and its .223 caliber bullet is suitable for shooting deer. I will use it this year. This much lower caliber bullet, along with a lot less powder, had a very light kick. That seems contrary to “common sense” if you listen to the gun banners claim that AR-15s are big, high caliber guns that spray death. The .223 is actually just about the smallest, lowest power bullet legal for hunting in Georgia.

A .223 has just over 900-foot pounds of energy at 100 yards. Compared to my 7 mm mag, with over 2700-foot pounds of energy at the same range, that makes shot placement more important. Even my old 30-30 has about 1300-foot pounds of energy at 100 yards.

Tips on hunting the rut include: Hunting near bedding areas where does are concentrated. This puts you where the bucks are looking. Going to areas where you hear bucks chasing does. And hunting in high wind since it makes deer move more for several reasons.

Most important, stay on your stand and eat lunch. Many expert trophy hunters say little bucks move earlier and later, but the real trophy bucks wait until the does bed down in the middle of the day and are easier for the bucks to find.

Get out in the woods no mater what you goal, meat or antlers. This is the time.