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The 2011 Hunting Season

The 2010 deer season was a strange one for me.  When looking at antlers alone, I killed the two biggest whitetail deer of my life.  I had a goal of taking a buck with 9 points or more last year, and on opening day I killed an eleven pointer that had a beautiful main-frame ten point rack with a kicker off of one of the G3s.  A few weeks later, I killed a nice eight pointer with really good mass on his antlers.

I got two does as well, but the thing that made last year strange was that I only saw thirteen deer all season.  I looked back on my records and saw that indeed this was my worst year in at least the last dozen for actually seeing deer.

I also missed almost a full month of hunting to celebrate the birth of our first son, Paul.  With the two big bucks that I killed early in the season, I felt like God was giving me a gift knowing that I wouldn't get as much time in the woods as usual this season.

For 2011, we'll be changing the rules of our club a little bit, and only fully mature bucks will be allowed for shooting.  We'll still be able to shoot as many does as we want, but we want to really see the health of the bucks on the lease increase.

As always, thanks for following along with me as you read this journal!

2011 Game Record
Animal Seen Killed
Whitetail Buck 9 0
Whitetail Doe 25 4
Turkey (Gobbler/Jake) 4 0
Turkey (Hen) 0 -
Wild Boar 0 0
Coyote 1 0
Fox 0 0
Bobcat 0 0
Squirrel - 0
Dove - 0
Crows - 0
Ducks / Geese 0 0
Notes: Clicking on any picture will show you a full size image of that picture.
 Click here for a "cast of characters" for my hunting journals, or here for a map of the lease
December 29, 2011 Final 2011 Deer Hunt 2 Deer Seen

Ted and I hit the lease for one last deer hunt today.  It was extremely foggy on the lake road that the lease is on, and both Ted's stand and mine were fogged in when we climbed up into them.

By 8:00 am the fog was starting to lift, and I had yet to see any deer.  I could see that all of the corn was gone from the little field that I was watching, so I climbed down from my tree and walked back to the truck.  Once there, I took a burlap sack and poured about ten pounds of corn from Ted's bag into it, then walked back to my field and poured the corn out.

Climbing back into the stand, I only had a thirty minute wait before a big doe showed up.  She walked right to the corn and started eating it.  I decided to take a shot, so I raised my rifle and fired.  I knew the shot had been hasty as soon as I took it.  As I brought the rifle up, she looked right at the stand.  I squeezed the trigger before the rifle was all the way up, and shot under her.  She ran off, and as she did I saw another deer run from the edge of the field.  I got down and tracked her for more than an hour, but found no sign of a hit. 

When I got down to Ted's stand two hours later, he said that he had taken shots at a crow and a fox squirrel, but had missed both.  We went back up to my stand and looked around for signs of a hit, but again found none.  It was definitely a clean miss.

We went into Camden for lunch, and then came back and got into our evening stands.  I went to #13 again, and Ted went back to #16.  The field at 13 was absolutely full of fresh tracks, but I saw nothing all evening.  Ted also saw nothing.  At the end of the hunt, club member Steven drove up and showed us the coyote that he had killed. 

After that, we headed home, another deer season behind us.  If you can believe it, it's been 21 years since Ted and I started hunting together! 

December 27, 2011 All Day Hunt with Ted No Deer Seen

Ted was back with my today.  When he pulled into my driveway I was standing outside putting a few last pieces of gear into my Jeep.  When he got out of his own Jeep he asked me if I had seen the doe run across my yard, but I had not seen nor heard it.  He said it had been standing in the yard across the road from my house and that when his headlights had splashed across it, it bounded across the road in front of him and then ran into the woods behind my house.

After loading Ted's gear up we got on the road and were down at the lease well before sunrise.  It was raining pretty heavily, so we both chose covered stands to hunt in.  Ted went to the Family Stand and I returned to the Salt Lick.  The only thing I saw all morning was one big black fox squirrel. 

As 10:30am approached, I waited for a break in the rain, and when one came I quickly made my way back to my Jeep.  I had barely gotten my gear loaded up before another squall hit.  Fortunately, I put some new tires on the Jeep yesterday, and they did great in the mud.  I made my way down the road and picked Ted up from his stand.  Ted said that he had seen two does and a young buck, but they did not stay around long enough for him to get a chance for a shot at either of the does.

We went into Lancaster for lunch, and by the time we were back at the lease the storms had passed.  The winds were still heavy, but at least we didn't have to deal with anymore rain.  For the afternoon hunts, I went to Stand #13 and put Ted in #16.  Nothing appeared for either of us. 

December 22, 2011 Short Afternoon Hunt No Deer Seen

As the season winds down, I've started to try to get a feel for how many members from the club are going to be returning next season.  As it stands, I have a potential of new guys who are interested in joining, and one of them met up with me today to get a look at the club.  We spent the first hour or so driving around the lease with me showing him some of our stands.  Unfortunately, it's been raining really heavily in our area lately and our roads were really a mess, so we couldn't access a good bit of the lease.  My tires are pretty worn, and I didn't want to risk some of the muddier roads.

When it was time to get in our stands, I put my guest in the Family Stand and then headed up to the Salt Lick for my hunt.  I saw nothing but fox squirrels crows and doves during my hunt.  My guest did see one deer cross the road way up from the stand, and he also had a fawn come mill around the stand for awhile. 

December 3, 2011 Morning Hunt No Deer Seen

Left home at 5:00am and was at the lease about an hour before sunrise.  Two guys were already tagged in, but the Salt Lick stand was open, which was where I wanted to go.  I stayed in the stand until 10:30 without seeing anything but crows and one large hawk.  When I got down from the stand, I walked back to my truck and took off my insulated overalls and jacket, then decided to do a little bit of still hunting.

Heading into the woods from where the truck was parked, I circled well west of the Salt Lick field, moving slowly from tree to tree.  I located a south-facing slope and glassed it from several different angles hoping to catch a deer sunning himself, but saw nothing.  I kept moving until I came to a large hill.  Looking up to the top I could see that there were less trees that way, and knew that the road must be right up there.  I climbed the hill and came out right where I thought I would.  From there it was a quarter-mile walk back to the Jeep. 

I checked my camera and found that several does had been in the field, and I actually got the buck on my camera as well.  Turns out that he was a young one with a decent rack, and that if he makes it two more years he'll be a nice one.  After checking that camera I headed over to check the other one.  I ran into two different club members on the way out and spent a little bit of time catching up with them.

My other camera was devoid of deer, but I left it where it was since I didn't have time to look for a better place for it.  After changing out the memory card in it, I packed up my gear and headed home.

November 27, 2011 Sunday Afternoon Hunt No Deer Seen

I left home at around 1:00pm this afternoon for a brief hunt.  More than anything else, I wanted to move two of my cameras, as neither one of them were picking up any deer activity.  I went first down into the swamp and got that camera and moved it over to Stand 13, which is a food plot that is always full of tracks.  There wasn't a great tree to put the camera on, so I picked the best one that I could find.

After that I went to the cutover and got that camera and moved it to the Salt Lick stand.  There was a nice set of tracks there, and I was hoping to get the deer that made them on camera.  Having planned to hunt that stand this afternoon, I did a little work on it before I got settled in.  The chair in the stand sits too low, so I put some 2x4s under each set of legs.  To make this a permanent fix, I'll have to come back and permanently attach the legs to the wood, but it did the job for today.

Once all of the work was finished, I got settled into the stand.  I saw no deer all afternoon, but one did come in from the left and catch my scent.  It snorted at me a few times and then ran off.

November 15, 2011 All Day Hunt with Ted No Deer Seen

This morning Ted went to the Family Stand, and I went out to a different spot in the cutover.  I had a great view, but saw nothing all morning.  The mosquitoes were pretty bad, and twice I walked back to my truck to try to find my Thermacell, but unfortunately I left it at home.  After the hunt I went to pick up Ted and saw a big fox squirrel near his stand.  He had also seen it.

We checked trail cameras, had lunch, and looked around the lease a little bit.  In the end we decided to put Ted in the Salt Lick stand while I went to a double-blind that is fairly close to where he was.  Both stands had plenty of fresh tracks.  Neither of us saw any deer, but Ted saw two more fox squirrels.

Next time I hunt, I'll probably go to his stand and take my .22 along.  I'd like to get at least one fox squirrel mounted.

November 11, 2011 Morning Hunt No Deer Seen

Today would be a short hunt, as I had to get home early in the afternoon to help Micki work on getting our house ready for our son's birthday party tomorrow.  I left the house at 4:30 am and arrived at the lease a little before 6:00.  I decided to go out into the cutover today, so I chose stand #49, which is way down on the edge of our big clearcut.

There is a ladder stand here, but a weld on it is broken, so rather than climb it I walked out into the cutover and set up my turkey hunting chair in a tangle of brush.  I sat there all morning with a great view down into the swamp, but saw nothing.

November 4, 2011 Vacation Hunt #4 (With Ted) Animals Encountered

Ted was waiting for me outside my garage door when I opened it at 5:00am this morning.  We got his gear quickly packed into the Jeep and were on our way to the lease.  When we got there, a couple of the guys were already at the sign-in board, and another showed up within ten minutes. 

We drove over to the Family Stand, where I dropped Ted off and poured out some corn on top of the Buck Yum that I had put there two nights ago.  The Buck Yum was mostly gone, which I took to be a good sign.  After dropping him off, I moved on to Stand #43 where I saw the young buck on my last hunt.  I stayed in the stand until around 10:45 am, but all I saw were a bunch of crows.  Ted saw some turkeys and crows, but no deer.

We went to get some lunch in Heath Springs, but they were sold out of chicken, so we went over to the Riverdeck for some burgers.  After that we went back to the lease with the intention of checking my trail cameras.  It had been raining all night and most of the morning, and the lease roads were incredibly slick.  I'm pretty sure I saw Ted with a death-grip on the door handle at least once as we slid down the road.  We ultimately made it back to the back of the lease, but I decided not to chance going down Rattlesnake Road where my camera is, so we turned around and made our way back out.  It was rough going, and a couple of times I had absolutely no control of the Jeep, but we made it back without getting stuck.

We decided for the afternoon to hunt at some stands that are close to the main road so that we didn't need to risk getting back on those greasy roads.  I put Ted in the Orange Gate tower that he and I built three years ago, and I went to another ladder stand that was one road over from his.  I was in the stand for about an hour when I heard something moving in the woods to my left.  As I watched, a pair of bulldogs (with collars) came running up.  I've seen these dogs several times in the past, and it was obvious that they could smell me.  They were trying to locate me, and ran back and forth trying to figure out where I was.  They finally saw me and barked.  When they did that, a deer snorted off to my right and bounded off into the woods.

I figured my hunt at this stand was blown, so I sent a text message to Ted telling him that I was going to move.  I went back over to the Family Stand since it's close to the main road and I could avoid the mud.  While in the stand, I saw a group of 16 hen turkeys come down the road to the field that I was hunting over.  One of them was doing an assembly call, and she got an answer from the woods to my right.  Before long, ten more hens came in and fed directly under me.

I saw nothing else all the way up to dark, although I heard a lost turkey doing a "kee kee" call trying to reunite with his flock.  When it came time to get down from the stand, I did as I always do and gave the entire area one final look with my binoculars.  I looked out to the 150 yard mark and saw nothing, then looked at a little clearing off to the right and in front of my stand.  When I did, I saw one, then two, and then three and four deer moving into the clearing.  They all looked to be of good size, and since they were together like that I was certain that they were all does.

Two of them moved into the field, and I picked the biggest one, released my safety catch, and shot her.  She ran off into the woods to the left, and two of the remaining three went right.  I heard mine fall to the ground with a crash.  The last doe stayed in the field with her tail raised, unsure of what to do.  I worked the bolt on my rifle, but must have short cycled it, because the spent casing jammed as I was trying to get it out.  I wanted to shoot the other deer for Ted so that he'd have some meat, but it took me quite some time to clear the jam.  The last deer ran off just as I got it fixed, and there was no opportunity for a shot.

I climbed down and tried to find where the deer that I shot had been standing, but found no blood.  I looked around that area for a few minutes but still saw nothing.  I knew which way she had gone, so I crossed the logging road and immediately found a couple of drops of blood.  From there, the trail became quite heavy, and I found my deer laying about 30 yards into the woods in a small gulley.  I retrieved her, took a few pictures, and got her loaded up in the truck. 

After picking up Ted, we weighed the deer and cut out her jawbone, and then it was on to the processor and then home.  Well, during my vacation I hunted four times and shot deer on three of those occasions.  I've got four in the bag for the year now, and will concentrate on bucks from here on out.

November 2, 2011 Vacation Hunt #3 3 Deer Seen

With November here at last and the loggers having moved on to the next property up the road, my hope was to start the morning at Stand #34.  When I got to the sign-in board, I saw that someone else had already chosen that stand, so I decided to head on back over to Stand 16.  I saw two very small deer there at around 8:30 am, not fifteen feet from the stand.  One was a young spike buck, and the other an equally young doe.  That was all I saw all morning.

I checked my trail cameras next and found a small eight pointer on one of them.  One of the other cameras showed a pretty picture of a group of does at sunset, and the other had a spindly six point on it.  Since I'm hunting big bucks right now, none of these were of much interest to me.


After checking the cameras, I went down into the cutover and rattled for a bit, but got no action from that.  I moved over to a climbing stand on the other side of the cutover and hunted from it for about two hours before moving over to Stand 43 to finish out the day.  I saw a very young six point a little bit before sunset, but nothing else of interest.

October 29, 2011 Vacation Hunt #2 2 Deer Seen, 1 Killed

It was pouring rain when I left the house this morning, but I've never been one to let a little rainstorm stop me from hunting.  When I got to the sign-in board, one of the other guys was there getting his four-wheeler unloaded.  We talked for a few minutes about where we were going to hunt.  I had planned to hit Road 9 this morning, but changed my mind at the last minute and went to the Family Stand instead.  I was soon seated comfortably in that stand and was ready for action.  The rain came and went, and no deer appeared all morning.  At around 11:00am, I left the stand and went over to the sign-in board.

Three guys were still in the woods, but before long they showed up one by one.  All three of them were kind of going back and forth on whether or not they were going to hunt the afternoon.  Two of them decided not to, and they soon headed home.   The other, named Dan, and I went to get lunch at the Riverdeck.  We were just finishing up our meal when one of the other guys, Steven, showed up and said "This is all your fault.  I'm staying." 

After lunch I went back to the lease, dropped off the jawbone from Wednesday's doe, and then drove out to the cutover to look around.  I found some huge tracks in one particular spot, so I set up my climber and got in it.  I sat there for about 2 hours, but the wind was getting way too strong and blowing my scent all around.  I decided to get down and go somewhere else.

I ended up back at the Family Stand.  At around 5:50pm, I noticed what I thought might be a deer standing at the edge of the woods 180 yards away.  If it was a deer, it was facing me directly.  I watched with my binoculars for at least five minutes, but it never moved.  It was probably a trick of the light on a tree trunk.  As I lowered my binoculars, I saw that a doe had stepped out into the field about 100 yards away.  I checked her out with my binoculars and saw that she was a shooter.

As I swapped binoculars for rifle, another deer came out.  A smaller doe, I shifted my focus back to the bigger one and took the shot.  The deer dropped dead on the ground, and the other took off running.  I climbed down, got my truck, and went to where the deer was laying.  It turns out that I had gotten her right in the back of the head.  Not sure how that happened, unless she moved right when I shot, or the wind blowing the stand around changed my point of aim.  Regardless, she was very dead.

Since it was still pretty early, I debated moving to another stand for the last hour of the hunt, but decided to pack on up and head to the processor.  I took her over to the scales and weighed her at 89 pounds, about 8 pounds lighter than Wednesday's deer.  I quickly cut her jawbone out, tagged it, and put it in the basket and headed home.

October 26, 2011 Vacation Hunt #1 9 Deer Seen, 1 Killed

With two weeks off from work, I'm getting the opportunity to get in the woods several times over the next dozen or so days.  As I neared the lease sign-in board this morning I saw a young eight point buck in the road, which encouraged me greatly as to how the day's hunt might go.  When I got to the board, I saw that Scott Whitley was already in the woods, but other than that I had the lease to myself.  I chose the Family Stand, and knew that club member Trey would be hunting in that same area a half mile up the road at the Salt Lick stand.

At 8:30am, I saw three does way out at the far limits of the area I could see.  They crossed the logging road quickly, and there was no opportunity for a shot.   That was all I saw for an hour, and then at 9:30 I saw a doe crossing the road about 150 yards out from me.  She was soon gone, but another appeared behind her.  I got a steady rest for my rifle, centered the crosshairs, and took the shot.  The doe took off running.  Four more ran out one by one, and then things quieted back down.

I climbed down from the tree and walked to my truck, then drove up to where the deer had been standing.  I searched all around the area, but found no blood to indicate a hit.  After looking further, I found where the deer had all crossed, so I marked these spots with my reflective tape, then looked more carefully for blood.  Nothing.  I made several slow arcs through the woods, but still found nothing.

After an hour of searching, I looked down toward the stand and saw Trey walking toward me.  I knew that the deer had been between me and him, so he should have been able to hear the impact of the bullet before the report of the shot if it had been a hit.  He confirmed that he heard a whop-BOOM.  We split up and did another arc through the woods.  I was much deeper in this time, but was seeing no sign when suddenly I saw my deer laying on the ground.  There was absolutely no blood trail, so it was a really luck recovery. 

After taking the deer to Hobbs to get it processed, I went back to the lease and did a little looking around.  I checked out the area that they are logging, and it looks like they're really opening up the back section of our property.  I also checked my trail cameras, but found nothing of interest on any of them.

For the evening, I went to Stand 16, but saw nothing at all.

October 19, 2011 A Windy Afternoon in the Woods 3 Deer Seen, 1 Killed

Knowing that I wouldn't be able to get into the woods this coming weekend, I decided to run down to the lease today after work for a very short hunt.  The day was beautifully overcase, but the wind was also pretty heavy, and occasional squalls of rain blasted through the area.  I never let the rain stope me from hunting, and I was on the road by 3:45pm.

I stopped at Nichol's Store in Rock Hill to pick up a few bags of Buck Yum, and was at the lease by around 5:15pm.  No one else was hunting, so I had my pick of stands.  I chose Stand 16 (old 3) and drove up the muddy road, parking a hundred yards away from the stand.  I poured about 10 pounds of Buck Yum into a burlap sack, then walked to the stand.  At the ladder, I dropped off my backpack and continued on another 75 yards.  When I got that far from the stand, I poured out the Buck Yum, then hurried back to the stand.

Twenty minutes into the hunt, I saw a deer cross the logging road way out in front of me.  I only saw it for an instant before it was back in the woods, but, knowing the deer were moving, I got in a better position to make a shot the next time a deer came out.  I didn't have to wait long.  A doe came out and started eating the Buck Yum.  I waited for about 10 minutes to see if anything else would come, but finally decided to make the shot.  It was just an average doe, but I wanted to go ahead and get a deer in the freezer, so I took the shot.  The deer vanished.

I got down from the stand and walked down to where the deer had been.  I found blood right away and could see that the hit was perfect.  The trail was fairly long, but I found the deer in short order.  Because it was still pretty early, I tagged the deer with the appropriate antlerless tag, dragged her up to the logging road, then left her there and went back to the sign-in board.

The woods were still empty, so I chose a second stand and moved over there to hunt.  I wasn't in it for five minutes before I saw a deer about 175 yards away.  I was evaluating it in my binoculars trying to decide whether or not to shoot it too, when suddenly it ran off.  I could see then that it was a large buck, but it was too late to do anything about it.  I climbed down at dark and went and retrieved my deer, glad to get one in the bag for the year.

October 14, 2011 All Day Hunt No Animals Encountered

I opened my garage door at 4:20am and stepped outside to see how cool it was.  The stars were bright in the sky, and Orion was clearly visible in the eastern sky.  In the woods behind my house I heard the howl of a coyote, followed by a half-dozen neighborhood dogs barking in response.  I walked back into the garage, got in the truck and started down toward the lease. 

I was the first to arrive, so I had my pick of stands.  I decided to give stand 34 down in the hardwoods a final try.  It didn't take long to drive the two miles to the head of Rattlesnake Road, but before I had gotten two hundred yards down the little road I had to stop and move two fallen trees out of my way.  Downed trees are fairly common on this logging road, and I had half expected to find at least one, knowing that a strong storm had come through earlier this week. 

After I parked my truck, I quietly made my way down the road to the stand.  I made no noise climbing up the tree, and was soon seated and ready for action.  Unfortunately, there was none.  At 10:00 I climbed down and walked the 75 yards to the feeder where I swapped out the card in my trail camera.  Climbing back up into the ladder stand, I transferred the pictures to my iPad and started reviewing them.  The same doe and fawn were showing up daily, but always before sunrise.  In fact, they has been there just  before I had arrive earlier that morning.  Not a single deer in shooting light was on the camera. 

I left the stand, walked back to the truck, and drove out of the bottom.  Earlier in the week I had suggested to new member Bob Robbins that he put a feeder back at stand 32 (old 16), which is a tiny field on a pine ridge.  I decided to go check it out.  Parking at the head of the little road that leads to the field, I slowly walked the quarter mile to the stand.  I saw that he had put the feeder in just the right place.  Instead of taking the road back to my Jeep, I headed straight into the woods where the feeder was and took a shortcut to the truck. 

I had to climb down a steep ravine into a beautiful little bottom, then back up the equally steep slope on the other side.  Before long I found flatter land dotted by pine trees.  I also found a nice, fresh scrape.  Continuing on, I emerged not 20 yards from my truck.  From there, I headed down the main road to exit the lease. 

As I got close to the gate, I saw a four wheeler driving about 100 yards in front of me.  I accelerated to catch up with it and saw that it was Trey with a big buck on his rack.  When I caught up with him, he told me that Scott Whitley had shot it.  Scott soon showed up, and we went over to the weigh station at Gate 9.  The buck weighed 170 pounds and had an inside spread of 14.5 inches.

After congratulating Scott, I went and checked my cameras on Road 9.  Neither of them showed any deer activity.  Both fawns down in the swamp had not been back to my feeder since last Sunday, and no deer were on the camera at Stand 19 either.  After putting new batteries in one of the cameras, I drove to Heath Springs to get lunch and think about where I wanted to hunt for the evening.

When I got back to the club, the first place I went was to the cliff stand that looks out over our shooting range.  In the past, this has been a nice place to hunt because you can see for several hundred yards, and the cliff always has a nice breeze to keep things cool.  This year, the pine trees at the base of the cliff have grown up so much that you can't see out into the pit any more, putting and end to the usefulness of this stand.

Over at the sign-in board I saw that the stand I really wanted was already taken, so after looking around at several places on the main lease I decided to go to Stand 13 (old #2) since there were a good many tracks there.  I saw nothing until almost dark, when a mid-sized buck entered the field.  I could see the moonlight glinting off of his antlers.  They seemed to be pretty much even with his ears, but the outline of his body showed that he was not a trophy, nor one that I needed to shoot, so I watched him until he left.   

October 10, 2011 Sunday Afternoon Hunt No Deer Seen

Went back to down to the lease after church and lunch at Courtney's today.  The stand that I was hoping to hunt in was taken, so I went back to my ladder stand down in the hardwoods at #34.  Sat there quietly until evening but saw nothing.

October 7, 2011 All Day Hunt with Ted 3 Deer Seen, 1 Coyote seen

After a year and a half absence, Ted was able to get back in the woods with me today.  We left my house at 4:15am, and after a quick stop for breakfast we were at the lease by 5:45.  With no hunters in the woods yet, we had our choice of stands.   I went back to 34, and Ted went to old #10, which is a box blind set on the main road.

I parked a good distance away from my stand, as usual, and walked quitely down to it.  It was still extremely dark by the time I was seated up in the ladder stand.  The woods were pretty quiet all morning.  At 8:15am, I saw movement to my left, and I saw a yearling doe walking up the ridge.  She was very nervous, but did not look at my stand.  She finally decided that something wasn't quite right though, and quickly trotted away.  Shortly after she left, a group of 6 hen turkeys crept in behind me and started digging in the leaves for food.  They stayed around for an hour and a half, and once they left the area, I climbed down.

Rather than following the winding road back up to my truck, I took a shortcut and walked through the woods.  I found a couple of places where the turkeys had been scratching in the leaves, but no sign of any bucks in the area.  That stand is a pretty one, but apparently the deer really aren't using that area much right now. 

After I got in my truck, I drove down to the stand and changed the card in my trail camera there at my feeder and confirmed that there is really no heavy deer activity.  I've got a yearling doe on film - probably the same one that I saw this morning - but that's about it.  The white oaks in this area are not bearing acorns.

I went and picked Ted up, and we drove over to Road 9 where we checked my other two trail cameras.  On one, I had absolutely nothing but a few turkeys, and on the second, down in the swamp, I had a pair of fawns feeding every day at around 6:30pm.  There was an occasional slightly older doe in the area, but she showed up very irregularly, and usually at night.

We drove over to Heath Springs for lunch.  Our intention was to get some chicken at Little Al's, but they were sold out, so we went over to a new BBQ and buffet restaurant that we saw on our way in.  As we walked in the door, a pair of older gentlemen at one of the tables noticed our hunting clothes and asked if we'd seen anything.  It came up that one of them had done some hunting in Africa, so he and I had a fairly lengthy conversation about our different experiences on safari.  I have a feeling that if I had gotten his name, I might have recognized it.  He mentioned that he had held two world records for African game at one point, and I think he was probably someone semi-well known in the safari arena, but I didn't persue it.

After lunch, we went back to the lease.  We put corn at Stand #13 for Ted, which looks over a food plot that's full of tracks.  We then went to look around for another place to hunt for me.  At the Orange Gate, there's a youngish white oak that was heavily bearing acorns, and there were plenty of acorn caps and deer tracks there, but no good place to hunt it from.  We also checked the ladder stand on the hardwood ridge off of Road 10, but the trees there weren't bearing.

Finally I decided to hunt Stand #18, which is a ladder stand that looks over a fairly wide stretch of logging road.  We got in our stands at around 4:00pm.  After 45 minutes in the stand, I knew I couldn't stay there all day.  The sun was shining directly on me, and I was starting to get burnt.  It was also far too hot, so I got down and walked back to the truck and moved to the swamp stand.

No sooner had I gotten seated than a tiny doe fawn showed up at the feeder.  She hung around for about 15 mintues, then left.  A while later, I looked over my shoulder back down the logging road and saw, to my surprise, a coyote sitting in the road, pooping.  It's always struck me as odd that these animals use the roads for doing their business, but there he was.  I slung a shot in his direction, and he took off running.  I walked down to where had been standing and saw that I had missed; I found where my bullet dug a groove in the sandy soil.

I got back in the climber, and a little while later again saw movement back in that direction.  This time it was a large doe moving through the brushy woods.  I got her in my scope and took a shot.  She took off running, tail high, and I saw the dust of the road scuffing up behind her heels as she ran away.  I was pretty sure that I had missed her too.

I got out of the stand and found where she had been standing, and also found her tracks in the road.  There was no sign of blood.  I searched the area until dark, but found no evidence that she was hit.  After I picked up Ted, we went back and both looked, but again found nothing.  I had been in a bad position for the shot, and am confident that it was a clean miss.  I'll be sure to check the zero on my scope though on Sunday when next I get in the woods.

October 1, 2011 All Day Hunt 2 deer seen

This morning I headed over to Stand 34, which is a ladder stand way down at the bottom of what we call Rattlesnake Road.  I've had a feeder in this location since early June, and was anxious to hunt in this beautiful location.  Two of the other guys were already at the sign-in board when I got there, and a third was camped in a tent beside the board.  After chatting with the guys for a bit, I went back to my Jeep and arranged my equipment in such a way that I could get it out of the truck without having to use the lift-gate once I was in the woods.  I also poured about 20 pounds of Buck Yum into a burlap bag.

Earlier this year I identified a good parking location on the road to the stand, marking it with orange reflective tacks.  I found them with no problem, then got out of the truck and quietly made my way down to the stand.  Once I got to the ladder itself, I dropped off my backpack and then walked another 50 yards down to where my feeder was.  Once there, I spread the Buck Yum from the burlap bag all around the feeder.

That done, I was quickly seated in the stand and ready to go.  For the most part, the morning passed quitely.  There were several shots in the area, and once, after one of them, I heard movement in the woods to my right.  As I watched, a four point and a spike came trotting through the woods.  They moved past my stand without seeing me, bypassed the feeder, and continued on down into the swamp. 

Those were the only deer I saw that morning.  Around 10:30, as I was just about ready to get down, a group of nine hen turkeys came into view.  One of them was bearded, and I tried to get a picture of her but did not manage to do so.  They fed on the corn and Buck Yum for about 10 minutes before moving out of view.

By the time I got out of the woods it was lunchtime, so I went over to the Riverdeck for a burger, then came back and checked all of my trail cameras.  I had a couple of decent bucks on one of them, but only late at night.  I topped off the corn supply in each of my feeders, and then went over to the Salt Lick to retrieve my popup blind, which had been there since early bow season.

There were relatively few tracks in the salt lick area, so I moved down to the Family Stand to see what was there.  Again, there were only a few sets of tracks.  I noticed a strange looking spot in the woods just off the edge of the field, and there I found some sort of grey salt or mineral had been spread for the deer.  There was a camera there too, so someone is actively watching the area.  I took a closer look at the camera and saw the hunter's name written on it, which is a good idea to do.  I had done the same thing with my feeders.

In the evening, I decided to go back to Stand 13, as the field that it watches is absolutely full of tracks.  Nothing showed up that evening, however.  Unfortunately, though the temperature was quite nice, the day was extremely windy, and I figured the deer would not be moving much that afternoon.

Looking forward to getting in the woods with Ted later on this week, as we'll be hunting together on Friday. 

September 25, 2011 Washed Out No deer seen

On Thursday of this week I drove over to Waxhaw, NC and spent an hour with my childhood friend Robert Burns.  Robert has teamed up with retired Carolina Panther Brad Hoover to market a new deer feed called Buck Yum.  After spending some time catching up with what was going on in each other's lives, I gave Robert copies of a couple of my books, and he loaded me down with several bags of Buck Yum.  We left with promises to take each other hunting this season.

On Sunday afternoon, after church and getting lunch with the family at Courtney's BBQ in Clover, I headed down to the lease.  I passed through a heavy rain storm, but the sky was blue by the time I got to my club.  I checked the sign-in board and saw that no one else was on the property, and that no deer had been killed in the past week. 

I went up to Stand #13 and spread a bag of Buck Yum around the field, then went over to #19 where I poured another bag into my feeder, mixing it in with some extra corn. I checked my camera there at the stand and found that there was still a nice 8 point coming in once in awhile, but never in daylight.  After checking the camera, I drove back down and parked about a hundred yards from Stand 13, then walked down into the stand to hunt.

I was quite excited about the possibility of seeing deer, but before long the rain came.  It came fast and hard, and the field in front of me turned into a mudhole.  Normally I love hunting in the rain, but I knew that a deer wasn't going to come walk through that mud, but it was too wet for me to move to a different stand.  The rain continued until dark, and I never saw a thing.

Next week I plan to hunt on Saturday all day, and then I'll be getting another day and a half in the woods the following weekend.  Greatly looking forward to it, and to giving the Buck Yum another shot.

September 18, 2011 Sunday Afternoon Hunt No deer seen

It was a beautiful day for hunting; maybe not quite cool enough, but heavy cloud cover and a hint of rain in the air.  When I got down to the lease, I saw that several does had been taken over the weekend.  Unfortunately, one of them was one that I had been watching on my trail camera since June, and was taken from the stand that I was hoping to hunt this afternoon.  Well, that's the downside of having public stands I guess, but at least I'm glad that someone got a deer from that location.

One of the guys that I work with is a new member in our club this year, and he came down today with his two kids for their first hunt on the lease.  I decided to put them in the Family Stand.  I lead them over to the stand, and once they were comfortable with it I headed on up the road to the Salt Lick stand. 

I heard several shots throughout the course of the afternoon, but saw no deer from my stand.  When I went back to get John and his kids, he told me that he had shot two deer.  The first, a big doe, was in the back of his truck.  They had been unable to locate the second, so John and I went off to look for it.  We found it after about twenty minutes, but unfortunately it turned out to be a button buck.... this is a mistake most every hunter has made.  We loaded the deer into his truck and went back down to the sign-in board.

Most of the guys in the club were already there, but no one else had taken a shot that day.  After chatting for a few minutes, we went over and weighed John's two deer, then packed up and headed home.

September 15, 2011 Opening Day of Rifle Season No deer seen

Opening day is here at last!  I got up at 3:30 this morning and had left the house by 4:00.  After stopping to get some ice for my cooler and a bit of breakfast, I got down to the lease around 5:30am.  Two of the guys were already there; Lee, a member who joined us last year, and new member Dan from Ft. Jackson.   We chatted briefly, and then went our separate ways.  I went to the stand where the big 8 pointer had shown up.  The morning was quiet and fairly cool, and although I stayed in the stand until 11:00am, I saw nothing.

Back at the gate, I ran into Dan.  He had gone down into one of the swamps and had hunted from the ground.  He saw one buck, but could not determine the size of it.  Lee was still in the woods, so I'm not sure if he saw anything or not.  After talking with Dan, I went to pick up some lunch, then brought it back to the lease and ate it at the sign-in board.

One of my other cameras was showing a group of does coming in at about 6:30pm every evening.  I really wanted to hunt there, but had gotten a bit sweaty by this time, and I was afraid that I would spook the deer if I went to that stand.

By 1:00pm, no one else had shown up, so I went on back into the woods.  I went to stand #13, which is a box blind that looks over a newly-planted food plot.  The stand used to be called #2.  I sat there all afternoon, but saw nothing.  The day had turned out to be pretty hot, and a cold front is due to hit the area tomorrow.  I think maybe the heat, as well as the full moon, had the deer messed up.

Anyway, I'll be back in the woods after church on Sunday, and am looking forward to another chance to get my first deer of the year.

September 4, 2011 Evening Hunt No deer seen

On the first Sunday afternoon of the season, I headed down to the lease for an afternoon hunt.  The first thing I did upon arriving at the lease was to go and check all three of my trail cameras.  Two of them had a bunch of does on them, but one showed a really nice eight point.  His rack was both high and wide.  Knowing there was no good place to set up with my crossbow in the area, I went over to the rifle-hunting stand near the camera and trimmed the brush that had grown up to block the view from the stand.  I'd be back here on opening day of rifle season for sure.

I went back over to the salt lick stand, hoping to get another look at the group of deer that had come in on Thursday, but unfortunately, nothing showed up all afternoon.

September 1, 2011 Changes in the Club and Opening Day 5 deer seen

Deer Season is here at last!  There have been a great many changes in our club since the end of turkey season, and the new era of the club starts today.  Mike, the previous president of the club, decided to leave earlier this year.  That left me in charge of things, and the remaining members of the club and I spent a good bit of time recruiting new members.  Most of the old guys are gone, and at least half of the membership is new this year.

When the season opened this morning, I was right back where I was last year at this time... sitting at Stand 19 in a pop-up ground blind hoping to see a deer.  I saw a bunch of hen turkeys, but saw no deer all morning.  At 10:30 I heard a four wheeler coming up the road, so got out of my blind to see who it was.  It was Trey, one of the other long-time members.  We had mentioned that we would meet up this morning to do some work in one of our food plots.

One of the new members had plowed and planted one of our plots over the past weekend, so Trey and I used his four-wheeler to cover up the seed that was still exposed.  We did this by dragging a piece of fence behind his ATV.  After that was done, we parted ways for the morning.  Trey was headed home to get some rest, and I wanted to check out one of my cameras that's way back in the woods.

I drove down to the camera and swapped out the card, letting the pictures transfer to my iPad while I drove down to the chicken place in Heath Springs to get some lunch.  They were all ready for viewing by the time I got there.  I got about 800 pictures of a doe and fawn who had been visiting my feeder every day.  No sign of any bucks. 

After making my way back to the lease, I drove around several of the roads trying to find a place to hunt for the afternoon.  The "salt lick" field was torn up with hundreds of fresh tracks, so I decided that that was where I would go.  I installed my pop-up blind behind a big brush pile, trimming branches to make it fit better.  That done, I put my chair and some of my gear in the blind and then drove down to the sign-in board to take a nap.

While I was there, two more members showed up.  We chatted awhile, and then at around 4:30 we all headed into the woods for the afternoon hunt.  I wasn't in my blind for long before a flock of turkeys showed up.  They milled around for awhile and then disappeared from sight.  Not long after they left, a young four point buck came into the field.  He looked like a spike at first, but I could see that he actually had tiny little brow tines.  His antlers had some bright red blood on them, evidence that he had recently lost his velvet.  He staying in the field for about 20 minutes before leaving.

Shortly after he left, a doe came into the field.  She was followed by a young six pointer, and then two more does.   Those four deer hung around for the next hour.  They all looked to be 1.5 years old, but that six point had x-ray vision.  He kept staring through the brush at me, and every time I looked at him in my binoculars I could see him looking back at me.  They left shortly before dark, and nothing else showed up.

Back at the sign-in board, I learned that Trey Robinson had shot a 190 pound 8 pointer; his largest bow-killed deer to date.  One of the other guys had seen a fawn and a coyote.

April 29, 2011 Last Hunt Two Gobblers Seen

It was extremely hard getting out of bed at 4:30 this morning.  My work schedule had me driving to Charlotte for a class pretty much every other day this week, and in order to get some work done before class started I had gone in quite early each morning.  The need to get out into the wild overcame the much-needed desire to sleep in, and by 5:00 I was on the road. 

The sun was already coming up when I got to Exit 55, and with 30 minutes left to go before I made it to the lease, I was starting to think that I should have gotten up a little earlier.  However, I got to the lease with at least a little bit of dawn left, and was soon parked in between stands 13 and 16.  My plan was to walk from there all the way to the end of the road, but as I got my gear together I heard a gobbler sounding off down in the swamp below #13.  I quickly closed up the truck and trotted down the road to get closer to him.

I walked all the way back to where a little side road leads down to the swamp, and was soon in the bottom and letting out some yelps.  I got some responses, so I settled back in a clump of bushes and began my wait.  The gobbler never showed up, so I moved deeper into the swamp, calling as I went.

Hearing nothing, I decided to head up the hill toward #16 and resume my plans of walking to the end of the road.  As I eased up out of the swamp, I came across an old logging road bed that I had never seen before.  It was upsy, but was in pretty good shape with only a few young saplings growing up in it.  As I came to the top of the hill and the end of the little road, I found that it offered an incredible view down into the swamp.  It would, I saw, make a beautiful place to hunt in November when the leaves were gone.  I marked the spot on my GPS and then continued to make my way out of the woods.

Twice I came across hatched turkey eggs, but there was no other bird sign.  When I finally made it out of the woods, I saw that I had been right on target and had come out just shy of stand 16.  From there I went up to stand 18 and sat for a couple of hours watching the logging road, but again saw nothing.

Lunchtime found me driving over to Heath Springs for some of Little Al's fried chicken, which I can't resist, and then back to the club where I sat at the sign-in board and ate my lunch.  When that was done, I drove over to the big road and parked at old #10, then headed into the woods behind the stand.  I did a couple of yelps on my box call and almost immediately got a gobble.  Sitting down, I tried to coax the gobbler into range, but the sound of real hens dashed my hopes.

After that, I went over to the next road and did some walking and calling, but got no responses.  Looking at the clock on my GPS, I saw that it was about time to head home, so I walked back to the Jeep and packed up my gear.  Deciding to take the long way out of the lease -- the back road -- I drove slowly out.  As I approached the cutover, I saw two red heads heading away down into the brushy clear cut.

Backing up, I quickly parked the Jeep and grabbed my shotgun.  I made a long slow stalk, keeping bushes in between myself and the two gobblers that I had seen.  By the time I made it to the cutover itself, there was no sign of the birds.  I looked around and decided that they had probably headed back toward the road.  I made my way in that direction and saw that I had been right.  One of the birds had already crossed into the pines, and the other was just about to enter the woods.

I threw up my shotgun and made a quick shot, but it was obvious that I had missed.  The distance had been too great, the wind too high, and the bird too quick.  He was gone.  I checked for blood and feathers and found none.  And that ended my season.

April 17, 2011 Sunday Afternoon Hunt No Animals Seen

Today's hunt was so brief that my driving time to get to the lease and back actually eclipsed the amount of time that I spent in the woods.  But, as always, the opportunity to go afield is hard to resist, so I headed down to the club around 2:00pm.  I went to the first road and walked from Stand #13 to the end, calling every so often, but heard nothing.  By 4:30, I was back on the road and heading home.

April 12, 2011 Half Day Hunt No Animals Seen

I took a day off of work to get a morning in the woods today.  At first I thought that I would start back at the orange gate, but because it was threatening rain I decided to go find a covered blind to sit in.  I chose a big double blind where my buddy Ted had taken his daughter Taylor on her first deer hunt.  I picked this stand because it offered a nice view of a large field which turkeys would probably show up in. 

Getting out of the Jeep, I did a few owl hoots and was immediately rewarded by a turkey's gobble.  He was way down in a bottom below me, and at first I headed back around the corner from where I had parked, heading down to a small field near where Pete had begun his last hunt the previous weekend.  I hooted again and he gobbled again, and I decided a better approach might be to go back around and head down toward where I had planned on hunting.  I did that and was soon parallel to the bird.

From the sounds of his gobbles, he was pretty far back in the woods, and the terrain to get to him was too steep to cross.  I decided to give up on him and move on toward my chosen stand.  The stand was about 4/10ths of a mile down the road and all downhill.  My boots and pant legs were red with wet clay by the time I reached the stand, and to my dismay there were no chairs inside it.  There was no way to be comfortable in that blind without a chair, so I sighed and walked back up the hill to my Jeep.  It was just after 7:00am and I laughed, thinking that I had already walked a mile in the muddy clay road before a good many people were out of their beds.

Back at the Jeep I stopped and grabbed my little turkey chair, then went around the corner in the road to the tiny little field at the bottom of the hill.  There was a deer feeder here; a nice covered trough feeder that for now was empty of corn, baiting not being allowed during turkey season.  I got settled in a clump of bushes after setting out a couple of hen decoys, but just as I got settled in my seat the rain began.  I was struck with a funny idea... why not set up inside the deer feeder?

Picking up my seat, I trudged over to the feeder and put my chair in the trough.  It was a perfect fit, so I quickly inspected the underside of the roof for wasps.  There was a single nest there with one wasp on it.  I shooed him away with my hat, then climbed into the makeshift blind.  It was actually extremely comfortable there in the blind.  No rain fell on me, and my camouflage clothing matched the color of the feeder quite nicely.  Two turkeys were gobbling in different directions, so I did some cutting on my Stowe-Away slate call. 

The birds responded, but just weren't moving.  As I sat waiting for them to show up, I did a bit of reflecting, turning the slate caller over in my hand.  Made by Lewis Stowe, the old world champion turkey caller, I recalled the day that he had given it to me.  Lewis and I went to church together at a small Baptist church near Lake Wylie.  One day as I waited for Sunday School to begin, Lewis popped his head into my classroom and said to go out to his truck and get something that he'd left on the seat for me.  It turned out to be this caller, hand made and signed by Lewis on 3-01-01.  I didn't realize at the time what a gift this was, as Lewis's calls are highly collectible.  I've used it every season for the last ten years, and it still has an incredible sound.

There's a store in Gastonia that still sells Lewis's calls, and I made a note to myself to go buy several of them the next time chance allows, as they are getting harder and harder to find. 

I sat there in the feeder until the rain quit, and then made one more stalk through a mile-long stretch of woods, working my way in a wide arc back to my Jeep.  I saw and heard nothing else, but had a fine time in the woods that day.

April 9, 2011 Saturday Morning Hunt 2 Turkeys Seen

On Saturday morning, Pete and I headed down to the lease for anoher day of turkey hunting.  I had been giving it a good bit of thought this week, and decided that we ought to start at the two orange gates, on the front side of the lease near the main road.  I dropped Pete off at the first gate and briefly described the area to him, suggesting that he make his way down the logging road to an old loading dock, and then head down into the swamp.  We agreed to meet back at his gate at around 9:30 if nothing was happening and move on to try somewhere else.

After dropping him off, I drove a quarter mile down the road to the second gate, parking my truck just inside the gate.  It was still pretty dark, so I rolled my window down, grabbed my iPad, and spent 20 minutes reading, waiting for the sky to start to brighten a little bit.  Once, a truck drove past my gate and gave a quick honk of his horn; obviously another one of our hunters on his way into the woods.

When the owls began hooting in the distance, I got out of the Jeep, gathered my gear, and walked down the road toward the old field where I had gotten a double on turkeys last season.  I gave my own set of owl calls and was rewarded with two gobbles near the creek down below where I was standing.  I quickly made my way down the hill and found a clump of bushes to set up in.  From there I did a few soft yelps and again was answered with the thunderous sound of gobbles.  I soon saw a turkey fly down from the roost. 

I called a few more times, and before long the second turkey flew down.  Both were too far for a shot, and although I called a few more times, they never came my way.  After awhile I moved down into the little bottom, finding it to be a beautiful grassy area filled with turkey sign, but also with predator dens.  Once, a hen came into the area and we called back and forth for a half hour.  I never saw her, but she was easily within 30 yards of me the whole time.

When things finally quieted down, I looked at the clock on my GPS and saw that it was about time to meet Pete.  I worked my way back up the hill to my Jeep, and then drove over to his orange gate.  He wasn't there, so I opened the gate and started driving slowly down the road.  As I rounded a big bend in the road, I saw a black dot way down in the field below me, but I quickly realized that it was one of Pete's decoys.  I stopped the Jeep, still a couple of hundred yards away, and scanned the area looking for Pete or for real turkeys.  Seeing neither, I drove down the road to his field.

Pete wasn't there either.  I got his decoy and put it in the Jeep, and right then my phone rang.  It was Pete; seems he had made his way over to the first big lease road, not realizing that the direction he had gone in would take him there.  I drove over and picked him up; he had been on the trail of a big gobbler and he told me where he thought it was heading.  It was moving toward the big lease road.  We quickly drove over there and parked.

We decided to split up, with Pete going along an old ridgeline toward the swamp, and I would parallel him down the old pine road on the far side of the ridge.  I walked about a half mile into the woods, stopping at the end of my road as a gobbler sounded off across the swamp.  I got in position and began calling.  A hen soon answered me, and the big male gobbled a few more times.  Ultimately though neither turkey came into view, so I gathered my stuff and made the long walk back to the Jeep.

We headed home, neither of us having gotten a turkey.  Pete said it had been one of the best turkey hunts of his life, as he had had a big gobbler and a smaller one come to his decoy and come within 2 steps of being in shooting range.  He had also seen a large gobbler cross the road as he came up out of the swamp.  All in all, a great day afield.

April 1, 2011 Turkey Season Opener No Animals Seen

Early on the opening morning of turkey season, Pete met me outside of my garage door at about 4:45am.  He told me that he was going to do things a little differently this year, and then he proceeded to show me his new longbow.  He said that for his hunting this season he would be focusing completely on traditional archery.  How incredible, I asked him, would it be to take a turkey with a longbow?

We arrived at the lease a little over an hour later, and one truck was already parked at the sign-in board.  We wanted to get on up into the woods, so we didn't take time to stop and say hello.  Instead, we drove up toward stand #13, parking the truck there and sitting quietly for the few minutes that we had before the turkeys would start gobbling.

After getting out of the truck, we heard a couple down toward #13 itself, and I told Pete that he should go after those.  I headed up the road toward stands #17 and #18.  I heard turkeys down in the swamp below me, and so I made my way down the steep hill into the bottom.  By the time I had gotten down there, there was no noise from the birds.  Ultimately I headed back up to the logging road, setting up at a couple of different locations and doing some calling.  Although I got one or two gobbles, the birds soon quieted back down and I never heard them again.

Meeting up with Pete, I learned that he had gotten some gobbles too, but had not seen any turkeys.  It was about time for lunch, so we headed over to the grill and got a hamburger, and then went back to the lease.  I've been appointed president of the club this year, and one of the things that I want to do differently is to create a website for the club.  One of the features on the site will be a Google map of the property showing the locations of all of the roads and the stands.  Needing to get coordinates for the first seven roads, we stopped and took GPS waypoints of each of them before heading into the big section of the lease to hunt.

We went down below the cutover and parked near an old swamp bottom.  I headed left while Pete went right.  I went almost all the way to the main road, a distance of about 3/4 of a mile, before heading back to the truck.  I heard nothing the whole time.  Pete heard some turkeys moving through the woods on his side of the trail, but never got a look at them.

It was almost time to head home, so we did one more short hunt near the front of the lease.  I went down to a tiny little field that's perfect for turkeys, but saw and heard nothing.  Pete also heard nothing during his last hunt of the day.

January 15, 2011 A Walk in the Woods No Deer Seen

We got a big snowstorm in our area a week ago, and the temperatures have been cold enough that the ground in Clover still had a good bit of snow on it.  Areas south of us (such as my lease) got even more snow, so today presented a unique opportunity for me to get in the woods at least some snow on the ground.   My intention was to retrieve all three of my trail cameras from the woods and do a little bit of shed antler hunting.

As I pulled into the main gate on the lease, I saw that no one else had been there since the snowfall.  I drove up the road to Stand #15, parking there because the snow on the road was getting deep and I didn't want to risk getting stuck by myself in the woods.  Loading a dozen rounds into my .223, I slung the rifle over my shoulder and headed into the pines to my left.

I cut the corner of the logging road, hiking through the woods to Stand #16.  There were lots of deer tracks heading down into the valley behind the stand, so I worked my way down the hill looking for antlers.  I found two places where deer had bedded in the snow, but no sign that looked really fresh. Working my way back up the hill, I continued on my way to Stand #17.

As I approached this stand, I again took a detour into the pines in the hopes of finding deer sign.  There was none to be seen, so I moved on up the road to the next stand.  At #18 I saw what could have been week-old bear tracks.  I reached into my pocket to ensure that the backup magazine for my rifle was ready to go. 

I moved on, walking all the way past #19 and down the hill to where one of my cameras was placed.  Kneeling, I unlocked the protective steel box from the tree, removed the camera, and unscrewed the mount from the trunk of the big pine that it was secured to.  Reassembling the entire setup, I stowed it in my backpack and headed back toward Stand #18.

As I passed #19, I moved into the thicket and walked deep into the woods, intending to take a short cut over to the next trail camera.  The next camera was where I got the pictures of the bear last spring.  I found several deer trails and followed each of them briefly, but still found no antlers.  When I finally came to the little logging road, I found that I had guessed perfectly and had emerged just a couple of dozen yards from where my camera was waiting for me. 

I retrieved that camera, noting how heavy my pack was getting.  I was over a mile from the truck, so I knew I had a long walk ahead of me.  I headed off into the woods again, trying to make a straight line for the main logging road.  As I got close to the road, I found a massive bedding area for deer.  The snow was melted in several places where deer had been laying, and there was lots of poop and even some yellow snow.  I spent a good 45 mintues inspecting the area and backtrailing the deer, but still found no antlers.  Finally giving up, I headed back down toward #16 where my last camera was waiting for me.

With time running out for the day, I retrieved my last camera and hiked the rest of the way down to the Jeep.  I had found no antlers, but a review of the pictures on my cameras showed that the bucks were still wearing their headgear.  When I got home, I retraced my steps using Google Earth and saw that I had hiked more than 2.5 miles up and down the hills in the thick snow.  It was a great day to get into the woods!

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