Editorial-Opinion November 2011

Steve Burch | November 1, 2011

Corn mazes are popular this time of year. They kind of bring together the time of harvest and the fun of Halloween. This fall may be a bit unique for sportsmen across the state, and it could be that we are now walking into deer hunting’s corn maze. It should be an interesting trip.

With bow season over, and gun season under way, the entire state will be wondering what, if any, impact there will be this year from the legalization of hunting over corn in one half of the state.

The conventional wisdom is there will be very little impact. After all, nothing has changed in the Northern Zone, so they say. And hunting 200 yards away from corn feeders was so common in the Southern Zone that nothing really will change there either except the distance hunters are from the feed.

That may be true, but I doubt things will really be that simple. Forecasting the impact of a change like this, and then actually watching it play out, frequently don’t track together. I suspect this fall will be more maze-like than many assumed it would be when the law was changed.

Will it be easier to kill a large buck this year in south Georgia?

That is a good question. We have been tracking the taking of large deer in Georgia for more than two decades. Over that time, we have increasingly seen the quality of those deer increase over all, in both the corned and the corn-free parts of Georgia.

This year produced an awful drought in most of Georgia, especially south Georgia. But preliminary reports suggest really good deer, in surprisingly good condition, are being taken statewide. Go figure. At any rate, we will have numbers to compare come this January. That much is a given.

But I believe there will be a much more disbursed impact of the corn issue. I am asking you to watch for these changes, and to share your observations as we go through the season. I have started a thread on the deer hunting forum at <>. We will be gathering input and reporting on these insights and perceptions as the season goes along.

One of the impacts I believe will be a growing jealousy between club members within clubs, and an increasing distrust between adjoining clubs in south Georgia. I fear a sort of corn “arms race.” Think about barbecue cooks who guard their secret rub recipe that makes their butt the best. Can a special seasoning for a feeder be far behind?

Feed sellers will be taking orders from some hunters based on ensuring his feed order is larger than his neighbor’s order. He with the largest pile wins. It adds a new meaning to the phrase “size matters.”

I believe timers on feeders will increase substantially. And I believe timers and trail cameras will have the effect of reducing the amount of hunting in areas where feeders on timers are the rule. My logic is that the prime time for hunting will shift from its traditional base to a hunter-created and controlled prime time.

For instance, I know there are a number of “prime times,” and I plan my time in the woods to take advantage of those special times. I hunt persimmons and muscadines and crab apples, and even mulberry leaves in bow season, when they are right. When the deer move to acorns, so do I. But not just any acorns. It requires a bit of scouting to be on the right acorns at their special time.

Then the rut kicks in, and that is THE special time. Conditions then have me setting up in a different place.

And as the rut wanes, I move again, often to pines and mushrooms, before the green fields have their ascendancy into their special time. It’s hard to beat a late-season green field.

These special times may be increasingly lost on those who gravitate to their feeders, who put out their cameras on their feeders, and who then produce evidence that feeders are the best place to see deer. After all, if you only look for deer at a feeder, that will  be the only place they will be seen.

This self-supporting logic trap will actually work to the benefit of both the deer and the hunters who understand that feeders are only a part of what makes deer what they are and hunting the great sport it is.

My guess is the more a hunter expects from baiting, the less satisfied he will be with the results. Keep an eye out over the next couple of months. I’d like to hear what you find as we go through the season.

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