On The Road Hunting With Glen Solomon

Join the author on a month-long hunting trip across the state. He's hunting public land, searching for rut-crazed bucks.

Glen Solomon | November 1, 2008

Glen Solomon of Hazlehurst killed this great bow buck hunting on the banks of Lake Eufaula. The buck fell on the morning of Nov. 20.

My name is Glen Solomon. I am an addict. My addiction is hunting and the rush. I practice my habit on public land. The state of Georgia has many programs in which to help people with their addictions. The one I am a part of is the wildlife-management-area system. I’ve been hunting Georgia’s public lands for 26 years. I hunt ’em for the challenge and variety, meeting new people, rekindling old friendships, learning new things and always having somewhere new to go.

For the first time, I will be keeping a diary of my hunts, along with tips, tactics and thoughts, just to show those people pouting and crying about nowhere to hunt just how much excitement and success can be had by joining the state’s $19 hunting club. Seems like I keep reading in GON about folks quitting hunting because they lost their lease or hunting club. For some, that’s the only place they have ever hunted. Listen up, there are more than a million acres in Georgia for you to find greener pastures and hidden honey holes, not to mention new memory-making adventures with your friends and family. Also, what about your children and grandchildren that you have taken under your wing or the ones you have yet to introduce to the great outdoors? Don’t punish ’em. Carry ’em, and unfold new mysteries together while keeping our hunting heritage alive.

Ignore the horror stories about getting shot or stampeded by hordes of hunters. The only accidents I’ve ever read about in more than 20 years of reading GON happened on private land. If it’s going on out there, they know. Plus, I have years of experience on more than three-dozen WMAs. On public lands, hunters are aware they may see another hunter at any time and will take time to identify their targets before raising a weapon. Do your scouting efficiently, and you will avoid the majority of other “orange” encounters.

Friends for life thanks to a WMA bond (from left): Armando, David, Glen and Ernesto.

The first November hunt at Dixon Memorial gave up this fine buck for Tim Griffin.

Anyhow, I like crowded hunts. It makes the deer move, making my stands in escape funnels and trails in security cover more productive. Sometimes it is quite lonely on many of the sign-in hunts I attend. I used to be a club member and also leased my own tracts of land, but I have moved on to better things since. No more worrying about planting food plots, keeping feeders full and expensive crowded lea$es that you may or may not have next year. All time and investments are non-returnable and lost. For the cheap fee of $19, WMAs also provide biologists to boot. There is actually less pressure on most WMAs — as most are only open a few days a season — whereas most hunting clubs are pounded and stomped out year-round with a variety of activities. High hunter density lowers deer density. The surviving deer have everyone patterned.

For example, I hunt one WMA that runs for miles alongside several hunting clubs, separated only by a dirt road. To determine hot spots, I look for the coming and going of deer tracks in the road. The crossings will be very recognizable and churned up. Deer will typically work a circular or elliptical pattern. The trail going into the hunting club will be mostly night traffic raiding the food plots of the hunting club. The trail returning to the WMA will be headed to bedding areas; some will be near the road and others a mile or more away.

In evenings I hunt close to the road for staging deer and get a little deeper for morning hunts. One turkey season I walked near a road edge for nearly a mile. The terrain consisted of tall grasses, briars and small pines. I counted dozens of beds, some within sight of the road. Waiting on dark to play, huh? These deer know exactly what the sound of a rattling gate chain means.

Now, where was I? Oh yeah. On WMA check-in hunts, you are allowed two bonus tags, which is beneficial when you live off the land like my family. Stop eating meat from the grocery store. Consume only wild game, and in a few weeks or even days you will notice a drastic change in how you feel metabolically and mentally. It will ultimately lead to an abundance of energy you didn’t know you had. Occasionally I run out of wild game and have to supplement from a grocery store. After a couple of days, the difference in how I feel is like night and day. Think about this, there are only four main meat groups uptown — beef, pork, chicken and fish. Deer is my “beef” ingredient for all dishes — it’s fine right by itself. Wild hog sure has a pretty pink color. I catch my own fish. Turkey, dove and quail sure knock out chicken. Throw in a few squirrels and rabbits to complete a hunter’s smorgasbord. Okay, drifting off the subject again.

So, don’t be hesitant. Grab a tent, relax and stay the whole hunt. Enjoy camping. You remember that, don’t you? Have fellowship with your family, friends and hunting peers. To me, it’s kind of like stepping back in a lost or forgotten time, maybe “The good ol’ days.” Step out in the wild for a few nights. You will sense the soul-stirring I’m talking about, or maybe even conjure up some old memories.

Study the WMA listings in the hunting-regulation book, get a calendar and plan some hunts. You don’t even need whole days, maybe a morning or evening out to the areas close to home. Georgia has a four-month season, so there will be several places open even if you have a tight schedule.

Dwayne Hobbs of St. Marys killed this nice buck last November at Dixon Memorial.

While I’m hunting on the fly, if our paths cross, holler at me. If I can help, just ask. My buddy, Garmin, always has some extra coordinates we can’t cover. See you at the cleaning rack!

Here goes. Forgive me of improper sentence structuring and other grammar no-nos. This is my diary, and I’m writing it in a direct tone to my friends who share the life of hunting, not to literary scholars. Okay, I admit it, I’m a Redneck, and this is my story.

Nov. 1: Hannahatchee WMA

Hannahatchee is one of the most challenging WMAs in Georgia, where any legal deer is a trophy. It is overhunted due to a lengthy season and scarcity of public land in this part of the state. There’s only three deer on the kill sheet since opening of firearms season.

I did some in-season speed scouting, checking on old waypoints. Nothing exciting found, just minimal scattered sign with no noticeable patterns. No deer seen or heard.

Even though there is a fair population of deer here, I have learned a lot of these professional eluders (deer) are looping back to bed on private property. The places I checked were in traditional-type areas such as drainages or along beautiful hardwood ridges. Sure, I saw a few scrapes and tracks here and there, and a place or two I might could kill a deer, but not “The Place.”

My gut instinct told me if I was going to connect on these survivors (deer), I was going to have to “hunt ugly.” Here, that means steep canyons of kudzu and briars. There are a few big pines in there, but you’re going to need a machete to get to one. Start super early, since you need to chop on the morning you hunt — it’s got to be a surprise.

There are also a few scattered deer hanging around short-pocket flats and ridges of low thick underbrush and scraggly scratchy pin oaks near the road right under people’s noses. Find these spots adjacent to plots, roads, fields and right-of-ways. Hint — look for tracks in the roads and openings where they danced all night long, only to dart back in when they heard tires crunching gravel.

If you can walk in upright and unscathed or find a tree big enough to climb, you are definitely in the wrong place. Leave the clangy stand in the truck, crawl in well before daylight and sit on the ground where visibility is best — throw ’em a curve ball. For now, I have better and favorite hunts to attend.

A word of advice: Study the harvest data in the WMA Special in the August issue of GON, and play the percentages. I keep a copy in my map book at all times. Also, notice there are high and low cycles for some areas, which means hunts can actually be predictable.

I will be back here in December, if I have any tags left, after the foliage has fallen and hunting pressure has decreased. These deer here rut late.

Nov. 5: Lake Eufaula Public Land

P.M. Hunt: Bowhunted OTG (on the ground) on a large water-oak flat that was raining acorns — thump, thump; it was like walking on marbles.

Three does followed by a 6-pointer and spike came in to feed. After 1 1/2 hours of watching them vacuum acorns, I had stalked within 60 yards. My Leafy Suit is awesome. Swing your bow arm back, putting your bow behind and perpendicular to your leg. Take baby steps, barely raising your feet above the leaves. Use the old Indian method of walking straight, not deviating left or right, and don’t swing your appendages. I actually had a leaf balanced on my shoulder the whole stalk. No spider webs attached.

With my mouth, I grunted in the 6 pointer and spike to within 40 yards. Passed. Too early in the game.

Nov. 6: Lake Eufaula Public Land

A.M. Hunt: Bowhunting. I climbed in the same oak flat. I was in the tree two hours before daylight. Deer were bedding on the open oak flat. I had to beat ’em there.

If I did bump them going in that early, I wouldn’t be over-concerned. I have learned deer don’t spook nearly as bad at night as they do at predawn or daylight. In the old years, I’d walk around in the dark with a climber on my back until I heard deer crashing off and then climb right there. More times than not, at dawn or a couple of hours thereafter, he, she or they would come slipping back in.

I think a deer will regard danger in one of two ways. Hey, I have a good place to escape again if danger approaches, or I better not get caught here again — I’m finding somewhere else.

By being super early, it gives them time to calm down, especially if they only heard you and didn’t smell you. Plus, those deer were there for a reason, maybe a hot food source, and others will come. Also, bucks know where doe units frequent and may come by for a scent check later on. Okay, rambling again.

A few minutes after daylight, about 80 yards out, I observed four does feeding along, and all the while they were being harassed by a shooter 8-pointer. He was working them like a cutting horse, trying to nudge in for a scent check. With the new moon and cool mornings, I was witnessing some pre-rut activity.

After 45 minutes of watching frolicking deer in their playground, I determined they weren’t coming any closer, so I pulled out my Knight & Hale rattle bag. First, I belched out two different tones of grunts, one with a cupped hand facing away to create an illusion of two different bucks meeting.

I hit the rattle bag, clashing and grinding for about 20 seconds. During the process, I threw in a few blows, snorts and some heaving-type grunts. Now a hundred yards out, the buck threw his attention to me. Hair bristling along his back and headgear cocked, here he comes! He was coming in like he was on a string. Then 40 yards out, he started to circle my position to get downwind. He hung up near my entry trail less than 30 yards out but was screened out by thick brush. It didn’t take him long to get suspicious with no fight in sight. He then wheeled around and started trotting back to the does.

I gave a loud bleat with my mouth and immediately drew him back. He stopped in range, but dadgum, he was one small step too far forward. There was a tree lined up perfectly where my X mark was, tight behind the shoulder. I still had some lung zone exposed, but I would have to send my arrow right next to that tree on an alert deer. If that tree bark reached out and petted my fletching, or my aim was off an inch or two, compounded with jumping the string, it would be asking for a gut or liver shot. I’ve made more challenging shots before, but my little voice said “No.”

I learned a long time ago if you don’t heed, the results could or will be disastrous. Of awesome shots I’ve made before, like threading the eye of a needle, it was done almost involuntarily. Most of the time I didn’t even remember aiming. So, if you catch yourself contemplating for several seconds trying to reassure yourself on an iffy shot, don’t take it. The buck resumed his chasing for another 30 minutes or so until the does had had enough and broke off in single file, following the old nanny lead doe toward their bedding area for the day. Awesome. Knight & Hale pulled him off the real thing.

No worry, plenty of time. I’ve already got three does in the freezer from opening week. At this point, I’ve passed up more than a dozen small bucks. I could’ve shot some more does, but I have to leave some for rut bait. In this area, there are at least two noticeable ruts. In the same area last season in late December, there were three big bucks each paired with their own doe, and breeding was observed. It was a comical morning.

One doe was in her peak and was stopping for mounting throughout the chasing venue. The buck would clumsily rear up and slip slide down by her side causing her to nervously jump out of the way, and the chase would begin again until the next pause. Why was he so clumsy? Because, he had only three legs. Of course, he doesn’t need any of them now, THUMP!

I watched this deer for longer than an hour — boy, deer surely are the ultimate adapters. You couldn’t even tell he had three legs.

I won’t be returning here to hunt until Nov. 18-20, hopefully timing when the first rut hits and all the heavy hitters are in town. Maybe Tripod left some of his genes behind. I got to go “hunt on the fly” now to some more WMAs that are date sensitive.

Nov. 7: Horse Creek WMA

I’m 1 mile deep into the Ocmulgee River swamp floodplain in an old swampy clearcut. I’m hunting ugly along a narrow, thick ridge funneling from the thick clearcut ending out into a more open floodplain. There’s a dim trail down the center with plenty of rubs. I forgot my limb saw.

All I needed was 12 feet — any higher and visibility would be cut. I couldn’t find a limbless section anywhere. I should have stayed there OTG, but instead I found a climbable tree on the outer edge of the thick run. I made a little noise getting up the tree; it was harder than a railroad spike. I hurriedly hit the rattle bag and shook some limbs.

A few minutes later I heard a buck thrashing a bush with his antlers, and by the tone he had some serious bone on his head. The buck was just out of sight in the center of the funnel and wouldn’t come any closer. I knew it wasn’t going to happen. He was right on top of my entry trail, which was screened from my view. If I had only brought that limb saw or went OTG. A golden rule of hunting and little voices — stick with your first choice even if you have to adapt. I wonder how big that headgear was…..

Nov. 8-10: Dixon Memorial WMA

Glen Solomon ran into Heather Minter of Waynesville while hunting last November. Here, she smiles with her first deer, a Dixon Memorial doe she killed on the WMA’s Nov. 8-10, either-sex hunt.

This is my favorite hunt, and it’s check-in, meaning bonus tags. I’m hunting buck, doe and bear in and around the Okefenokee Swamp. This place has a deep and mysterious magnetism that draws me every year. Maybe it’s my Indian heritage. There are places here where no modern-day hunter has ever set foot. It’s 32,000 acres where you can discover your own little world of hunting tranquility. The deer are in full rut, and several big bucks have been killed. I found many running tracks and even found scrapes in the dirt road. On this either-sex hunt, 44 deer were killed with a success rate in the mid 20s. I hunted with friend David Rodriquez of Homestead, Fla.

Nov. 8: A.M. Hunt: We were unproductive in a usually productive honey hole. The difference was this time there were no hunters in front of or around the block like there usually are. We need ’em to push deer to security cover, which is in the form of a thick cypress swamp with knee-deep water. Where’s a crowd when you need one? Doesn’t sound like a sane hunter talking, does it? Remember, people move, deer move — especially on that first pressured day. A rub line by my tree was not reworked this year. I killed a nice 5 1/2-year-old 8-pointer here last year. It must have been his.

Nov. 8 P.M. Hunt: We found a lot of fresh deer sign, including scrapes, on a maintained road. Deer are coming out of a thick pine-palmetto flat, crossing the road into a young clearcut with reset pines where they have been feeding and chasing at night. Behind the narrow pine and palmetto block is a large ty-ty swamp with several worn trails coming out at every bend and dip. Take a pick. Rubs and scrapes dotted the access trail between the flat and ty-ty bay. With wind in our favor, David and I picked a spot. Nothing. They may be getting there late at night. Anyhow, deer don’t appear to be moving in the evenings this quarter of the moon.

Nov. 9 A.M. Hunt: I had an idea what the deer may be doing, so I drove a mile around to the back of the block. We crossed, but more like bulldozed through, a huge pine-palmetto flat to the back side of the same ty-ty swamp. Most people wouldn’t have left all that pretty sign, but I’m not ordinary. Twenty five years of hunting public land and your predatory instinct will take over — trust me. From any road it was about as deep as you could get, at least 3/4 of a mile out to either end of the firebreak where it meets the road.

We hunted on each side of a long, looping point of the swamp which jutted out into the head-high flat of palmettos and gallberry bushes, which is prime bedding area with browse.

I have learned deer like to bed after crossing some sort of obstacle or change in terrain. It may be a road, a stream or swamp, a wide-open field, changes in thickness of cover or maybe just something different. For some reason, that gives them a sense of security. As hunters and the hunted, we are all looking for that fresh undisturbed block. This turned out to be a good choice.

I like going blind in a new area. This is where your GPS comes in really handy. Sometimes you can’t read it from the road. My Garmin allowed us to center up that 1 1/2-mile stretch for the area of least disturbance. There were several other sets of boot tracks coming in from each end of the break, but those petered out after a quarter-mile or so, leaving that juicy little spot in the middle. Surprise ’em — first time in is the best time. No residual scent or disturbance left from prior scouting — no warning.

We heard several grunting sequences in the back side of the bay, and soon after the scent of gunpowder filled the air. We bagged two spikes and a doe which will surely hide the bottom of our freezers. David’s spike and doe were shot in the access trail, coming out of the ty-ty swamp heading to their presumed sanctuary. He dropped them in their tracks on each side of a small secondary point behind his side of the loop. Both were actually lying half in and half out of the firebreak and swamp.

David Rodriquez of Homestead, Fla. killed one of these spikes and a doe while hunting Nov. 9 at Dixon Memorial. The other spike was killed by Glen Solomon.

My spike came out of the bedding side only minutes after I’d had a coughing fit which was hurriedly followed up with one heck of a rattle-bag tantrum and grunting that would scare a moose to death. Like turkey calling, never finish on a bad note. Disguise your mistakes.

My spike came out in a little recess where a small oak had fallen across the trail, creating a shield from the flat to the swamp. Just like bass, these deer were relating to structure in their movements such as using points, dips, changes in cover and terrain, and connection paths. Think about it; a reservoir is flooded woods just like we are hunting today. To me, structure (underwater) and terrain (dry land) are basically the same, so I apologize if I use fishing terminology while writing this. I think we did a pretty good job reading the structure in the dark by finding the subtle differences within it.

Drifting back to the subject, instead of bedding in or running perpendicular within the ty-ty bay farther down to exit, these deer were just going straight across to the back bedroom in the pines. Every one of these deer had their own little slip-out spot, and all paused, peering out before crossing the narrow firebreak, exposing only up to their front shoulder.


Nov. 9: P.M. Hunt

We figured the a.m. hunt pretty much boogered up our new honeyhole for the remainder of the day due to all the hide sledding and sweating for a mile. We were still all smiles after running the gallberry gauntlet. We tried a couple of experimental overlooked areas near the road that evening. Nothing seen or heard but one distant shot. Again, deer don’t seem to be moving much in the evenings.

Nov. 10: A.M. Hunt

I moved a couple hundred yards down from the area where our previous successful a.m. hunt was. I hunted in the middle of a series of short, snakelike bends in ankle-deep water. I had to climb higher than 30 feet to catch a couple of bends in the firebreak and to find a few openings in the flat, which was well over head high in gallberries and palmettos. My tree sure did skinny up quick — end result was shaky. My little voice said if I was presented with a shot, raise my gun slowly so I wouldn’t rock my world.

About 8 a.m. I glimpsed two does, or should I say two doe heads, browsing out in the tall gallberries. Already crossed and bedded in there well before daylight, huh? For the next few minutes all I watched was mostly ears and patches of brown. Unless I was wanting to join Shaky Bush Hunting Club, I was going to have to pray for an ethical opening. And there it was, a brief pause in a wide opening. I raised my rifle up quickly for a time-constrained shot. You dummy, remember the little voice?

The deer took a big hop and looked back over its shoulder. Big mistake! I did a quick spin going into a Yoga move, throwing my leg up high over the rail for a prop. A big pop and a drop. You must become one with your equipment grasshopper. David and I were both limited out on deer now. We concluded our hunt in the edge of the Big Swamp over some fresh bear tracks. I didn’t really expect to see one, but it was a great way to end the hunt by having some quiet time to reflect on our success while enjoying the majestic beauty and aura this swamp possesses. Even the smells will tweak something deep down inside of you. Blow, Blow Seminole Wind!

My hunting partner for the past three days speaks very little English, and I don’t speak Spanish. It made for an interesting hunt. His compadres and also my fellow hunting on the fly associates, Armando and Ernesto, who both speak English, have been hunting Georgia WMAs for 27 years. There was a lot of sign language. We quickly found out the language we both understood was deer hunting. Even though it was a tough hunt and we didn’t get a big rutting buck, it was well worthwhile in the end with the sparkling eyes, ear-to-ear big grinning smile and a parting hug when he said, “Mucho happy, my friend.”

It was a very special hunt for some other friends present at this hunt also. Paul Minter of Waynesville’s 17-year-old daughter, Heather, killed a doe, her first deer. How sweet it is! I really respect Paul for taking the time to scout and place stands for his daughters even if it means sacrificing his own hunt time. I’ve seen him drag ladder stands in and out morning, midday and evening every day of the hunt, keeping his daughters in fresh spots if earlier ones are unproductive.

But as a father and a husband, I, too, would rather see my loved ones more successful than myself. For me, it’s like getting to hunt two or three places at the same time. It really helps out on my 50/50/90 rule. When I have a 50/50 chance of choosing the deer’s route, 90 percent of the time I’m wrong.

Friend Tim Griffin, also of Waynesville, killed a 4 1/2-year-old 8-point buck, a really good ’un for this part of the state. He was hunting on the edge of a travel route along a small swamp, less than 100 yards from the road. It’s one of those overlooked spots everybody drives right by.

His hunt was very special, because he had just come out of the hospital from having heart bypass and pacemaker surgery days earlier. His nickname will be “Iron Man” from now on. Hunting must be part of his own recovery plan. The spirit heals, both physical and within. If you love to hunt, you can feel it when you get out into the woods. Awesome!

Nov. 12: Flat Tub WMA

A.M. Hunt: This is a highly pressured WMA, which is open the majority of the season. Hunting OTG today, checking on four waypoints posted last year on my Garmin. These are very hidden and thick out-of-the-way spots in an area of small pines and briar thickets. A couple of narrow brush-choked hardwood drains, more like ravines, separate the various plantations.

At the four locations I found two ladder stands, chop trails, repetitive climbing marks on the trees I had chose and a gut pile. Somebody else beat me to ’em all. It took me a lot of scouting late last season to lay out a battle plan for this year, but if you snooze, you lose. Whoever it was, they were good at scouting and stand placement. There was also evidence of overhunting — got to get out of here.

Nov. 13: Flat Tub WMA

Returned for more punishment. OTG. Stalked through the center of a large jungle of briars and small pines in the heart of the WMA. I was hopscotching the freshest sign along a myriad of deer trails. There was nothing beat down as far as tracks, just a lot of repetitive coming and going. There were several scrapes scattered along but no clusters or fresh rubs. The sign was most likely summer trails and/or exodus highways when changing primary food sources to other portions of the WMA. Judging by the sign, it was probably just a couple of small bucks coming through here every few days while working a circuitous route for hot does.

A lot of these trails tend to curve out toward private property, but I stayed in center of block via GPS, cutting as many trails as I could, like a rut-mobile buck.

Several hours and over a mile later of unblinking tension, I came out the other end of the block. Nothing. I landed in an access trail only yards from a major parking and dispersal area for the New York Marathon, judging by the multitude of boot tracks.

I stepped around a small curve, pulled my face mask off, uh-oh. I was eyeball to eyeball, busted. A doe was standing broadside 50 yards away, wide open in the trail where she is definitely, positively not supposed to be.

Awww, come on now! After a grueling mile of de-thorning bushels of briars in a hopeful mecca of whitetails, this was heart-wrenching. Lil’ voice even told me to peek around the corner- but shoooot, not here, not now. Well, here goes the same old drill.

I slowly raise my gun, touch my cheekbone to the stock, look through the scope, and the split second before I can focus and squeeze, the deer takes off like a freakin’ rocket. I did follow the deer with the scope for a few seconds but passed on the shot. You won today. Must have been one of those adrenaline-junkie deer counting coup on yet another humbled hunter.

Nov. 12: Little Satilla WMA

P.M. Hunt: Hunting on the Fly, driving two hours round trip for just an afternoon hunt. Unbeknownst to me, timber harvesting had left broad skidder trails through what was once my (sorry Don, I mean our) honeyhole in a little ty-ty strip. There’s litter everywhere with way too much presence of hunter sign.

It’s run-and-gun time, checking on back-up spots. I ended the day stalking in a small pine thicket near the road. Nothing. I’ll be back this summer to scout. There is always a productive spot waiting to be found. Remember it only takes one to be successful.

Nov. 14: Horse Creek WMA

I was doing some in-season scouting for the upcoming check-in hunt. Long distance walk-in areas along the river where I usually hunt were hit hard from last week’s sign-in hunt. I decided to look for some short pockets near the road that would be overlooked by most hunters. I love to experiment while eliminating ground.

I found a few areas possessing the key elements — it must be unappealing to hunters, thick for bedding, ample deer sign and it must have at least abundant browse, so they won’t have to leave during daylight hours. Sometimes you can go in too deep, missing out on a few of these cagey survivors. I located two corner lots in a narrow rectangular block. Both possessed the elements I look for, reading the spots only from the road.

Nov. 15: A.M. Hunt: The morning spot didn’t pan out.

Nov. 15: P.M. Hunt: The evening spot almost felt silly with a road encircling three sides of me less than 100 yards away. I even did a few wiggle-finger waves at some astonished drive-byers. I could almost hear ’em saying, “Look at that idiot right by the road.”

I climbed higher than 40 feet up. I’m not required to have a pilot’s license, am I? I still didn’t have much visibility into the thicket. At least my scent was blowing into the next county.

A few minutes before dark three does emerged from the cover. They staged in a small opening and began preening and scent checking while waiting on dark. I watched their body language a few minutes for clues of a lagging suitor (buck), but it was quickly approaching dark.

I felt like dragging something, so I took out the lead doe and left the rest for seed. The drag to the road was so short. I started to do it again just so my back muscles wouldn’t feel cheated. This is a future hot spot for deer until it gets noticed. Park far away when hunting places like this.

There were beds everywhere in the tall gallberries and ty-ty bushes. In the center of the strip is a miniscule drain that makes a natural funnel into the bedding area. I can’t wait to try it one morning next season. I knew it would probably be better as a morning spot, but I took a gamble because it was a real windy day and the only place I could find with the wind in my favor.

I’m going to write an article one day called “Cutting Corners for Big Bucks,” ha ha! Deer (hogs, too) love to cut corners, sometimes several, when covering ground for estrus females. They’ll cut trails to throw off predators and check points for hunter intrusion, such as visible traffic and parked mechanical scent bombs.

Gotta swing wide and look up.

Nov. 16: Horse Creek WMA

A.M. Hunt: I remembered a swamp-finger drain from last year. I found lots of big rubs lining the inner edge, just like last year, but nothing fresh. They must be sniffing somewhere else now. A large bobcat found my entry trail and crept to the base of my tree. From 40 feet, I spit on his head three times. Pretty good, huh? Left puzzled. No deer seen.

P.M. Hunt: My wife Cindy and I were hunting ugly OTG. Cindy is still on the quest for her first deer. We hunted within 200 yards of the road in a wild-plum thicket with small pines.

About an hour before dark somebody came in between us and the road. We had made a large loop to arrive at our predetermined location to place the wind in our favor because we discovered the deer were skirting and paralleling the road scent-checking before crossing. With the other hunter’s scent blowing across the strip, it didn’t take long before we heard a deer blowing.

And blow it did, several times and just out of sight. The deer was working toward us but veered out at the last minute. I blew in return but to no avail. This tactic has worked before. I know the other hunter did not purposefully mess us up because our truck was parked nearly half a mile away and around a long curve from his entry point. No big deal. Next time a spooked deer may run into our lap. Always think positive, and stay confident. It was fulfilling knowing we patterned the deer correctly. We will be back.

Nov. 18-20: Lake Eufaula Public Land
Saw three does on the Nov. 18 evening hunt and killed a doe on the Nov. 19 morning hunt.

Nov. 19: P.M. Hunt: I set up possible bedding area, and the wind was perfect. Twenty minutes before legal light expired, I saw a doe head, highlighted by big ears, heading out of the tall grass and weeds in the dry beaver pond toward the point and me. I figured right on that bedding area. At 20 yards, she stopped billboard style in the widest opening this side of the WMA. I thought about shooting another one for the freezer, but we got this rut thing going on you know.

Git on girl.

The last minutes are counting down and still no signs of antlered friends. The doe gave no indication of followers by looking back or tail action. The meat hunter in me is starting to think now. I passed up a lot of deer in September and October. The doe returns from the point. Why? That’s where the food is. She’s at 20 yards. Git on girl. Now 15 yards, now 10. Mr. Meathunter is starting to salivate, fighting this predator urge. Eight yards, 6 yards. I think I’m gonna pass after all. Three yards. One minute of shooting light. Three feet, 2, 1 …….THUNK!

Sorry, must’ve been a reaction strike. I acquired the main ingredient for my wife’s famous skillet stew.

Glen Solomon killed this doe at Dixon Memorial while hunting with friends.

Nov. 20: A.M Hunt: Editor’s Note: We join this hunt late in the morning, after an exciting hunt where Glen saw a 16-inch 8-pointer and several other deer.

About 30 minutes later, I was still alone and all was quiet. I hung my bow on the hook, zipped up everything in my fannypack and attached it to my waist. I sat back down for a few minutes to calm down from all the excitement and take one more slow facemasked periscope look around, dissecting the thick cover all around me. After a couple of rotations, I stood up, took in a deep breath and exhaled slowly.

Whew! What a great morning. In the midst of reminiscing the morning’s events, I had a funny feeling and looked slowly over my right shoulder. At 20 yards and looking intently around was the one I had been dreaming about, one of the herculean bucks I saw in September. Sneaky joker came in slow and quiet and downwind of my position. The deer was directly behind me, and my bow was on the hook. I kept staring at him, afraid to even blink, and he was also glued, still as a statue. He was standing broadside with his head turned slightly toward me. Why was he still here? He was frozen stiff, not even turning his head for a second. I wouldn’t get a chance with him right on top of me, or would I?

Not only was my bow on the hook, but it was on the opposite side of the tree from which I needed to shoot. I would have to turn sharply to my right, reach up, take my bow off the hook, lower it down, do a 360-degree turn, raise my bow, come to full draw, take careful aim and you know the rest of the dream. Impossible. Here it goes. It took longer than five minutes just to get my bow. During this spell, there were several times he would slightly bend his right front leg but not enough to lift his foot entirely off the ground. The front of his torso would tense up and slightly twist as if he was fixing to turn and leave.

Oh no! Please don’t leave. I would be chanting this in my head over and over for the next several minutes. By his body language, it was easy to tell he knew he needed to leave, but there was just something magically holding him there, some interest of some sort. Then it dawned on me. He was smelling two things: me and that potent aroma from that empty James Valley bottle, which was on the ground directly upwind from him. I was higher than the bottle, so he was probably getting a stronger whiff of the scent than me.

He was watching an antsy person. Should I stay or should I go? Even when he flexed as if to turn and then relaxed, that head full of eyes would stay put. He wasn’t about to take his eyes off for a second in the direction of the bottle and me, straight up from it, a mere 15 feet. Thank God for Leafy Suits, Hunter Specialties Scent-A-Way Shampoo, Whisker Biscuits for holding my arrow in place while on the hook, Knight & Hale rattle bags, James Valley Scents and especially, His guidance.

He was nervous with my small twinge of scent in the air, but “Boy, is that one hot-smelling doe or what?”

When I was facing away during my 360 turn, I was thinking, ‘by the time I come around enough to renew eye contact, he will be gone.’ Finally, after several tense minutes, I was elated to see out of my peripheral vision that he was still there. I couldn’t believe it. Man, this deer is locked down. I was able to take my bow off the hook and do a 360-degree turn with a mature buck staring in my direction the whole time. Awesome! Now, all I had to do was raise my bow, draw back, take aim, squeeze my release and log in a memory of a lifetime. Several heart-pounding and semi-cramping minutes later, that’s exactly what I did! KER-THUNK!

The unexpected happened. He dropped in his tracks. Pile-drove him!

Am I in another world? I can’t believe it! He finished his last breaths making snow angels in the pine needles. In a trance from adrenaline overdose, I began to overflow with emotions, even a little remorse, because such a magnificent regal beast and the ultimate survivalist that had ruled these woods for several years had just fallen to an undeserving greenhorn predator. He made a mistake, and I capitalized.

When hunting, always go with your instinct, which may actually be guidance. When that small still sweet voice speaks to you, listen. I felt the Holy Spirit come over me that morning. I thanked God for him letting me be a part of the cycle of life in his great outdoors. And most importantly, I thanked him for being the greatest hunting partner I’ve ever had.

As I pulled up to the shore at my property with a casting deck full of antlers to pick up my wife for photographs, guess what flew across directly in front of me and then landed in a tree before me? What I had seen two evenings before, a bald eagle. This is really starting to get deep. Chill bumps.

This 200-lb. buck was killed by Glen Solomon at Bullard Creek WMA on Nov. 28. Due to another hunter in the area, Glen was unable to climb his preferred tree until 10 a.m. However, the late-morning sit paid off in a big way.

John Bookhardt hunts only with a long bow. Here’s a Bullard Creek button buck he took last November.

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