WMA Meat Hunter Shares The Tips That Bring Home Antlers, Too
By playing the crowds and the sign, Clyde Yoder kills deer consistently.
Clyde Yoder’s friends jokingly tell him he’s such a lucky hunter he could put up a stand on the light pole in the Walmart parking lot and probably shoot a buck.
Clyde, a very modest and humble hunter, welcomes good luck and said it always helps to be at the right place at the right time. But he also said it is more important to do your homework and be prepared. Then when your chance comes, all you have to do is make the shot.
Clyde has an uncanny ability of putting himself in a position to make the shot, and in recent years has put an impressive number of good bucks on the ground. The kicker is, those bucks did not come from private land. They were killed on Georgia WMAs.
Clyde brought a very nice buck into the check station at Oaky Woods WMA during the early December deer hunt in 2011. The wide-racked 10-pointer was one of the best bucks taken last year from Oaky Woods.
But this was not the first time I noticed Clyde. He checked in another good buck during a 2010 hunt, and I had also seen him in previous years, usually at the check station with game in the rear of his truck. This kind of continued success has a way of getting your attention, so I sat down with Clyde to pick his brain about his hunting techniques. He was generous in sharing information that might help other hunters.
We met at his small office at the Mid-Georgia Farm Supply store, just outside Montezuma, in the heart of the Mennonite farming community. The Mennonite faith is conservative Christian, and members in middle Georgia operate a very successful farming community in Macon County. They are an important part of the Macon County business and civic community.
Clyde’s family is originally from the Virginia Beach area. They were among the first Mennonites to settle in central Georgia in the 1950s. Clyde is owner-operator of his own company, and his principal job is spreading fertilizer and lime across thousands of acres under cultivation in central Georgia. The farms here are among the best managed in the state.
Clyde has moved around a bit, but he has been a dedicated WMA hunter since 1990.
Most hunters know Macon County is near the top of GON’s best counties to kill a good buck in Georgia every year, which begs the question, why would a Macon County resident with many local contacts hunt on public land?
To Clyde, the answer is simple; it’s a matter of economics. He explained that many years ago it was common for landowners to let friends hunt on their land without charge. But with landowners trying to stretch every dollar, the good money brought in by leasing land to hunters is too much to ignore, and cheap lease land dried up.
That prompted Clyde to check out other alternatives. He couldn’t help but notice that for the cost of a hunting license and $19 for a WMA stamp he could hunt thousands of acres across the state on the many WMAs. And Clyde has decreased his cost of hunting even further by purchasing a lifetime hunting and fishing license.
Instead of shelling out $55 every year for a sportsman’s license, he bought the lifetime license for $500, which pays for itself after about nine years. He says if more hunters would do the math, they would buy the lifetime license. A lifetime license for a child younger than 2 is $200, so parents and grandparents, take notice.
Although he was a little apprehensive about hunting public land at first, the low cost and easy accessibility was very tempting, so he gave it a try and has been pleased with his results. One of the great things about hunting public land, said Clyde, is the ease of the hunting experience.
When hunting leased land, there was always the problem of getting other hunters to share the cost of the lease, the expense of maintaining the food plots and keeping up the roads. Then, every year there are scheduled work days to maintain the camp and deer stands. But WMA hunting is relatively simple; just follow the rules, check in or sign in for the hunt, and go hunting.
With much more land to hunt, Clyde said he no longer has to hunt the same few stands every year on a small lease, and the ability to scout new locations every year on different WMAs makes the hunting experience more enjoyable for him.
Of course there are a few negatives, like limited hunting days on many WMAs and having to share the land with other hunters, but Clyde said these are minor inconveniences.
To cope with limited hunting days, he carefully plans his hunt dates then moves around to various WMAs that are open. To cope with other hunters, he said a little common courtesy goes a long way, and working the patterns of other hunters into his hunting strategy has also led to success.
Although Clyde hunts many WMAs, his favorites are a short drive from his home. He does the bulk of his hunting on Oaky Woods, Cedar Creek, Ocmulgee and Rum Creek WMAs. He also hunts Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge every year.
One of his WMA hunting techniques is to pick a spot where you can see as far as possible. This sounds simple, but it’s effective. His best buck to date is a 13-pointer with a 16-inch inside spread from Cedar Creek WMA in 2004. That deer scored 136 6/8 non-typical inches and is the No. 10 deer ever to come from the WMA. Clyde would likely have numerous bucks on GON’s Triple-Digit WMA Bucks list if he bothered to have them officially scored.
Clyde and a large number of his friends go the Cedar Creek hunts each year and camp out. They always bring out a lot of deer.
Clyde was hunting one of his usual spots where he could see 50 to 75 yards. It was in a creek bottom where a trail with many fresh deer tracks crossed the creek. Because the upper tree canopy was thick, he left his climber in the truck and hunted from a folding chair, a low-tech but effective way to hunt sometimes, he said.
He was in his chair 45 minutes before first light, and soon after the sun lit up the woods a fat doe ambled by. She stopped to look over her shoulder. Thinking the doe might have company, he waited a few minutes. Soon the 13-pointer came by with its nose high in the air, trailing the doe. A single shot from his Marlin bolt-action .270 put the buck on the ground.
But he wasn’t finished yet. The woods were still echoing from his rifle blast when a 5-pointer ran by. He put it down also, thus his Cedar Creek hunt was over with plenty of venison to show for the effort.
Clyde is a meat hunter, but bucks tend to show up in his sights frequently. Last year he bagged five bucks on Georgia WMAs, one buck in Alabama and two does. All the meat went in his freezer.
He only had to fill in his deer harvest record for one deer, as most of his kills came from check-in WMA hunts, where special tags don’t count against an annual limit of two bucks and 10 does. These extra deer are another bonus of WMA hunting for certain hunts, said Clyde.
He said he hunts for concentrations of deer, not buck sign.
“If you find the does, you will find the bucks,” he said.
That is why he doesn’t concern himself too much with rubs and scrape lines but instead concentrates on bottlenecks where deer cross creeks, transition areas where pines open into hardwoods or openings where he can see a long distance.
Last year on Oaky Woods WMA, he found a creek crossing with thick cover on both sides that forced deer into a bottleneck. He found a good tree and set up his climbing stand. Early the next morning a doe ambled by and he shot it, killing it instantly. After the woods quieted, he decided to sit a little longer and see what else he might see. Within a few minutes the nice buck (the one he was checking in when I met him) came walking by. Clyde nailed it, too, so his hunt was over.
The chore of getting the deer back to the truck was made easier with his two-wheel pull cart that he also carries with him.
But the standard hunt-the-sign-strategies are only a part of Clyde’s WMA game-plan. Clyde also practices “other hunter control.” He said many hunters stumble into the woods at daybreak, and they spook deer in the process. That’s why he is on the stand well before first light. When other hunters enter the woods, deer get pushed around. The woods near his setup will have had plenty of time to calm down, making it likely a confused deer will walk by.
Also, he does not rely on cover scents or scent-control clothes to hide his scent, he just gets higher in his stand, usually 20-plus feet if conditions permit.
To further use other hunters’ movements to his advantage, Clyde stays in the stand all day, while most other hunters head to the truck for lunch. Again, hunters moving through the woods pushes deer, and Clyde has often taken deer from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Clyde also likes to stay in the woods late. While a lot of hunters start heading to the truck as the sun starts to set, he frequently stays in his stand until dark and comes out with a flashlight, waiting to the last minute to hopefully see a deer moved by other hunters.
However, sometimes playing other hunters means getting away from them. On some hunts, Clyde tries to find the most remote hunting locations. Usually these are spots more than a half mile from the nearest road, which is farther than most hunters want to walk. On these hunts, he is looking for undisturbed deer, which means he’s hunting their natural movement patterns. He seeks out clusters of white, red and water oaks where there is an abundance of nuts on the ground to draw in the deer.
One last thing Clyde does is to stay both physically and mentally fit for hunting. When seeking out remote locations and staying all day, it pays to be conditioned and prepared. To do this, he hunts year-round. When deer season is not open, he will most likely be in some farmer’s field tracking down wild pigs. He shoots lots of pigs each year that are damaging crops.
However, come deer season you’ll likely find him at a middle Georgia WMA with game in the back of his truck.
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