Maybe it was the sparse moon, or colder weather.
Or maybe more people spent time in the woods during the long Christmas weekend.
Whatever it was, almost everyone I talked to who hunted last week saw deer, and some really nice late-season bucks were seen or killed in some unlikely places.
Many hunters lose interest after Thanksgiving. Other seasons open, freezers become full and – for the most part – rutting activity planes off or vanishes entirely.
Camille Crook, one of our loyal readers and longtime hunters, sent us a photo of a wonderful trophy class buck taken last week by his 9-year-old grandson, Jonah Duncan. The buck appeared at first light near an old logging trail.
Late-season hunting, Crook said, can be tough. “At the end of the season period, scout three times for every one time you hunt,” he suggests.
When food sources are scarce, and leaves are off the trees, deer pay more attention to scent, noises and human activity that can send them into thicker cover.
Paying closer attention to wind direction and the angle of the sun can pay big dividends, or make for a quiet, uneventful sit.
Jonah benefited from his grandfather’s years of accumulated knowledge and will enjoy a buck of a lifetime, for a lifetime.
“He learned well from my hunting success and mistake stories of the past 25 years on deer hunting,” Crook said. “I share them with him driving to Burke County each hunting trip, and he enjoys hearing about them.”
WATERFOWL PLENTIFUL: It never ceases to amaze me how many species of waterfowl stop by the Merry Brickyard ponds and Phinizy Swamp ecosystem each winter.
In the most recent newsletter from the Augusta- Aiken Audubon chapter, whose members conduct frequent field trips to the area, the list of what was seen on a single morning was impressive.
“We were pleased to find 11 species of ducks,” the report said. “We had Ring-necked, Lesser Scaup, Redhead, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Ruddy, Northern Shoveler, Canvasback, Green-winged Teal, Bufflehead and Hooded Merganser.”
They also saw dozens of other bird species, including ring-billed gulls, loons and grebes. Most surprising was the sighting of 10 white ibis - a species not usually found wintering in this area.
For more information on the group and its field trips, visit http://augustaaikenaudubon.org.
CHRISTMAS TREE COVER: As the holidays come to a close, remember that your old Christmas trees can be put to good use for erosion control or as brush piles to provide resting and escape cover for small animals. In addition to benefiting small game such as quail and rabbits, brush piles of Christmas trees can help birds such as sparrows, towhees and wrens.
“We’re getting to the time of year when the leaves are off, and evergreen cover is a pretty important part of a total wildlife management plan,” said Tammy Wactor, wildlife biologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. “Even though the needles of old Christmas trees will brown and fall off in two or three months, if you get enough trees piled up they will make pretty good cover.”
Brush piles are usually mound or teepee shaped, Wactor said, with the largest material forming the base and layers of small limbs and branches added as filler. The base should consist of sturdy trunks or limbs to allow adequate escape entrances at ground level.
SPEAKING OF TREES: An annual program to encourage replenishment of hardwood trees along Thurmond Lake will kick off in January, when the Army Corps of Engineers will offer 100 trees for adoption.
The Adopt-A-Tree program is open to residents who own property adjacent to federal lands who are willing to plant and care for the trees on the public land near their property.
Trees available for adoption will be similar to those distributed in previous years, including overcup oak, red buds, persimmon, and crabapple. Contact the Shoreline Management Section at the J. Strom Thurmond Project Office at (800) 533-3478 to check tree availability and to schedule an adoption.
The healthy, four-to-six feet trees up for adoption will come in a three-gallon container with fortified soil. The trees will be available to the public on a first-come, first-serve basis at the J. Strom Thurmond Project Office beginning mid-January.
There is no fee for the Adopt-A-Tree program, but those wishing to adopt must agree to plant the trees in a timely manner on public lands and to care for the trees to help them become established.