There are plenty of things you expect to see from a late-season deer stand, but big bucks are nowhere near the top of the list.
The rut subsided long ago, leaving the old wily ones to their nocturnal ways.
That’s why my expectations were low last week when I headed into the swamp seeking nothing more than a few quiet hours in the winter forest.
I was surprised to see, just after 5 p.m., a doe meandering through a clearcut towards me.
She appeared in a small food plot near my stand and walked to the center to feed.
That’s when I noticed the bleached white antlers of a buck not far behind her.
Rather than follow the doe into the clearing with the wind at his back, he slipped along the length of the food plot, circled through thick brush to the other side and emerged with his nose high, smelling for danger.
That’s when I got a better look.
He was old, very dark and had a beautiful rack that was exceptionally tall, but not too wide. But he was clearly tending a doe and behaving just like the lovesick bucks that get our hearts pumping in early November.
That’s when I recalled a conversation I had some time ago with Joe Hamilton, a veteran whitetail biologist and founder of the Quality Deer Management Association.
If a doe somehow doesn’t get bred during the rut, it often comes back in heat a month or more later – after the majority of the does have been bred.
Encountering that “second rut” doe, he said, means you might see older bucks.
“It’s like dragging a magnet through the woods,” he said.
My “buck magnet” fed for 20 minutes, zig-zagging all over that food plot, while the buck kept to the shadows along the edge.
I opted not to shoot the buck, but snapped a few photos instead – and watched through my binoculars until the doe left.
When she did, the buck vanished into the clearcut within seconds and was gone.
It was an eventful afternoon, and one more reason why I love to hunt.
WRONG NRA: There are plenty of news stories out there about the National Rifle Association and the media’s reaction to its ideas – and not everyone has been truthful or even accurate.
Forbes magazine, for example, has a column on its Web site in which the writer contends the NRA is wrong – but the photo she used for her illustration was of the wrong NRA.
The contributor, Carolyn McClanahan, normally writes about health – not firearms – so I posted a comment below her story to let her know the NRA symbol she used was for the National Recovery Administration, a post-Depression initiative created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Rather than correct the error, she responded that she knew the photo was unrelated to the rifle association, but used it anyway.
“I chose the picture because I thought it was cool and different – really,” she wrote.
STORK ABUNDANCE: Wood storks are becoming more and more common, even in the Augusta area, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to change their status as an “endangered species” to a “threatened” species.
The wood stork is the only true species of stork nesting in the United States. Since its listing as endangered in 1984 the U.S. breeding population has shown substantial improvement in the numbers of nesting pairs and expanded its breeding range.
The three-year averages during the past 10 years (2001–2010) range from 7,086 to 8,996 nesting pairs, all above the 6,000 nesting pair benchmark average established for reclassifying the species as threatened, but well below the five-year average of 10,000 nesting pairs needed for delisting.
Deserving some of the credit for the species’ improvement is the Silver Bluff Audubon Center and Sanctuary in Jackson, where specially designed ponds are filled with fish each year and gradually lowered to provide feeding habitat for the storks in this region during their nesting periods.
“Although some habitat loss continues, current population data clearly indicate that the wood stork is benefiting from the work of private landowners and several strong partnership efforts,” said Cindy Dohner, the Service’s Southeast Regional Director. “The wood stork is expanding its breeding range using a wide variety of wetlands to forage, roost, and breed, including man-made and restored wetlands.”
DAY USE PASSES: Day use recreation areas are now available at the Thurmond Lake visitors center.
The annual pass costs $30 and is valid for 12 months from date of purchase. Passes can also be purchased at visitors centers at lakes Russell and Hartwell.
Alternative locations for purchasing passes near J. Strom Thurmond Lake include Augusta Marine in Augusta, Sportsman’s Corner in North Augusta, and Cliatt’s Crossing in Lincolnton, Ga.
Corps day use areas typically include boat launch ramps, designated swimming beaches, and picnic areas.
The annual day use pass does not affect campground use and fees.
The pass can be used at any corps-operated day use recreation area throughout the nation.