Even though it was frosty and still, my expectations for seeing deer so late in the season were low. In fact, the only reason I was in the woods at all was because my sons were duck hunting nearby and I had some time to kill.
After dropping Forrest and Ian off near some flooded timber, I headed for a stand in the slender neck of an hourglass-shaped oak flat surrounded by pine thickets. In addition to being a funnel, it was close to feeding and bedding areas.
It was just light enough to see when a crow-sized pileated woodpecker started chiseling a dead poplar behind me. In the distance, I could hear the twins shooting.
The first buck, a six-pointer with a broken antler, showed up at 7:35 a.m., slipping along an overgrown logging road that separated the hardwoods from the pines.
He stopped, about 50 yards away, and began chewing and yanking a low-hanging branch. Then he pawed frantically at the ground, made an oval-shaped scrape and proceeded to pee and poop in it – twice.
It was bona fide rutting behavior, and it was almost Christmas.
A half-hour later I could hear something running behind me. Through the scrub palmetto and swamp cane, I caught a glimpse of a another buck chasing a doe – but just a glimpse.
It was almost 9 a.m. when the boys texted me that they were cold, wet and ready to be picked up. As I was texting them back, a big doe trotted past me on the same trail where I had seen the buck at daybreak. Her tail was half up and she stopped repeatedly and looked behind her.
Thinking she might be leading a coyote, I picked up my rifle and waited. No sooner than she had disappeared from view, a respectable 2-year-old eight-pointer came loping after her. I blew a grunt call and he stopped long enough for a few photos – and went on his way. Three minutes later, a second eight-pointer, larger than the first but not quite a “shooter,” pranced by on the same trail.
It was, I figured, the second rut that supposedly occurs four or five weeks after the “real” rut peaks in late October and early November.
The biological explanation is that there are usually a few does that did not get bred during the first rut, and when they come into estrus again, they are very much in demand – sometimes luring several bucks at one time.
To have one of these does nearby is a joy to a hunter.
I hunted again in the evening, and saw three more bucks – one of which was chasing a doe. I’m now a firm advocate of spending some extra time in the woods in late December, when there are fewer hunters around, and the bucks are once again on the move.
‘DUCK DYNASTY’ DEBATE: It’s hard to imagine a cultural clash more pungent that the one that erupted last week over Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson.
The affable outdoorsman was “suspended indefinitely” from A&E network’s most successful reality show after the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation complained about opinions he shared with GQ magazine.
GLAAD, headquartered in Los Angeles, is a long way from West Monroe, La., where the Duck Commander family business is based.
In fact, they might as well be on different planets.
A&E and its executives in New York City, are now stuck in the middle.
Maybe I’m missing something but I can’t understand why they opted to sacrifice their best program to placate activists with GLAAD who, according to their own Web site, use their media contacts to “amplify” stories of “defamation.” There is even an online form to report infractions worthy of such exploitation.
There are plenty of Duck Dynasty fans who are supporting Robertson and his religious beliefs – and it seems to me the activists who go out of their way to persecute those with opinions contrary to their own are hurting gay rights more than helping.
TROUT STOCKED: More and more Augustans are making trips to the Saluda River near Lexington, S.C., which has evolved over the years into a high quality trout water, with trophy fish.
Last week, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources stocked the river with about 17,000 rainbow and brown trout during an annual exercise that is accomplished with a helicopter and a specialized lift bucket.
This year around 4,000 of the rainbows and 2,000 of the browns were tagged with what’s known as a T-bar tag attached just below the dorsal fin of the trout. Each tag will be individually numbered thus providing a means of gathering data on a particular fish.
The tagging is part of a study to collect information on survival rates and the number of fish that succumb to natural and angler mortality as well as information on the fishes’ growth rates.
Anglers can assist DNR biologist by reporting their catches of tagged trout. Details on this procedure can be found on the DNR webpage at http://www.dnr.sc.gov/troutstudy/report.html.
CAMPING FEE HIKE: All camping fees for Army Corps of Engineers sites with electricity service have increased $2 per night at Thurmond and other lakes, but all other campsite fees remain the same.
The fee increase was the result of an annual assessment of camping fees charged by similar facilities in the area.