WINTER COLUMN: Don't spook your bucks with last-minute prep
It's almost time.
In less than a month, deer season opens on private lands in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties (only archery hunts are allowed in Georgetown County until Sept. 1).
Though live-fire action cranks up Aug. 15, the work of managing a hunting property has kept many hunters busy throughout the year. Most with access to private land have long since invested heavy amounts of sweat equity and spare cash preparing and planting food plots, readying tree stands, filling feeders and deploying game cameras.
The tasks can seem endless, and more often than not, many remain unfinished as opening day approaches.
But sometimes, the quest for a perfect deer-hunting set-up can become self-defeating. Wily deer hunters have learned the hard way that sometimes, you've just got to know when to leave it alone.
“Every time you encounter a deer, they remember where and when, and it takes them a long time to get over it,” said Don Hammond, a veteran Lowcountry deer hunter and head of a deer-hunting family that includes sons Chad and Scott. “Deer are not stupid animals, and they have very long memories. Bucks, in particular, are very reluctant to forgive human intrusion.”
Hammond, a former fisheries biologist for the state Department of Natural Resources and current director of the Dolphin Research Program, has been hunting deer since the 1960s. He's harvested his share of big bucks, and together with his hard-hunting sons, has developed a number of safeguards against spooking deer in the late preseason.
Here are some of the Hammond clan's tips:
Complete heavy, disruptive work early in the year. “We start most of our work right after the season ends,” Hammond said. “We're typically done with most of it by the end of February.”
Any smaller tasks remaining this close to opening day should be done quickly and quietly mid-day, when deer typically bed down.
Do everything you can to avoid leaving human scent in the “red zone” around stands. If you must approach a stand in the late pre-season, wear rubber boots and clothing that have been washed with no-scent soaps and stored properly. Try to avoid brushing against vegetation near your stands.
If checking game cameras, wear rubber gloves so human scent doesn't contaminate the surface or nearby vegetation.
“Scent management is really about going in and killing those old deer — the big does, the big bucks — that have been around for a while and learned a lot,” Hammond said. “If you're happy harvesting young deer, you don't have to go to these lengths.”
Don't worry too much about running heavy equipment, even this late in the game. Though a tractor generates noise and industrial scents, deer in agricultural areas are usually accustomed to both. “Some even come to associate tractors with food,” Hammond said.
Using a Bush Hog or other implement to trim roadside brush and clear paths into deer stands also stimulates new vegetative growth that attracts deer.
Trimming paths into tree stands eliminates tall vegetation that might otherwise brush up against a hunter's legs and hold human scent.
Manage your property, including access during the late pre-season, with common goals in mind.
“Honestly, it's a lot of fun going out there working on stands, planting food plots and visualizing all those deer you're going to see,” Hammond said. “If that's the primary reason you're doing all that, for the enjoyment, then go out and do it.
“But if you're going out looking for trophy deer and you want to see a lot of deer at your stands ... then if you don't really have to be in there, don't go.”
Red snapper season
NOAA Fisheries has announced the opening of the 2013 commercial and recreational red snapper fishing seasons in South Atlantic federal waters.
The commercial season opens 12:01 a.m. Aug. 26 and will end when the annual catch limit is projected to be met. Fisheries will announce the closure in a fishery bulletin. The daily trip limit is 75 pounds gutted weight, with no minimum size limit for red snapper.
The recreational fishing season will open for one three-day weekend beginning at 12:01 a.m. Aug. 23 and closing at 12:01 a.m. Aug. 26.
During the open recreational season, the bag limit is one fish per person per day and there is no minimum size limit for red snapper.
Officials may change the commercial and recreational season dates if severe weather occurs; announcements will be made via NOAA Weather Radio and a fishery bulletin.
Reach Matt Winter at (843) 937-5568 or email@example.com.