Photo by Michael Corrigan.
Hunt on public land long enough and it is inevitable that someone will blow your setup. Sometimes it’s individuals who think they can stake claim to a certain area. After years of hunting a specific “spot,” they justify to themselves that it belongs to them. These are the guys who park their vehicle right next to yours and walk right into your setup.
Is it rude? Most sportsmen would say yes. But then again, it is “public” land and there are no regulations to prevent such behavior.
After years of hunting on wildlife management areas, I’ve learned to cope with such things. It comes with the territory. Last year, I had such an encounter with two bowhunters while hunting a North Florida WMA. It was still dark as I got in a tree with my Ol’ Man climbing stand and got comfortable well before sunrise. The setup overlooked a stand of persimmon trees a stone’s throw away from the dirt road where I parked my truck close enough that I could see the headlights of other vehicles passing by.
Keep driving, I thought as each one drove past. Then it happened. A truck stopped and parked right next to my vehicle. Soon after, I watched in disgust as two bowhunters walked through the woods with flashlights bobbing toward me. Both men walked right past my setup and hung their tree stands almost within view.
It was so disappointing. I would never do such a thing, no matter how badly I wanted to hunt a spot. After taking stock in the situation, I considered climbing down and relocating to another area.
However, I knew the general area well. Several persimmon trees were scattered about and the other two bowhunters were set up near a few of them. They were obviously hunting the spot for the same reason I was. Typically, deer approached the area from almost any direction and wind conditions were calm. When the sun rose, our scent would rise straight up and away with thermal currents. But achieving success would depend on whether or not deer crossed the scent trail laid down by the other hunters. Deer could approach my setup from the opposite direction from that trail and, fortunately, that is exactly what happened.
Just after sunrise, a small 6-point walked in and dined on ripe persimmon fruit. Almost immediately a 15-yard broadside shot was presented and I delivered it. To my surprise, the buck did not turn and run back in the direction from which it came, but rather straight toward the other hunters.
I heard the buck fall just out of view and I listened to the telltale sounds that a deer makes as it expires. The buck was down for good, and I was certain the other bowhunters had a front row seat to the action.
Success can occur at anytime, but I have rarely experienced it when other hunters were encountered in the woods. This was a first. After the shot, I climbed down from my perch and picked up the blood trial.
“It is over here,” a voice called out.
I sensed a tone of disappointment in the man’s voice. He was already on the ground packing up his equipment.
“Nice buck,” he said.
It wasn’t long until the other hunter joined up with his pal. This guy had nothing to say at all, but his body language spoke volumes. It was apparent he was upset, perhaps because his hunt was abruptly ended.
Did they learn anything from the experience? I hope so. It was apparent that neither of them did their homework. The WMA was loaded with persimmon trees and if they had put some effort into pre-season scouting, they could have had a plan B in case another hunter beat them to this first-choice stand location.
So, there is a moral to this story: If you put all your chips on one stand location, you can be disappointed, especially where WMAs are concerned. To be successful during Florida’s early archery season requires that you scout and possess an intimate familiarity with local whitetail food sources. The goal is to locate several spots that offer a food source that deer target. This means searching for stands of soft-mast-bearing fruit trees and early-season hard-mast producers.
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