By Michael Lee
-- Drawing back on my bow seemed like an easy enough task until the wide-racked buck began to close the distance and offer a perfect shot. This was the third buck of the evening hunt that had traveled the field edge. One more limb out of the way and I had a clear shot at one of my best bow bucks. I used the last cover between the buck and me as an opportunity to draw. The 70-pound draw weight felt like a ton as I began to anchor the string to the corner of my mouth. Taking aim with my 20 yard pin just behind the buck's shoulder, I touched my release and the arrow found its mark.
The buck jumped and ran 20 yards when it began looking around. My arrow was inches deep into the ground just beyond where the magnificent animal had made its fatal mistake. The buck simply fell over a mere 40 yards away from me. My hunt was over for the evening and all of the preparation paid off big!
Many south Georgia deer hunters own a bow, but during the season, they stay out of the woods more times than not. Common excuses include: it's hot, the mosquitoes are bad, the deer are moving too late, and so on. But now is the time of the year to get in the south Georgia woods and have a crack at some really good bucks. By learning to focus on good food sources, travel routes and wind direction you could have a trophy hanging on your wall.
Food for Thought
The biggest key to taking a buck anywhere during bow season is to find the food sources they are frequenting. Deer have a wide ranging diet that varies throughout the year. The southern part of Georgia is fortunate to have a large array of row crops that draw deer of all sizes from pine thickets, oak hammocks, swamps, and other prime bedding areas. Peanuts, corn, soybeans, and even cotton fields can prove to be excellent areas to target trophies. The high protein food sources provide ample dietary contributions for bucks, does, and fawns.
Corn is usually the first row crop to be harvested from fields and can be a solid focus for early season success. It is usually harvested in August or early September. The standing corn provides excellent cover for deer to feel safe while they feed. Husks and cobs often fall from the combines, providing leftovers that deer love to feast upon. These excess supplies of corn will be targeted right away.
Next in the harvest line is peanuts, which are a high source of protein. A field full of peanuts can be a gold mine for deer early in the season. They will eat the plants and dig the peanuts out of the ground. Once the peanuts are harvested, deer will still target the remaining nuts. Peanut fields are typically productive during September and even into October. The average peanut field can draw deer throughout the entire season as well but, like the cornfields mentioned above, the earlier the better, as the food supply is much more plentiful in the beginning of the season.
Other agriculture that can produce opportunities for trophy deer are soybeans and cotton. The soybean fields are usually prime real estate when the crop is green. These tasty plants allow deer to have a bit of cover while feeding. As the soybean plants mature, they change colors from green to yellow. The deer usually will not feed on the yellow leaves and plants because the vegetation becomes much more fibrous. The leaves eventually fall and expose the hardened soybeans, and deer feed on these high protein pods. These fields can be very good early and late in the season if you hunt the transitions mentioned above.
Lastly, cotton fields can be focused on as well if no other options are available. Cotton offers great cover for deer to travel, bed, and even feed. Deer will feed on the undergrowth in the cotton and around the edges. The fertilized cotton fields also produce weeds that are very tasty. These fields are good to hunt until the first frost comes along and kills the vegetation.
Keying in on the south Georgia food sources can be a sure fire way to see a lot of deer and even get a chance at taking home a true wallhanger. Identifying where to set up for these food sources is just as important as finding the sources themselves.
Hunt the Most Traveled Routes
Believe it or not, deer can be very predictable early in the season. Before the bucks get blinded by love for those magical weeks later in the season, bachelor groups can be patterned just like does. These deer will take the same routes to their food sources and arrive in the fields at nearly the same time every day. From scouting the field edges on several occasions, these pieces of the puzzle are easily gathered to put in your arsenal.
During the middle of the day, it is best to venture into the woods off the field edges and look for these routes. Take care not to spook deer that are bedding close to these fields. In most cases, deer travel a good distance to the fields. The trails can resemble those left behind by cattle going to feed. On other occasions, the trails will be littered with rubs and even scrapes that traveling bucks leave behind on their journeys to and from the fields. Sometimes the trails will split. These points can be very good to hunt. The two travel routes coming together into one can lead to an area of congregation as deer travel to these fields to feed. Knowing that bucks travel in bachelor groups during this time of the year can yield big dividends.
The early bow season heat in south Georgia is sultry and hunters will sweat. Sweating is a dead giveaway, alerting the deer to our presence in the woods, so we have to be careful. Many hunters use soaps, detergents, odor eliminating clothing, sprays, and cover scents to mask as much human odor as possible. These techniques work and many work very well. However, wind direction needs to be the primary concern. It doesn't take but one encounter with a mature buck to catch your smell, and its patterns could change altogether. The buck may come out later in the day or even move to another location on the field when it comes in to feed.
Hopefully you will now be able to identify food sources and travel routes, pattern the deer on your hunting land, and place your stand with caution for the wind along with scent control so you can bring home a south Georgia trophy for yourself.
Note: Michael Lee is a host of southern Backwoods Adventures TV series and videos. For more information visit www.southernBackwoods.com