Where do they go?

Discussion in 'Deer Hunting' started by Steven A, Dec 4, 2019.

  1. Steven A

    Steven A New Member

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    I am now 77 years old and have successfully hunted deer in many states over a lot of years.
    New club composed of 14 hunters, on 1300 acres, all paper company land near Fargo, Ga. (South Ga.) There were existing blinds on the place, but had not been hunted for 5 years. (Should this have told me something?) My part of the lease fee was $900, which included rights to put my trailer on the property from Sept. through Jan.
    My son and I put out 4 trail cams and only later moved one because of a light showing of deer and pigs coming to eat corn bait, cast down by auto feeders. Early on the night time visits by deer to eat corn was not heavy but in the range of one to four deer coming in most nights. Two were decent 8 or 10 point bucks, seen 2 or 3 times, all at night.
    We erected four ladder stands, overlooking the feeders. Viewing the photos, showed deer coming in the dark to feed on corn and an occasional daylight photo. There was a mixture of deer and pigs and sometimes both within one day.
    No one scored during bow or primitive gunning season. My son and I did not actively hunt until the beginning of rifle season. During the first week of Nov. my son took a 4 point buck and three others killed doe. Little did we know, those 4 deer would be all that would be brought in, up to this date, Dec.4, 2019.
    Immediately following what had been a light "Rut" in early Nov., deer stopped showing on the trail cams and corn was eaten only by pigs. During the 2nd and 3rd week of Nov. 4 or 5 members took a week off and hunted. No one saw deer and the cams no longer showed anything other than an occasional antlerless deer at night. All 14 members hunted, most of them on weekends only.
    Where did the deer go?
    There have been a number of theories put forth: (1) A number of members have regularly heard shots late at night. Are there poachers killing off deer, using lights? (2) We all see pig hunters park their trucks on the edges of our lease and turn dogs loose to catch pigs to sell to preserves. Are dogs, not recognizing our lease, pushing deer into the thickest, swampiest areas on our lease? (3) Poor feed on the land that is only producing planted pines simply too poor to hold a decent deer herd?
    No one has signed on for next year. Some of us have banded together and are looking for greener pastures to lease next year.
    What do you think?
    Steven in DeLand, FL
     
  2. cutman

    cutman Administrator Staff Member

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    Probably a combination of all 3 theories, to be honest. Are there any oaks on the property that have been dropping acorns? I’d set the cameras up over natural food sources if nothing is coming to the corn.

    The other thing I would do is get away from everyone else and try to hunt the thick swamp you mentioned. I bet there are some big ol bucks living in there.
     
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  3. Steven A

    Steven A New Member

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    cutman, thanks for your reply. No stands of oaks that produce acorns, as we have all searched. On 1300 acres, it is easy to get away from others. In fact, my son and I are the only ones who hunt during the week, when no others are on the place, save for an occasional man who took vacation to hunt the place. (Poor fellow.) We only see others on the weekends and they are not seeing anything to shoot, deer or pigs.
    Good suggestion to get into the swamps. However, the reason that they're are swamps on the place, is that the logging equipment can not go in there and you know how big those rigs are. I'd need a small, flat bottom boat to get back in there. For that reason, most deer hunting in the area is said to be done using dog packs to run deer. Hunters are dropped off to stand and wait on small higher pieces of ground and maybe to get a shot at deer running through.
    My solution has been to look for more futile grounds to hunt next year. Others are clamoring for refunds, which I do not see happening. I paid my money to take my chances and that is hunting. So, I will move on, no foul.
     
  4. Chainsaw

    Chainsaw Well-Known Member

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    It sounds like grounds that could have been overshot six and seven years ago. And with the population so low it can't advance with the pressure in the area and possibly not so great feed either. I like you attitude though Steven. Just another swing and a miss-no big deal. Greener pastures can be found again if one looks forward rather than backwards.
     
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  5. Mennoniteman

    Mennoniteman Well-Known Member

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    Great attitude, hunting is the luck of the draw. Dogs running deer are always a problem, they will run the deer off and can cover 1300 acres very quickly. Somebody in the neighborhood probably has better food, better cover, and less pressure from all sources.
     
  6. Steven A

    Steven A New Member

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    Thanks for the kind responses. Not surprisingly, a number of the younger guys (my son and are seniors, age wise in this club) are going through the roof, claiming that they deserve cash back on what they paid. The club bought a farm tractor and now, people are wanting to get a piece of that. In part, I understand. These men are working hard to make a living and they are lower, middle class at best. Their investment represented much more to them than it did to me. I was lucky to have had an older brother in law get me into salting away money in stocks, in my early 40s. Those investments grew to a greater degree than I had dreamed possible. So, in retirement, I want for nothing and feel very blessed. My son and I will find a better place to hunt. I let him do the leg work and I just pay the fees! LOL
    Enjoy the hunt.
     
  7. BenAllgood

    BenAllgood Member

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    Sounds a lot like parts of Louisiana with the dog hunting, poaching, and pine timber companies. I think alot of the problem could be habitat or lack of year round daily sustenance foods. Pine plantations can get really thick and it makes one believe deer couldn't want for anything in there, but it's not always the case. It can get so thick that it shades out quality browse at deer level. You may not be able to walk through all the briars, but the best, most nutritious brambles are up high out of reach of the deer. If that's the case, y'all could try to salvage it by taking that tractor and brush hogging and disking between the rows of pines. Do that spread out in large areas across the property, and you'll get alot of young regrowth at deer level.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2019
  8. Lone

    Lone New Member

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    Sounds to me like all you mentioned not making for good hunting. Bait as with feeders has been my experience to educate pressured deer of any older age to avoid the areas until after dark
     
  9. X-farmerdan

    X-farmerdan Well-Known Member

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    Steven,
    I'm going to make some assumptions, grab some numbers from other places and do a lot of wild ass guessing. First, let's see if I got this right. Fargo, GA is in Clinch County? County numbers are the best we have, and one of my assumptions is your lease looks a lot like the county in terms of deer population, deer kill, habitat acres, etc. At least it will make a conversation more interesting - or contentious!

    If I don't have the right county, stop here!!

    There's a web site called CropScape that provides estimates of land use by plant type. It says there are about 530-thousand acres in the county. Another place says the county covers 800-thousand acres, and GA Forestry says 518-thousand acres, with 498-thousand of the total in forest. I'm trying to determine acres of habitat in the county and compare it to the most recent deer kill numbers.

    I like CropScape. It estimates 7,000 acres of crops; 21,000 acres of grass forage and pasture; 171,000 acres of wetlands, shrubs, and forbs; and 300,000 acres of forest with nearly 170,000 evergreen. If my numbers don't add up, forgive me. I'm playing a little fast and loose. Let's call the deer habit in the county 500,000 acres which is about 780 square miles.

    If I have the right county, the 2018-19 deer harvest was 348 bucks and 450 does for a total of 798. That's one deer killed per square mile of habitat. Not good....and a quick look at other southern Georgia counties looks about the same. It makes me want to go back and check my numbers.

    You lease 1300 acres or a little over 2 square miles. You and your fellows took 4 deer? That's double the county average.
    I hope I got my assumptions and calculations somewhere close. I do think it paints a fairly clear picture.

    Without any additional backup, I'm going to guess the deer kill is a quarter to a third of the total population. It seems like 12-15 deer per square mile in a pine/swamp habitat is reasonable.

    The best we have here in Virginia is about 8 deer killed per square mile (county habitat). A couple counties are between one and two. I'd guess the average is three or four. And before anybody takes issue, these are general county numbers. Your results on your small area will be much better. And that begs the question, Steven, is there anything you can do to improve the habitat?

    You asked where did the deer you saw earlier go? You know this! They go where people don't. They have a funny way of being really good at that!
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2019
  10. X-farmerdan

    X-farmerdan Well-Known Member

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    I think the county deer kill numbers are worse than I noted above.
    clinch ga.jpg
     
  11. SwampCat

    SwampCat Well-Known Member

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    I have a business associate who owns a farm in eastern GA - in one of the better counties. He probably averages seeing a deer every other day of hard hunting. He says there is never a day that goes by for the whole deer season that you dont hear single rifle shots morning or evening. You add all those shots up over a seventy day season - and then add in bowhunters - and it is a wonder there is a deer left.
     
  12. FL Plotter

    FL Plotter Active Member

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    Your lease sounds very similar to the lease I got on 10 years ago - 1300 acres of planted pines. I didn't have the lease history, but it was "available" and I wanted a place to call my own to get away from public hunting, so I went in blind. 4 of us total....we would hunt hard....all day...every weekend. Lucky to see one deer a sit--killed a couple of basic bucks that year. Got tired of not being able to see far (thick), bought a tractor next spring, and started clearing and plotting. Determined after talking to a few "locals" that the lease had changed hands every year from the brown/downers, been a dog lease at one time and just generally "overshot". Price was really low at the time ($1 acre) and people would gang-hunt the properties without a care and move on. Also learned that not every doe would get bred (low recruitment rate) and that it would take a doe about 3 years before she would fawn. Many does would skip a year after having a fawn, and very few had twins, no triplets. There is no agriculture close. And the pH in the soil is 3.7 or so before copious lime. I actually kept hunting public land for 4 years to kill my "meat" to reduce pressure on the herd and allow it to recover.

    Fast forward 10 years, we have ~10 acres in plots that provide year round food. Our deer all look healthy; they are not pressured, and we are seeing more and more twinning. With 3 members, there is a good chance we can each see a "decent" buck to harvest (biggest buck to date is 97"; oldest buck was 6.5 or older) each season , and we estimate the total doe herd to about 30 on the 1300 acres with about 4-6 fawns making it out of spots. We limit ourselves to 2 does each and a buck and generally try to shoot older does without fawns. All 5 does killed last year were 5.5 years or older, and one I shot I know was over 10 years old because she was on the lease when I got there. She didn't fawn for 2 years, so she had to pay the rent. The doe I shot last week was in a 4-pac of her family with no fawns, so even with good nutrition available, they won't get bred each year.

    Now I can sit and not get skunked....usually see multiple deer...seen as high as 20 in one sit. Watch immature bucks and can usually nail my target buck. It's not "great" or "trophy" hunting, but we've got a lot of sweat equity in it and the price per acre is still relatively low at $3 or so, so we stick with it.

    All that to say that you probably got on a lease like I did 10 years ago....this land simply cannot sustain that type of hunting pressure. The leases around have changed hands multiple times in 10 years, and their price per acre is $5+ (we are grandfathered in at 3% increase a year).
     
  13. Chipdasqrrl

    Chipdasqrrl Active Member

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    In a way, running cameras is like a sport of its own.. At least I see it that way.

    I used to get discouraged because I wasn’t seeing bucks on camera, but I started to realize that they ARE still out there, I was just looking in the wrong places.
    Hunters like to over complicate bucks, but they’re actually pretty simple in my opinion. It doesn’t take deer very long to figure out our tricks.
    The biggest thing I began to realize was that deer, especially older bucks, will begin to walk by a blind where it is just out of sight. This is the same deal with bait piles.
    You can expect a smart buck to be found about 70 yards downwind of a blind or bait pile in a wooded setting. They will be checking the feeders for does and checking to see if a hunter is present.
    My advice to you is to get out there after hunting season and study the existing deer trails. Go look at spots that are just out of site of the blinds/bait piles, I’ll bet you find a moderately used deer trail and you’ll have an ‘AHA!’moment. Get a camera on that trail


    Sent from my iPhone using Deer Hunter Forum
     
  14. Deadeye

    Deadeye Active Member

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    Location:
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    Amazing just how close you just described our Lease.

    When we took it over, the Lease Company we are with had just taken it over. I was talking to them about another piece but before I could get there to look at it someone else took it. I went to look at two places that day and chose the other, but when I called him to say I'd take it I was to late. So I took the one we got.
    I could tell that it had been hunted before as we found a Blind left set up (hurricane took care of it) another that had collapsed, a wooden stand left on a tree and a Ladder Stand and a collapsed Blind beside it.

    That first year we got a ton of pics of both Bucks and Does including Does with Fawns. But This year (year 2) we are hardly getting any. I truly think that part of that was due to the Hurricane and the animals sensed it coming and moved further North to escape it and ended up on our place. Afterward they returned home. But also feel that Our Presents There has made a huge impact as well.

    I noticed that when I went alone or the day before my SIL came I would slip in quitely and set up my spot in the Camp, then slip out to a stand-- and I would se deer. After He arrived and was not nearly as quiet as I tried to be, sightings would drop big time. I also tend to sneak into my Stand for the day and stay all day if I can, where he only sits for a few hours then starts to walk around to "learn the property better" and deposits his scent all over the place.

    The Deer have become more and more Nocturnal. I hear them Blowing at night as they pass by the Camp.

    The soil is terrible and after speaking with a neighbor whose Grandfather owned the land on 3 sides and he spent time there as a child, he told me that it has always been a Tree Farm for as long as he can remember. Most of the Tree Farm companies do not care about making good soil, just as long as a Pine Tree will grow on it it's good. I tried food plots and all failed. Switched to Feeders of Corn this year and they seem to attract some deer, mostly at night, although I did shoot a small buck off of one.

    As stated almost every morning and evening I hear a couple of shots from the surrounding properties. And since the neighbor to the North has given some of his land to his family (Appraiser map shows four 5 acre properties now with sam last name on the edge of his) and they are in there Hunting all that land now I expect things to change. One of them has started to sit about 40 yards down the road from our Entry Gate to watch the Road for crossing deer. The Road, while county, sits on their side of the Line. The added pressure just might effect two of our Stand Sites.

    In the End all you can do is either give up and look for a better place of make the one you have Better. So far we are trying to make ours better. At the end of our agreement with the lease co we may try to find land closer than 6 hours away, the only really bad part of the deal.
     
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  15. Beechnut

    Beechnut Member

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    I whole heartedly agree with FL Plotter. It's not very often someone can simply start hunting an area, and have huge success, without some kind of effort to improve the habitat. Ya gotta give it some time and work the land, mineral spots, small food plots, clear nice shooting lanes, low pressure. They are there. Maybe give it one more year?

    Best of luck!
     
  16. THE LLC

    THE LLC Well-Known Member

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    Two of your biggest issues:
    1. Georgia
    2. Clinch County
     
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  17. Mennoniteman

    Mennoniteman Well-Known Member

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    An interesting story about your 2 yr lease and your experiences there, and it sounds like you are having some good times there, which is what it's all about. As you described your journey I had a few observations. You mentioned sil wandering around looking at the property, and I can understand that wanderlust, I have it myself. But that's a big negative for deer hunting, you just push them to the neighbors. And as you mentioned, the ability to get in and out of, and hunt a stand undetected is also very crucial to how many deer that you see. I have many friends with deer hunting properties and every one of them has a large bedding area set aside that they never go into except to work. We are all in (friendly) competition with our neighbors, to try to keep from chasing our deer over to them, and if we do, hoping that they will chase them back. So, to summarize, where do our deer go? Maybe I chased mine to my neighbors and they were careful hunters who didn't chase them back, but tagged some and allowed the rest to live there undisturbed with plenty food and cover. Deer really dislike being chased out of their bedding areas and will relocate if this happens several times. Again, I hope you are enjoying the new lease, and tagging a big one is not the most important thing, having a great time with friends and family is.
     
  18. Drycreek

    Drycreek Well-Known Member

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    Good advice there MM, I finally learned that bitter lesson myself. While I do spend some time on my hunting areas that is probably unnecessary, most of it is on a tractor or a golf cart. Neither of those seem to upset the deer much, and the golf cart is limited to checking cams about once a month and most always in the middle of the day. Fortunately for me, there are 36 acres next to my home place that nobody hunts and most of the deer we see bed there IMO.

    On the lease (350 acres), our travels are confined to trails and roads. No wandering in the woods at all.
     
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  19. Mennoniteman

    Mennoniteman Well-Known Member

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    I thought that you let the lease go. I guess I'm getting that mixed up with you selling your larger property. As far as deer, us foodplot guys all live to go out and see what our deer are doing. The thing that I do to satisfy this craving to observe our deer herd is to set up a roomy airtight hunting blind on the downwind edge of our biggest and best plots with a concealed sneak trail up to it, and concealment going up the ladder into the blind. That way on a summer evening I can sneak into the blind and leave as I please, without the deer knowing that someone has been there. Taking a FEL grapple and piling stumps, junk trees, and brush around the field side of the stand and along the access trail works well to block the deer from detecting you. I'm not afraid to fell a few trees if that's what is needed to block off the access trail from the deer. With enough blockades running along the edges of the field in either direction from the stand and along the access trail this setup keeps the deer from accessing the field in that area, actually usually keeps them totally away from that area of the woods because they have difficulty getting thru. I travel to these stand sites in as straight of a line as possible from my parking area, like spokes of a wheel, only curving the trail enough to make the swing to the field edge. Being partly on the upwind side of the field with this type of setup works too if the blind is airtight, because walking in and out is usually not enough time for the deer to smell you before you are in the stand or gone. The visual blockage is the important factor, if they see me close to the field they're gonna be gone. I view making this type of setup as a challenge between me and the deer during the offseason, if they are on to my presence close to the field in any way, changes have to be made. If I do spook some deer close to my parking area thats collateral damage, i don't want them living there anyway. And guess how these setups work during the season if they're foolproof during the offseason.
     
  20. Drycreek

    Drycreek Well-Known Member

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    Yes, I sold my bigger place but still have the 80 here at home and I’m one of five on a 350+- deer lease. A couple of those guys don’t hunt much and if they kill a deer, they’re done. So, really only three of us hunt much and we try to keep the in-season travels to a minimum.

    I agree wholeheartedly with sneaky routes to and from stands. That’s as important to me as your wind direction when hunting. The image is a good example. I drive down the red line, walk in on the yellow line, and the white outlines my 1/2 acre food plot. I hunt on a N or NW wind only, and there’s been mighty few of them this fall. DBAC7D2B-871A-44BD-AEE4-DCB795B7B277.jpeg
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2019 at 8:45 PM

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