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Finding hunting success on small-acreage leases

Outta' the Woods

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Media contact: Tony Young, 850-488-7867

Many people think you need a large tract of land for hunting to harvest a mature buck. But for a lot of us, leasing a large chunk of property is just not financially feasible. So I’m here to tell you that you don’t necessarily need a large tract of land if your small hunting lease happens to be in just the right spot.

My wife and I lease a little patch of woods less than 30 minutes from where we live and work. It’s barely 20 acres but has provided us some nice hunting over the past couple seasons.

So we’ve made our little lease as good as we can make it by providing good-quality supplemental feed. We hire a good friend to bring over his tractor, and we plant cool-weather and warm-weather food plots twice a year.

There’s a flock of turkeys on the property and a number of deer regularly use it. We’re familiar with the deer that use the property because of the game cameras we have out and from what we see with our own eyes.

This season, we decided not to shoot any does during the archery and antlerless deer seasons because we wanted to better our chances of increasing the herd in the area. There are a few young bucks, including a 6-pointer, which we’ve seen and passed on because we want to give them the chance to grow another year or two. Since there is little hunting in the area besides us, we can pass on young deer and likely see them in future years.  But there were two nice, mature 8-points that we have seen on camera for the past two years, and those were the only two deer that we were going to target this season, unless some other mature bucks showed up.

The dominant buck in the herd, however, was a 4.5-year-old 8 point with a heavy and very symmetrical rack and a white patch of hair between his shoulders. That’s the deer I set my sights on. We named him “Blaze” – a fine Florida buck.

During one short, afternoon sit, there was a steady, northeast wind, perfect for our favorite tree stand. I had only about 45 minutes to hunt before dark. Soon as I settled in, two does stepped out of the woods and into the food plot followed, by a spike. It was the pre-rut period, and we were seeing more deer activity, especially bucks, during daylight hours. Things looked promising.

I enjoyed watching the three deer graze on oats, wheat and rye, and I heard the turkeys fly up to roost at sunset. The does were still upwind but started acting strange, and one of them put its tail up and started blowing. They all ended up running off.

I decided to give it a last-ditch effort by doing a multiple-note “tending” grunt call. There were about five minutes left of legal shooting hours, and I started gathering my things together when the flash of my old-school game camera went off.

Something had just walked in front of the camera: a deer, and a pretty good-sized one at that.

I slowly picked up my rifle and looked through the scope. It was a racked buck, but it was hard to tell if it was one of the younger bucks that we didn’t want to shoot. The buck was looking right at me, and I knew I didn’t have much time to make a decision. That’s when he put his head down to feed and I saw the white patch on his back! That’s when I knew it was Blaze!

“Buck fever” immediately set in; my heart just went to poundin’ and my hands a-shakin’. This was the deer I’d been hunting for two seasons. This was the dominant buck of our little patch of woods, and I needed to pull myself together and make a good shot.

Time was running out, my hands and breathing were all over the place, and Blaze was facing me, not presenting me with the shot I wanted. All of a sudden he turned to his left and gave me his right shoulder. I managed to calm down and steadied the crosshairs on his right shoulder. I slowly squeezed the trigger.

After the recoil, I could see the buck’s white belly, laying on the ground right where he had stood. I immediately climbed down and walked over to my trophy buck. His 172-pound body and perfect rack were just as grand as they looked on all the game cam pictures.

And the shot placement was right on the money and humane. My .270-caliber bullet found its mark, killing the deer instantly.

So it just goes to show you that you don’t necessarily need a large piece of land to find hunting success. All you have to do is put in a little time bettering the habitat, and if no one is hunting the adjacent properties and you let the young bucks walk, you may have the chance of seeing them again next season when they are bigger and a year older.

And another thing – some hunters say they don’t like the game cams that use flash photography because that scares off big bucks. Well, not only did my old-school cam not scare away Blaze, but if it hadn’t flashed, I may not have known he was even there.

I hope you enjoyed a great Christmas holiday, and I wish you a very happy new year. Remember, you can get big things from small packages, and deer season is not over yet in central and north Florida. And I still have that other big 8-point deer running around somewhere on our little piece of hunting paradise too.

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