John's Journal...

What to Do When the Buck Hits the Water

Day 2: Knowing the Area You Hunt Will Bring More Deer Hunting Success

Editor’s Note: Trying to take deer on a flood plain is a problem deer hunters who hunt around major river systems across the nation face.

Besides the problems associated with finding a deer in a swamp, the deer hunter who chooses to hunt this type of terrain must be convinced of one fact – unless you know the area very well, not only will you be attempting to locate a downed animal, but someone may have to come find you and the deer after dark. Flooded timber is an easy place to become lost and disoriented on cloudy days. For this reason, I took a compass reading on the road the day I hunted, as well as a compass reading on the direction I assumed the deer had traveled. I also used my GPS. I decided to go no further in the swamp than 150 yards. If I couldn’t find my deer within that area, I would return to the road and wait for my guide from the Bostick Plantation, Ed Bullard, who knew the land and the swamp as well as his living room. As I left the road and waded the water, I soon discovered that the water was about 4-inches over boot-top high. Of course, no blood trail existed, and the water was dingy, which made seeing the path the buck had taken difficult. When I was 60-yards away from the road, the flooded hardwoods collided with a pine plantation. I knew that if I went more than four or five rows into the planted pines, I could be lost. But as luck would have it, I found my buck where he’d fallen in the second row of the planted pines. As I drug my deer back to the stand, I wondered how deer hunters can make successful recoveries in swamps and/or flooded timber.

“The key to successfully recovering deer in this type of region is to listen to the deer and know exactly where the buck has entered the swamp and the direction he’s taking,” Ed Bullard says. “Since a well-hit deer won’t run far, you usually can hear the animal fall. If the region hasn’t had a rain for a week or two, and the water’s not disturbed, then many times the hunter actually can see where the deer has run, because there will be a muddy water trail. Or, if there are leaves lying on the water and no wind, the wounded deer will leave a trail through the leaves. But this is a difficult recovery. The way I find most bucks in these swamp places is by understanding where the deer probably want to go. A hit deer usually will look for thick cover or head back to where he beds, because he feels secure there. I know where these areas are on the Bostick Plantation. So, by moving toward the regions where I assume the buck will be headed, I generally can locate the wounded deer.

“If this search doesn’t produce the animal, I start walking a circle pattern from where the deer has been hit. If the deer doesn’t head for heavy cover, he usually will circle. I often have found a buck within 20 or 30 yards of the spot where he’s been shot. The deer may have run in a wide circle and finally returned almost to the spot where he’s been hit. But the surest method to locate a downed buck when all else fails is using my dogs. I like both a Labrador retriever and a bloodhound to recover deer I can’t find in the swamps. The dogs can check out the dry spots where a deer leaves the water and discover the wounded animal’s trail much quicker than I can. By using dogs for tracking and trailing, we’ve lost fewer deer to the water than if we don’t use the dogs.”

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Tomorrow: Tactics for Finding Downed Deer in Flood Plains

Check back each day this week for more about "What to Do When the Buck Hits the Water "

Day 1: What to Know Before Deer Hunting a Flood Plain
Day 2: Knowing the Area You Hunt Will Bring More Deer Hunting Success
Day 3: Tactics for Finding Downed Deer in Food Plains
Day 4: How to Pattern a Deer in a Swamp
Day 5: Equipment That Can Make Recovery of Your Flood Plain Deer Easier


Entry 586, Day 2