John's Journal...

What to Do When the Buck Hits the Water

Day 3: Tactics for Finding Downed Deer in Food Plains

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.

Ronnie Groom of Panama City, Florida, an avid, longtime deer hunter who often teaches deer-hunting schools, explains a tactic he uses when hunting deep sloughs of water for wounded animals. “If I shoot at a deer with my gun or my bow and hear the deer hit the water but don’t hear the deer come out on the other side, I try to follow the blood and the tracks up to the slough to determine where the deer has entered the water. I attempt to decide which direction of flight the deer has taken and pick out a spot on the far bank where I think a deer should have come out of the water, if he’s continued to run in that same direction. If possible, I get around the slough, go to the far bank and search for any type of tracks or signs leaving the water where the deer may have exited. Failing to find that sign, I’ll return to the spot where the deer has gone into the water and begin to wade. Often during bow and early gun deer season in the Deep South, the water’s still about as warm then as it is in the summertime.

“In many instances, I’ve been able to wade out in a slough and recover a buck that’s been lying just under the surface. Oftentimes I can see the deer just under the water, if the slough isn’t too deep. But when I’m looking for a deer in the water, I’m not searching for the entire animal. I’m attempting to see the tip of a horn, an ear or a lighter-colored patch of water, which indicates the deer’s belly underneath the surface. When a wounded deer goes into the water, he usually will sink. In swamps, the water will have a great deal of tannic acid in it and be off-color. Therefore, you won’t spot the entire animal, if he’s underwater. So, you must look for parts of the deer. If you hunt river-bottom swamps like I do, learning how to make water recoveries is essential, because most of the time the deer will head for the water. Often, if you don’t find the deer in the water, he will have crossed the water and be lying at the edge of it. I’ve found that the two best ways for recovering deer in flooded areas is to not take the shot unless you’re absolutely sure you can make a solid hit in the vital organs that will cause the animal to go down quickly and to expect to make a water recovery. So, listen after you’ve made your shot and connected with the deer to try to hear the deer fall. You’ll be surprised on a still morning how far you can hear a deer fall – maybe up to 50- to 75-yards away. Always assume that you’ll have to wade water up to your waist. If you take a buck in flooded timber or swamp regions and don’t have to get the lower half of your body wet, you’ve had an extremely-lucky hunt.”

One of the reasons for hunting flooded timber is that these sections are easy to take deer in and are relatively easy to pattern deer. When hardwoods flood, acorns will float to the surface and collect along the edges of backwater sloughs, old sinkholes and low places in the woods. The deer will wade sometimes chest-high in these sloughs and feed on the acorns. So, taking a stand on the edge of the water is often highly productive.

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Tomorrow: How to Pattern Deer in a Swamp

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 3