John's Journal...

How to Hunt the Pines and the Lulls for Deer

Day 3: Still Good Hunting for Deer in the Pines: Years 16 - 30

Editor’s Note: Many hunters consider pine plantations biological deserts where nothing exists except pine trees and pine straw - or that's what outdoorsmen have told other sportsmen for years. Honestly, I truly hope you believe that, because the majority of hunters who accept that idea will stay out of some of the best big-buck territory in the nation, leaving the prime hunting spots for those who know how to hunt the pines. Pine plantations generally home some of the most-productive places I know to take big deer for three reasons. Pine plantations provide food and browse for the deer to feed on, cover they can hide in and a barrier most hunters won't penetrate to search for deer. For instance, I've never had another hunter walk through my hunting site when I've hunted inside a pine plantation. Deer hold in pine plantations from the first year after the planting of the pines until the last year when foresters cut the mature trees, generally a timeline of about 30 years. Let's look at some secrets for hunting a pine plantation.

During Years 16 - 30:

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger View* Plant the thins. As the pines mature, foresters usually will thin them, using a process known as third-row thinning, to begin to harvest the pines at some time during the first 10 to 15 years. After that thinning, with the permission of the landowner, you can use your 4-wheeler and a small cultivator to plant green strips between the pines in that now non-existent third row. Many seed companies have developed wildlife plantings especially for these third-row thinned areas. Plant two or three green strips inside the pines near to or intersecting the deer trails you've logged in your GPS and have hunted for the last 15 years. Then as the deer travel along these trails, they'll stop and feed on these green strips, giving you an opportunity to look the deer over and decide if they've grown large enough to harvest. Personally I only take bucks and don't shoot the does inside a pine plantation to make sure I cause as little noise and disturbance as possible.

My friend Larry Norton of Butler, Alabama, a longtime avid deer hunter who spends about 90-100 days during deer season hunting, explains that, "I've found that rainy days are the best times to hunt the thinnings. In bad rainy and/or windy weather, deer will go into the pine plantations and stand around in them to dodge the weather. You can ease through a pine plantation on a windy or a rainy day, look down the lanes where the trees have been thinned and spot the bucks. Or, you can build a ground blind beside one of the trails where there's an open lane or two and see the bucks coming through the pines."

* Look for deer in loading areas, where the timber companies load the pine trees they've thinned and in sections of the land where beetles have destroyed pine trees. Norton says, "These regions also will grow up in various bushes, grasses and forbs and provide very-productive places to hunt deer. Beetle damage is a misery that timber companies have to endure. When pine beetles begin to destroy trees in a pine plantation, usually the timber company will go in and cut down the beetle-damaged trees. The removal of these trees means that this ground, often in the middle of a pine plantation, will be opened-up to sunlight and provide a feeding station for deer."

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger View* Fertilize loading regions and those sections of land damaged by beetles. According to Norton, "The only way to locate any of these deer-hunting hot spots is to go inside the pine plantation and be aware of what's happening there. Beetle-damaged regions and loading areas often make ideal places to plant green fields. My friends and I primarily use ladder stands that we can lean up against the young pine trees or tripod stands. We also will use a hand-fertilizing machine to fertilize beetle-damaged areas, loading places and trash piles inside the clear-cuts to increase the amount and the nutritional level of the browse for the deer."

For more deer-hunting tips, get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks “How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro,”
How to Hunt Deer Up Close: With Bows, Rifles, Muzzleloaders and Crossbows,” and “PhD Whitetails: How to Hunt and Take the Smartest Deer on Any Property,” or to prepare venison, get “Deer & Fixings.” Click on each, or go to, type in the name of the book, and download it to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.


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About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.

Tomorrow: Hunting Deer During the Rut in a Young Pine Plantation with Larry Norton

Check back each day this week for more about How to Hunt the Pines and the Lulls for Deer"

Day 1: From Dirt to Thickets: Hunting a Pine Plantation for Deer from Years 1 through 5
Day 2: Prime Time Hunting for Deer in the Pines: Years 6 through 15
Day 3: Still Good Hunting for Deer in the Pines: Years 16 - 30
Day 4: Hunting Deer During the Rut in a Young Pine Plantation with Larry Norton
Day 5: How to Hunt the Lulls for Deer

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Entry 753, Day 3