As I’ve talked with deer hunters leading up to Sunday’s opening of the archery deer season, many are more excited than ever about the possibilities that lie ahead.
This is primarily because hunting over bait is, for the first time, being allowed in South Carolina’s Upstate, and most believe that by taking part in this practice they’re sure to find more success than in years past.
But those relying on this newly-allowed practice might find it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
Dave Samuel, conservation editor for Bowhunter magazine, reported last year that a study of deer hunting in South Carolina’s two regions had been presented at a meeting of the Southeast Deer Study Group in West Virginia. It noted that deer harvest rates were actually higher in the Piedmont (unbaited) region than along the baited coast — 33 percent higher.
Doe harvest, which we desperately need even more of, was 41 percent higher in our neck of the woods than it was for our Lowcountry brethren even though deer densities have historically been higher in that part of the state.
Kinda makes ya scratch your head, huh? Well, there’s an explanation.
All hunters know that deer are pretty smart critters. Throughout the bottom half of our state, baiting has been legally performed for many years by simply dumping as much shelled corn as you wish into a large pile on the ground.
The animals are then free to partake of this large buffet whenever they choose and, knowing the dangers of the daylight hours, up to 90 percent show up at night. That percentage is a little less in the early season but quickly escalates as hunting pressure is applied.
In all of my discussions on the subject with our state’s biologists, this reality has been widely known for a long time and often told to the public; but, due to human nature and our constant desire for a quick fix, hunters have disregarded the information.
So, is there a better way to up the odds for the hunter?Hunters in Texas have been legally baiting deer for as long as hunting has existed in their state. They say the best way to find the shot is with a controlled rate spin feeder.
These contraptions operate on a timer, and can be set to throw out just enough corn that can be eaten in a short timeframe. This creates a small window of opportunity for the deer to get at the corn and conditions them to come at times you set.
Having used these feeders in the Lone Star state, I can attest the sound of one of these devices going off is a dinner bell for the deer. They’ll suddenly appear in numbers to get at that “yellow gold” in broad daylight.
Even though it’s possible to spend some pretty big bucks on them, getting your own spin feeder doesn’t have to be expensive. There are smaller, hanging feeders that run around $40, and feeders that are on legs that cost $99. When you consider these feeders will allow you to determine when deer will eat your expensive corn, a hundred bucks is a small price to pay.
One other important thing to remember is that, even with a controlled feeding situation, the odds of ever seeing a big, mature buck at a feeding site is extremely small. Those big old bruisers didn’t grow to such an age by being stupid, and they just don’t tend to open themselves up to being someone’s “easy pickings.”
For those big boys, there is actually a better way than using corn.
For as long as I can remember, hunters have hung stands along scrape lines and sat diligently for hours in hopes of catching a buck. The problem is that just as many scrapes are made at night so, unless you’ve made use of a scouting camera that has shown regular activity on them during the day, you might be waiting on something that’s not going to happen while you’re there. You can quickly up your success rate by making a line of your own mock scrapes with “drippers.”
There are quite a few mock scrape drippers out on the market that can be purchased for between $10 and $20. These handy little things are hung on a limb above a true scrape or one that you’ve created and drip scent into it during daylight hours only.
This helps to condition the bucks to come and check them out during those hours as they hope to see just whom this other deer is that is wandering around their territory.
During the years I’ve heard many hunters proclaim they wasted money on a dripper because they had no luck with it. But the mistake they made had nothing to do with spending money on the product. The truth is they just didn’t spend enough.
When making use of scrape drippers, you simply can’t purchase one and expect that to work. Deer naturally make numerous scrapes that meander throughout their range and anyone looking to fool them in this manner should place several, if not a handful, of the drippers out over numerous scrapes on a line.
Simply put, the more a buck senses another buck in his area or a doe that he’s interested in, the more he’s going to travel the line and the higher your odds go up.
So don’t allow yourself to be fooled into thinking that legally hunting over corn you’ve dumped on the ground is going to be the answer to your deer hunting woes.
You’re still going to have to use your head and hunting skills to find that real success because corn is far from being the magic that many have led themselves to believe.
Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his website at www.bradharveyoutdoors.com or follow on Twitter @BHarveyOutdoors