Late-Season Habitat Assessment

A hardwood bottom in Northampton County
A hardwood bottom in Northampton County

January and February can be a tough time for us hunters. Other than waterfowl, our hunting seasons are rapidly winding down. Black bear and whitetail deer season have now closed and we still have a few months before the turkeys begin to gobble. It’s also too early to plant food plots. It won’t be long, and in some cases it has already occurred, that we will shift our attention to small game and fishing. On the other hand, there are a few reasons why you shouldn’t completely shift gears away hunting and managing your land until the spring. Here are a few reasons why you should take a proactive approach to your management now.

  • The vegetation is practically non-existent, making moving stands around and clearing shooting lanes an ease. Also, the possibilities of stepping on snakes, and getting bit by mosquitoes and ticks are at an all-time low.
  • Deer sign is easily identifiable and finding bedding areas is easier than usual. Scrapes and rubs are still fresh from rutting activity. Just because the rut is over doesn’t mean you can’t learn from residual sign.
  • Creating food plots and prepping the soil is much easier to do now than in the spring. Soil tests aren’t known for their rapid lab results, therefore it is better to go ahead and get a head start on your food plot projects. This will give you time to determine the best forages to plant. The best food plots are well thought out and planned ahead for.
  • Mineral sites should be established during the winter months. We tend to think that mineral are for bucks, but pregnant does will use these sites well before the bucks will. This helps with skeletal growth and lactation. By providing a fresh mineral site on your property now, you can really give your herd’s new fawns a head start.
  • Trail cameras can be situated for a brief camera survey. This allows you to see what bucks survived the season and provide insight to your property’s usage by late-season whitetails, as well as other wildlife species.

 

If you are beginning to manage your property, or maybe just acquired as piece of land, now is the time to gauge its productivity and derive a game plan for this upcoming years hunting and management. For a professional assessment of your property, or tips and pointers on how to improve its efficiency, give me a call.

 

Andrew Walters

awalters@mossyoakproperties.com

252-904-3184

 

Late Season Mishaps – Controlling the Trigger

A yearling buck (above) and a mature 6-point buck (below). Notice body and antler size differences
A yearling buck (above) and a mature 6-point buck (below). Notice body and antler size differences

It’s officially the late-season in North Carolina. The days of testosterone-filled bucks roaming around in broad daylight are over for the most part. The deer are moving later and less frequent. This means even your best spots may have gone cold and resulted in only a few deer spotted, if any, each hunt.

You can see where this presents a problem. I manage a few properties for clients and the number one thing I tell them is to control their trigger finger during the last few weeks of the season. It seems that everyone is alright with waiting on that buck of a lifetime to step out when the season opens, and the rut is a great time to tag a buck, but the late-season is a different beast. This is the time of year when all management is put aside. Bucks that would have walked in November are shamelessly shot with the reason of, “it was nearing the end of the year.”

Even more so, usually yearling bucks are not the target. The ideal target is a buck, probably 2.5 years old. He is smart enough to have learned to pattern hunters but still young and dumb enough to risk his life for an early dinner. These are the bucks that almost any hunter would consider a shooter next year. After all, a yearling will eventually be a mature buck, but you only have a year invested in him. A 2.5 year old buck has only a few more days of hunting to survive and he will be a trophy deer.

It sounds silly, but you can erase a couple years of management with a few late-season trigger-happy shots. This even applies to hunters who may not own land but have leases or only hunt occasionally. That spike buck may be a decent 6-point next year.in this case, shoot a doe.

On December 31st, 2014 I soared a bullet over a buck that had a very distinct set of antlers. The G-3s formed a unique gap with his main beam. It was very easy to recognize this buck. He walked out into a soybean field and I watched him for a few minutes before finally convincing myself to shoot him. I somehow missed him at less than 100 yards and have never been more relieved. Fast forward to October 29th, 2015 and I shot that same buck as a 3.5 year old. I’ve never been more excited to have missed a late-season buck.

If you’re not going to manage your trigger finger the last few weeks of the season, you may as well not do it as all. The results of a few afternoons tagging any walking buck can put you behind the eight ball from a management perspective and undo much of the work you’ve already accomplished. To sum it up, if you wouldn’t shoot him in October…don’t shoot him in December.

Andrew Walters 

Late-Season Hunting Checklist

Robert Norton's unique buck taken in eastern NC
Robert Norton’s unique buck taken in eastern North Carolina 

Hopefully, you have had a chance to harvest a nice buck by now. While many hunters have tagged out and already resorted to spending their days off relaxing on the sofa, there is still hope for the have-nots and the die-hards.

The highly anticipated rut is now, for the most part, over. However, a buck is still a creature of habit. This means that he is after two things. The first is security. Any decent-sized buck has probably had a bullet or two slung at him by now. Even if you are hunting an area with limited hunting pressure, chances are even a once careless deer is a bit leery. The second thing is, they are seeking food. This sounds eerily similar to an early-season buck in a-bed-to-feed pattern and that would be correct. Just factor in more hunting pressure and less deer, and you have essentially the same thing. Last season deer are actually much easier to pattern than a rutting buck.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Look for unpressured areas that have not been hunted this year. You need to find thick cover that is near a food source. I can guarantee the deer have already found it.
  • Ignore the second rut. Some hunters kill bucks who are seeking attention from a young doe, but hunting feeding areas with security nearby is your best bet. Chances are the young doe that may come into estrus is also seeking security and cover.
  • Play the wind correctly. The lack of day time movement and cautious deer is no reason to take a lackadaisical approach to hunting. If anything, this is more of a reason to play the wind. Keep the wind in your face at all times.
  • Be ready when the shot presents itself. You may not have the same chances to make the shot as you would during the rut. Be sure of your target and take pull the trigger when the shot presents itself.
  • Seek crops that have yet to be harvested. Any food source that offers easy pickings is plus. Standing soybeans and corn is a deer magnet.
  • Hunt midday and spend as much time in the stand as possible. We all have busy schedules, but every minute spent in the stand is a minute closer to tagging your buck.
  • Hunt until the bitter end. Hunt until legal shooting light ends. Many bucks have made the mistake of getting up from their beds to feed just a few minutes too soon and paid the price for it. Now is not the time to leave your stand a few minutes early.

Andrew Walters

Perspectives – Late Season Hunting

33This past week I managed to slip away for an afternoon hunt. I decided, due to the wind, that I would sit in a box stand overlooking a small soybean field adjacent to planted pines, where deer commonly bed this time of year.

I had shot a few deer from this stand. The most recent was a respectable 7-pointer last year. We typically wait to hunt this stand after the rut, due to the bedding cover and lack of surrounding hunting pressure.

As I looked around and surveyed my surroundings I took note of everything around me. The stand of pines where my turkey bind was situated and the deer trail where I waylaid the aforementioned buck last year. My mind then drifted off to a spot about 8 miles down the road where I also hunt. I have hunted that tract more often than the one I was currently at. I had shot my fair share of mature bucks from that farm, as well as captured a ton of photos on my trail camera. I guess I was still questioning my decision to not hunt there. So there I was sitting in a box stand 10 feet off the ground and as the sunset, I hadn’t seen anything. It was one of those days where the birds don’t chirp quite as loud, the squirrels barely barked, if any at all, and there was definitely a lack of deer movement.

When legal shooting light ended and darkness engulfed my blind, I gathered my things and got ready to leave. I bumped into a children’s chair, situated in the corner of the blind, and knocked it over. I then stepped onto a juice box, making even more noise. Luckily, I’m certain there wasn’t anything around to hear it. Before exiting the stand completely, I stepped on yet another juice box. The chair and juice box belonged to Colton, my 3 year old nephew, who has started hunting with my brother. They use this stand occasionally so Colton can move around and not be seen. After all, he’s three.

I hadn’t seen an animal worth mentioning all evening, but Colton had been hunting with his father in that stand a few days before and had a blast. I will be the first to tell you that there is more to hunting that shooting a deer. However, after a couple hours in a cold deer stand, that logic dissipates. The chair and juice boxes were a reminder to not take things too seriously.

Hunting is not about killing anything. It’s about time spent outdoors with family and friends and creating memories that will last a lifetime. Everyone wants to tag a buck, black bear, etc., but that shouldn’t dictate if a hunt was successful or not.

As the temperature and deer sightings drop during the last few weeks of the season, keep this in mind. Lastly, there is still plenty of time to take a kid hunting this year. With the holidays approaching, an afternoon spent in the field with a kid can leave a lasting impression that they’ll remember forever, regardless of the wildlife activity. One hunt can make a huge difference. Make the time to take someone else hunting before the season ends!

 

Andrew Walters 

The Long-Awaited 8-Point

Andrew Arbes, a dedicated turkey hunter and contributor to The Management Minute, tags a huge trophy buck on his family farm!

Andrew Arbes' impressive NY buck
Andrew Arbes’ impressive NY buck

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015 will be a day that I will never forget. The property that I hunt is a 68-acre piece of land that my family has owned since my great grandmother bought it in the earl 1900’s, located in Barton, NY. It is an old farmstead that lays atop the rolling hills of Upstate, NY. The land is covered by large fields and thick hardwoods, with a few planted pine stands.

I did not see any deer that morning except for 3 small doe. At about 12:05, I decided to follow the logging road up behind the house, and sit on a ridge, overlooking a big hollow that was covered by dense hardwoods and thick vegetation. There wasn’t a tree stand there so I positioned myself under a large hemlock tree. There were many large rubs and scrapes in the area, and I could tell that there was a big deer in the area. I just felt like something special was going to happen.

After I sat down, I began scanning for the woods for deer. I have always kept a set of rattling antlers and a grunt call in my backpack. I started rattling at about 12:40 p.m., and while I rattled I raked the leaves and blew on grunt call. I did this for a couple minutes and then sat quietly, scanning the woods for movement. After only a few short minutes, I saw some movement to my left. It was a deer! I could tell with my naked eye that it was big. I pulled up my binoculars and I started shaking. As I focused my lenses, he picked up his head. He was a monster!

Andrew along with his father and brother
Andrew along with his father and brother

From the moment I saw this deer, his hair was bristled on his back, his ears were pinned backwards, his nose was to the ground, and I could tell he was looking for a fight. While he walked his trail, he stopped to check all of his scrapes and rubs, and I knew he was going to follow the trail right up to me. Looking through my rifle scope. I was shaking so bad and breathing heavily, and he had disappeared behind a downed tree. When he popped out from behind the tree, he was 40 yards away and quartering away from me. I couldn’t wait any longer. I slowly pulled the trigger, and he took off.  In that split second all I could think was, “Did I hit him?”

Within a few milliseconds I had loaded another shell into the chamber and I was back on him. I followed him in the scope, as he ran through the woods with a limp front leg.  The buck ran for 20 yards and then stopped. He folded over and came crashing down. I had done it! I had killed my first big buck, and I couldn’t get my hands on his antlers fast enough. After I got to the buck I radioed to my Dad, and when he got to me he was in just as much disbelief as I was. He gave me a big hug and I knew he was proud.

It wasn’t until I got the buck hoisted up on the gambrel that it had finally sunk in. I had just had the hunt of a lifetime, and the buck of a lifetime had my tag on it. I was so happy to have been able to share the moment with my Dad, and the other guys at camp. My younger brother was even there to snap a few pictures, and to help dress my deer. Within 3 hours I had killed a monster buck, and had him back at the house, caped out and ready for the taxidermist. Something that I had waited 9 years to do.

The buck sported a heavy and wide rack
The buck sported a heavy and wide rack

Memories like these are what make me thankful for what I have. I am thankful that I have land to hunt on, and I am thankful for the people that I get to hunt with. I am grateful that my father, grandfather, and my uncles have instilled a passion for hunting, and have allowed me to carry on the tradition of deer hunting along with them. It is something that I hope to pass along to my children as well. I will never forget this day, or this hunt, as long as I live.

Mossy Oak Properties – Who We Are

Bryan DeHart's 2015 Gobbler
Bryan DeHart’s 2015 Gobbler

I, along with many of the other Mossy Oak Properties agents, have been asked various questions by the general public who are interested in what we do. By attending trade shows such as the Dixie Deer Classic, Southeastern Sportsman Expo, and our extensive advertising, we gain plenty of exposure. With exposure comes the questions. Here are just a few questions and misconceptions that I’d like to answer.

Are you guys a part The Mossy Oak?

Absolutely! Mossy Oak Properties is the real estate division of the Mossy Oak Company. Mossy Oak has left no stone unturned when it comes to spending time outdoors and enjoying the land. From Nativ Nursuries’ wildlife tree species, to BioLogic’s food plot forages, to Gamekeepers farming for wildlife publication, Mossy Oak has you covered. It only made sense to provide an outlet for outdoorsmen to secure their own piece of land. This led to the first Mossy Oak Properties office to be opened in Alabama in 2001. From then on, Mossy Oak Properties has expanded throughout the USA with one goal in mind – to provide you with the best channel to find your special property.

Marty Laniier's 2015 Gobbler
Marty Lanier’s 2015 Gobbler

We have overpriced land because we are associated with a huge national brand.

False. We spend many hours determining the best selling price for a particular tract of land. These man hours that are put in determines a realistic listing price that sells the land, but leaves no money left on the table for the seller. As you can imagine, this balancing act requires much research and there is much more to this than just throwing out a number.

Since we are associated with a national brand, we may not be in touch with the local land market.

Once again, this is false. By visiting our website you can follow links and see that we have many agents covering eastern NC that are very familiar with the land market. Land prices and uses vary from county to county, therefore we have an extensive network of agents ready to provide you with the best service possible throughout eastern NC. From large tracts with homes, to waterfront properties, to your next hunting tract, we cover all aspects of the land real estate market.

Andrew Walters' 2015 buck
Andrew Walters’ 2015 buck

We’re typical real estate agents who only use the Mossy Oak logo.

False. We are not your regular real estate agents. While we have three offices in NC and one in VA, we do the majority of our work in the field. We are outdoorsmen just like you. From sitting in a turkey blind to fishing the nearest river, we enjoy the same hobbies as you. We thoroughly walk the properties we sell, take notes and capture many photos to not only assist us in determining the best price, but to also provide you with as much information possible. We also have a drone with a camera attachment which allows us to fly over a tract of land to provide a unique insight.  Point in case, we are not your typical real estate agents.

If you are interested in buying or selling land, give us a call. We have an extensive network of local agents with top-of-the-line advertising. You won’t be disappointed with the results. Every year our inventory grows even larger. Give us a call today and let us show you why we are America’s Land Specialists.

 

Andrew Walters 

Company Retreat at Lake Mattamuskeet

Bryan DeHart, Travis Horne, and Danny Graham after a morning of hunting.
Bryan DeHart, Travis Horne, and Danny Graham after a morning of hunting.

This past weekend the Mossy Oak Properties NC Land and Farms crew along with the Mossy Oak Properties of Virginia office met for a weekend of hunting. Earlier in the year we met at a lodge overlooking Lake Mattamuskeet. One of our agents, Dillon Jones, was gracious enough to let us use his hunting lodge for a meeting. We enjoyed the atmosphere so much we organized a duck hunt there this fall.

Dillon Jones also runs N-Hyde-N Guide Service. The lodge we stayed at was the same facility any hunters who book hunts with him would stay at. Unfortunately, I was unable to stay all weekend for the hunting but still made it out for some fellowship, great meals, and a company meeting. The photos are evidence of a great time spent in the blind and many ducks were taken.

You may be wondering how this applies to Mossy Oak Properties…just your average group of guys hunting in Hyde County. It doesn’t seem that uncommon. In reality, the hunting was just half of what this weekend was about. From the outside looking in, it’s not hard to see that all of our agents not only get along well, but we also work well with one another. We all enjoy each other’s company and are avid outdoorsmen. Every year our number of agent expands so it is imperative that we stay in touch and work together. Operating in this fashion has allowed us to create an extensive network of coverage that is unrivaled by any other in-state agencies.

Sunrise over Mattamuskeet
Sunrise over Mattamuskeet

We also strategized a game plan for the upcoming year. What this means is that we have our largest crew with more exposure than ever before. So back to my question of how does this effect you. If you are seeking land or have property that you are interested in selling, now is the time contact a land specialists with our team. This year, give us a call and bless us with the chance to serve you. As our COO would say, “Work with the crew that loves what they do!”

 

Andrew Walters

Small Tract Yields Huge Results

Taken in Edgecombe County
Taken in Edgecombe County. Jawbone wear estimates suggest the buck was 3.5 years old.

I checked my trail cameras on October 26th to find out a buck I had been following had not only appeared back on my hunting property, but had spent a substantial amount in a soybean field bordering a fallow field. I reviewed the photos for what seemed like hours in order to determine the best type of approach to harvest him.

I had left this hunting tract undisturbed, other than a few trail cameras. I had decided that Tuesday afternoon, if my schedule allowed, I would quickly erect a stand along the edge of the soybeans. I did exactly that…in the rain. I let the stand sit idle for a day and planned to hunt it Thursday, since the wind was predicted to be perfect.

Thursday evening I spotted one doe that spent the majority of the evening out in the field browsing. She walked to the edge of the fallow field and out of the brush, not 10 yards from where I sat, her fawn appeared. Another small spike was also spotted but spent very little time in the open field.

The buck sported 8 points and impressive brow tines over 6 inches long
The buck sported 8 points and impressive brow tines over 6 inches long

With 20 minutes of shooting left remaining, I heard a twig snap roughly 30 yards behind me. I spotted a buck but was unsure if it was the mature buck I wanted to tag. I could tell her was mature, but wanted to make sure he was the buck I was after.  One look through the tulip poplar branches with my binoculars proved he was. He swaggered out of the fallow field into the soybean field and froze. I waited patiently for several minutes, hoping he would walk further out into the field where a broadside shot would be provided. This didn’t happen. The large buck froze just a few yards into the field edge. With legal shooting light fading, and not knowing how long he would stick around, I took a 30 yard shot through a basketball-sized opening in the branches. A neck shot instantly dropped the buck.

To top it off, this buck was taken on a 40 acre hunting tract. The same tract where over the past three years, a turkey hen with an 11 inch beard was taken, along with a gobbler with a 12 inch beard, and two other eight point bucks. One buck was an estimated 5.5 years old according to the jawbone wear. There have also been a few does harvested off that property.

A trail camera photo taken days before he was harvested
A trail camera photo taken days before he was harvested

We would all like to have hundreds of acres to hunt but just because you don’t, doesn’t mean you are at a disadvantage. Thousands of deer are harvested every year off of smaller properties. Don’t overlook these small tracts when searching for land to buy. A smaller tract doesn’t mean smaller results.

Andrew Walters

Yearling Bucks and Deer Management

MFDC7523The buck hobbled behind me at only 20 yards. Despite the wind blowing my scent directly towards him, he stayed on track following the doe. The problem was the doe has long since traveled past me. Roughly 30 minutes earlier. The little buck in tow had an injured right front leg, one spike antler, and was blind in one eye. I had seen the buck a few times and trail camera photos proved he was partially blind due to no reflection from the LED lights. I named him Gimpers.

These days it seems that everyone is out to kill “their” buck and is not satisfied if someone else gets him before they do. That’s not to say that hunters who are happy for another don’t exist. Also, deer management is at an all-time high. While I am an avid member of the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) the main goal is not to grow abnormally large bucks but to protect yearling bucks. By doing this you are positively influencing the age structure of your herd. However, a yearling buck being taken out of your herd will not send your deer management into a tail spin. In most cases, the absence of one or two yearling bucks will hardly be noticed.

Back to the story. My brother was only able to hunt a few times last year so we went together in November and sat along a hedgerow in a ground blind overlooking a picked cotton field planted in winter wheat. Across the field was a CRP field that provided bedding cover. This particular county allowed hunting from the ground. Soon he shot a doe and the trailing process began. We found her piled up not far from where we began. We then circled around to check out the winter wheat field. He spotted a doe and in the last few minutes of legal shooting light, took the shot. That doe, ended up being Gimpers.

Of course, I hated to see Gimpers bite the dust, but it was an honest mistake and one of the most fun hunts I had last year. I refuse to let a harvested yearling buck ruin a good hunting experience with family or friends.

This year, focus on what you can do to increase the hunting productivity of your land and take the necessary steps towards doing so, but don’t let the little things get in the way of a good hunt. Mishaps occur but understand that these things will happen and as long as they are in moderation there will be no lasting effects on your deer herd.

Take a kid hunting if at all possible and enjoy the outdoors with family and friends. That is the true purpose of hunting and enjoying God’s creation.

 

Andrew Walters

The Social Media and Hunting Conundrum

Michael Costa with a mature doe he harvested in Wake County
Michael Costa with a mature doe he harvested in Wake County

This past weekend marked the opening of eastern NC’s deer season for rifles and shotguns. I am a follower of numerous hunting pages on social media and it took only an hour or two after sunrise Saturday for the celebratory deer photos to begin popping up. As you can imagine, it didn’t take long before the comments started and hunters who were once proud of their harvests, were soon being bashed for pulling the trigger on “inferior” bucks. Just a few of the things I saw on the deer hunting social media sites included:

“Would you shoot or pass?”

“Why did you shoot him?”

“You can’t eat antlers!”

“If I saw that deer, I’d kill him!”

“Why did you pass that buck up?”

“You can’t grow big bucks in NC anyway!”

“So, you used a crossbow? I would never do that!”

 

My personal favorites were the backhanded compliments such as:

“Not a bad little buck”

“He’s decent”

“My five year old’s first buck was about that size”

“Congrats! He would have been nice next year…”

 

However, the most disappointing were hunters who harvested deer and took the on the role of undermining their success before others could. These included:

“Not my largest, but I don’t get to hunt much”

“Normally wouldn’t have shot him, but I only hunt a small farm”

“My freezer is empty so I took the shot”

Why would you make up a reason to harvest a deer or try to justify your decision? You saw a deer, got excited, then you shot it. No explanation is needed whatsoever. As long as it is legal and ethical, you have no one to answer to. You harvested a whitetail deer, which is no easy feat. Not to mention you took the life of one of God’s creatures. Honor that animal and be proud of it. No matter what.

One hunter even got bashed for proposing that hunters place the deer’s tongue back in its mouth and take photos with as little blood showing as possible. I agree with this, by the way. In other words, everyone who posted a photo opened themselves up to being insulted for doing what others most likely would have done if given half a chance. Unfortunately, hunters love to talk about banding together, but a touch of jealously can send a photo of a proud hunter into a whirlwind of insults from their fellow hunters who wished them luck just the week before.

This year, think before you post a photo of your deer on social media. Some sort of comments are likely to be made. This is especially true if it is on a public forum with thousands of members. I once received three death threats for shooting an albino buck when the photos were published on the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s Facebook page. From that moment on, I have avoided posting deer photos to these social media pages. Your hunt needs to be remembered how you experienced it. Don’t let someone who is jealous or foolish ruin it for you. Besides, my bucks look much better on my trophy wall than a Facebook wall.

 

Andrew Walters