Swamp Sense

NC swampThis past weekend I made a quick scouting trip to the back side of my hunting property. I had a general idea of where I was going and what I wanted to do. To say that my recent hunts have been uneventful would be an understatement. The deer sightings were down, as expected during the late season. While many hunters were pursuing waterfowl or hunting other game, I knew an evening spent overlooking a swamp could produce the results I was looking for.

This particular swamp hadn’t experienced any hunting pressure this year so a couple of days after scouting, I slipped back into the edge of the swamp and sat down in a makeshift ground blind. The hunt resulted in a great young buck sighting but due to his age, no shot was fired. Coupling that with the other wildlife activity I observed, I was very pleased with how wildlife flocked to the swamp.
[pullquote3 quotes=”true” align=”left”]Unlike marshes, which lack timber or woody debris, swamps are a dynamic ecosystem comprised of many types of vegetation that contribute to the wildlife’s use of that particular swamp.[/pullquote3]
The living and dead trees, aquatic vegetation, and the water flow are all components that are factored into the success of a swamp from a wildlife standpoint. While most hunters prefer to hunt stands of timber and open agricultural land, many hunters understand the benefits of having swamps on their property. While usually not as valuable per acre as woodland or crop land, some hunters seek out flooded timber for hunting. Others may already own land with a swamp situated on it but are unsure of managing it. Regardless, there are many benefits of having a swamp located on your property.

As my observations of my recent hunt can attest, swamps are used by a variety of wildlife. While most hunters associate swamps with waterfowl hunting, there are many more wildlife species that use these flooded areas. Black bears, especially in eastern North Carolina, gravitate toward swamps for feeding and denning. Whitetails are known to be edge species and commonly use areas where two different types of cover meet. The edge of a swamp is no exception and scrapes and rubs on the perimeter are a great indicator of such usage. Of course, waterfowl utilize swamps for foraging and nesting also.

Wildlife habitat management has taken off in the past few years, resulting in more properties implementing habitat management plans in order to increase the wildlife value of their land. What many people may not know is that swamps can be managed just like other types of habitat. They provide sanctuaries, forage, water, nesting, and denning sites for a plethora of wildlife.
If you had a tough time seeing deer this season, prepare for next year by seeking out the nearest swamp and see how the hunting goes. It may give you the edge that you need to fill a few deer tags or reach your waterfowl limit. Also, if you are interested in managing or finding swamp land for hunting, contact me. In my upcoming blog entries, I will outline a few standard management techniques that can be applied to increasing the productivity of swamps for multiple wildlife species.

Andrew Walters

Mossy Oak Properties teams with CTO and Friends for a Father/Son Hunt!

Mossy Oak Properties teams with CTO and Friends for a Father/Son HuntToo many times, we “modern day” men give way to our work, our personal achievement objectives, and every other distraction that can pull us away from the most important things in our lives. I’m talking about our relationship with God and Family and the time we get to spend with both! One thing I feel very fortunate to witness is how those things mean more to the men who cherish the outdoors.

There is an unwritten code amongst sportsman to value that connection between the land and your heart. We see the time afield as an opportunity to check in with our creator and be grateful for all our blessings, and if we get to spend that time with our children…well it just doesn’t get any better than that. I love going to the woods with my son Ryan, he loves going plinking, goofing around in camp, but most importantly, he likes to spend time with me. He could care less who I am out in the world, how much money I make, my social standing, none of that matters to him. It’s all about being with his Dad, the time together and being in the moment with him, un-distracted.

When was the last time you told your child how much you love them, put your hands on their face and looked into their eyes and told them why they are so important to you? Try it sometime, the toughest guys I know tear up at the notion. God loves us like that too, and it’s easy to pull away from that relationship when we are so busy trying to be something out in the world.

This past week I was blessed to host a Father / Son hunt with my good friends Mike Johnson and Josh East from Cross Trail Outfitters (http://www.teamcto.org/club/north-carolina). We were able to spend two days and nights with our son’s, hunt some beautiful land and stay at one of our favorite lodge locations in North Carolina. I’d tell you where it is but it’s a secret. Better than all that though, we had the chance to connect with our Father too. This is the season to celebrate the birth of the most important child ever to bless this Earth. Take some time this Holiday, and remember that “He is the Reason for the Season”.

Congratulations to Eli Horning of Manteo, who while sitting with his Father Todd took this beautiful 8 point buck!

If you have the chance, please take a kid with you into the woods this Holiday, they’ll love you for it. From all of us at Mossy Oak Properties / Harrell and Associates, Merry Christmas!

A Father’s Joy, A Boy’s Rite of Passage

Aaron McKee, age 15, December 4, 2012 - Halifax County, NCThese are the stories I love to tell. Last week, I was entertaining clients at a favorite hunting location in Halifax County, NC. We hunted hard, only taking breaks for about an hour to grab a quick bite, swap stands, and head back out to the field. The hunting was tough! It’s hard to sit all day, seeing nothing, especially if you are a young hunter!

Early in the week we had a nice 8 pointer shot, but the regular hot spots went cold in a hurry. We had a young man in camp who had never shot a deer, he was set out on stand all by himself for huge blocks of time, that’s tough for even the most seasoned hunters. A few deer here and few deer there, but nothing at all for our young hunter.

The weather was unseasonably warm, mid 70’s in December, too bad some of the scent spray’s we use don’t double as sun tan lotion. As it usually goes, the last hour of the last day, it happens. The boy was put out at a great location near a bedding area, a great stand with a pretty good sized open area immediately in front of the set. I’m in a bow stand about a quarter mile away, praying that the good Lord will smile on one of our guests, the sun had just gone down when I hear it. BOOM! … I looked to sky and said “please God let that be Aaron”, immediately the phone in my pocket goes MMMMM .. MMMMM and I knew was had just happened. The text read “I got a deer” and with my fist clenched I’m arm pumping like I just shot Bullwinkle. I fired back, “I’m headed to you” I don’t know if I could have got to my truck fast enough. When I arrived the doe wasn’t 15 steps from the stand. I’m telling you, she was out in the wide open, and with a load of double 00 buckshot in her, she stayed where she laid.

You know, when I see that, and know how many people were praying that this young man would have that opportunity, it was glaringly evident to me that God had hand delivered that deer to him. His smile lit the path and we loaded the deer in the truck and headed to pick up his Dad who was just as excited. I was told later, the young man had used the same gun that his Dad had shot his first deer with, how cool is that? Do you remember your first deer? Who were you with? Your Dad, your Grandpa, Your Buddies? It is an event in a young person’s life they will never forget, a rite of passage. The celebration back at camp went on for hours, tales of the hunt over dinner, dressing out the deer on the rack and of course, the “war paint” pictures to be plastered over every social network known to man!

I know I say it a lot, but please remember to take a kid hunting or fishing, they’ll love you for it and who knows they may want to pass it on to their kids one day! God Bless you and you family this Holiday Season.

Just like Dad used to say – Hard Work Always Pays Off!

Trent Shoun with a fantastic 9 point buck taken in Hyde County, NC, November 2012I was fortunate to grow up with a Dad you loved baseball. He used to take me down to the old Crosley Field in Cincinnati, Ohio, my hometown. We would go and watch who would become the legends of the game “The Big Red Machine”. Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Dave Concepcion, George Foster, Ken Griffey, and Cesar Geronimo. My dad would always say to me “watch these guys, watch how they hustle, see how they run on and off the field, son if you want to be a winner you have to work harder than the next guy”. I never forgot that…I was never the smartest, or the fastest, but I knew if I tried hard, I could out work and out hustle anybody.

That’s why when I see real effort and enthusiasm in any field of endeavor I really appreciate it. Last Spring I started working with a couple of guys who were looking at some property in western Hyde County, Trent Shoun and his father in law, Woody Bower. They traveled a pretty good bit just to get there, one coming from outside Charlotte, and other from South Carolina. We were looking at a couple of wooded tracts with mixed pines that in some sections were thicker than a jar of chunky peanut butter but showed promise with other sections having taller trees with open understory’s near some waterfront marshlands. One thing was for sure… these tracts were a real bargain, and were loaded with deer, but man they needed some elbow grease.

We cruised all the available properties that day and I think with every breath we sucked in about a half dozen mosquitoes, these guys were some real troopers. Well the next trip they brought the families, Mom, the sisters, the brothers and the babies, all dressed up in their best decorative rubber boots. Again we covered some serious ground, managed to escape injury and the looming thunderstorms that appeared later in the day. They liked what they saw, we struck a deal and these chaps rolled up their sleeves and went to work.

Over the next six months every time I would show a another tract in Broad Creek something new had been done or added. They mowed, they chopped, they cut trails, and built a couple small condo’s they called a deer stands. This place had been done right, and just like my dad used to tell me “if you want to be a winner you have to work harder than the next guy” and Trent and Woody did just that. Last week after only being on stand for 10 minutes this big daddy pictured above stepped out in front of Trent and his brother in law who was just learning to hunt and who now is spoiled beyond repair. A few minutes, one well placed shot, and those countless hours of toil and sweet surrendered the prize of a lifetime. Trent and I talked on the phone about it and he told me pointedly he had never even seen, much less ever shot a deer of that size in his life.

That stuff does my heart good, I really like seeing folks find a piece of dirt, get it right and reap the rewards. Congratulations to Trent and Woody for a job well done!

We all can impact the young ones of the world, so don’t forget to bring a kid into the field with you this winter, they’ll love you for it!

Small Tract, Big Results!

Kim Parker with her first Buck! A Bertie County bruiser taken from her very own 10 acre hunting tract in Merry Hill, NCWe have a great story for you this week! It’s been said, Quality is better than Quantity… and nothing could be more true for a pair of our favorite clients!

Shane and Kim Parker wanted to have their own little piece of dirt, they didn’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend and they didn’t have the time or equipment to manage a large tract of land. They wanted something small, close to home, that they could enjoy together. Luckily we had just what the doctor ordered. Located in Merry Hill, NC was 10 acres of mixed woods land sandwiched between a large tract of managed timber and several fields of cropland.

The only access was a narrow farm path used through the centuries by the local farmers who tended the land. Shane and Kim closed on the property last winter after the season was out and over the months leading into the spring and summer began to get it right. Trail cameras and mineral licks were starting to show signs of a nice buck cruising the block. Shane had a few chances at a nice Turkey during the spring season, but wasn’t able to close the deal. Not the case when the NC Bow Opener rolled around on Saturday September 8th. Shane was fortunate to bag a nice doe on opening day but the best was yet to come. The next morning, hunting from a ground blind, Kim was up to bat. The pair had been watching a nice buck evolve on camera, first in velvet, then to shed, and now completely chocolate. It was around 6 am and very cool for the early season, the couple was on stand only about 30 minutes when in from the left of the blind walks the prize. They thought he was a nine pointer all summer long only to see he had a nice kicker off his brow tine that bumped him to a ten spot. He cruised right into the set, stopped at the salt lick, now just 15 yards from the blind, turned just right, took a step and presented Kim with a perfect broadside shot. WHACK! she closed the deal with a double lung shot, the Bertie County Bruiser only went forty yards and piled up. Now that’s the juice!

Nothing beats seeing a young couple, passionate about working their own piece of dirt, and getting the pay off by sharing a hunt that bags a young lady’s first Buck!. It’s true, dynamite does come in small packages!

Take the time to get in the woods this fall and enjoy God’s great creation and don’t forget to take someone special with you, they’ll love you for it!

Tree Time is Drawing Near! Here are the top 5 things you need to be doing to get ready!

The buck shows promise, already outside his ears in early August means I'll be looking for him in mid September! The buck shows promise, already outside his ears in early August means I’ll be looking for him in mid September!The North Carolina Bow Season opener is just 5 weeks away!

Unbelievable, how the summer flies by, what are you doing to get ready for the upcoming season? Here is a list of the top 5 things we think will help you have success in the field this fall.

  1. Set Up Trail Cameras – Trail cameras should be out getting a good inventory of those up and coming velvet monsters. Mossy Oak’s Bio-Rock is the perfect tool to get them coming to the show. I put out three cameras in an area I’m interested in, and try to catch them going or coming to food sources or water. If I don’t see what I want I move to another spot. It doesn’t make sense to sit in a stand where there is no activity, find where they are moving to and from and set up to ambush.
  2. Scout – Early season scouting is essential, but be careful not to go in too deep, you don’t want to bump that big boy before he gets his game on. Many practitioners of QDMA will tell you to stay on your property’s perimeter early on as not to apply undue pressure. I like finding the watering holes, it’s still hot in September and the deer are going to be moving to water. The brush and understory are thick too so be sure to spray everything down with scent eliminator before venturing into the bush.
  3. Practice, Practice, Practice! – Oh yeah, and one more thing, Practice! Backyard bow sessions should continue till making that 30 yard shot is routine. I like setting a tree stand up in my back yard and shooting at 20, 30 and 40 yard distances from an elevated position. In the early season unless you are on a green field you aren’t going to be making any shot that requires a ballistic calculator anyway. Train to get in close and put em down.
  4. Food Plots – Late summer and early fall is the time to get those food sources in the ground, do you have a plan? Check out Mossy Oak’s Biologic’s planting guide (http://www.plantbiologic.com/plantingguide.aspx) it can tell you the best recommendations for your region of the country, the time of year you will be planting, and whether you choose and Annual or Perennial blend. Its always a good idea to look at your weather forecast, if you can time it right, you can get your seed in the ground before an upcoming rain event!
  5. Plan to Play the Wind – Set your treestands up for the early season prevailing winds. Here in eastern NC early season winds usually come out of the southwest and southeast, I try to keep that in mind when I’m setting my bow stand location. Think about your approach as well, cut yourself a path to the stand that plays the wind, I also like getting all those little snappy twigs and branches out of the way, silence is deadly. Like any worthwhile endeavor, thoughtful preparation is key to success, get out and get ready!

Most importantly, take the time to bring a kid in the field with you this summer and teach him or her the practice of good woodsmanship, they’ll love you for it.

Big is not always best!

The joy a youngster experiences out hunting with his Dad!

Shooting the “Big Buck” is not always the most important thing. Pictured here is Sonny Albarty after taking this nice three pointer off a section of a club in Bertie County, NC designated as a “kids zone”, where regular management rules do not apply. Out of the almost 5000 acres this particular club enjoys, this area is only 100 acres in size, and is sequestered from the rest of the club. You can tell by the smile on Sonny’s face that decision was right on time. Notice the size of this deer! Not exactly what you would expect for a three point spike in Bertie County, NC. Actually this was a perfect management buck as this deer was aged at 2 1/2 and needed to culled from the herd. Management clubs are important and good rules regarding size and age of the bucks taken is essential to developing a quality herd. Having designated areas like this in those clubs are important for “member management.” Tell me this rascal isn’t gonna want to be hunting with dad again real soon! Sometimes the joy of the hunt is all that matters and spending time with your kid outdoors is just that… Joyful!

Send us your stories of the hunt to info@nclandandfarms.com.

The deer are starting to move!

The rut is on and the big bucks are starting to show up on camera and on stand!

Boy have we been waiting for this? All season long here in Eastern NC the word in the woods has been “where are the deer?” Hunt the acorns, they are in the cotton, hunt the fields they are on the acorns. Mornings are slow, it’s too hot, they are still nocturnal, I saw a hint of horns in the moonlight, it’s the October lull… man I’m ready for the rut. The next three weeks folks it is on, everyone I know is getting serious now, and don’t think the bucks are the only ones experiencing increased testosterone levels! This is the time of year when all the work, the preparations, the scouting, and the practice pay off. Come early and stay late, don’t miss a chance to be on stand, and remember to hunt the middle of the day.

Last year I was hunting an area where a big buck had been seen and was walking back to a ground blind set-up at 2PM, and BAM! Busted! Off he took and all I could think of why wasn’t I here earlier. In November my mind set changes too, does yours? In the early season my expectations are lower, if I see a deer that’s great, if not no big deal, but now, every time I’m in the woods my anticipation is sky high. Who cares if it rains, who cares if the wind blows, who cares if someone hunted there two days ago, it’s the rut and it’s anybody’s game! Hunt hard, hunt safe, but hunt, you can’t shoot the big boy at camp, and you can sleep after New Years.

Share your stories and pictures of “hunting the rut” by emailing us at info@nclandandfarms.com. Thanks and don’t forget to take a kid, they’ll love you for it!

Preserve our Heritage – Take a Kid Hunting and Fishing

The leaves are changing, the weather is getting cooler, the sun is a little lower in the sky, and my spirits are high. I love the fall, its my favorite time of year, football games on Friday nights, hunting camp on Saturday morning.

As a father, I love taking my boy in the outdoors, he’s my good luck charm. We always catch fish together, and we always see deer, he’s my outdoors buddy. My fondest memories were with my Dad, fishing at the ocean, just me and him hangin out, early morning right as the sun was coming up, I felt special. What do think your kid feels when you hold him close in a cold box blind, or almost fall out of the boat from the excitement of them catching a fish. My experience is they are happy when you are happy, and nothing makes me happier than spending time outdoors with my son. I can only hope and pray it sticks with him and he raises his family to cherish that time together.

Take a kid hunting and fishing with you this fall, take time to show them the beauty God has created for us, and most importantly teach them to share it with others.

Getting Ready for Fall

For more information on how you can have great food plots this fall go to www.plantbiologic.com or www.farmingforwildlife.com for the best tips, techniques, and products available.
by Austin Delano
Mossy Oak BioLogic
Field Services Manager

The fall season always seems to take forever to arrive; we anticipate it so much through the hot months that it seems as though fall food plotting and archery season will never come. When it finally does come time to start preparing fields, hanging stands, and fixing up deer camp, we all feel rushed and running behind to get everything accomplished before opening day. Lets look at a few things you can do through the summer months to be a step ahead when the leaves begin to change.

Line up a plan and set some goals for what you want to accomplish on your property. Making a specific plan for each plot and how you plan to use it relative to the rest of your land will help take out the guesswork and wasted time. Decide what you would like to plant in each plot and how you would ideally hunt the area. Planting a certain forage in a field can determine what time of year the deer are going to use that food source and when you should hunt there. For example if you decided to plant Maximum in a plot, which is a blend of kale, rape, and turnips, you wouldn’t want to sit there on the first day of bow season while its still warm out and expect to see much activity. Determine which fields you plan to designate as a nutrition plot vs. an attraction plot. If you are planting an area specifically for hunting and attraction, plant accordingly. Early season stand sites can be set up around food sources with early attractiveness such as wheat, oats, clovers, and chicory, late season hunting stands can be centered around brassicas and other high energy foods such as beans and corn.

Have soil tests done well ahead of any planting plans you have to ensure you have time to make any necessary adjustments. Lime should be worked into fields at least 3-4 months before planting. Get the herbicides and fertilizer that you plan to use lined up and ordered if necessary. This is a wise step to avoid having to wait on rented spreaders or sprayers during the busy planting time. Ideally you want your property to have both annual and perennial plots. This is going to mean planting some warm season crops in areas you have designated for annuals and maintaining clover and chicory through the warm months for your perennial fields. Spraying your perennial clover and chicory plots with grass specific herbicides through the summer will really rid your fields of heavy competition and make for a much thicker and better looking plot. Have your fallow fields burned down with round-up a couple of weeks ahead of planting time. This will make the ground easier to turn since there will be no green vegetation to try to work under. Repeatedly turning the soil also causes moisture loss, moisture that is vital for germinating your planted seeds. Keeping your perennial fields free of weeds through the summer months will pay big dividends. Not only will it look better, but will extend the life of the crop by taking out the weeds that compete for root space, moisture, and fertilizer. Make sure to clean your equipment of weed seeds throughout the summer. Spraying off bushogs, tractors, atv’s, and spraying equipment will help from spreading unwanted weed seeds from plot to plot.

Summer time is also a great time to get the game cameras out and start taking inventory on who is hanging out on your land. There are lots of good places in the warm months to set up cameras to get some great pictures. Watering holes, mineral sites, protein feeders, and trails coming to and from food plots are some ideal locations to place your cameras to see how your herd is coming along through the growing season. Using your cameras for pre-season scouting can help you determine when and how to hunt your food plots. Keep your cameras moving all the time to new locations for catching wary bucks or just a passer by. Cameras can help you find bedding areas, travel corridors, and staging areas that can be very useful for stand placement and hunting strategy.

One of the most exciting things to do to get ready for the fall hunting season is hanging stands. There is a ton of anticipation built up when you know the food sources the deer will be using, have pictures, and put up a stand in just the right spot. Use the long days during the warm months to get your stand locations, shooting lanes, blinds, and ambush sites in place. This will give the deer time to get used to a new stand site and the effects of your intrusion into their woods time to dissipate. Try and draw up a map of the prevailing winds on your property so you will know which locations to hunt under the given conditions. You can also use rakes or bushogs to create silent paths to and from your stands for that stealthy approach. Hopefully some of these tips will save you some time and give you some valuable ideas to work on to be ready when Fall rolls around.