I find it amazing to have December weather with highs in the 70s and lows in the mid-50s! Apparently the deer are as shocked as those of us that spend most of our time in the outdoors. Daylight deer movement has slowed to a crawl with this recent weather pattern. Deer have pretty much gone nocturnal with the heat of the day. We just saw the official start of winter and the spring weather continues. I am hopeful for more seasonal temperatures soon and that deer movement increases, providing better hunting during the last weeks of Georgia’s deer hunting season, which ends Jan. 10.
Prior to the heat wave, I was able to harvest my best deer of the season; a solid 8-pointer, and fellow hunting club member Johnny Bell took a great 10-pointer the same week in November.
The positive effect of the warm weather is that trout are loving the warmer water temperatures and are feeding as if it were spring. Several trout fishing trips in the past few weeks have provided a wonderful break from sweating in a tree stand. We have caught and released a lot of trout with several of them trophy size hold overs that had beautiful colors and full white tipped fins. In addition, the wild turkeys have been very active and have been appearing on our trail cameras. It is very exciting to see the growth of mature gobblers we passed up last turkey season. Anticipation could not be higher for spring turkey season due to the long beards with limb hanging spurs we have seen on our cameras.
Georgia turkey season opens March 26, 2016; just a few months away thank goodness. Preparation for turkey season is a lot more enjoyable since “every day is Saturday.”
Mid-November provided some great days to hunt. I was able to harvest a solid 8-point buck on Nov. 12. I was hunting a food plot that was being visited daily by several mature does and a few small bucks. The wind was blowing out of the west around 15-20 miles per hour and set up perfect for my stand location, or so I thought.
No more than 30 minutes into the hunt I had deer come from behind the stand, catch my scent and spook. I have no idea how many there were, but it sounded like a stampede of wild horses! I was very disappointed and thought that my afternoon hunt was ruined. Suddenly, the wind laid down to a light breeze and I thought to myself, “now the wind lays!”
I saw some deer coming to the field from the west and saw that there was an 8-pointer chasing does onto the field. He spent the next 30 minutes chasing them around the field, and I was trying to decide whether or not to take a shot at him. He was a solid 8-pointer with nice 5 inch brow tines, and I finally decided to shoot him at 120 yards.
I put the crosshairs of my Browning A-Bolt on his shoulder and squeezed the trigger; but as the shot went off I realized I had flinched and shot low. The buck turned and ran off and I thought I had missed the shot. I was sick that I had taken a good shot but just blew it. I sat in the stand for another hour and decided to get down before dark and look for any sign that I might have hit him. I found no sign that I had hit him and it was a very long drive home that night followed by a restless night’s sleep.
The next morning, I got a text message from my son Josh that Johnny Bell, a member of our hunting club, had found a deer on his way to his stand which was more than a half mile from where I had shot. He had sent a text picture of him and sure enough it was the deer I had shot a day earlier. I had shot him low in the shoulder and he had traveled a long way before he dropped. I was relieved that my buck had been found and Johnny was going to retrieve it for me to pick up the next day.
We picked him up the next morning and my grandson Jackson said “Papa, that is a nice deer, but not nearly as big as my two bucks this year,” and grinned. He was correct, but I was so thankful to hold the rack of the deer I thought I had missed. I am going to get a European skull mount showing off the chocolate colored antlers which will be a great addition for my trophy room.
Johnny Bell is one of those club members that every hunting club needs. He is always willing to help other members and does more than his share of the work to maintain great hunting opportunities for everyone. It was only fitting that Johnny harvested a great 10-pointer that scored in the 140s on Nov. 15. We had trail camera pictures of his deer for the past three years and had named him Dracula since we had pictures of him predominantly at night. Congratulations to Johnny and thanks to him for all the work he does for the club.
Trout fishing has been great during this spring weather. Trout are very active with the warmer water temperatures whether using live bait, lures or flies. We are catching and releasing trout as if it were spring, which is extremely unusual for December. Several trout have weighed in excess of 5 pounds with a couple that weighed 8 plus pounds. The colors of trout this time of year are brilliant as they have enjoyed a wet fall providing an abundance of natural food made available with the rainfall. My granddaughter Taylor is eager to start fishing with her brother Jackson if she can find time to go between her gymnastics meets and basketball practices. Jackson has been catching 20 plus trout on each trip and Taylor is anxious to catch up with him. What a great way to spend an afternoon with your family.
Turkey season is just around the corner and it is time to start looking at travel patterns in preparation for opening day. Georgia has a special opportunity turkey season for youth 16 and under on March 19-20, 2016, before the regular season opens on March 26. This is a great time to take kids turkey hunting and introduce them to the breathtaking gobble of a wild turkey.
According to our trail cameras, we have a great opportunity to hunt some tremendous gobblers this spring. Food plots that were prepared for deer this fall will provide a great place to hunt turkey this spring. I usually try to top sow wheat and fertilize this time of the year to help promote growth of the greens, wheat and oats planted earlier on our food plots.
Spring like weather, record setting high temperatures, trout hitting top water flies, and wild turkeys gobbling are all natural occurrences but not in December. Get outside between showers and enjoy these outdoor blessings with family and friends this Christmas. ‘Every day is Saturday.’
Russell Vandiver, recently retired as president of Lanier Technical College, has been an avid fisherman and hunter for 50 years. His column appears monthly.