When we reached the refuge it was already very hot and humid. Except for crazy bow hunters mid-August is not the time to be hiking and scouting. As we drove through the refuge to our scouting locations we noticed there were no other people in the refuge. I wondered in silence if that put Douglas and I at the top of the crazy bow hunter heap. Our first hike was into the Suwannee River floodplain to a small hammock. It's less a mile off the road but there is no marked trail to get there and you have to walk through the swamp and across a small creek to reach it. Once there the reward is a hammock of approximately 20 or 30 acres with mature oaks and lots of privacy.
We spent about 20 minutes in one small area of the hammock, close to the edge we entered. We set up a game camera and a GPS marked a good tree stand location then left. I don't like to spend too much time in places I intend to hunt especially within a month of the season opening.
The only excitement was an encounter Douglas had was when he saw and nearly stepped on a small rattlesnake then five or 10 minutes later he did step on the same small rattlesnake. I was about 20 or 30 feet in front of Douglas when I heard the unmistakable and very unmanly sound that he makes when startled by a snake. It is usually coupled with an equally unmanly flailing of arms and legs that is hard to describe. If you've ever seen a drunk person trying to fight or dance, you're understanding what I'm describing.
After hiking back out and making it to the truck we were wet with sweat and it was very hot under the midday sun. We drank some more water ate a granola bar and drove to our next scouting location. With the air-conditioning running at full blast, it was a pleasant 15 minute ride further into the refuge. At our next hunting area we went through the same scouting routine and located a good ambush area. The area we located was a narrow place in a hammock formed by two ponds. The ponds created a natural funnel of about 50 yards wide and there was a clear game trail with evidence of buck rubs from previous seasons. The game trail also ran somewhat east to west making ideal setup locations to take advantage of the northerly breezes typical during hunting season.
It is worth noting that no matter how dependable the wind direction may seem it often changes. Especially during archery season when the winds can turn around as the day warms, etc. The only way to mitigate variable winds is to use a climbing tree stand and climb as high as reasonable. Tree stands are a hot topic that we will discuss in greater depth in a later post. And remember on public lands there are restrictions on the installation and removal of semi-permanent tree stands making climbing tree stands more attractive, we think. Another benefit of climbing tree stands is portability. If conditions change or someone else is hunting in “your” area you can easily move on to another. A decent climbing tree stand with a comfortable safety harness is the single most important item of gear after your bow. I can’t count the number of deer and hogs that have walked right under my climber upwind and downwind with no knowledge I was above them.