What happens when hurricane force winds and rain impact the entire State the week before Archery Season in Florida's Zone C opens?
What happens is you prepare, recover and go archery hunting the following weekend!
Fortunately the damage to my home and fellow archers I hunt with was minimal and although many of us will be cleaning up and repairing minor damage for some time, some us put down our chainsaws and went into the woods to hunt opening weekend.
What we found was a a lot of blown down trees and lots and lots of water.
It was also hot and the WMA I hunted was not very productive (only a few deer and hogs killed opening weekend).
It should be noted that the State and Federal Lands managers and staff are performing a great job in assessing, and clearing roads to re-open public lands as fast as possible and keep in mind this is being done often without adequate staffing.
Opening season lessons learned:
Hurricane Irma has departed but will archery season in Florida open this weekend? What will FWC do or not do?
My son Gabe and I closing the storm shutters on September 9th in preparation of Hurricane Irma.
September 12th, cutting up one of a. number of large pines that fell in the Cedar Key house yard after hurricane Irma came through.
Here is a very large Oak that fell at Gabe's house during the height of the storm....fortunately falling away from the house.
With archery season opening in the Nature Coast /North Central Florida this weekend after hurricane Irma came through less than a week ago and some areas rivers still rising, how, and where can archers hunt this weekend, the opening weekend of archery season????
the FWC website has a long, long list of closed Wildlife Management Areas due to hurricane Irma and as of today, the one I want to hunt Saturday is closed with no indiction of when it will open or how and when it will be determined......might be a nice idea for the FWC to let us know a little more about who, where, and how those decisions are made.
I went and looked for myself at one of the WMA's this evening and apart from the locked gates, there is no reason I can see to keep it closed this weekend. Even if there are some places where roads or trails are blocked with fallen trees, or impassible with water there is clearly lots of areas that are not and plenty of walk in areas available.
I drove by and the check station and three parking areas I saw had no standing water and it's just two days after Irma passed. I wonder if FWC will reach out to the local folks to understand the actual conditions or perhaps even ask them for help in clearing roads and trails? The hunters I know would be glad to pitch in. Many of us have been clearing debris from WMA trails and roads for years because that is one of the small things that stewardship and giving back means. One last soap box observation: There is now a large and growing disconnect between government on many levels and those of us that access public lands. I hear and sense that there is also a growing distrust in how the government (government on all levels, local, state and federal) manages public lands. I don't see it as a distrust of the people we see and know that are on the ground, working in the WMA's, struggling to ensure the public has access to quality wild places, these are some of the finest people I know. I see the distrust being placed, rightfully so, at the highest levels of the State and Federal government leadership, or lack there of. There needs to be a significant effort made by all of us to engage before the divide gets any larger.
In closing, I'd like to ask you to consider supporting a group I think is important in the effort to keep public lands open: Back Country Hunters and Anglers. Check them out here: http://www.backcountryhunters.org
The last weekend of August was typical, hot, humid, with a fair assortment of biting bugs. Max, a traditional bow hunter from Italy and I set out to scout a Archery Only Area in the Lower Suwannee NWR and a couple favorite areas. We only saw one deer and one turkey but we learned a good deal and found the evidence we needed to choose what may be good set ups. One of the pleasures and difficulties with hunting public lands is the understanding the changing habitat, food sources, finding out of the way places that may not receive hunting pressure and challenging yourself to find new areas as well as go back to favorites. It is not for the lazy, some would say it's for the crazy.
Plenty of hog sign in the usual places and game camera photos confirm there is no shortage of them. Can we kill them with our bows, that is another story. Last year, I shot two hogs with pass through shots, decent blood trails....at first, then no luck recovering them. This year I may simply have exercise more patience and wait for that quartering away shot, not easy in the thick woods and swamp on moving hogs.
The photo above is of an old logging trail that was bone dry in the Spring and now has a foot or more of water running over it in places. The wet weather has redefined many edges along creeks and hammocks. Personally, I prefer the swamps to be full, as the edges along hammocks, hills and other natural features are more heavily used by deer and hogs.
Max and I also took stock of the acorn growth. In the areas we checked, it looks like acorn production will be light this year. Light or heavy, on public land, as the acorns fall, the deer and hogs will find them.
Scouting Gear Used:
"The mountains, the forest, and the sea, render men savage; the develop the fierce, but yet do not destroy the human." - Victor Hugo
Just when I was thinking the drought would continue into hunting season here on Florida Nature Coast, it started raining, really raining. The mosquitoes, gators, snakes and frogs are having a big time. And I'm wishing my snake boots were waterproof. To scout in hot, humid, wet, buggy conditions is the perfect balance of physical and mental punishment. I also like that there have likely not been anyone in the areas I'm scouting since last hunting season, if then. And there is no substitute for being able to find your routes in an out and good trees to climb before you need them. Trees fall blocking routes, trails become overgrown or close completely, new trails open, etc. And I never see any other hunters scouting, yes, only proving their superior intelligence. But perhaps also putting them at a disadvantage come hunting season.
Some of my favorite refuges now have standing water in all the places I like to hunt. But after the sweat and bugs if you were fortunate to put a camera in good spot it can all become worthwhile when your photos reveal some nice deer and hogs.
It's time to have cameras out and put t yourself through the misery of 90+ degree heat, bugs, etc. You can see from the photo above the at 7PM it was still 87 degrees. But more importantly the deer are growing rapidly and the three young bucks in the photo are going well and finding plenty of browse.
We have been seeing fawns staying close to the does as well.
Finally, we are getting enough rain to green the woods up and make the mosquitos and yellow flies happy! The open hammock above is typical of an area I would scout and hunt.
It was way too warm, the deer were not moving until after dark. However on the third day of our four day quota hunt it was bit cooler, and overcast raising our hopes a little. Hoginator and I thought that hunting the pinch point that I found the year before was the best course of action. We pulled out of our campsite about 4:15 AM and headed to the Panacea Unit of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.
We hiked with our climbers and packs, taking a path around the oak ridge in the hope of not laying down our scent where it might spook the deer. Upon reaching the 50 yard wide pinch point where two large swaps nearly touch, we decided that Hoginator would set up in the pinch point and I would go through and set up a short distance around the corner and call as well as glass the couple hundred acres in open pine and palmetto where I hoped to see and pattern deer.
About every 30 minutes or so I would bleat followed by a short sequence of non-agrresive grunts. Not long after 8 am an 8 pointer came down through the adjacent oak ridge and headed down towards the pinch point.
He came into the draw as if he was a fish being reeled in and started to take a short cut through the edge of the swamp directly for my tree when he paused for a moment and Hoginator took the quartering away shot. The arrow hit exactly where it was needed and cutting through vitals and lodging in the bucks front shoulder making for a quick clean kill.
The last day's AM hunt didn't produce any deer but we were rewarded with a Black Bear sow and cubs coming through the funnel...see the video below.
What makes a great Archery Shop?...go to Alachua Farm and Lumber in Alachua Florida and see Terry to find out.
After a recent easy shot I took at a doe but missed @#$%!? and a session at the range where my groups were not consistent and with too many "flyers"...even for my middle ages eyes, I realized that my Mathews bow needed adjusting. I hadn't had it to the shop since being restrung more than a year ago and I had been shooting a good deal.
As soon as I opened the door and entered Alachua Farm and Lumber and when I could see Terry behind the archery counter, I knew there was hope left in the world.
I had emailed Mathews website support some photos and a narrative the day before and showed Terry their response. Terry looked it over, frowned and made a huffing noise that sounded like a combination of a deer snort and human sigh. He then put the bow in his vice and in a very short time had made the adjustments. While doing so he examined my fall away arrow rest and said bring in your arrows. I thought he wanted me to shoot to make final adjustments but instead he examined the fletchings and then showed me another issue I was having. Two faint lines on some of the fletchings indicated that my fall away rest was not staying in the down position but instead was at least some of the time "jumping" back up and making contact with the fletchings!!!! YIKES! Now I was the one snorting and wheezing like a buck sensing trouble. That, may have been the reason my arrow went under that doe!
After replacing my arrow rest we went into the indoor range and took turns shooting while Terry made some final adjustments. I immediately was shooting more accurate and tighter groups!
So thank you Terry and Alachua Farm and Lumber, for your expertise and all around good nature. If your in North / Central Florida stop in and deal with them or go to their website.
Ok, with only one doe down and one un-recovered hog so far, yes, the early part of archery season has not been very successful. In fact it's been challenging. The very hot weather, hurricanes, resulting high water, mosquitoes of biblical proportion, etc., have not helped. The good news, its the second week in October and the weather is starting to turn.
I'll get right to the lessons learned:
The intense heat, wet, mosquitoes of July and August didn’t let up when September arrived. It actually became worse with the arrival of Hurricane Hermine for Labor Day weekend. I made the commitment to keep up a regular regiment of scouting and it paid off with some great sightings of quality bucks, but would we be able to kill one? On opening day Douglas aka Hoginator, John aka Deadeye and I set off to our chosen areas on the first day of Devils Hammock WMA Quota Hunt. Always wanting my companions to be in the best locations I chose a tree for Hoginator that overlooked a trail/cutover lane and two pinch points within bow range. We put John, aka Deadeye on an attractive edge and near a trail that led to a bedding area. I went to a small hammock about a ¼ mile from the others closer on the edge of the river bottom.
We had all climbed our trees and were in place with about an hour before there was enough light to shoot. Unfortunately, my hunt was disturbed before it even started by a hunter walking in late to an area too close to my set up. Public land hunting is difficult enough with our having to contend with hunters that don’t consider others, sleep in or generally not prepared.
Fast forward to mid-morning. Douglas had killed a small doe; the first kill of the quota hunt. Deadeye had seen a large deer pass by early when it was too dark to shoot and I saw no deer.
We did get in a few more hunts but the bucks never materialized. Was it the full moon, the fact that that moon was full, hunter pressure???
Not long after the Devils Hammock closed another one of our favorite refuges, the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge opened. It was still hot, wet and generally miserable but Max and I trekked in to one of my favorite hammocks. Following an old logging tram trail we picked our way around the blowdown from the recent hurricane. I left Max to set up in a quality location and I pushed in another ¼ mile or so, wondering why I carrying 55 pounds of gear (25 lb. climber and a 30 lb. pack and bow).
The hammocks in the Suwannee River basin often have dense tree canopy with a mix of live oaks, palms, pines, and smaller understory trees. The sunrise comes slower and later in these areas and on moonless nights you can’t see your hand in front of your face before first light. I prefer the dark nights for walking and getting set up. It was one of those nights as I climbed about 25’ up in a palm tree about 30 yards off a game trail and overlooking a hammock with oaks and grasses surrounded on three sides by swamp and a tram trail that formed the fourth edge. There is no guarantee that the deer and hogs will follow edges, they have no hesitation to going right through a swamp, even swimming when they want to but they also and often follow the natural and man-made edges. Additionally, those edges often provide longer view and shot windows.
Mid-morning, I heard then saw a large hog come into the hammock. I quickly put my range finder crosshairs on him and at 30 yards he was in right in my 20 to 40-yard favorite kill zone. He was stopped and broadside when I put my 30-yard pin on the edge of his shoulder, wanting to miss the shoulder plate but perhaps get close to or even hit some lung. The preferred shot on wild hog is a quartering away shot, but that wasn’t going to happen.
The arrow struck with that solid sound you hope for, not a hollow gut shot sound, nor a sharper bone only sound that can sound like you shot a piece of plywood. The impact made the hog turn 180 degrees and take off running. I didn’t see the arrow and assumed it was a pass through. I hunted another hour then texted Max with a plan to meet up and track the hog.
When we made it to the location where the hog was hit, I expected to see the arrow. No arrow, no blood, what the f!@#. Fortunately, the blood trail started less than 20 yards away and within a 100 yards we came across the arrow, the entire shaft and vanes covered in rich red blood and the tip of the Magnus Buzzcut broadhead very slightly bent…bone I suspected. The arrow must have made it at least part of the way through the hog and he either pulled it out or it worked it’s self though while he was running. Now the blood trail was easy to follow and we were convinced that it was a solid lung shot and we would find him dead. After approximately a ¼ mile the hog entered a swamp with water deep enough that we lost the trail. Max and I worked the area kept moving out further and further from the swamp hoping that the hog decided to get back to dryer ground. Max fell into a hole in the swamp, over topping his tall boots and against my recommendation, continued into the deeper areas and areas with very thick reeds. I warned him that gators like those reeds and I had no desire to recover the hog and Max’s body; at least not in the same day.
After a long and thorough search, we determined that the hog kept going deeper into the swamp and not finding any further blood trail we reluctantly called off the search, made our way back to the trail, packed up our gear and headed out, disappointed.
This is how it goes at times hunting public lands where there is always lots of territory you have never seen before. There are also many rewards to exploring and hunting new areas, especially well off trail where few venture.
Here are a couple images to serve as a refresher on where to place you arrow / bullet.
Having a rangefinder that you can set to compute the calculations for you makes it very easy.
The illustration below is of a Leupold Range finder that has the True Ballistic Range feature. There are a number of manufacturers that offer this feature.
The rangefinder in the illustration below is set for older bows with draw weights below 50 pounds. The deer is 40 yards away (Line of Sight), at a 40 degree angle from the archer. The range finder has calculated that effective range is 34 yards.
So what did we do before all these fancy rangefinders? What I did was the old fashioned, pick my tree stand location and pace off a two or three trees as distance guides, climb up the desired height and estimated where my sight pin would need to be based upon previous experience. For longer distance rifle shots, we would estimate ranges based upon experience and take the shot. In other words practice and experience is key. Spending time on the archery and rifle range is also key. Technology may not always be there for you.