Musical Chairs of the Swamp Property

Part I

Last year marked the 3rd year my father and I could be found trying to capitalize on a mature buck out at the swamp property. It wasn’t like those 3 years have been fruitless endeavors. In 2013 Kicks hit the ground and last year I’d harvest 2 does and witness some awesome movement. Over those three years Pops and I, both have at times seen or had big bucks around us but it just hasn’t come together on one of the true giants out there (no offense to Kicks).


As some of you may remember I was pumped when hanging a brand new stand set in an oak at the base of the northern bedding area last year. It had a very short entrance/exit trail and put us up close to the bedding area which was seeing plenty of use by does and bucks; but one buck in particular [RD] was keeping tabs on the place.

Kicks from 2013, represented a lot in the growth of understanding the Swamp Property. However, if anything it proved just how much we had yet to learn in order to close a chapter on one of the truly mature bucks running around, Kicks was estimated to be 3 1/2 at the oldest.

It was a set up I thought for sure was going to yield at minimum a chance at a good buck, if not on a buck like RD. As I hunted it I noticed a couple things. One was how the deer appeared to be moving through the woods just to my West angled up from the Food Plot/Oak Flat location, which was entirely contrary to their normal movement habits from the spring and summer all the way up till early September.


In the map below you see the black solid line is the path the deer were taking, and the dashed line represented how they were moving in the summer. Now obviously some movements in the hunting season were the dashed lines but the majority of recorded movement followed the solid lines coming from the SE and E. Movement from the SW remained much the same and I did not label the map with that. Red areas are pertinent areas with oak trees for this area. Yellow star is the new stand being described, and the blue with yellow border star is the stand I killed Kicks out of.

At the time I just assumed it was our pressure maybe forcing them to not feel safe…however as I began to analyze the property more with the “what would a deer think” mindset it all began to make sense why they were traveling this way. Acorns…acorns were dropping and the deer while still traveling in the same general direction were bouncing just South and West enough to make the stand a decent one but not a great one.


The second thing I learned about that stand was it was pushing the limit just enough that I never should have hunted it in the afternoons. You see hunting that close to the bedding area (or in it for some of our spots) means having to beat the deer in there…and only leaving if the deer you are after doesn’t show. However, I got greedy with this stand…I tricked myself into thinking that with the short entrance and exit trail I’d be able to quickly and quietly slip up the tree and be fine. However, one such afternoon hunt I would have an awesome encounter with Junior (RD’s offspring) that would confirm this stand was pushing it just a touch too much.


I was getting to the tree with about 4 hours of hunting time left in the day. I had walked at a nice leisurely pace not wanting to slow down or stop till at the tree and even then only for enough time to clip bow to rope and begin ascending. I hadn’t heard a thing in the bedding to my North and the West wind was perfect to keep my scent from slipping up to possible deer bedded down. I reached the stand, clipped my safety harness in and as I hung my backpack up I caught sight of it…an eye.


I still to this day have no clue how back through the oak branches, into the bedding area and past all the willow/grass bedding cover I spotted it but I did. The eye slowly led to me being able to make out the outline of a head and 2 long browtines…I knew instantly it was Junior. He was looking up at me not 50 yards to my North…just watching me. I leaned against the tree and stood there with one eye peeking around the tree watching this awesome young  3 ½ year old buck seemingly doing the same to me. I bet it was only 5 minutes but it felt like 30 before Junior made the first movement. Now he didn’t stand up and run...instead I think the best term to use is he “slinked” away. I watched him as his whole body slowly rose up but what appeared to be only a foot, maybe 2 at most…just high enough to work his legs. From that position he finally turned his eyes from me and “slinked” away never raising his body level higher than he needed to as he slowly disappeared deeper into the grass/willow bedding never to be seen the rest of the hunt.


It was this hunt which confirmed, this stand was in a great area but not the proper tree, at least not for anything but maybe a day or two worth of straight all day sits due to how close you are to the bedding area.


So I hit the “books” and began looking back up every mature buck or daytime movement we had captured on camera over the past 3 years’ worth of trail cam pictures.  From there I looked over and cross referenced all hunting notes and sightings from times spent on stand during the past seasons hoping to figure out the property more than we had previously. That is when it instantly hit me, I was right all along…from that very first day we hit the property I had selected the two trees starred in the map below.

I had very solid reasoning behind all of the stands we hung, yet these two had been hung based solely on my gut…then taken down and moved, sometimes we need to trust our gut. I’ll explain more as to why in Part II of this visit to the Musical Chairs of the swamp Property.

Every property has the ability to yield successful hunting opportunities. The hunter has to understand this and realize not every property is the same, hence expectations and hunting styles change with every property!

                                                         -Ty Miller

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