Top

Works In Progress – Prepping For Deer Season

August 28, 2014

The new blind in progressIt can be a little tough to get psyched about deer season when it’s over 100 degrees outside, and humidity is in the upper three quarters as well.  It’s one thing to walk up the hill and check cameras, fill the feeder every month, and watch the deer from the porch.  It’s another, altogether, to climb that hill with chainsaw and machete in hand (and a backpack full of water) to work on stands and clearing out the cedar (juniper) so that both the deer and I can actually move through the tangle.

Once I got up there, of course, I found that the deer really didn’t have much problem.  In fact, the hillside looks like a deer highway with little tunnels anywhere the branches are too thick.  Picking a spot for a stand isn’t so much a question of figuring out where the deer will pass, but figuring out where I can put it so that I’m not right in the middle of a trail.  I need them to walk past me, not over me.  What’s more, is I need a place where I can actually slip an arrow through the brush.  The only way to do that is start cutting.

I’ve been meaning, ever since last fall, to get out there and clear some new hunting spots.  I’ve planned, and reconsidered, and planned some more, but it just seemed like there was always some reason not to do it.  The barn needed work.  The pasture needed to be mowed.  I needed to build a back porch because the old stairs were a death trap.  And so on and so on until, suddenly, summer was here.  And with summer comes heat.

The thing about working in this terrain during the Texas summer is that it’s not only uncomfortable, it’s potentially dangerous.  It’s easy to become dehydrated, and it happens fast.  Heat prostration can sneak right up, and if you’re not careful, you’ll face full heat exhaustion… and working solo, up in this thick stuff, that’s a very bad place to be.  Of course, it can be done.  There are guys out there every day, building fence, herding livestock, clearing land…  but it’s not something that a 50 year-old, computer jockey should take lightly.  I’m not a kid anymore, and as much as I love working with my hands on this ranch, I’m not a lifelong rancher either.

But all that aside, the other real reason for delay is that it’s just damned hard to get motivated to get out there and suffer that heat when I’ve got a nice, air conditioned house with Internet and TV and Kat to keep company.  Besides, I have a stand for Kat already, when either of us wants to shoot deer with the rifle.  And, until fairly recently, I already had a great stand, the Murder Hole, for all my bowhunting needs.  But back in May, while checking the pasture fences, I saw that a huge piece of the oak tree that contains the Murder Hole stand had broken off.  The stand is still intact, but it’s now completely exposed.  I can still put some cover up there and use the stand, but it’s going to make a tough hunt even tougher.

The Murder Hole was not as well planned as I’d like.  I mean, it’s in the perfect location for deer traffic, both morning and evening.  But I made a couple of miscalculations.  The prevailing winds in the canyon when I built the stand were generally south to north, so I set the stand with an optimal northerly view.  Behind the stand (to the south), I left the thick cedars alone to provide a screen, and to funnel the deer to either side of the stand.  What I didn’t realize was that this changes during the fall, and that there’s more of a northerly flow… especially in the late evening, when the deer are moving down from the south-facing slopes.  I can’t count the number of times the deer walked right up behind me, and then blew out when they caught my scent.  And trust me, I don’t care what kind of scent control you use… at five or ten yards downwind, especially on a warm day, the deer are going to smell you.

So setting up a new stand isn’t just an option anymore.  I had to do something.  I could try to fix up the Murder Hole, or get to work on a better location.

Back in June, I went at it and cleared a really pretty little park amongst the cedars up on the hillside about 200 yards behind the house.  There’s a huge, old oak tree in the middle that would be a great spot for a platform stand.  I also used the slash to create a couple of brush piles where it would be pretty easy to hide a pop-up blind.  Within a week, the native bunch grasses started coming up in the new clearing (thanks to some very timely rain), and the place looked perfect.  I set a camera out, looking forward to a ton of photos.  What I got, so far, is a couple of shots of the same two does, and a bunch of raccoons.  This wasn’t what I’d hoped to see.  I needed to put something up closer to the old stand, but better planned.

The summer came, and nearly went.  Deer season is less than a month away.  So, this past weekend, I went at it.

This is the view from the blind now.  I'll clear most of the brush from the shooting lanes, and use it to fully brush things up.  This should become a really deadly spot.

This is the view from the blind now. I’ll clear most of the brush from the shooting lanes, and use it to fully brush things up. This should become a really deadly spot.

I found a good location up on the hillside where there’s a reasonably flat(tish) spot.  Several trails converge around it, but there’s one spot where it’s too thick for the deer to move.  I could clear a hole out there to build my stand, and with all of the cedar brush I would cut, I could build a blind with natural material.  When I finish, it should look like any of the other brush piles I’ve created around the property (it’s too dry to burn, and they make great habitat for birds and small game).

I still have a lot of work to do.  These cedars are hell on a chainsaw, and it was already a little dull from the previous projects.  I was soon reduced to using the machete.  Even after drinking three liters of water, I started getting chills and cramps… and that’s a pretty good indication that it’s time to call it a day in this heat.

The final plan is to have the site completely brushed in, including a “roof”.  As you can see in this photo, I’ve also still got a lot of clearing to do for shooting lanes.  I got both chains good and sharp now, so consider this the “before” picture.  I’ll update soon, I hope, with the finished product.  Then I just need to leave it alone until the deer get used to it.  By September 27 (archery opener), it should become my new, go-to spot.

Then I can focus on some of the other locations I’ve scouted.  Who knows?  Maybe by the time next summer rolls around, I’ll actually have some of them cleared and ready for use.

 

Comments

2 Responses to “Works In Progress – Prepping For Deer Season”

  1. Dave on August 28th, 2014 13:17

    50? Man your getting old!

  2. Phillip on August 28th, 2014 17:32

    I’m doing my best to catch up with you, Methuselah! But somehow, you stay several years ahead.

Bottom