Rifle … check, knife … check, snake boots … check … Bug Tamer … check.

Well here we are again: Deer hunting opens today, Aug. 15. I think about every other patient that has come into the office has asked me if “I’m ready.”

I guess I am.

I’m lucky in a sense. I married a deer hunter and I don’t want to let her down when it comes to at least maintaining the land so hunting it is not a chore.

I am also lucky in that I have a friend willing to help by doing the dirty preseason work such as cutting and clearing around stands while I do the machine work. Nature has its own idea or order and it seldom is the same as what man thinks things should look like.

I guess I should mention that I feel if you own or lease some land, you kind of owe it to the animals inhabiting your land to make it as easy for them to make a living as possible. If you are going to sit in trees and shoot at them with high-powered rifles, you owe it to them to give them avenues of escape.

I visited a friend of a friend once who had a fire tower moved to his property. He had shooting lanes cut through his pine plantation like spokes on a wheel radiating out to 1,500 yards. At various intervals on each one of these trails, he had feeders with protein bits and corn. Next to these, he had markers denoting the yardage to that feeder.

In the fire tower, he had A/C and TV sets. On what was once a rotating table for spotting fires, he had a massively heavy .338 Lapua-magnum rifle permanently mounted on the turntable with a very expensive range-finder scope.

He would sit and watch television, and when a deer would come out of the pines to feed, he would range it, check the wind directions, put the corrections into his scope and kill the animal. Sometimes he would shoot several in a sitting. Sometimes he would have friends try their skill at long-range shooting.

To each his own, but that’s not hunting to me. It also gives that animal little chance if it hasn’t figured out what is going on and gone nocturnal.

When I say that the property needs to be set up to help the animals, I have something else in mind. The summer in South Carolina is the most stressful time for wildlife. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to dig a deep hole near a seep to trap water for animals to drink. If you are going to cut and replant your property in pines, leave some areas, maybe 10 acres or so, to grow back wild.

These sanctuaries should be left alone. The deer should be able to lay up in these areas undisturbed. Food plots and feeders are OK. If deer figure you out, they will just become nocturnal and that’s OK. If you don’t hunt a place to death, you will get a chance at a mature buck as the rut progresses.

It doesn’t hurt to fertilize around wild food sources like persimmon, green briar and flowering oaks as well. It is a little expensive, but plantings such as fruit trees and saw-tooth oaks in areas otherwise devoid of a good food source (i.e. pine plantations) will benefit you as well as the deer in the long term.

Let’s just close by saying there are two types of deer-hunting experiences. There is deer hunting while managing, and then there is deer shooting. What type of hunter are you?

Dr. John Rheney has been writing his outdoors column for The Times and Democrat since 1984.


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