-By Randy Cooper
The drought of ’07 that affected most of the Southeast will have long lasting effects. Lakes that never get low or go dry DID. Georgia is still battling Alabama and Florida over the water that comes from our state.
In the woods I noticed many trees were so stressed out from lack of rain that they went into a dormant state and began sap reduction. Sap reduction caused their leaves to take on fall colors and start dropping two months before they should have. God only knows what effect this will have on them going into this spring, summer and next fall. I also witnessed changes taking place in persimmon trees. The fruit literally dried up on the tree like prunes before it even fell. The acorns also fell earlier than usual.
Everything in the woods, both plant and animal, suffered from the heat and effects of the drought. In my own yard, deer were hitting anything green and tender that they could find. My wife put out a hit list on a group of deer that completely wiped out all of her HOSTAS that surround a nice island in front of our house. My wife was ticked to say the least. I just hope the plants come back this spring.
On a side note, I used a trick that I found years ago to keep the deer from coming back. I took bars of Irish Spring soap and notched it where I could tie a string so it wouldn’t slip off. I tied these very strong smelling soap bars up in the trees that surround the island. I guess the strong perfume-like smell kept them from coming back. A few years ago I actually got permission to hunt on a ladies farm because her flower garden was being destroyed by deer. They descended on everything including hostas, rose bushes, monkey grass, day lilies, hydrangeas and tulips. This poor lady wanted to pay me $25.00 for every deer I could harvest! For the next two years I filled my tags at her place.
When nature takes a hit because of the weather, the down stream effect often is dramatic. Deer get hungry and show up in places you would have never thought possible. They do odd things too. When the deer would show up at the ladies garden, her husband would get a shotgun and shoot up in the air to scare them off. They would run just out of sight and as soon as his front door closed, they came right back. I remember asking the lady where would be a good place to hunt. She told me to sit on the front porch!!!
This past weekend I checked a camera that is watching a feeder in my back yard. I was stunned to find 62 pictures taken in one night. On my way to check the camera, I saw skid marks and signs of deer running in the chewed-up grass and in the dirt. I thought that something strange must have happened for deer to have been running full blast and then skidded to a stop like that. At first I thought coyotes were the cause. When I checked the camera though, all became clear.
By now, deer around here are in survival mode and are just trying to get by until spring. Food is hard to come by and there just aren’t enough groceries in the woods left to go around. Any kind of food is at a premium and deer will do almost anything to get it, EVEN FIGHT!!
When I checked the pictures taken on my Moultrie M-60, I couldn’t believe my eyes. On three different frames, bucks were fighting at my feeder. On two others, a small long-horned spike was showing aggressive posture toward another buck at the feeder. The hair on his back was bristled up with ears laid back and his head low. He meant business. I think they were all fighting over a food source plain and simple. They are hungry and no one wants to give up their place in line.
Check out these rare pictures in the middle of February. Since then, I’ve put an additional I-60 out at another angle that will take five-second video at night. I’m hoping to catch another fight on film.
This passion hunters have is a never ending learning process. If someone had told me that they saw bucks fighting during the middle of February, I would have thought they were nuts. Once again because of the help of these wonderful tools we all have available to us, our eyes are opened to more important information than we ever thought possible. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of being amazed at whitetails and what they do. Get yourself a trail camera and you too will be amazed at what you catch in the act.