Whitetail Journal: “My hands hurt and sweat started running into my eyes. I held a Wicked Tree Gear hand saw in my left hand and I wiped my brow with my right. The task seemed daunting just looking at the jungle of thicket I intended to cut and thin out, but to push on I thought about what I always think about- that monster swamp buck making his appearance. Every branch I cut, every limb I broke and every log I cleared was moved with a purpose. That purpose keeps me up at night and awakes me early in the morning; so much sacrifice goes into hunting a mature majestic whitetail. I have been planning on cutting into this swamp ever since I laid eyes on two bucks that I would kill in heartbeat.”
There is one buck I call “Ocho” and he started out as a basket rack 8 pointer and has blown up in both the antler and body size department. I estimate him to be at 150 based on the pictures from the 2015 season. I can’t imagine what he will be in 2016 if he made it through Michigan’s gun season. He is at least 4 years old and has the large neck and pot belly to prove it. There is another 10 pointer that would have gone mid-140s this year, however he doesn’t seem to be the same size as “Ocho”. I would love to harvest either one of these bucks, but it is a lot easier said than done. I know the swamp water deters the other guys from entering the cattails, and I have sunken up to my waist twice already. But I am prepared to dive head first into the black muck if it means a single shot opportunity at “Ocho”.
It’s January and I am cutting lanes and clearings for mini kill plots with efforts to develop some type of game plan for these deer. It has been a while since I laid my hands on a decent buck, and at this point in my hunting career I want nothing more. It’s January and this is what I think about literally every day. The ideas, schemes and strategy consumes my mind rendering other events of any day insignificant. It’s January and my hand saw’s teeth bite into another sumac. I have never started prepping stand locations this early in the year before- yet it feels like opening day is only a couple days away. Did I mention it is only January?
I get excited about this part of the season because success relies heavily on preparation. The more one prepares now the better the odds of success. I am ready to be fully committed this whitetail season and accomplish what I haven’t been able to in over 4 years. The clearings I am cutting are not just to create a shot opportunity, but to also generate natural browse and potentially lay ground for planting a small kill plot. I gathered this idea from reading a great article by Jeff Sturgis of Whitetail Habitat Solutions. From what I understand, Jeff believes that deer frequently get up and browse around their bedding areas during the day. Since the area I will be hunting is right outside of these beds I plan on trying to get some of the existing red brush to flourish by bringing more sunlight to them. Additionally, I will look for some type of seed that is low maintenance to plant in select areas of higher ground. I am hoping to have this project finished long before mid-summer that way “Ocho” and the unnamed big ten pointer have plenty of time to get the whitetail comfortable with the swamp again. Trail cameras are going to be a game changer for me in this particular spot. All of the bedding sign resides at the core of the swamp and I plan to cast my net of trail cameras just 60 yards outside of it.
Before any of the trail cameras are broken out I need to continue hacking away at the swamp. If all goes as planned there will be stand locations for every wind direction, so if a mature whitetail buck is showing up in the area I can use the wind to my advantage. I really like using swamp waters, ponds and small lakes as barriers to keep deer from getting down wind of me. This spot is allowing me to do just that provided I clear out some shooting lanes and create some points of interest for whitetail deer to travel through. It all sounds good on paper, but the true test comes in the fall. I know that we all conjure up some crazy ideas and tactics to kill whitetails. Every die-hard bowhunter does. So I will continue to hack away at this crazy plan and pray that it ends with a mature whitetail harvest.