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My First Deer Hunt

first deer hunt in Georgia

This is part 3 in a series. Read part 2 “My first visit to the hunting lease”

Friday, October 18th

Today was my first hunt up to Gibson, Georgia, where I have a hunting lease on almost five hundred acres. It’s about a six-hour drive from my town (Orlando) to Gibson. I left at 4 am to make sure and get there in time to decide which tree stand I was going to post up in that evening. Jamie and Matis were going up to hunt too but I had to drive separate. 

These four hundred and eighty-three acres of land are raw, so there is no electricity or water or anything. Being a six-hour drive, it’s only worth it to go up and make a minimum of four hunts. This means if you drove up on a Friday (like we did this time), you would hunt Friday at dusk, Saturday sunrise, Saturday dusk, and then Sunday sunrise and drive back home. Getting in four hunts sounds like enough, but when you have to drive six hours each way, it’s a lot of driving in a short period.

Now, because we have to stay for a minimum of two nights, our options are to stay in a motel 25 minutes away, an AirB&B about 20 minutes away, or sleep on the hunting property. It’s annoying to have to drive 25 minutes to and fro to the hunt from a motel, so this time we tried renting a camper. Jamie and Matis picked up a camper near Macon and pulled it to the property. The rental cost was $250 for the weekend which adds to the price of hunting but is pretty nice to have. 

THE GIBSON DINER

I got to Gibson at about noontime, was hungry, so I went into the little town and ate at the diner. Jamie and Matis were about an hour behind me. “Downtown” Gibson looks a lot like the ten thousand other micro towns in America. There is one main street with about forty feet of mid-twentieth century retail buildings. All the buildings are connected and long out of business but with evidence of a long past thrive. I looked up Gibson and didn’t find much about its history because I don’t think there’s much. My research did find that it was named after some judge who served in the Confederate army. He got wounded at Gettysburg and was taken prisoner by the Union. Pretty cool shit. After donating $500 to build a courthouse, they named the town after him and the rest is not much history.

The Gibson diner is maybe the only thing open in the downtown. There is a convenient store right there too that is open. But I don’t count that as downtown because it’s just a gas station that sells fried chicken and Georgia lotto. Orlando is a not huge city, but I can have a hard time deciding where to have lunch there. In Gibson, Georgia, it’s an easy decision because this diner is the only place to eat. 

When I walked into the diner, it wasn’t like the country music stopped or anything, but I did feel like a glowing alien as everyone there clearly knew each other while no one knew me. Still, they had a friendly indifference to me and I felt comfortable there. The menu was limited and I chose the pork chops with two sides. There were eight side items to choose from and six of them were potatoes of some kind.

HUNTING PROPERTY

After my fried lunch, I headed for the hunting property. Jamie got there and we set up the camper. After that, we assessed the property and saw a lot of evidence of deer. There were tracks everywhere and a couple of scrapes. Also, over the last two weeks, Jamie installed a couple of cameras that showed a bunch of deer. These cameras he bought are super cool because they work with WiFi, so he gets the picks in almost real-time. 

Based on the deer activity from the pics for the last week, we installed a brand new two-man stand twenty feet up and next to a very active trail and very used feeder. This stand was cool because it has a blind. I’m not at all a fan of heights, so some of the tree stands made on site of wood or whatever can be a little sketchy for me. At twenty feet up, this two-man stand was fairly high but I checked it out after we secured it and it felt very safe and easy to get into. 

After installing the new stand, we went back to our meet site. We shot our cross-bows to make sure the scopes were set right. This was a unique hunting weekend in that firearms season for deer started Saturday so we all hunted with bows on Friday. I hadn’t shot my crossbow in a long while, so after a couple of shots and scope adjustments, I was fairly accurate. Jamie had a fancy electronic night vision scope on his crossbow and he re-adjusted his as well. 

THE FRIDAY EVENING HUNT

Per Jamie’s suggestion, I chose a tree stand next to an open lane, an adjacent food plot, and a feeder next to a water source. Jamie recommended this area based on the high deer activity that his camera showed. I had inspected the stand earlier that day for bees and spiders and stuff and it was clean and safe. I didn’t like how close the stand was to the food and water sources. Since I really wasn’t all “camoed” out, I felt as though the deer would easily see me. This has been a very successful stand in the past but maybe during the peak rut, when the deer are crazy to get laid. 

I only had a camo jacket but my well prepared and good friend Jamie let me use a hood and piece of camo to wrap myself up in. It was in no way ideal but did offer some camouflage. With my crossbow and backpack, I set out early to my stand. Making sure to be quiet, I made my way to the stand, climbed it, and sat fairly still for the next about an hour and a half. 

The woods were very still and beautiful, but I saw and heard absolutely nothing the entire time. There wasn’t much for air movement. I did pay attention to wind direction, so I only watched what was upwind of me. After it got really dark, I gave up and headed back to camp.

Based on the camera, the area I was in has had deer activity for the past several evenings. So it’s easy for me to assume that, since I saw and heard nothing, that they knew I was there. Not good.

THE SATURDAY MORNING HUNT

That Friday night, the three of us made a fire and did some drinking. I didn’t think this was a good idea as we made noise and were going to smell of smoke for the morning hunt. With only having hunted just twice before, I really didn’t know if it mattered. I mean, this was a five hundred acre track and there was a shit ton of deer around. 

At about 4 am, I woke to rain. With being almost entirely unprepared for hunting, I didn’t bring any rain gear so I scrubbed the morning hunt. At 8 am, I woke up and decided to go for a walk in the rain. Perry, the guy who runs the lease, has a permanent blind that is beautiful and dry. I walked over to check it out and found Jamie in it. He had woke early and posted up at his new two-man stand that we had put up the day before. He sat up there for two and a half hours in the rain and didn’t see shit. Then he came to the blind to mainly be dry and still hunt.

Jamie is a hunter, so he decided to post up at another tree stand in the rain and let me hunt in the blind. “I’m already soaked anyway so I’m going back out in it”, he said. I walked back to get my .308 and backpack and returned to the blind where I stayed for the next two hours. Even though it was daytime, I read that deer will move in the rain because they feel safe due to the noise the rain makes, so I hung out in that blind and waited for movement. Again, I saw nothing. 

With the forecast calling for rain the whole rest of the day and with me having to get back to Orlando for a Sunday afternoon event, I decided to head home. 

THE SATURDAY EVENING HUNT

Jamie and Matis stayed and even with it raining, they decided to move a wood tree stand about a hundred yards into the woods from where it was. Clearly, where the stand was initially was too out in the open. The spot they moved it to was much better and further away from an active feeder. 

That evening, Jamie climbed the stand they had moved earlier and it paid off. Well, it almost paid off. As it started getting dark, a six-point trotted along a path and came about 25 yards from his stand. The buck’s trot was fairly quick and it came across Jamie at a tough angle for a left-handed shooter, so he wasn’t able to get a shot off. 

About three minutes later, it was getting pretty dark and he saw a nice eight-point. He was moving too but not as fast. Jamie had just installed a new scope on his .243 rifle and it was magnified for farther away as he was anticipating taking something at the feeder which was about at 70 yards. This buck was only about 30 yards out so his scope wasn’t adjusted for that close. This means he couldn’t find the target through the scope and had to find it with his naked eye first and then look through the scope to make the shot.

Now, Jamie is a great hunter and a dead shot, but between his scope being magnified wrong, it being maybe a little too dark, and still having a touch of “deer fever” from the previous six-point he saw earlier, his shot wasn’t on target.  

Matis wasn’t too far away, so when he heard Jamie’s shot, he turned on his walkie talkie. Jamie told him he shot a buck but didn’t drop him. They spent the next hour or so in the dark looking but only found some blood and hair.  

The next morning, they did another hunt but didn’t see anything. By late early Sunday evening, they were back in Orlando.

LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE FIRST HUNT

With me being new to deer hunting, everything is going to be a lesson for me. Here’s my take away:

#1 Have full camouflage attire and gear

This seems obvious but I have heard of guys shooting deer in jeans and a normal t-shirt or sweatshirt. And I heard that hiding your eyes is really what’s important. I wasn’t trying to prove anything by not having camo wear. It’s just that I already have some money invested in this hunting thing and wasn’t trying to spend on shit I didn’t really need. Turns out I’ll be spending more.

#2 Have rain gear 

I like rain and sometimes I work in it. Not sure what I was thinking of going up to Georgia and not even paying attention to the weather forecast. Looks like I’ll be getting a full out, camouflaged set of rain gear.

#3 There are drawbacks to fancy scopes 

Kevin paid almost $700 for his new scope and it’s super cool. But in the situation he was in, he would have been better off with his Winchester model 100 .270 with a standard scope. At least that’s what he said. 

Read “My Second Hunt” next.

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