Preparing for Bow Season with Georgia’s Alan Benton
Editor’s Note: Alan Benton from McDonough, Georgia, has hunted deer for 33 years, starting with his dad when he was 7. He took his first deer when 9 years old. “And I’ve been steadily after deer ever since that day,” Benton says. He hunts with a bow, a rifle, a muzzleloader and also a pistol. He’s been a member of the Mossy Oak ProStaff for the last 7 years and just became the Regional Pro Manager for Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Arkansas.
Our bow season starts September 10th in Georgia. In some counties in Georgia, the season will stay open until January 31st for some type of deer hunting. A handful of metro counties also will hold a late archery season. So far, I’ve connected with a deer 80% of the time on opening day. I hunt for an opening-day buck, however, my family and I love the taste of venison. So, if I don’t see a buck on opening day, I don’t have a problem taking an older-age-class doe.
I’m often asked when I start scouting for deer. My answer is, “During turkey season.” If I’m hunting new property, I use turkey season to begin my early deer season scouting. Turkey season provides an opportunity for me to put a mental map in my head for deer season. As you know, the key to taking a turkey is woodsmanship. You have to know where all the creeks, hill, valleys, acorn flats and fields are located to effectively hunt turkeys. So, that same type of scouting I do before and during turkey season is a tremendous benefit to me when deer season arrives. I’m also looking for soft mast that deer will feed on during early bow season, like muscadine vines, wild plums and persimmons. I’ll search for oak flats and ridges that run into oak flats, as well as free-flowing streams and ponds that can provide water for deer during the heat always present at the first of Georgia’s bow season. I’ll also be looking for pitch points and funnels that I can’t spot on aerial maps. By June, I’ll start putting out trail cameras, salt licks and feed to get a better idea of how many bucks and how many does I have on the property I’m planning to hunt. I like to watch the bucks’ antlers grow during the summer months too.
One of the big advantages that trail-camera pictures provide is because Georgia’s buck season starts September 10, the bucks still will be feeding, watering and bedding on their summer patterns. The main property I hunt consists of about 500 acres, and I’ll put out about seven or eight trail cameras there to census the land for deer and to note the mature bucks I plan to hunt during the first of archery season. Of those 500 acres, we have a sanctuary of about 100 acres we don’t hunt. Providing a sanctuary that’s off-limits to hunting creates a place for older-age bucks to concentrate. They know they won’t be hunted there. We also put out mineral blocks and bait in that sanctuary for the bucks. Providing a sanctuary means deer will create trails coming from other parts of the property we hunt to the sanctuary. I start off by putting my trail cameras about 400-yards from the sanctuary. We’ve learned too that we also can pull bucks into that area from surrounding properties where hunters hunt every square inch. My closest trail cameras may be only 100 to 200 yards from the sanctuary. Because there are fields around that protected block of woods, I don’t want to set-up my cameras too close and spook the bucks I’m trying to take when I put up my cameras or when I check them.