with Marshall Collette
Clear-cuts are great places to locate and take older-age-class bucks. As I’ve mentioned earlier, we plant Mossy Oak BioLogic in seven different small food plots out in the clear-cuts. I’ve found that the best time to plant clear-cuts in the early season is late in the afternoon when the weather starts to cool down.
There's not a lot of huntimg pressure in our clear-cuts. We don’t allow our members to take their four-wheelers in or out of a clear-cut, unless they need to get a deer out. Several of us have Bad Boy Buggies (electric ATVs). We can get in and out of a clear-cut without leaving a lot of sign and/or odor. Most of our stands in the clear-cut are ground blinds, but we do have some 20-foot ladder stands.
When a timber company cuts timber, they have to leave big trees on the edges of drainages. So we have some drainages in the clear-cut on the 800-acre farm with trees to which we can attach a ladder stand. Some of the 300 acres of the lower elevation were select cut, and the pine ridges were clear-cut. The landowner also has told us that he's going to cut a tractor road all the way through from one end to the other of the clear-cut and plant the road with switchgrass, clover and oats to keep the road from washing and to create food for wildlife. That road will be a fantastic place to hunt for both deer and turkeys.
The best buck we've taken off that property scored 164 inches. Even though we have 1,300 acres to hunt between the two farms, we’re all hunting little bitty stand sites surrounded by agriculture, thick cover and/or acorn trees.
Another rule that we have on our club that I think has been beneficial for all of us is when a member puts up a tree stand, ladder stand or ground blind, that’s not just his spot. If I've got a place I've been hunting and I'm not on the property, if one of the members of the club wants to hunt there, I don’t have a problem with that. If they take a buck that I've seen and wanted to take, I'm just as proud for the member as I would have been if I had taken him. We have very little jealousy in our club about who takes which buck, because the people I hunt with in North Carolina are either kinfolks or almost kinfolks. If they're not blood relations, they're longtime friends.
As I've mentioned before, on the 500 acres of agriculture, only my brother, a longtime friend and I hunt, and we all hunt wherever we want to hunt on the days we’re there to hunt. If one of us takes a deer, the other two will help him drag the buck or the doe out. I like the rule that we have on both clubs that any member of that lease can hunt anywhere he wants to out of any stand, unless someone else is in that stand when he arrives.
On the working cattle farm, we ask our members not to put up more than three tree stands or ground blinds per person. With 15 members, we may have as many as 45 stands. However, like any other hunting clubs or leases, only about five or six of us hunt regularly. The other members are members because they just want to have a place to hunt if they decide to go hunting.
On the agricultural farm, where only three of us are hunting, we have about 13 stands set up. During the season, if we see we need to move a stand to have a better chance to take a buck, we’ll move that stand. None of our stands are permanent stands. We also prepare mineral sites on both farms and place cameras near the mineral sites to try to determine what deer are coming through, feeding on the minerals.
On the cattle farm property where we have 15 members, we have a clubhouse, and it’s nicer than many people’s homes. We have satellite TV, air conditioning, electric heat, a bunk room, kitchen, washer and dryer - making it a home away from home. Every morning we get up and cook breakfast, and we all come out and eat together. I think most of our members belong to that club as much if not more for the social aspect of the club as they do for the deer hunting that the club provides.