Images and story by Thomas Allen | Originally published on Outdoor Hub
Editor’s note: This is the sixth installment to a 16-part, comprehensive series about building a hunting club with buddies from nearly the ground up. Author Thomas Allen will share what he learns as he learns it. His hope is that anyone who reads this series can learn from his successes and failures, and apply them to a one-day fruitful hunting club. Click here for the first, second, third, fourth and fifth installments.
I’ve always found that anything worth achieving will always have obstacles in the way, and you’ve got to have the drive and determination to overcome those obstacles on route to whatever it is that you want to accomplish. ~Chuck Norris
Take the Good with the Bad
We had a mountain to climb in order to get this hunting club off the ground, and we did it. In fact, efforts were so productive I was beginning to wonder when something was going to go wrong and take the wind out of our sails. It was bound to happen, and reality eventually set in.
Please understand that a few of the following thoughts are to share our reality, not complain. Truth be told, the good far outweighs the bad, and the bad is mostly expected. But to stick to my original objective with this series and share with you the lessons we learn along the way, I will continue to be straightforward.
There is no way to avoid pressure within a hunting club — especially a new one. How you manage it will determine success after the pressure sets in and the deer movement has been impacted.
Recently, the overall deer activity and number of encounters have decreased substantially on the property. Are we over-hunting our lease? That’s very possible, and our membership’s pressure is a contributing factor. While each element might be small in and of itself, the small items add up and will have an effect.
One of our biggest problems is access. A county road runs through our property, and there are two access points on one side, and one on the other. That means to reach the food sources at the back end, all hunters must cross the food plots positioned between the gates and the back of the property. It is what it is, but driving vehicles out just after dark will educate the deer to access their food sources later in the evenings.
Our early solution was to established parking areas that will reduce — not eliminate — vehicle traffic across our food sources. We’re still brainstorming further solutions, but I believe it will slow activity to a certain extent.
Perhaps we limit deep access early in the season? This is the kind of problem we can control and eventually overcome, but it’s going to take time to figure it out. And we will.
Outside Human Pressure
Then there’s the kind of pressure you can’t control. With a new property, you’re bound to have some trespassing, but our situation is unique in that much of the surrounding properties are either clear-cut or outfitter property. I think those scenarios result in fewer trespassers.
That said, our first confirmed fools were a family of horseback riders, who in all their brilliance, decided to check out a couple of food plots during the opening weekend of Alabama’s firearm season.
That was just stupid. Don’t be like these people.
The other outside pressure we’ve been dealing with involves industrial easements. We have a major petroleum gas line that runs through the middle of our property, and a small portion of a power line that cuts one of our corners. Both were very attractive land features as we originally scrutinized the land.
See, Alabama largely consists of big woods: a mix of hardwoods and pine plantations. Anytime you have open ground is a major bonus. We know that both the gas and power lines will be huge advantages to our future success; therefore we’ve accepted the challenges that come along with them, namely people.
These lines require maintenance, and both are maintained by separate companies, which means both have different access points and roads.
Thanks to the bad luck that typically follows me around, both the gas line and the power line folks decided they needed to access the property in the same couple of weeks.
The power line company needed to perform some annual maintenance repairs, which required them to doze and trim out a logging road. I had two cameras, a feeder and blind all spread out along this road, which meant I had to go in and move each item that could become a potential victim of road maintenance. More pressure.
The gas line people came in and mowed all the grass. Fortunately, they recognized our food plots and didn’t cut any of those. If I knew who to thank, I’d go give them a big ‘ol man hug. They certainly didn’t have to respect those plots, but I’m grateful they did.
Both projects were inconvenient to our club, and heaped on the human presence/pressure. However, both will improve access and the overall hunting experience. In the long run, it’ll be a good thing.
Again, not to complain, but when you add all these “pressure” factors together, you can expect the deer to react. The important thing to take from this is knowing that it won’t ruin your season, no matter how aggravating it is.
Keep the right frame of mind, control what you can control, and don’t lose sleep over what you can’t. I’m preaching to myself here . . .
Bucks Will Do What They Do
Remember that bad luck I referenced above? Well, consider this along those lines: The biggest buck we’ve located, thanks to our Wildgame Innovations trail cameras, managed to break off his left G3 tine, leaving him with much to be desired. I can’t speak for the other hunters in our club, but this buck will get the pass from me.
Plus, I think he’s only 3 years old and should get another year under his belt for his potential to be realized.
Watch a video of this buck here. He needs to settle down! Stupid deer.
We built a couple of new shooting house bases, and decided to use cement blocks as the bases. In an effort to save money and minimize expenses, I recalled a pile of old used cinder blocks located on our property. I just walked over, picked two of them up — and almost stepped on a rattlesnake. I may have pooped a little, too.
Here’s a video of the encounter. (A laugh at my expense.)
A once-in-10-year snow system moved through the state of Alabama, dumping 5 to 6 inches across the Birmingham area. For this native Iowan, it was a welcome change to the scenery. And the deer were certainly on their feet. (The weather also had native Alabamians buying every loaf of bread and gallon of milk from the local grocery, just like it was end of time. Picture me rolling my eyes here.)
During the snow, I was able to get some neat video of a unique melanic buck that lives on our lease. That basically means the opposite of piebald. The deer grows black hair in spots, with this one it’s very evident on his right shoulder and neck. It will be cool to see this deer age; hopefully he sticks around the property for a few years.
Next Project: New Shooting-House Platforms
Paul, our jack-of-all-trades member, also happens to own a small sawmill. He’s had a pile of old pine logs that we cut down into timber to build two new platforms. The best part of this is it cost us zero money other than fuel for the mill. And it was a ton of fun getting the timber prepped for fabrication.
The level of satisfaction that comes with building this kind of thing, literally from scratch, is worth every minute of investment.
We have the platforms framed out, and the required materials ready to assemble, but finding the time recently with the season in full swing has been the challenge. As soon as we have them built and placed, I’ll provide an update.
The Success Is a Continued Blessing
If you want to enjoy a fantastic hunt, check out the video of Bryan’s deer. This is his first deer in over 15 years, and the experience takes him back to his early days of deer hunting. For a naturally stoic gentleman, Bryan gets quite emotional.
I’m proud to call him my friend, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to film his hunt.
You may recall in the previous installment /our-obsession/blogs/hunting/creating-a-hunting-club-success of this article series, both my son and my daughter killed does during Alabama’s youth deer season. I’ve continued to take each of them hunting for a buck.
My son, Tommy, killed his first buck last fall, and the video is fantastic if you ask me, but this year his sister, Taylor, was the first to have an opportunity at a buck. The nice 6-pointer was just the type of buck to eliminate from our property, and was perfect to make my baby girl smile ear-to-ear.
Thanks to numbers of Wildgame Innovations trail camera pictures and video, we had a pretty good idea where and when this buck would appear on the BioLogic Winter Grass Plus http://www.plantbiologic.com/p-326-winter-grass-plus.aspx field. Trail cams are the ultimate scouting tool, for sure!
Please enjoy her hunt. I’m beyond proud of her, and I’m proud of our club for making this opportunity possible.
About the author: Thomas Allen calls central Alabama home, where he lives with his beloved wife, Kathryn, and two growing children, Tommy and Taylor. Follow Thomas on Twitter: @ThomasAllenIV and Instagram: ThomasAllen4