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Deer Hunting Off the Beaten Path

Brandon Bobo | Mossy Oak ProStaff

hunter reading a map on a ridgetop

To consistently and successfully harvest deer, you have to do what few hunters will do and go where few hunters will go. 

Choccolocoo WMA is about 56,838 acres in the Shoal Creek Ranger District, which is only a portion of the 392,000 acres, making up the U.S. Forest Service’s Talladega National Forest. Two WMAs are a part of the Talladega National Forest.  A southern part of this national forest that I also hunt is 22,800-acre Hollins WMA near Clay and Talladega counties. Altogether there’s about 667,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land in Alabama, and the WMAs not on that land are very huntable too. 

Whether I’m hunting on a WMA or Forest Service land, I first search for places that are hard to reach and then for bottlenecks in those spots, like an Streamside Management Zone between clear-cuts. I’m basically looking for sites that will funnel deer between two different types of habitat. Right now before deer season starts in Alabama, I’ve already found a 140-inch buck on some private land I hunt in Opelika, where I’m in a lease with some other hunters. This buck is traveling in a 75-foot-wide SMZ in-between two clear-cuts. What makes this buck special is that he’s traveling during daylight hours through that SMZ. There also are white oak acorns already dropping during September in that SMZ. I’ll be hunting that buck on opening morning of bow season. 

Another of my favorite places to bowhunt is ridgetops that are well away from any road. I’m searching for some old logging roads that loggers once used to haul timber out of the woods after it had been cut. Those old roads may be grown up, but deer like to move through areas that aren’t as thick as dog hair. They like to be able to see where they’re walking. So, if you can find an old road bed that’s barely clear, there’s no sign of people using it, and you have to walk a good ways to reach the ridgetop, you generally will pinpoint good deer sign along those old roads, and deer will move on those forgotten roads. 

Typically I’ll walk about a mile from where I’ve parked my truck. But that mile will be as the crow flies. I may have to cross three mountains or ridgetops to walk that one mile. As I’ve mentioned earlier, by the time I arrive where I’ll be hunting, I’ll be very sweaty. That’s why I pack my hunting clothes and Scent-A-Way spray in a backpack to carry in with me. 

If I walk a mile and cross three ridgetops to reach my hunting spot, I’ll rarely if ever see another hunter.

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