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Hunting for Deer and Wild Hogs in Florida

Shane Martinez of Sebring, Florida, has been a Mossy Oak ProStaffer for three years. 

Take More Deer and Wild Hogs By Smoking Your Clothes  


Archery season in Florida began the second week in September in the zone where I live. The zone south of me often opens the first part of August or the last of July. During the early season, Florida hunters fight industrial-strength mosquitoes and blazing-hot weather, often 90-100 degrees. The primary place I hunt is a transitional area where deer don’t live on 300 acres of private land. I’ve got numbers of trail-camera photos of does and yearlings. Although I went the first day of hunting season this year, I didn’t see any bucks. Our rut every year starts around Halloween, and peaks about mid-November. I do hunt some public land, because I have some productive public land about 1-1/2 miles from my house. 

I’m often asked how I keep the mosquitoes from biting me and the deer and hogs from smelling me in that very hot weather. I run two Thermacells in my tree stand, one on either side of the tree, to keep the mosquitoes out of the tree where I’m hunting.  To cover my human odor, I smoke my clothes and all my equipment. I’ve learned this secret of smoking from a gentleman who only archery hunts, has hunted with his bow all across the U.S. and has harvested Boone & Crockett size deer with his bow. He says his key to success is using campfire smoke to smoke his clothes and cover his odor. 

This friend taught me how to use a 30-gallon aluminum barrel, punch holes in the sides of the barrel close to the ground, rake up pine needles and leaves and put them in the burn barrel. Then he’d take a spray bottle filled with water and lightly spray the tops of the leaves and pine straw in the barrel. He then used an inexpensive hand butane torch you could buy at any hardware or home-supply store to ignite the leaves under the wet leaves. The leaves and pine straw would smolder and give off a heavy smoke that if you waved your clothes through to pick up the odor of the burnt leaves and pine straw, the deer would smell something with which they were familiar. The odor of that smoke would be so strong that it would overcome human odor, even when you sweated. This smoke was and still is my cover scent. 

Besides smoking my clothes, I also smoke my boots, my backpack, my bow, my tree stand and any other items I’m carrying into the woods to use for bowhunting. I’ve had numbers of deer and wild hogs come in downwind of me and never spook, since they’re accustomed to smelling wood smoke frequently. 

I have a hunting lease in North Carolina, too, that’s surrounded by a public-hunting area where the whitetails there receive a tremendous amount of hunting pressure. I’ve taken bowhunting buddies of mine up to that lease in North Carolina and required them to smoke their clothes and equipment before hunting. They’ve watched those deer come in, smell that wood smoke and not blow or spook at all. So, for me, I’m convinced the best cover scent I can use is what’s natural that the deer are accustomed to smelling – burning leaves and pine straw. I even close my eyes and lean over into the smoke, brushing my hair back and forth, and I also smoke my hat. 

I primarily hunt out of a tree stand, but I don’t hesitate to hunt out of a ground blind, if I can’t locate a suitable tree for my tree stand. And, you’ve guessed it – I smoke my ground blind also. I’m convinced that by smoking anything I carry with me into the woods that I have the ultimate all-natural cover scent.

I do put out Tink’s 69 about 20-30 yards from my tree stand to attract deer and then stop deer. I can get a good broadside shot at a deer or a hog when an animal comes to within bow range. 

Hunt a Big Florida Buck and Wild Hogs 

Shane Martinez Florda hog

I’m often asked how big the bucks are that I take. The white-tailed bucks in our section of Florida will weigh from 110-120 pounds, and any buck that scores 120 on Boone & Crockett (B&C) is considered a monster where I live. About three years ago, I was hunting a buck that would score about 16 inches between his main beams and probably in the high 120s on the Pope & Young (P&Y) scale. His G2s were about nine inches long, but I never could connect with him.  

Although quite a few bowhunters hunt Florida, we really don’t get many hunters until after the first cold snap. Another advantage to hunting early bow season is that dove season comes in generally the weekend before the weekend of the opening of bow season. Many bowhunters prefer not to hunt then, but wait until we get that first cool snap in the fall.  But I generally start hunting the first day of bow season for deer. 

I’m sitting in the woods, hunting something, almost every day of the year. Living in Florida, we can hunt wild hogs all year on private property and take as many of them in a day as someone wants to drag out. On some public lands, there are regulations governing when and where you can hunt and the number of hogs you can take. 

In the spring of 2017, two of my hunting buddies from Nashville, Tennessee, came to hog hunt with me. We hunted wild hogs at night and took 12 in one night. The biggest hog I’ve ever taken, three grown men and myself attempted to pick him up and put him on a four wheeler. But we couldn’t get that pig off the ground. Finally, we put a rope around the feral hog’s head and drug him out with the four-wheeler. We estimated that hog to weigh between 350-400 pounds. The places I hunt have more wild hogs than I could ever take. 

Some people have a problem with wild hogs and deer living on the same property. I’ve noticed when hogs move into a feeder where the deer have been feeding, the deer become skittish. On some of my food plots and at my corn feeders, the wild hogs stay together and the deer remain together. The biggest problem I have with wild hogs is when I plant a food plot for turkeys and deer, the hogs will destroy the food plots before the other animals get to enjoy anything from it. 

The only way I know to solve Florida’s hog problem is to hunt those hogs hard all year long. I also try to trap as many as possible. We bait our live traps with sour corn. If all my friends’ freezers are full of pork, then I donate that meat to some of the homeless shelters. Florida definitely has an abundance of wild hogs, and we don’t see any cure for getting rid of those hogs completely. 

Since January through the first of September 2018, my friends and I have trapped and shot about 75 wild hogs. A mature sow drops two to three litters of 10-12 piglets per year. If only half of them survive, there’s 12-15 more hogs than you’ve had on the land the year before. If you had the money and resources and just loved to hunt hogs, you could hunt them in our area and on most other private lands in Florida, 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. 

Importance of Trail Cameras and Hunting Moon Phases for Deer 

Shane Martinez florida buckI’m often asked how efficient trail cameras are where I hunt. For me, trail cameras are a two-headed snake. These cameras can be extremely productive or very frustrating. On the private land I hunt, the property is about 60-70 percent cattle pastures surrounded by pines or muck bottoms (swampy terrain). The deer will hold in the pines and the muck bottoms and then come out in the pastures to graze. So, the trail cameras I’m using will show me the deer moving out of the woods surrounding the pastures. But if I get a picture of a buck on Monday that I want to hunt, and go in to hunt him on Tuesday, he won’t show up on that same trail where I got the picture of him on Monday. I’ve learned that the deer I hunt never travel the same routes every day. They’ve got trails they use, but rarely will they use the same trail on two consecutive days. 

Moon phase here where I hunt has a lot to do with how and where the deer in our area move. If the moon is full and stays above my head all night, then I don’t hunt early in the morning, because I know the deer have been feeding at night. On a full-moon night, I can walk all the property I hunt without a flashlight – that’s how bright the moon is then. So, the next day after a full-moon night, I’ll pick a spot where I know the deer like to bed during the day, put my tree stand or ground blind near one of the trails leading from the bedding area to the feeding site and attempt to catch the buck I want to take when he’s leaving the bedding place and going out into the pastures to feed later in the day. When the moon, according to the solunar tables, is below my feet (the night is pitch-black), then I’ll see more deer on my early-morning and mid-day hunts.

I see the most deer activity when the moon’s been shining all night.  On those days, I pack my lunch and plan to hunt from before daylight until dark. I expect to see most of the deer to hunt between 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., since the deer have fed all night long and will bed down in a cool, shady place at first. But they’ll start coming back out to feed between 10 a.m. until noon.  

When you’re hunting with archery tackle, I’ve found there’s no way to take these deer in our region when they’re 100-150 yards out in the pasture. That’s why knowing the property is critical to successfully taking a buck. You can’t take those deer when they’re feeding, however, I can take them when they’re moving from their beds to their feed or returning back to their beds after they’ve fed. On those full moon nights, they’ll leave the pastures and return to their beds before daylight. But then from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. when their stomachs start rumbling, and the deer wake up and begin to move toward the pastures is one of my best times to take deer. 

As I’ve mentioned before, when I’m hunting near a bedding area, there may not be a suitable tree for a tree stand, and that’s when I’ll hunt from the ground blinds. I’m just as particular about my ground blind as I am with my clothing and the equipment I take with me to a tree stand. Not only do I smoke my ground blind, but I also smoke anything I’ll be taking with me into that ground blind that day to hunt.

In my region, we can harvest two buck deer a year. There’s also one weekend that is doe season. I’m not sure, but I think in 2018 the limit is one doe per day or two does per doe season. Be sure to check the regulations if you plan to hunt does in Florida.

Something else that may be different here in Florida from other states is that in Florida you still can hunt deer with dogs. I’m not involved with dogging for deer any more, since the private land where I hunt isn’t large enough to use dogs for hunting. But when you hunt on Florida’s public lands, you probably will experience some hunting with dogs.  

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