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Photo courtesy of Freddy McGuire
Freddy McGuire of Goodview shot this 10-point buck on Saturday, the opening day of Virginia’s early archery deer season, while hunting over a small food plot on family property in Franklin County. With acorns scarce in the woods this fall, food plots and open fields will continue to prove important for hunter success.
Monday, October 7, 2013
My friend Freddy McGuire started working toward Saturday's archery season opener several years ago.
That's when he brought in a timber operation to cut out a few small openings on his tract of hilly property in Franklin County.
The cuts weren't intended to be money-makers. Rather, McGuire's hope was to enhance the wildlife habitat on the property. The money from the timber provided just enough cash to cover the cost of habitat development.
Did Freddy have mixed feelings about seeing stands of pretty hardwoods that he'd been knocking around in since he was a kid go?
But he knew that the cuts were needed.
The openings provided space for small wildlife-specific food plots, and the edges grew up with the low-lying brush that provides browse for deer and important nesting and cover habitat for turkeys.
Despite what we might see on hunting TV shows, food plots are hardly a hunter's panacea, especially during good acorn years like those of the past two seasons.
Deer might enjoy a taste of salad from time to time, but they'd rather eat steak, which is what acorns are to them.
It is during mast failure years, such as this one, that food plots and openings really shine as hunting hot spots.
Freddy was hunting over one of his small spots Saturday evening, watching a few does filter in as the sun dropped.
As shooting light was fading, a large buck cautiously arrived.
Freddy, hunting with a crossbow for the first time due to a recent shoulder injury, made the opportunity count.
He knew the 10-point buck well, having lots of trailcam pictures of the deer from the past couple of years. (For full details on the hunt, as well as pictures of the buck, point your Web browser to the deer forum section at Freddy's www.vaturkey.com site.)
As this column went to press I hadn't yet received electronic checking numbers from the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, but anecdotal evidence suggests that Saturday's hunting was generally tough.
For example, I heard one report that the number of deer brought into Arrington's Cooler in Bedford County was down quite a bit from the average bow opener.
We need to be careful about putting too much stock into limited reports, of course. But, given the warm weather and the general absence of productive oaks to set up on, tough hunting on Saturday should not be a surprise.
Even as weather cools, bowhunters likely won't be knocking it out of the park this October.
Hunting over food plots with a bow can be more challenging than setting up on a productive oak flat.
Small wildlife plots can be the most productive because they are better suited for drawing deer within the range of archery tackle.
I have hunted with Freddy on the plot where he scored on Saturday and know its small size is ideal for archery hunting. The buck was at just 12 yards when Freddy zipped him with his Scorpyd Ventilator.
Setting up on well-used travel routes to and from food plots is another good archery season tactic.
But it will be as fall progresses into the muzzleloader and general firearms season that hunters who have invested in habitat or have found suitable openings on public land will really reap the benefits of their work and efforts.
Deer will be hitting those openings, and they will be easier for hunters to spot than deer that stay in the woods to eat acorns.
Don't be surprised if hunting success trends improve significantly once we're hunting with weapons that have a range beyond 35 yards.
Trout meetings under way
Virginia's trout stocking season got going last week, and so did the series of public meetings at which the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is taking feedback and questions about its catchable trout stocking program.
Virginia Tech doctoral candidate Vic DiCenzo, a former DGIF fisheries biologist who is helping with the agency's review of the trout program, reported that early meetings generated "reasonable and expected" comments.
Seven people showed up for the first meeting, in Wytheville on Sept. 30, but just one citizen came to the Wednesday meeting in Abingdon.
A meeting will be held Tuesday night at 6:30 at the Augusta County Government Center in Verona, with a meeting the next night at 6:30 in Woodstock at Central High School.
Meetings are schedule for Oct. 14 at the Izaac Walton League in Madison Heights and Oct. 16 at Sportsman's Warehouse in Roanoke. Both of those meetings start at 6:30 p.m.
The meeting slate will wrap up with an Oct. 21 meeting at the Mott Community Center in Fairfax and Oct. 22 at the Virginia Cooperative Extension office in Culpeper. Both of those meetings begin at 7 p.m.
Visit the DGIF's website (www.huntfishva.com) for more information about the trout plan. The site also provides for electronic submission of comments and questions.
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