Hunters: Beware Illegal Pot on Public Land

pot

As deer seasons open across the country, if you hunt public land, you need to be on the lookout for pot gardens, which authorities refer to as “illegal cartel marijuana grows.”

California has the most of these illicit operations. In an ominous announcement, DEA Agents and California Game Wardens say a cartel “owns” every national forest, national park, state park and wildlife refuge in the state.

Marijuana grows have been found in 23 states and on 72 national forests. Other states with significant cartel gardens on national forests, parks and BLM lands include Colorado, Oregon, Michigan and Wisconsin. Farther east and south, the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky is known to have lots of illicit pot growing.

As authorities point out, this is big business. Larger pot grows are in excess of 1,000 plants per site, and some can go up to 200,000 plants. Each plant has a street value of over a million dollars. Illicit growers protect their crops. And early fall, before temperatures drop to freezing, is prime harvest time.

You need to be on your toes and aware of your surroundings as you scout and hunt for deer on public land. Most of the growers are heavily armed and trails leading to grows are frequently booby trapped with trip wires and punji pits. Also, growers are now using deadly illegal chemicals to grow their pot, and these pose a serious threat to an innocent hunter who stumbles across them.

What do you look for? How do you avoid a potentially dangerous encounter?

pot pipes

Authorities point out that most pot gardens are irrigated by black plastic irrigation pipes that carry water from up to a half mile away. You might spot a man-made pool or a small dam on a stream where chemicals are added. These criminals are trashy. If you spot lots of junk, propane tanks, old tarps, etc. in an area, be on red alert.

You can also detect marijuana plants by their odor, which can have a skunky smell.

You may overhear voices, typically speaking Spanish. Law enforcement notes that some 85% of all growers they catch are illegals.

In all these cases, quietly retreat and retrace your trail back to your vehicle. Don’t linger at the site, or touch anything that looks out of the ordinary. When you are safely out of the woods, call 911 with the location of the illegal grow.

Be careful out there and good luck.

Source: The Outdoor Wire

How To Hunt Deer On 30 Acres

iowa bow giant 2013

I got an email from a guy who landed permission to hunt a 30-acre block of woods. He had 2 questions. Is that spot big enough to kill a good buck, and if so how should he hunt it?

First, hell yeah, 30 acres or even 20 is big enough. Monsters are shot in small habitats like that every year.

On any new property, you’ve got to find out what kind of terrain and vegetation you’re dealing with. Right now is time to check the property. Spend a day and walk every inch of it; carry an aerial map or consult Google Earth as you go for reference. Walk and look for funnels, edges, little ridges, etc. where deer will move onto and off the land. Don’t worry if you spook some deer, they will be back.

Check the treetops for green acorns. When the nuts start falling, deer will find them, so look for an afternoon stand site close by. While the timber on the 30 provides some cover, the more thickets in there the better. If the whole place turns out to be basically one big thicket that is okay, it will be a great place for morning hunting, especially if there are crop fields nearby.

Set out at least 2 cameras on trail or funnels on either end of the 30, and check it regularly to get an idea not only of the bucks there, but also deer travel patterns.

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A big key to hunting 30 is not to push deer out when you go in. Look for easy, quiet, downwind routes that won’t take you busting through thick cover where deer bed. Plan your in and out routes to skirt spots where deer will likely be.

My favorite stand on a small spot is off-wind of a super trail on a ridge or near a creek that cuts through the entire property. Watch the main highway enough and you will see some bucks.

Hunt in early bow season, but don’t overdo it and burn out the 30. The November rut is the best time to kill a monster. Also, you have a great opportunity when gun season opens later this fall. Climb into your best stand on the 30 and sit all day. When other guys swarm and shoot on lands all around, some bucks will flee to your little spot, especially if it’s thick. I guarantee that without even seeing the land.

Hidey-Hole Food Plots For Whitetails

micro plotMissouri deer scientist Dr. Grant Woods is a champion of tiny fall attractant plots, which he calls “hidey-holes.” He explains:

“A hidey-hole is a small patch of green forage hidden in the woods where deer can stick their head out and grab several mouths full of food before they move on to a larger green field or crop. I use a leaf blower to clear a spot about 20 feet x 20 feet where I see sunlight hitting the forest floor. I’ll take 10-10-10 fertilizer and sow it over the cleared spot. Next, I’ll put down some winter wheat, buck wheat, peas or any seeds that will germinate on top of the soil and produce a crop quickly after the first rain.  You can plant a hidey-hole two weeks before bow season and have a great little hidden spot to hunt. You can also plant more of them during hunting season, as long as the weather and soil conditions are such that the plants will germinate. Other great hidey-hole plants are winter wheat, brassicas and clovers.”

You might want to try it the next few weeks before your bow season. Click here for more on how to do it.

 

How To Scout A Big Buck In Late Summer

spotting milk river compressGuest blog w/great tactical information from my friend and traditional bowhunter Luke Strommen, a charter member of the Big Deer Hunt Team:

One time I spotted a gnarly 6×6 during my scouting and glassing routines in the summer. The mature whitetail used his primary core area throughout July and August. I saw him many times and took some distant digital images of him from one of my tree stands. He would browse in an irrigated alfalfa field, and having completed his evening ritual, he’d sneak off to spend the night in a 20-acre corn field nearby.

He continued this pattern into the early archery season in September, consistently passing by one of my stands, but late. I waited for the wind to be right and sat the stand 3 times in early September, only to have the buck come by on the 16-yard trail just after legal shooting light.

This “12-point” as my Eastern friends would call him wasn’t the largest buck I had seen that summer on the Milk River here in northeastern Montana, but he was a much sought after trophy. A clean 6×6 is hard to come by, especially for a recurve hunter like me.

As the season progressed, the buck’s pattern changed, and he became less visible and more unpredictable. He would spend a week or 2 in different “sub-core areas” as food sources changed with the fall weather patterns. Remember that, because any big deer you find now might do that in a few months.

But ultimately the buck came home to his familiar primary core area where I had spotted him all summer, to the place where he felt most dominant and comfortable. I figured he would do that and I was right. I spotted his 12-point rack whirling and twirling early in the afternoon of November 1. He was warding off inferior bucks, posturing his antlers like weapons to the stubborn invaders of his domain.

Since I had scouted this area so much, I knew how the buck used the place, where he liked to travel. It paid off. That was back in the mid-2000s when there were a lot of deer on the Milk, and when I was guiding a few bowhunters on our farms.

I put a bowhunter from Texas in the same where I had spotted the 6×6 several times in low light in September. On the 2nd of November, with the pre-rut kicking into gear, the buck was a lot less cautious as he strode by the stand with 45 minutes of shooting light to spare. The hunter placed a sharp broadhead right through his oxygen tank.

The big lesson: Scouting early and often in the late summer pays off, even if you can’t connect on big buck during the first weeks of archery season. You might “lose” your mature deer for a few days or even weeks, but the rutting phases of the fall will generally bring him back to his primary core area, where one day he might finally make a mistake. One day in late October, November or even December you might finally kill the buck from one of the stands you hunted in the first week of bow season.

Will Summer Whitetail Bucks Stay On Your Property This Fall?

spartan buck scrapeYou set cameras and scout and look all of August, and locate a big 10-pointer and a couple of great 8s, any of which you’d love to tag this season. Will the bucks stay on the property and in the same general area come late September and October? Or will they go AWOL, never to be seen again this season?

Tennessee researcher Bryan Kinkel has conducted extensive preseason censuses of the whitetails that live on his clients’ hunting lands across the Southeast. His observation data and trail-camera photos show that 50 percent of the older bucks may spend the spring/summer months at one end of their home range, but then shift to another core area for fall and winter. These seasonal ranges may have little or no overlap. His data shows these shifts most often occur around the time bucks shed their velvet–roughly September 5-20. So that furry-racked monster you spot in a bean field this weekend might be long gone when bow season opens.

How far might he go? Missouri biologist Grant Woods says it could be a few hundred yards or several miles or anywhere in between. If you hunt 1,000 acres or more, it’s no big deal. Most of the bucks that shift will still live in your zone, you just need to scout more after September 20 to pin them down.

The problem is when you hunt 50 to 300 acres, like most of us do. “On a 300-acre property, a buck that shifts only 500 yards or so could move right off your property and onto a spot where other people are hunting,” Woods says.

The good news: While half the mature bucks might leave your land in mid-September that many more that summered elsewhere are apt to move in and stay on your property this fall and winter. Generally a property sees a zero net loss of total bucks from summer to fall and winter, but the identity of those bucks can change dramatically.

So when you see a new a big buck pop up for the first time on one of your cameras in October or November, that explains it!

One more thing about buck movements, which could be good or bad news for you. “Our telemetry studies show that bucks range less as they get older and older, and their summer and fall/winter core areas overlap more,” says whitetail biologist Mickey Hellickson. So a buck that comes and goes off your land when he’s 3 ½ and 4½ might stop moving around so much if he lives to the ripe old age of 6, which is very rare for a wild buck. A really old buck might summer and winter in 100 acres on the property you hunt (good) or he might move off your land one August and never come back (bad).