| Jim Crumley's
Secrets of Bowhunting Deer
Working With Water
In many sections of the country if you hunt along a flood plain, sometimes during deer season you may have an opportunity to hunt in flooded timber. However, the hunt for flooded-timber bucks begins well before the season. If you can go into an area before it floods and locate the trails the deer normally use to move from thick-cover areas to feeding regions, you drastically can increase your odds for taking flooded-timber bucks.
Also look for ridges and high ground in flooded-timber regions and beaver dams that cross streams. Unless the water gets very high, the deer will follow those same trails and walk on those same ridges and high ground, even though the water has covered the area. If the water crests over the top of a beaver dam, the deer still will cross the creek at the beaver dam. If you know the land you hunt will flood, learn all you can about the deer's moving and feeding patterns before the water comes up. Often the deer will use those same travel trails, which may be underwater.
If the deer are moving through water, often they are much easier to hear than if they are walking on wet leaves or even semi-dry leaves.
Flooded timber also draws waterfowl. Many times when deer move through flooded timber, the waterfowl in that region will be frightened, which lets the bowhunter know the deer are coming. Flooded timber gives the bowhunter many advantages he doesn't have before an area floods. When a hardwood bottom is flooded, acorns float to the surface, if there has been an acorn crop at all that year. Because generally some type of current moves through a newly inundated woodlot, the acorns will be forced to the bank and often may congregate in eddy pools or in slack-water areas just off the current -- resembling a bathtub ring of acorns around the edge of the water. This ring of acorns provides a food trail for deer to feed on during high-water conditions.
Most bowhunters will take stands on land close to the water's edge so they can shoot at the deer feeding on the acorns. However, then they've left scent trails from their vehicles to their stand sites. The deer probably will realize where the hunters' stands are.
Instead, try to go to your stand by water. In flooded- water conditions, the more time you spend moving through the water and the less time you are walking on the land, the more opportunities you will have to surprise a buck and get a shot within your bow range. If you can walk to your stand site through the water, you'll leave very little if any human odor to announce your presence to the deer. In most regions, deer are conditioned to expect danger to come by land -- not by water. If you watch deer feed on the edge of water, notice they usually look straight ahead or back towards the land to attempt to spot danger. They rarely gaze out towards the water.
If you place your tree stand out in the water, 15- to 20-yards away from the land when the depth of the water permits, the deer is much less likely to see or smell you. Another advantage to having your stand over water instead of over the land is that most of the time you'll get a broadside shot at the deer as it feeds down the edge of the water. Since the arrow will enter the deer from the side the water is on, generally the deer will bolt and run towards the land, leaving a visible blood trail. If you take the shot from a stand over land, the arrow will come from the land side of the deer. Then he'll usually bolt, run out through the water and won't leave a blood trail.
If you're hunting deer in flooded timber, make sure you don't release the arrow until you are absolutely sure you can make a lethal hit. Even though a buck may run towards land if you take the shot from a tree stand over water, he may cross water several times before he falls. The more lethal a shot you make, the easier your job will be to recover the deer.
Once you release the arrow, listen for the deer to run and fall. Generally he will be easier to hear in flooded- timber areas than on land.