Hunting Hot-Weather White-Tailed Bucks in South Carolina
The Bucks of Summer
Editor’s Note: The State of South Carolina homes many fine hunting places and has a deer season unlike many others, since it starts in some sections of the state on August 15 and continues until January 1. This week we’ll look at hot-weather deer hunting in South Carolina and see the enjoyment of the hunters there, although the weather is hot, and sometimes the hunting is tough.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was hunting during very-hot weather in August one year, and the buck just vanished. I was sure he’d dove into the high weeds beside the old logging road, but I wasn’t really concerned. I knew my Mannlicher .30-06 would drive tacks at 200 yards, and this buck was only 70- or 80-yards away. I had a solid rest, and the crosshairs on the scope were just behind the buck’s front shoulder right in the kill zone. At the report of the rifle, I expected the buck to go down. And, when he made one hop into high weeds, I wasn’t really concerned. I felt sure he hadn’t gone more than 40 yards.
I was hunting at Cedar Knoll Hunting Lodge at Lakeview Plantation near Fairfax, South Carolina, and hoped to bag a velvet-antlered buck. Right at last light on the second day of my hunt, I’d seen the buck of my dreams. Although the heat was intense, I used Hunter’s Specialties’ Scent-A-Way Spray every 30 minutes to kill my odor. I sprayed from the top of my cap to the soles of my shoes to try and hide from the deer’s nose. Then there he was, a big full-velvet 8-point buck, and I was confident of my shot when I took it. However, once I climbed down from my tree stand and started searching for the deer, I could find no blood and no blood trail. Hayward Simmons, the owner of Cedar Knoll, told me, “Don’t worry, John, Sonny will find that buck if you hit him.” Sonny, Simmons’ yellow Labrador retriever, had a keen nose. I’d seen Sonny before find deer in the rain, at night and several times when there was no visible blood trail. However, when we took Sonny out that night to locate my deer, he never alerted or found the trail. I knew that if the deer was hit, especially hit where he was supposed to be hit, there should have been an easy-to-find blood trail.
Finally, after we’d searched for an hour or two, I looked at Hayward and said, “Well, this is the first time this has ever happened to me.”
With a smile of disbelief, Simmons looked at me and asked, “Is this the first time you’ve ever missed a deer?” I explained, “Oh, no, I’ve missed deer before, but I’ve never missed one I was that sure of when I squeezed the trigger. There’s only one explanation for what happened.” Simmons scratched his head and said, “Ok, what happened?” I explained, “The rifle is accurate, the scope is dead-on, those Winchester bullets are some of the best on the market, and there’s no doubt in my mind that my crosshairs were where they should have been when I squeezed the trigger. Therefore, the only reasonable explanation for what happened was that the deer got raptured.” Simmons laughed in disbelief. “Absolutely,” I explained. “The Good Lord just took that deer home before the bullet hit him, and that’s the only reasonable explanation of why we’re not dragging a deer out of the woods right now.” After sharing a good laugh, we returned to camp.
Deer season in South Carolina arrives in August. Although many South Carolinians will hunt every day of the season, Simmons uses this long deer season and liberal bag limit to regulate the hunting pressure at his place. “We hunt a week in August and a week in September, and we take about 15 bucks,” Simmons says. “Then we don’t hunt again until about mid-November, when the rut starts in South Carolina. So the deer haven’t had any hunting pressure for more than a month. Then we hunt again in December after giving the land a rest. We generally take 75-100 deer per season, and all of our hunters usually get shots. So even though South Carolina has a long season and a liberal bag limit, and you can hunt velvet-antlered bucks, I use that long season to take the hunting pressure off my deer to increase the odds of my hunter’s success during the weeks we do hunt.”
To learn more about hunting Cedar Knoll, go to www.cedarknoll.com/. But if you go there and happen to miss a deer without any explanation as to why you’ve missed, just remember, from time to time the deer at Cedar Knoll do get raptured. I know this is true, because I saw it happen.
Tomorrow: How to Hunt Summer Bucks