John's Journal...

How to Hunt the Pines and the Lulls for Deer

Day 1: From Dirt to Thickets: Hunting a Pine Plantation for Deer from Years 1 through 5

Editor’s Note: Many hunters consider pine plantations biological deserts where nothing exists except pine trees and pine straw - or that's what outdoorsmen have told other sportsmen for years. Honestly, I truly hope you believe that, because the majority of hunters who accept that idea will stay out of some of the best big-buck territory in the nation, leaving the prime hunting spots for those who know how to hunt the pines. Pine plantations generally home some of the most-productive places I know to take big deer for three reasons. Pine plantations provide food and browse for the deer to feed on, cover they can hide in and a barrier most hunters won't penetrate to search for deer. For instance, I've never had another hunter walk through my hunting site when I've hunted inside a pine plantation. Deer hold in pine plantations from the first year after the planting of the pines until the last year when foresters cut the mature trees, generally a timeline of about 30 years. Let's look at some secrets for hunting a pine plantation.

During Years 1 - 5:

Click for Larger View* Hunt traditional deer trails. Many hunters fail to realize that deer will travel the same traditional trails they've used before the clear-cutting to move from one spot to another. For the most success in hunting planted pines for numbers of years, take a hand-held GPS (global positioning system) receiver, walk these trails, which will consist probably only of bare dirt this first year after the clear-cutting, record where the trails start and go, and store these deer trails as routes in your GPS.

Click for Larger ViewBy the second year, briars, brambles, bushes, shrubs and grasses will grow up in the pines, even if someone has sprayed the property with herbicides to prevent unwanted hardwoods from sprouting at the site. Although the trails will appear to vanish in the new foliage, deer still will use the trails. The routes you've stored in your GPS will enable you to hunt the edges of the clear-cut as well as places where the trails exit the clear-cut and open spaces inside the clear-cut. At the end of the second year of growth of the planted pines, use your GPS, pull up the routes of the traditional deer trails, and walk the trails after deer season ends. Choose some ground blind sites, and mark them on your GPS as waypoints. Remember to only hunt them with a favorable wind, and control your human odor with scent-eliminating products.

* Hunt open lanes to take big bucks. You'll usually find open lanes along the edges or through a clear-cut, including the Stream Management Zones (SMZs) on creek and stream banks, green fields, power lines and firebreaks. Any time you decide to hunt a clear-cut, first scout for open areas where you can see deer and get a shot at one, before you even scout for the deer.

Click for Larger View* Use a climbing tree stand to climb high enough into a tree on the outer perimeter of a clear-cut to look down into the clear-cut. Because your GPS will show you the locations of the trails inside that clear-cut, once in your tree stand, you can look down into the cover and watch for deer moving along the trails. Or, you can go to the top of a hill, a ridge or a mountain close to the clear-cut and look down into it to learn this information you need.

Many whitetail hunters – particularly in the East – don't use spotting scopes and quality binoculars like mule deer and elk hunters do. However, when you hunt a young clear-cut from a high ridge or a high tree stand, quality optics greatly will improve your success in seeing deer.

Click for Larger View* Utilize the telephone-pole tactic when no trees grow close to the clear-cut you want to hunt. A friend of mine, Dr. Scott Drummond of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, needed a way to hunt a clear-cut on the very-flat property he hunted. According to Drummond, "There weren't any trees big enough to hold a climbing tree stand on the edge of this clear-cut. So, I rented an auger, moved it out into the clear-cut long before deer season arrived, drilled a hole in the ground big enough to hold a telephone pole, bought a telephone pole and put it in the hole. Once I had the pole in position, I used 2X4s to build a platform high on the pole, covered it with brush for camouflage and later hunted from that platform. I took several nice bucks from that telephone-pole stand out in the clear-cut during the first 2 to 5 years the property was planted in pines."

* Walk deer up. In warm weather, deer generally will hold in the bottom of a hollow on a pine plantation. As the weather becomes colder, the deer will start moving up the hill or the mountain, so they can get in the early-morning sun. If you move slowly without making noise and still spook a buck in that clear-cut, the buck probably won't know exactly your position and only will run 40 to 60 yards, stop and look back to try to spot you. That's when you can get a shot at the deer, if the clear-cut hasn't grown-up too much and become very thick. This tactic pays the best deer dividends in young pine stands where you can see the deer get up and then stop.

For more deer-hunting tips, get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks “How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro,”
How to Hunt Deer Up Close: With Bows, Rifles, Muzzleloaders and Crossbows,” and “PhD Whitetails: How to Hunt and Take the Smartest Deer on Any Property,” or to prepare venison, get “Deer & Fixings.” Click on each, or go to, type in the name of the book, and download it to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.


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About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.

Tomorrow: Prime Time Hunting for Deer in the Pines: Years 6 through 15

Check back each day this week for more about How to Hunt the Pines and the Lulls for Deer"

Day 1: From Dirt to Thickets: Hunting a Pine Plantation for Deer from Years 1 through 5
Day 2: Prime Time Hunting for Deer in the Pines: Years 6 through 15
Day 3: Still Good Hunting for Deer in the Pines: Years 16 - 30
Day 4: Hunting Deer During the Rut in a Young Pine Plantation with Larry Norton
Day 5: How to Hunt the Lulls for Deer

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Entry 753, Day 1