John's Journal... Entry 228, Day 1
HOW TO HUNT CLEAR CUTS
Why Hunt Clear Cuts
Editor's Note: For most of their lives, Larry Norton of Pennington, Alabama, and his cousin Ray Moseley either have been members of hunting clubs or operated hunting clubs. In 2002, they decided to lease some property and allow individuals to hunt on the property known as the Shed Hunting Lodge near Butler in west/central Alabama. All this property lies on either private or timber company lands, with the majority of the land clear cut. Most deer hunters have difficulties hunting clear cuts and uneven-age-stand plantations because they don't know the secrets for hunting these areas. But the six hunters who hunted at the Shed last year all took deer, with four of them harvesting bucks that scored 130 points or better on the Boone & Crockett scale. This week, Larry Norton, who avidly hunts deer for more than three months each year and also is a World Champion turkey caller, will tell you secrets for hunting clear cuts and uneven-age pine stands.
Clear cuts provide great habitats for deer with plenty of cover for deer to bed in and browse for them to feed on, and the deer can grow to the older-age classes because they can dodge hunters so well in a clear cut. I believe if you learn how to hunt clear cuts, you can take bigger deer than if you just hunt open hardwoods with their little browse and limited bedding areas. Here's what I've learned from hunting clear cuts all my life.
* Have open lanes to shoot down to take big bucks. You'll usually find lanes beside the SMZs (Stream ManagementZones) on creek and stream banks, green fields, power lines and firebreaks. Any time you decide to hunt a clear cut, the first thing you scout for even before you scout for deer is open areas where you can see deer and get a shot at one. a deer.
* Start your scouting as soon as the area is clear cut, and before it's replanted. Deer, like people, create certain paths and trails to go wherever they want to move. Unless the habitat or the hunting pressure change drastically, the deer will continue to use these same trails. Even after a region's clear cut, deer will use the same trails to walk through the now-barren ground that they've used before the area has been clear cut. So, for this reason, the first year a piece of ground is clear cut, I take my GPS (Global Positioning System) hand-held receiver and walk the deer trails that the deer have left on the clear ground before the ground is replanted. I store these trails in the memory of my GPS receiver, and I mark specific places on these trails where one trail intersects another trail. These trails provide critical information that I'll use for the next 20 or 30 years when I hunt deer. These trails will tell me where I can expect to find deer as the clear cut grows up and throughout the life of the replanted pine plantation. Year after year you can hunt these trails inside the pine thicket, and these trails will consistently produce deer for you.
TOMORROW: HOW NORTON HUNTS A YOUNG PINE PLANTATION