Four Things I Learned From The 2014 Deer Season

By: Nathan Unger

With each new hunting season comes new obstacles, new challenges and hopefully new trophies. That’s why each hunting season is just as exciting as the last if not more exciting.  Sometimes this means that unexpected scenarios occur that one needs to be aware of in order to be put in a position to put the big buck down. Here are five things I learned or was reminded of this year after nearly a decade of hunting.

1.) Preparation = Success.

This might be a no-brainer, but the little things that are done correctly ahead of time can put you in a position to succeed when you’re on stand during the peak time of the season. Those that hunt out of box stands can make sure to clean out leaves, wasp nests and other clutter that can make noise when you’re hunting. Make sure that stands are tightened and seats are oiled somehow. WD-40 is easy to use in order to eliminate squeaks and unnecessary sounds when hunting. Be sure that rotten wood is replaced and loose wood is properly tightened. These simple tasks can be avoided during the season and can provide great success when the hunting is hot.

2.) Spooking deer will not always ruin your hunt.

It’s always a hunter’s nightmare when he or she spooks deer walking into a stand. Unfortunately I learned this the hard way this year when I had a late start to my stand and spooked a herd bedding in the woods on a hillside on my way in. These deer either winded me or saw me or both, but either way it was not a good beginning to my hunt. However, a separate occasion I started walking into my stand and spooked a group that was bedding down in a thicket. Later that morning, my brother killed his biggest buck to date near where I had spooked the deer a couple hours earlier. The key to this success is playing the wind. This might be obvious, but it’s the solid truth. This was the first year in my hunting experience that I really paid attention to the wind, and nearly every time we had success was because the wind was in our favor.

3.) Know the food of choice each season

This year was an exceptional year for acorns which in my neck of the woods, pun intended, made it hard to hunt over food plots. Typically we’re fortunate enough to take a deer or two over our food plot each season, but this year we didn’t take a single one. Given, there were a lot of variables involved for not hunting the plots as much such as more deer on a certain portion of the property, hunting more often on or near the woods and hunting a deer we had patterned near a stand on a treeline. However, these variables all had three common factors: ample acorns, a water source and a bedding area. Piles and piles of acorns layered the ground this year which allowed deer not to have to travel as much, especially later in the season.

4.) Never take your property for granted

I think sometimes we forget how blessed we really are. Some hunters may have the means to hunt thousands of acres, and some may have less than one hundred. Either way it could all be gone in the blink of an eye. Whether it gets sold, ravaged by fires, cut for timber or the deer simply just leave it doesn’t matter. The point I’m trying to make is to enjoy the time you have while you have it. Enjoy it with friends or with family but don’t forget to take a moment to sit back and be thankful for the blessings given to you.

(Written by Mr. Nathan Unger. Nathan is a Senior at the University of Georgia majoring in Public Relations. Nathan is an avid hunter and a passionate outdoorsman from Southwest Virginia)

The Quest For Uni-brow

It’s always thrilling when you discover new bucks on your property that you didn’t know existed. Such is the case with the infamous buck Uni-brow we discovered the week before Christmas this year. He was first seen trailing two does followed by a couple of other smaller bucks. This was exciting because up until this point we thought that an eight point that is only 2 1/2 or 3 years old was the dominant buck in the area. This was clearly not true.

Three days later we spotted the buck at dusk crossing a creek bottom so fast that he didn’t present a shot. The odd thing, though, was that he was already with a bachelor group of bucks. The oddity wasn’t that he was with two or three bucks. He was with SEVEN! After the hunt that night we got together and talked about a game plan to get a shot on this buck.

Because this buck was so elusive we were not sure we would see him again since it was late in the season. Low and behold we were wrong.

Christmas Eve day my brother and I decided to get up and brave the rain to see if we could spot this buck. It had started raining early that morning, and was pouring by the time we arrived at our hunting destination. The stands we wanted to hunt were a solid mile into the woods, and the only thing we had to keep us dry was the roof of our Kubota over our head. We decided to park several hundred yards away and walk in for fear that the Kubota would get stuck in the mud. Today was not a day to get stuck while it was pouring rain.

The two of us had discussed the night before that we would be patient for the buck and not shoot any does since both of us had already gotten one a piece. With this goal in mind we began trekking through the woods in the torrential rain. We settled in early before light with cloud cover that provided several more minutes of low light. We got in our box blinds, and I began taking off my wet outer layer of clothing to stay dry. Nothing was moving the first part of the morning around my stand, but little did I know Caleb’s experience was quite the opposite. I could see several turkeys coming out of the woods down the hill about 200 yards off by a creek bottom, but still no deer.

Around 8:40 am, I heard a shot. At that moment I knew he  had a chance of taking down this big deer. In my excitement I immediately radioed him and waited for a response. “I don’t know if I got him. I made a good shot, but he came running out of the woods right at me,” Caleb said. There were still deer in the area so we had to stop using the radios for a little while. Finally, I get a call on the radio saying, “He’s huge!” Caleb tracked the deer’s blood trail down to a ravine where he had seen deer run before. “I knew where he was going,” Caleb said. The deer ended up in a ravine where the two of us had to drag him out and up a hill where our RTV couldn’t get to. Finally we got the deer loaded, and off we went back to the cabin. On the way back we called home to say we had gotten a deer, but didn’t stress how big it was. When we arrived back at the house it was all summed up by the first expressions of family members when they saw the big buck that will forever be remembered as the Uni-brow buck.

Caleb's deer on Christmas Eve morning
Caleb’s deer on Christmas Eve morning

(Written by Mr. Nathan Unger. Nathan is a Senior at the University of Georgia majoring in Public Relations. Nathan is an avid hunter and a passionate outdoorsman from Southwest Virginia)

Deer on Turkey Day

I know Christmas is right around the corner, but I’m going to go back to Thanksgiving just for a minute to tell about an adventure from Turkey Day last year. Typically, I don’t normally hunt Thanksgiving evening because after eating 7 lbs. of food and a nap during the seasonal football games I’m just straight-up exhausted. However, Nov. 28, 2013, was an unusual evening.

After stuffing my face, my brother, dad and I made a last minute decision to go get in the stands for the evening. We were hustling as time was dwindling, but managed to get in the stand with a couple hours of daylight left. The evening seemed to be perfect, but it was eerily quiet all night long.

I was in a box stand overlooking a sloping field adjacent to a lake. My brother was in the field over, and my dad was about half a mile away overlooking a creek on some power lines. Still no shots and no sounds piercing the frosty evening. I had almost given up. I started packing my essentials when I happened to look out of the blind about one hundred and seventy yards in front of me and saw antlers slowly poking through the woods. I hurriedly fumbled for my gun putting it up on the plywood window in front of me. The buck hesitated like mature bucks do putting their nose into the wind. The moment was here. I pulled the hammer back put my cross hairs on the buck as he was quartering away and boom!

I missed.

The buck didn’t move. I frantically pulled the lever on my 30-30 Martin to eject my empty shell when he slowly turned back towards the woods. I reloaded my gun put the cross hairs on him, and shot except this time I hit him and he barely ran thirty yards into the woods. It took me what seemed like forever just to take control of my breathing. There was still about thirty minutes of light left, so I waited for my brother and dad to finish up.

This was a buck we hadn’t seen before, but was easily a 4 1/2 year old deer. Originally, I thought he had been a perfect eight, but when we retrieved he was a big seven. This was a beautiful deer, and I was blessed to be in the right place at the right time.

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(Written by Mr. Nathan Unger. Nathan is a Senior at the University of Georgia majoring in Public Relations. Nathan is an avid hunter and a passionate outdoorsman from Southwest Virginia)

Winter Break, Hunting and Memories!

Finally, my exams are done, and now all I can think about is getting into the deer stand with hopes of seeing snow fall this year during my Christmas vacation. Where I hunt in Central North Carolina and Southwest Virginia, snow comes in dustings from a half inch to 4 inches depending on the year. Typically my family travels for Christmas whether it be to see grandparents in Maryland or just up the road in Virginia. So, this year there will be many more opportunities get outdoors in the frosty air. 

One thing I look forward to most is being able to enjoy these experiences with my family. It makes it that much better when a big buck goes down and someone is right there with you to take joy in that moment, but I’m also reminded not to take these times for granted. I was reminded of that this past week when I heard there was a tragic accident in my college town – the wreck took the driver’s life. It reminds me that life is but a short breath and that we should cherish every moment with the ones we love. How am I going to do that? By spending time with my family wrapping presents, chopping wood, going hunting and watching classic Christmas movies around the warm fire. These memories last a lifetime opposed to the pack of gum you might receive in your stocking, not to say I’m not thankful for that as well, but you catch my drift. 

The truth is, make time during the hustle and bustle of the season to create those memories. Take your brother, your son, your wife or your girlfriend hunting, or take them to see lights downtown. You never know what kind of memories you will make. Memories that will last a lifetime. 

Faith and The Outdoors

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After spending a weekend in the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains in Cherokee, North Carolina I was reminded about the reason they exist to begin with. It reminded me of my childhood when my parents introduced me to my Creator – The Creator of the trees, the mountains, the rivers and the wildlife that surrounds them. It reminded me of when my Dad introduced me to the outdoors – to camping, fishing, hunting and cooking over the fire.

During this Christmas season I reminisce on these great memories that make up my very roots and foundation of who I am, and why my Creator artistically formed these things for my enjoyment and pleasure.

You see, the God who spoke life into being is the Creator of all these things plus much, much more, and when I have the opportunity to sit out in the woods, or wade in a stream or sit around a campfire I know that He didn’t just create these things to let them be. He created them with a purpose. He created them for His pleasure and His praise, and when we enjoy creation we acknowledge that what He has made is good and we thank Him for giving us the ability to be able to enjoy such beautiful, mysterious and awe-inspiring creation.IMG_5029

I just wanted to share some thoughts today about my weekend in hopes of encouraging you during this Christmas season, and reminding you of the hope that comes with Christmas.

-Nathan Unger

The Hunt is Right Around the Corner

With exams slowly approaching, it can only mean one thing. Christmas break hunting is on the horizon! As temperatures continue to drop it’ll be one advantage I lean on now that the rut is mostly over. There are three areas, as a hunter, that I will be focusing on when I get into the woods.

1. Oak Groves

With some unforeseen obstacles that have limited foliage on my lease this year, the deer are constantly eating acorns. This year unlike the past three, I hunted mainly in the woods during Thanksgiving break. Typically I like to hunt fields or even travel corridors from food sources to bedding areas, however, this year the best option seems to be getting back in the woods where large oak are and setting up near major funnels. The acorns are in abundance this year which allows the deer to not have to travel as far to find food during the daylight hours.

2. Water Sources

This may be a no brainer, but it cannot be overlooked. Especially in the late season mature bucks are going to stay in a smaller area, and those areas are going to be close to a food source and a water source. This could be a creek, a pond, or a trickle that comes off a lake. Whatever the case may be this offers protection for the deer because predators are forced to cross these natural boundaries in turn offering an advantage to mature bucks.

3. Thickets

It’s late in the season, and bucks are tired, and don’t want to move unless they have to. This is when they find high grass, thick trees, or brush that they can get low to the ground and not be seen. Many bucks won’t move until you’re right on top of them. This happened to me over Thanksgiving. I took a path to my stand that I don’t normally take because it’s pretty long, but due to the wind I new it was my only option for this prime spot. I had walked several hundred yards almost to my stand when something to my right jumped up and rushed at me. I turned around to see a 3 and half year old deer coming at me only to veer of five yards in front of me. This deer wasn’t going to move until I was nearly in his bedding area.

These are three places I personally look for this time of year at my lease in central North Carolina, and I will continue to pursue until that mature buck is down.

-Nathan Unger