I spent the week of October 11th through the 16th 2015 hunting at Deerfield Plantation. It was a six day hunt so it’s a long story with lots of pics.
I’ve been doing an annual hunt in South Carolina at Deerfield Plantation for 20 years now, my first hunt there occurring in 1995. Joining me this year were Joe (HPA Bumblehick), George (HPA Muttleysgone), Joe’s cousin John from Phila., as well as Jim and Bill from Perry County Pa. We usually go the third week of October so as to have the best chance at heavy rut activity; the rut usually falling mid-October on the coastal plain of SC. We backed the hunt up a week this year so that George could do the hunt.
Last year, I included a lot of background info and pictures of the lodge, property and hunt specific rules so I’ll not do that this year, but those who may be interested in that information may click the link below for last year’s post:
Anticipation of this year’s hunt was somewhat dampened by an unprecedented 18” of rainfall received in the area a week prior to our hunt, with St. George smack dab in the worst of it. As things turned out, the main property at Deerfield was relatively unaffected other than a small percentage of the more than 300 stands being rendered inaccessible; it’s really amazing how rapidly water can come and go in that deep sandy soil down there, it’s like a sponge. My favorite lease however, The Creek (Brown and Down), was closed to hunting for the majority of the week by the State due to severe flooding along the Edisto River. DNR finally lifted the ban on Thursday of our hunt and we were fortunate to get one afternoon in hunting the lease with good result as you shall see.
We had a full house most of the week; with all of the regular second week of October hunters being joined by us third week yahoos, and a few corporate hunters drifting in and out, we had from 15 to 18 hunters in the woods on any one sit through Thursday morning. George, John and I were guided by Harry, Hugh Walters cousin and a long time Deerfield guide and character. We were joined in the truck by 80 year old Bill Sr. and his two sons Walt and Bill Jr., originally from New Jersey. It was a great group and there was no end to the cutting up on each other and guide Harry; I think I used up my allotment of laughter for the next few months
. Joe was in Hughs truck.
The weather was perfect, sunny and slightly cool all week, but the actual hunting was very strange, definitely pre-rut hunting. Even with so many hunters in the woods we were seeing very few deer, but the younger bucks were walking and we managed to put together a slow pick of bucks, killing one or two on just about every sitting. As best as I can recollect, all but two hunters killed at least one deer during the week. As is always the case at Deerfield, at least one hunter absolutely catches fire and this week it would be Bill Sr.
On The Hunt
Sunday morning, October 11th.
We were hunting the 1000 acre Trophy Area and I drew a stand on a woods road in an overgrown cutover. Other than the road, I really couldn’t see anything and that’s just what I saw… nothing, not a squirrel, not a bird, nothing. The good news was that we were on a backwards rotation and would be changing areas in the afternoon. Several hunters had action though: a young 14 year old hunter killed his first deer, a spike buck, and Bill Jr. hit a very good buck that was harassing some does. The shot was at the moving buck however and after Harry’s tracking dog Chucky jumped the buck several times it was apparent that we’d not catch up to that one. I was unable to get a pic of the young hunter and his buck as it had already been cleaned by the time we got in.
Sunday evening, October 11th.
We changed locations and were hunting the Horse Farm, one of the 4 points total areas. I was in a tower box deep in the hardwoods and could see a long stretch of road in either direction. Harry had told me that hunters had been seeing a decent buck crossing the road about 100 yards to my right but that he never seemed to pause and nobody had been able to get a shot at him.
Views from the stand
I hadn’t seen anything, when just at last shooting light, I had a big deer step out within 30 yards of the stand on my left, but it got me as I turned my head , looking right into my eyes and had me totally pinned down. We did a Texas standoff for a few seconds and it didn’t really spook, it just walked off of the road. As far as I know it was a big doe. We did have some luck that evening; Joe killed a nice 6 point and Bill Sr. a 4 point; Walt saw 4 deer but had no shot opportunity and George saw a button head.
Joe with 6 point
Bill Sr. with 4 point
Monday morning, October 12th.
Back on the same stands as the previous evening, I had better luck. At first light I looked up the road to my right as a deer stepped out onto the road. It was still too dark to make out if it was a buck or doe with the naked eye, but I wasn’t concerned about that anyway as I’m always going to kill the first deer I have a chance at when hunting at Deerfield. Never really looking at the deer’s head, my crosshairs found its shoulder. At the shot, I completely lost the animal in the muzzle flash. It was 7:05am. Not having seen the reaction of the deer I decided to give it plenty of time before checking on it and settled in for the wait. In the meantime, a flock of turkeys made an appearance.
At 8:30am I decided to go check on my deer. Finding lots of lung and rib shards on the road and a good blood trail leading into the woods, I began to follow the blood trail, but after only 15 yards or so the deer had gotten itself into some “crawl on yer knees” crap and I elected to back out and wait for Harry. Once he arrived we quickly found the deer about 15 yards past where I had stopped trailing. It was a large bodied, heavy but small racked 8 point… I was elated. That morning others had some luck as well, good and bad. Bill Sr. missed a doe, John knocked down a small buck but we never found any blood, and the cousin of the young fellow mentioned previously killed a good 8 point buck. Once again, I did not get a picture of the kid and his buck as it was processed by the time we got in.
Monday evening, October 12th.
We changed areas and stands and were hunting the main property, 4 points on one side. I was in a 20 ft. lean-up on a woods road and had another slow sit, but was treated once again to a flock of turkeys and got a picture of a Barred Owl that perched quite near my stand. Bill Jr. killed a small 7 point, John a 7 as well and a very nice one at that, and Bill from Perry County killed a doe.
Bill and John with 7 points
Tuesday morning, October 13th.
Found us back on the same stands with a similar result for me; all I saw was an armadillo. George passed on a small 4 point. Bill Sr. was catching fire though; he killed a big doe at about 7:30am, then, at about 8:30am here comes a big buck walking directly towards him right in the road. He let it come on and dumped it, a big bodied, heavy horned 8 point. The tracks in the road told a story: the buck had come up the road from a long ways away on the downwind side of the stand and more than likely had picked up the scent of Bills doe lying in the road. Jim from Perry County also hit a big buck that morning but the dog just kept jumping it up and they couldn’t catch up to it. It appeared to be only a shoulder hit.
Bill Sr. with his big buck
Tuesday evening, October 13th.
We were in the Trophy Area once more. I was on a very nice stand on a small food plot at a V in the road back in the woods but saw nothing. Walt saw and passed on a spike and a fawn, Joe hit and lost a hog. Once again Bill Sr. could do no wrong, seeing and passing on a buck that was close, but not quite, good enough to make the trophy restriction (8 point, 14” inside spread). He said had he not had to pay for killing a second deer that morning, he definitely would have killed it and paid the fee.
Wednesday morning, October 14th.
Same stands. Our crew saw no deer but George thought he saw a big hog cross before first good light. Joe (Bumblehick) had a great morning, killing a very good 10 point and a spike.
Wednesday evening, October 14th.
We hunted one of the 4 point total leases along the powerline. I was back in the woods on a large food plot, more of a field. At 4:30pm someone across the hard road decided it would be a great evening to open up with the AR’s and AK’s and for next hour George and I were treated to a never ending barrage until about 5:30pm. Then, to add insult to injury, whenever a train would go by on the main line a pack of coyotes would open up within a few hundred yards of our positions, this being repeated 3 times until near dark. Needless to say, we saw no game that evening. It was a big night for the group as a whole though: Bill Sr. killed a big, broken up 8 point; Eric and Wally from Massachusetts killed a big 8 and a 5 point respectively. Wally also killed a doe, as did Jim from Perry County.
From left to right: Wally, Bill Sr., Eric, Jim
Thursday morning, October 15th.
Back on the same stands. I saw a big gobbler, Bill Sr. killed a doe, John missed a doe and Joe saw two small bucks but either had no shot or passed them up, I can’t remember.
As mentioned earlier, the Creek Lease (Brown and Down) had been closed to hunting by DNR since the flood, but was to be reopened after midnight on Wednesday. Hugh and the guides had gone in on Wednesday afternoon and found they could access only eight of the dozens of stands they have on the lease, but they went ahead and corned those. At the conclusion of the Thursday morning hunt, most of the hunters had finished their respective hunts and pulled out, leaving only six of us in camp, and Hugh asked us if we’d like to hunt The Creek. We all jumped at the chance.
Thursday evening, October 15th.
On The Creek, Brown and Down (no antler restrictions, no fee for button bucks). At 3:40pm I had settled into a tripod stand in a beautiful spot nestled in a grove of large oak trees in an old cutover with the road going through mature hardwoods to my left. At approx. 3:50pm, here comes a doe walking toward me from my right and I poleaxed her right in the road when she stopped at the corn. I went over and pulled her off of the road and into some shade.
I had no sooner climbed back in the stand when a big doe crossed the road near where I had shot the first one. She disappeared but I got ready as I figured she was looking for the other one, and sure enough, at 4:05pm I saw her in the brush about to step back onto the road. I had clear shoulder in the scope so I dumped her right there, and went over to drag her to the shade and the first doe. Having incurred a second deer charge, I resolved only to take another one if it was a good buck. I saw a big doe at about 6pm, a little spike at 7pm and another deer on the corn at dark. It had sounded to me as though everyone had shot at least once.
From the stand
Sure enough, everyone had killed. I got the two does; John, Joe and Jim (from Florida) each killed a doe; Maurrie from Graterford Pa killed a 6 point; and George killed a doe, a spike and a very good 8 point. We were fortunate to have had the opportunity as that will be it for The Creek for a while. If anybody goes, everyone must go, and with more hunters starting Friday morning and only eight stands available, it may be several weeks until the lease can be brought back into the normal rotation.
The group with our deer
George with his nice buck
Friday morning, October 16th.
Our last day to hunt, we were back on Trophy. I was in a tower box on a small food plot back in the hardwoods, with a 60 yard view down the road to my right and what would turn out to be a very nice view down into the swamp to my left. At first light I saw a buck with a good rack step out in the road, and, unconcerned with the requirement (they don’t get mad, they just get paid), I dumped it DRT, right in the road. It was a very nice 8 point and I couldn’t have been happier. It was a good morning; John killed a spike buck, and Joe and Jim (from Fla) each killed doe.
My last day buck
Friday evening, October 16th.
Same stand, last sit of the hunt. I’d seen two big gobblers earlier in the swamp. At 7pm a big doe came out and walked diagonally through the food plot. I thought about taking her but she was acting peculiar so I held off in the case a buck may be following. No such luck. Right at last light a deer stepped out and hit the corn in the plot, but it was too late to identify what it was with certainty so I passed. It definitely did not have a rack on it.
To sum it up:
It was a strange and often frustrating week of hunting but in the end quite successful. We had a full house most of the week and everyone was a pleasure to be around; most being regulars for years. The camp as a whole had an impressive take of 17 antlered bucks, one adult buck with completely broken off horns, and a dozen or so does. As for our little crew, I took two bucks and two does; Joe took three bucks and a doe; George took two bucks and a doe; John took two bucks and a doe; and the Perry County boys, Jim and Bill, each took a doe.
The weather was to get much cooler down there this week and I’d suspect those hunting now may be having a fantastic hunt. Having said that, one of our own HPA’ers, Milbry18, has a crew of 5 down there as I write this and I can’t wait to hear how they did upon his return. Next season I have a conflict with a moose hunt and won’t be hunting Deerfield until December. I’m excited about it though, as some of you may remember I had a heck of a Deerfield hunt in December of 2012.