Back in the early 80's (as best as I can recall, it may have been earlier), Oklahoma started an experiment with some of their WMA's that had a lot of bottom land. They would take a certain area of green timber and build dikes around it then flood it in the fall. The water depth would normally be around 18 inches to 2 feet, some areas a little more, some areas had less. This was in an effort to attract migrating ducks to the flooded timber in an effort to provide them with a resting area where they could feed and a place hunters could hunt ducks until 1 p.m.
The Wildlife Dept. also went into these areas cordoned off by the dikes and bulldozed small clearings every so often. These provided ducks a place to rest in the open and feed on the various weed seeds beneath the water. This also provided hunters an area to set out a set of dekes.
A Funny Thing Kept Happening On The Way To Our Duck Blinds
I was into all types of hunting in those days, especially duck hunting. My buddies and I knew all the "hot" spots in the timber where those Greenheads wanted to lull away the day.
Funny thing kept happening on the way into our duck hunting spots. We kept jumping deer in the water. There were a few times we'd be sitting in our blinds and watch deer come wading out across the "our" clearing.
In Oklahoma, the duck season usually started toward the end of deer season (back when deer season was only a 9 days long). Me and a buddy finally realized why we kept jumping deer out in the water. They were there to avoid the deer hunting crowd!
One day, I told my buddy "Tomorrow after we get done duck hunting, I'm going to go home and get my deer rifle and come back to hunt the afternoon in this flooded timber."
We lived about 5 miles away from the Public hunting area so it wasn't unheard of us going home after duck hunting, getting a bite to eat then heading off to hunt deer in our "traditional" dry ground areas.
He laughed and said something "smart" about bringing my bag of "deer decoys." (this was before "deer decoys" had even hit the market)
Those Who Laugh Last...
However, it was I who had the last laugh. The next afternoon I got back to the hunting area around 2 and silently started my hunt on the opposite side of the Public hunting area where there were few hunters. I had the wind in my face and the sun on my right side. (I prefer it at my back when I'm still hunting)
Flooded timber makes for the best still hunting! Even if you step on a limb, the water has usually made the limb soft, if not, the water at least muffles the sound.
I had gone about a 100 yards and had been standing in one spot for about 10 minutes watching a group of Mallards feed when I heard something coming in the water. I thought it was another hunter and I was going to be PO'd if this hunter was messing up my Mallard watching! I shouldn't have been surprised when two Does and an 7 point came into view walking toward where the ducks were feeding.
He wasn't a monster, but he was a good buck for that area and the season was coming to a close. I waited until he was about 40 years away and clear of the other deer and dropped the hammer on him with a 30-30.
To my amazement, he tried to run and kept falling down. The Mallards high tailed it but the Does were confused. You see, sound echoes in the Timber and I'm not sure if they could not tell where the shot came from, or just couldn't run in the water.
That was the first of about a dozen or so deer I've killed in flooded timber.
If you know of a Public hunting area that gets a lot of deer hunting pressure and has some flooded timber, give this tactic a try.
Here are some tips I've learned over the years for hunting Bucks in flooded timber.
- Pre-Season scouting is still a must. You'll still be looking for the trees with the best acorns and looking for high ground. Deer love to bed out in the water on humps. Some of these humps can from root balls of trees that have fallen in years past.
- Keep safety in mind at all times.There are duck hunters out in that flooded timber, so watch where you're shooting. Suprisingly, most of the deer don't mind the duck hunters that much, even when they've been shooting. If you're hunting in duck season, don't be shooting in the direction of duck hunters!
- It's still important to move slowly. On a normal day of still hunting in flooded timber, I would only move 100 to 200 yards at best. You can hear deer moving in standing water long before you can see them. However, they also sound like ducks when they meandering and feeding along. Move slow and use your binoculars.
- Don't put your tree stand away just yet!If you're not the still hunter type, I have good news. Deer in flooded timber move a lot during the day. One of my best hunting spots is a funnel between two old sloughs. The deer have to either go all the way around the ends of the sloughs or come right through the bottleneck to take a short cut. Trust me, there have been more than a few that took this "shortcut" once too often!
- Dead deer float! But only IF you DO NOT field dress them! Their hollow hairs help give them buoyancy and it may be the easiest "drag" you've ever had. Nothing is simpler than pulling a floating deer out of the woods. I've shot deer with a .54 caliber muzzleloader and they floated fine.
- Take a map and compass or GPS. I've got turned around in flooded timber before. When it's dark, those trees all look the same! Use a GPS or map and compass to get you out. If you get lost, the duck hunters will laugh at you!
- Watch where you're going. Beneath that black water lies dangerous obstacles. I've stepped in holes left by the root wad of trees that had fallen over, armadillo holes and numerous other hazards. A hip boot or wader full of freezing water is not fun and it can be dangerous! Always tell someone where you'll be hunting.
- Deer can't run well in water. They know this and I believe they're more likely to sit tight and let you walk by. If you've ever tried to run in knee deep water, you'll understand. They have double the trouble of running in water than we do!
On a side note, always check the regulations where you plan on hunting. The area may be off limits to rifles or there could be any number of reasons they're not letting deer hunters access the flooded timber!
So if you know some heavily hunted Public areas that have some flooded timber nearby, put on a pair of hip boots and go after your buck!