Pee Dee NWR deer hunting a cut above
By Mike Marsh
Published in Sports on November 7, 2008 1:46 PM
Although the state's central deer region firearms season was several weeks away, I was sitting on a folding stool, leaning against an oak tree that three men could not reach around while holding hands.
The white oak overlooked a buck's scrape line along a creek bottom. Acorns were thumping the ground. Yellowed leaves were chattering as they drifted down in a light breeze.
It was Oct. 23 and the hilly terrain of Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge offered much different scenery from coastal flatlands. By agreement with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, federal lands including refuges may have seasons different from surrounding state lands.
Along with my pals Basil Watts and David Franklin, I entered a drawing for one of five modern gun hunts and was drawn for the first one. There has also been a youth hunt and muzzleloader hunt. There had also been a bowhunt beginning at the same time as in other regions, but ending on Oct. 3 to give firearms hunters a shot at controlling the whitetail population.
"Pee Dee is a waterfowl sanctuary," said J.D. Bricken, the refuge manager. "But we have hunts for turkeys, deer and small game. Our deer hunts are popular and most years the odds of being drawn are 50 to 60 percent. Out of 250 applicants who are drawn for each hunt, perhaps 100 actually show up to hunt and most of them will not hunt all three days."
Bricken said hunting controlled the deer population. Approximately 1,100 acres of the refuge's 8,500 acres are planted with agricultural crops for geese, ducks and other birds and animals. If deer were not controlled, they would eat everything that is planted.
"Hunting is one of our six public use objectives," said Bricken. "The others are fishing, wildlife photography, wildlife observation, education and interpretation."
Bricken said he would like hunters to take more does. But most hunters showed a preference for antlered bucks. Since it is one of the few public hunting areas in the state with a lot of agriculture, it has a reputation for producing bucks with big antlers.
Our hunting trio headed into the woods we had scouted the day before. But a flashlight shining told us other hunters had gotten there first. We backed away and selected other spots, with Watts also sitting on a folding stool and Franklin erecting a ladder stand.
Other hunters came behind us, but moved away after spotting our set-ups. I had all but given up seeing a deer because of the commotion. But at 8:45 a.m., a small 4-pointer walked by eating acorns. An 80-yard shot with a .30-06 ended the hunt, except for the dragging and skinning.
The refuge has a self-check station, where hunters weigh their deer and record information. Hunters came with deer all morning. As predicted by Bricken, most had taken bucks.
Tim Mosteller of Lincolnton had a nice 7-pointer. He was hunting with his son, Brandon.
"I've been drawn for this hunt three of the last four years," said Tim. "We like coming here because it is a good place to hunt. It has lots of quality deer. Brandon killed his first deer here 14 years ago when he was 10. It was an 8-pointer. I also saw a spike and 8 does this morning."
"I saw a 6-pointer and a doe this morning," said Brandon. "It's always a good hunt."
Robert Hallman of Lincolnton had a 5-pointer strapped to a two-wheeled cart. He said he had been drawn for the hunt every year except one for the past nine years.
"I come because of the great hunting," he said. "Last year, I got two does. Sometimes you pick a spot where there are other hunters. But you have to be courteous and give them room. There's lots of room to spread out and you might see a deer almost anywhere."
Bricken agreed, saying hunters did not have to walk far from roads. He said it was important to heed the refuge requiring hunters to be off the refuge by two hours after sunset.
"Too many hunters get way back in the woods," said Bricken. "If you shoot a deer too far from a road, you may have trouble getting it out in time. Just find a good spot with white oak acorns and you will see some deer."
For more information, visit www.fws.gov/peedee or telephone (704) 694-4424.
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