11/23/12 — Outdoors -- Quiet hunting available at Singletary Tract

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Outdoors -- Quiet hunting available at Singletary Tract

By Mike Marsh
Published in Sports on November 23, 2012 1:48 PM

A lone hunter stood at the back of his vehicle, putting on coveralls before heading back into the woods. A locked metal gate painted yellow blocked his vehicle from entering, but the trail beyond the gate was welcome to foot travel.

"This is only my first time hunting here this season," said Knox Wilkins, a 50-year-old truck driver from St. Paul's. "But I like hunting here because hunting deer with dogs is not allowed. I like being able to hunt where it's quiet and the deer aren't too disturbed by dogs running them."

Wilkins said he usually hunts at Fort Bragg, which a nearby U.S. Army Post that allows civilians to hunt after passing an orientation class and paying for a base hunting license.

However, today, Wilkins was hunting at Bladen Lakes State Forest Game Land in Bladen County. All that is required to hunt the game land is a hunting license with the big-game privilege and a Game Lands hunting license. Most of the game land is open for coursing deer with hounds.

Wilkins was hunting on the Singletary Tract where hounds are prohibited for hunting deer and bear. Other prohibitions include a ban on the use of center-fire rifles and handguns, so most deer hunters use shotguns, but a few use muzzle-loading rifles. These restriction were put in place by the landowner -- the N.C. Division of Forest Resources. The open terrain of the longleaf plantations and the ongoing gathering of pine needles for landscaping led to the hunting regulations because of safety concerns.

"I shot one doe in here," Wilkins said. "I shot her with No. 1 buckshot. I also shot at a buck, but I think I missed. I was using a borrowed muzzle-loader and all I saw was the smoke when I pulled the trigger. There wasn't any blood and I couldn't see which way the buck went."

Wilkins had pulled up the gated trail in early afternoon. He said no vehicles had been parked at the spot when he pulled up. But someone had obviously been there that morning hunting deer.

"I saw some cart wheel tracks that someone might have made while bringing out a deer," he said. "So I went down the path to see what had happened and looked for some deer sign. I didn't have my shotgun with me when I went a few yards around the first curve and looked over the hill and there was a doe, just standing there and looking at me."

Hunters usually bring a wheeled cart along to help them bring out any deer they are fortunate enough to bag. Some hunters also use their carts to wheel climbing stands into the woods and some simply take their carts into the forest with them in case they happen to take a deer. That saves a trip back to the vehicle to retrieve the cart before bringing out the deer.

Deer often do not recognize a human on foot if they don't have a good look at the entire person, or the person is not moving. It is their sense of smell that causes the greatest alarm and a deer will high-tail it for safety if it catches the tiniest whiff of human scent.

Knox hunts with a Remington 11-87, 12-gauge shotgun loaded with Winchester 21/2-inch shells that contain 16 pellets of No. 1 buckshot.

"The gun will kill a deer cleanly at a good distance with No. 1 buckshot," he said. "I could have easily raised my shotgun and killed the doe I saw, but I would rather shoot a buck today."

Deer of either sex may be taken throughout all of the seasons, including archery, muzzleloader and regular firearms season. The game land is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays and has a variety of habitats, including bottom-land hardwoods along the Cape Fear River, as well as pine plantations such as the one young regenerating stand beginning to grow on one side of the trail that Wilkins was entering.

The opposite side was hardwood forest and that is where the woods were open enough to allow good hunting visibility. There are also a number of fields along the trails planted with winter wheat and other green crops to attract deer.

"I found some scrapes and rubs not far from where I jumped the doe," Wilkins said. "I'm going back to the same spot to see if I can shoot a buck."

To either contact Mike Marsh or order his books, visit www.mikemarshoutdoors.com.