Back To Basics For Big Southeast Whitetail by Luke Spong

Back To Basics For Big Southeast Whitetail by Luke Spong

The hunting community is full of “How To’s” and “What To Do’s” when cornering the white-tailed deer hunting topic. Over the last 20 years, and thanks to a wave of information provided over the internet, I find myself spending more time researching how to be a better deer hunter.

Although, I always come back on an all too familiar predicament more often then a solution: “That won’t help your chances of outsmarting your target buck into range here in the Southeastern US.”

There are two main reasons why the Midwest is the preferred proving grounds of many deer hunters.

The most notable, is the shear size of the whitetail. Both in antler growth and body size. Second to that is how ‘huntable’ the land lays. Simply put, the Midwest really is heaven on earth when chasing larger than life whitetail.

Much of the information, we as hunters have access to, seems to target the Midwest deer herds. The purpose of this article is to speak on the Southeastern deer herds.

I have cut my teeth on hunting whitetail in this area of the US, all my life. I love it, and will always hunt the southern states as long as my two legs can carry me.

5 useful and immediate tactics you can use to help punch a tag.

Access and Exits. The Southeast is heavily timbered but does give way to agricultural fields. Use these field edges to your advantage when accessing your hunting spots in the evening. During the morning in early season - don’t even think about stepping foot anywhere near those areas as deer will almost definitely be feeding their way back to their beds. If you have a shallow creek or dry creek bed, use this route to access and exit your core hunting area. This may be a tactic Midwest hunters use, though it can be applied in the Southeast as well. I listed this tactic first - because I am a firm believer that access and exit route is the most important aspect to tagging that target buck. Pretty simple right? Sometimes keeping things simple are the best way to go.

As mentioned above, the Southeast is heavily timbered. We have three main terrain features in which our whitetails inhabit. Mountains - Piedmont - and Coastal/Low Country.

This makes patterning a particular deer extremely difficult. That deer could be anywhere, with unlimited browse, and some of the thickest cover known to man that’s stretches for miles. If you’re from this part of the US, you know what I mean. However, there is always one area that seems to produce here in North Carolina.

Get comfy with a young pine thicket. By young, I mean pines anywhere from 5 feet to 15 feet tall. Deer seem to gravitate to those areas, no matter how small the thicket may be in acreage. You will likely find several rubs and scrapes along the edge of these thickets. Ideally, I look for big timber which borders a pine thicket. Most of my NC bucks have been killed in that buffer zone on the downwind side. You can find these areas all across the Southeast.

Target your rain days. The Southeast gets hot and stays warm for much of the year. I have found that some of my best days spent in the woods are directly after a rain. I’m not entirely sure why this is the case - though it seems the movement is much better during those few hours of cooler weather, with less wind. This is another simple tactic to get you in the woods when deer are on their feet. You can also couple this with using the wet forest floor to slipping a few yards closer to a bedded deer - if you are the mobile (hang and hunt) type.

Don’t skip out on early season. This really isn’t a tactic, but more of a statement. Want to have a solid 2 to 3 weeks of chasing a big early season buck? If so - buy a bow (if you don’t already have one) and learn to shoot proficiently with it. Many hunters down in this corner of the US skip out on some of the best action in the whitetail woods. I get it - it’s hot, humid, and the mosquitos can bleed you dry. Though, if you’re willing to tough it out, you will have the most unpressured hunts at a big southeastern buck than any given day thereafter. Find the preferred food source and hunt it in the evenings.

Don’t get discouraged. It can sometimes seem like there is not a deer for miles during some hunts. If you remember anything from this article , remember that this part of the US is some of the toughest hunting in the country. We don’t have the ability to see for hundreds of yards, most often. We can’t get to a high peak to glass or drive and glass for deer. We have to use what the deer give us through sign and experiences in the woods. Always believe that somewhere within 200 yards from your location, a deer is tucked away or moving through. I often think about how many big bucks have walked 50 to 75 yards around me and I didn’t have a clue- only because my line of sight is limited 20 to 35 yards due to such heavy foliage you find yourself hunting in or around in NC.

I know what you’re thinking, this is pretty broad right? The next few articles will go more in depth with particulars. However - I find myself coming back to the basics when I find myself stumped in the whitetail woods, especially here in the Southeast.