The best way to kill a mature whitetail deer is to hunt where they live. Seems obvious, but most hunters avoid the places most likely to hold big deer. These hunters set up on the fringes of bedding cover or over manufactured food plots and pray for the best. Once in awhile one of these hunters will get lucky, but more often than not these deer hunters harvest deer that are 2 1/2 years old and younger. There is nothing wrong with that but, you can be the exception if you get wet to find mature whitetails.
The southeastern United States has many swamps and wetlands. When most hunters think of these places they picture snakes, alligators and mosquitos. None of these are any fun and each can be deadly. With a little caution and a good bug repellent none of them will bother you.
Alligators often will avoid deer hunters at all cost. It would be different if you were swimming but when a hunter wades through a swamp the hunter looks like a giant to the alligator. Many alligators you seen while deer hunting in swamps will be little ones, less than 7 feet. Big alligators prefer deeper water with more food. If they do not see you or stay put while wading just make a little noise to get their attention. If the alligator does not leave then give it plenty of room as you wade by.
To the deer hunter, snakes are by far the most dangerous creature in swamps and wetlands. That said, there is no reason to fear a snake. Most of the time a snake will leave the area before the deer hunter even sees it. If a snake does get close use a walking stick to push it away. Do not play with snakes. Once the temperature starts to drop both snakes and alligators will disappear.
Mosquitos are often the biggest headache deer hunters will deal with in wetlands and swamps. Quick movements used to swat mosquitos will draw a deer attention. To keep mosquitos away many hunters wear a mesh bug suit while moving. Hunters concerned about scent do not like bug spray.
Getting lost or hurt is by far the most dangerous part of hunting in swamps or wetlands. On a GPS plot your vehicle or the spot that you enter the swamp. Swamps and wetlands get dark early and it is easy to get lost in them. Many hunters carry a walking stick. It will helps probe the ground in areas hunters can not see. It is also handy to remove cob-webs. Wade slowly. If you rush, even on dry ground, you are likely to twist your ankle or worse.
In swamps and wetlands, deer head to small dry islands. Try to find these dry areas and the trails that lead to them. Never go onto the island. Instead find a major deer trail that has rubs along it. Set up where you can overlook the trail and a staging area on the island. Often multiple rubs will be visible along the edge of the island. With binoculars check the island for water oaks. Deer will stage in these areas before and after they walk through the water. Just stay downwind from these areas.
Never climb high up a tree in swamps. Often you will be able to see less once you go higher than 10 feet. Wetlands are usually different. A tall pine tree that overlooks the tall grass is a hunter’s best bet. Use a climbing tree-stand to get up as high as possible. When you spot the grass moving strangely concentrate on the area. As a deer moves through it will make wakes.
Hunting wet areas requires using ears as much as eyes. Often you will hear the splash, splash sound that a deer will make as it walks through water. If you have never heard deer moving through water you will be surprised at how much noise they make. Even when they are moving slow and cautious deer are loud when they walk.
While in a swamp limit rattling and grunting. Sound travels along way in these quiet areas. If you do use calls, keep the volume down. In wetlands with alot of tall grass sound does not go as far. The problem with using calls in here is that the deer can be anywhere. If they pinpoint the noise coming from a huge blob up a tree that has never been there before you can bet all you will see is the white tail waving good bye
Recovery of an animal in wetlands and swamps present challenges unlike any other place. In wetlands the tall grass will prevent seeing very far. A deer with heavy blood loss will be easy enough to follow through the grass. Blood will often be high up off the ground as they make their way through the thick stuff. Many times, while blood trailing you will trip over the deer before you actually see it.
Swamp land is just the opposite. The chances are the deer will run through water. Most of the blood that falls will be in water. The trick here is to watch the direction the deer is walking. Give it plenty of time to expire before taking up the blood trail. Unless you watch it fall in sight give it a full hour. Then go to the spot of the shot. Look for sign that will tell you what kind of shot you made. This is no place to bump a wounded deer so if the evidence looks like a marginal shot (gut shot) then you need to back out for several more hours. When you are positive that the deer is dead start blood trailing it. Look for blood on trees and stumps. Mark every spot with biodegradable flagging tape. Every few steps look ahead for antler tips or a leg that might stick up out of the water. Often this will be all that is visible in the water.
A mature southeastern whitetail deer can be hunted successfully if you go get them. Up your odds by hunting the wettest area you can find. Your hard work will be rewarded back at camp when your hunting buddies stare in envy as your trophy hangs next to their 1 1/2 year old deer.