An Opening Day Trophy in Georgia

One of the most exciting events for a deer hunter is the opening of a new season. A brand new slate and the prospects of challenging new bucks await the sportsman. South Carolina's season is already open and some Palmetto hunters have already scored. Georgia opened its archery season this past Saturday and reports are coming in of successful archers collecting some early venison.

In addition to a new season opening, getting the chance to hunt new property is also exciting. That is just what happened to Kenneth Free. Along with his brother, his friend Dan, and Dan's father, Free had been scouting and planting food plots on another property in Georgia in preparation for the season, but the lure of new property was too strong. "After a short discussion on Friday night, we could not overcome the excitement of hunting a new area and on Saturday morning we were headed to the new property," Free said. "We were both excited about the possibility to hunt an area which we knew held not only several deer but some quality deer too."

After scouting the new property, Free found several potential stand locations with deer trails and sign. Of key importance were the white oak acorns already falling. Typically acorns fall in October, but if you can find some early-dropping oaks in September, you may have yourself a honey-hole. Free could hear the movements of several deer in his area but could not lay eyes on them because of the dense foliage. (That's one of the problems of early season hunting: Before any leaves fall, the woods are still dense with vegetation making spotting a deer difficult. Great care should be taken in stand selection to set up very close to food sources or trails leading to them. If you don't, you may sit there listening to nearby deer and not be able to get a clear shot.)

Free describes the action on opening day: "I caught movement to my right. It was a deer just 30 yards away. The deer was slowly moving below me but coming in my direction through the laurel. One problem, though--in about ten more yards it was going to reach the really thick laurel, offering me no shot. I quickly reached for my Hoyt bow as the deer stopped behind a tree, giving me time to get my bow and hook my release to the string. Almost instantly the deer, in a fast walk, turned and headed up the trail in the direction of my stand. That is when I noticed it was a buck, and a nice buck with really tall tines. As the deer went in behind a couple of trees I drew my bow and the buck took a few more steps and stopped in an opening just 12 yards away. I instantly placed my pin on his vital area and released the arrow that brought down the beautiful nine-point buck on opening day of the 2012 bow season."

Several key factors led to Free's success on opening day:

• The new season finds most deer undisturbed and unpressured and can be an excellent time to ambush an unaware buck.
• Hunting new property is not only exciting, but you may also find some unhunted bucks on prime lands.
• Preseason scouting is always crucial to success. In Free's case, he was able to find good deer sign and food sources. With the rut still weeks and even months away in some areas, food is king and the hunter who finds an active source such as acorns, muscadines, or agriculture is one step ahead in getting an arrow into an early season buck.

All about the Dixie deer rut, from the swamps and pines to the beanfields and the Ozarks. Rut Reporter Eric Bruce has been writing about hunting and fishing for newspapers and magazines for 25 years and hunts deer all over the South, including near his Georgia home. States covered: AR, LA, MS, AL, GA, SC, FL.