Clayton: The spring

Luke Clayton
Special to the E-T

For 17 years, I had access to a couple hundred acres one half mile from my home that served as a close by place for me to hunt, fish, shoot photos for my writing and get exercise walking on an almost daily basis. Through the years, the place became very dear to me, I knew every oak tree, duck marsh and deer or hog trail on the place.

I believe that most veteran outdoor types know that the only way to be assured of a "forever" hunting spot is to have the deed to the place. The fact is that when leasing land, chances are that you will be on there for only a period of time. The land will sell or be inherited and you will find yourself again on the search.

Luke is once again hunting very close to home after losing access to a spot he hunted for almost 20 years. This natural spring is on the ‘new’ property with a constant water supply will attract game throughout the year.

You have probably guessed where I’m going with this week’s column! Three years ago, the land I hunted was under contract to sell and in the ensuing red-tape mumbo-jumbo I lost access to hunting and fishing there. Driving by the entrance gate to the place every day but not being allowed to enter did take some getting adjusted to. Two old adages come to mind that pretty well sum the situation up, "behind every cloud there is a silver lining" and "good things come to those that wait."

Adjacent this land that I had grown to know and love was another, much larger tract that I had wanted to gain access to for years. Call it divine intervention or whatever you wish, but this past week, I was given access to hunt the entire property, which is divided into several tracts. The owner, Trey Anderson, who became an instant friend for reasons other than my access to his land, gave me gate combinations and keys to go wherever I wish on the land. 

He knew my primary target was hogs and he was aware of my reputation as a rabid hunter of wild porkers. We began our discussion on the best places for me to hunt. I was asked to simply text him and let him know where I would be hunting and when I would be there. It’s always a good idea for someone to know precisely where you are in the woods, especially when solo hunting.

Luke Clayton

I explained to him that I like to find areas where hogs sign, usually close to water, and either bait with corn on the ground on a daily basis or set up a feeder. I often hunt a couple hours into the night with my Sightmark Wraith which is an excellent digital night vision scope. I’ve found it to work great on shooting hogs inside 100 yards even on the darkest of nights but it’s not thermal and I don’t "run and gun" like most hog hunters using thermal.

The first question I posed to Trey was, “where is the water? Is there and drainages that hold water year around?” We were looking at my cell phone Hunt Stand app and he pointed out a pond on a far corner of the property. “This area holds water year around," says Trey. "There is a seep or spring that comes out of the adjacent hillside and the area holds water even on the driest of summers.”

I marked the spot on the app so I could find it later while scouting. He also showed me an old wooden stand that I found to still be pretty solid. The stand was on the high bank of a deep creek bed. I marked that spot on my GPS as well.

My next time on the property, I devoted a few hours to scouting with my GPS unit. Sure enough, the area below the spring looked like a hog pen; tracks and hog sign were everywhere. I followed a well-used game trail to several big oaks where the porkers had recently been feeding on acorns. A pop-up ground blind near these oaks should produce pork in the next days. A generous amount of corn scattered under the oaks should help increase the activity. The old stand on top of the creek bank looked equally promising. Down in the creek bed, I found what looked like a hog highway. Wild porkers like to use drainages for travel corridors, especially deep ones where they are well concealed.

I’m looking forward to once again having some land very close to home to hunt but I’ve got a bit more "fun" work to complete. During the winter months, I like to field dress the wild porkers I shoot and hoist them up in a nearby tree to chill for the night. This way, if I shoot a hog near or after darkness falls, I can crank him up out of the jaws of coyotes and return in the morning and do the skinning and butchering. At both hunting spots, I found the "just right" trees to mount a rope, pulley and hand crank winch.

I am almost as excited about having a place to shoot photos for my articles as I am about the hunting.

• Bank fishing good for catfish: Al St. Cyr, who does a great deal of tournament catfishing has been catching some big blue catfish from the shore and gives these tips. “Freshly caught shad is the best bait but pieces of cut rough fish such as buffalo or carp will also work. The key is fishing the north banks after two or three days of a south wind. These conditions concentrate baitfish and catfish move close to shore for the easy pickings.”

Circle hooks work well and it’s important to allow the fish to grab the bait and bend the rod before pulling the rod from the rod holder. It’s best to begin reeling fast to take up slack line before pulling the rod from the holder.  

Contact Outdoors writer Luke Clayton by email through www.catfishradio.org