A business opportunity found us making a move to the Tampa Bay area a few months ago, the timing came right before hunting season. Finding a place to hang a couple of tree stands was a puzzle at best, so I started to ask a lot of questions. Local knowledge is the best source of information to any newcomer, and when I’m new to an area I seek out the locals. If you fly into the Bahamas you are unlikely to grab your fly rod, walk the flats at the resort and expect to catch a 10-pound bonefish; the same holds true hunting a new area.
In Florida we can bait game on private land; this is a huge advantage, especially to the new guy. Once you have done your scouting, (in this case it is more about talking than walking); and have gained permission to hunt someone’s land, you can begin the process of having the deer come to you. Today’s hunter has so much of an advantage over the old timers, in the old days we would build tree stands in apple orchards, gather up piles of apples to place around the stand and spend countless hours before and after school hoping that a buck would come along.
Today you place a ladder stand in any suitable tree, hang a camera next to your automated feeder and monitor the whole thing on your smart phone, while you name the bucks before harvest.
Of course it is not that easy, but we do a have huge modern day advantage.
Deer seem adapt better than any other game animal to humans, on the out skirts of major cities in the urban neighborhoods and parks deer can thrive. You will need to know what the county laws are about shooting a firearm (how far from paved roads, other homes, etc) and what game laws apply to that area. When you first arrived in a new place drive around the neighborhoods looking for deer crossing signs (they put these up for a reason). Getting permission from a land owner today is a lot tougher than when we asked farmers to hunt back when I was a kid, but if you approach the right people it can be done.
Wild pigs are a great ice breaker, most land owners in the South hate wild pigs because pigs tear the hell out of everything, eat the crops or gardens, and just kinda suck. I love pigs because they taste great, and if I can convince a farmer that I can thin out his pigs for him, I have a pretty good chance to offer him a freezer full of deer meat, and bring my lab to the pond to get a few of those flight birds that just showed up as well. Also our older generation, our fathers and grandfather’s can always use some help around a farm or large track of land, offer and do it. Feed the horses, help fix a fence, do some bush whacking, get to know these great old guys they all have wonderful stories to tell.
I’m going to use my experience this fall as a perfect example of finding the right person to let you hunt on their property. Maggie and I had been in the Tampa area about a month, we were (still are) looking for 2-5 acres of land to build a house on when we came upon some cool pastoral land for sale by owner. We called the number to get the listing price, the owner was close by and met us at the gate in person (this is so important- shaking someone’s hand and making eye contact). We happened to have our lab ‘Abby’ with us and we followed ‘Harry and his wife, Linda, though the gate to the back pond.
Of course as soon as we got out of the truck Abby was in the guy’s pond chasing away the local ducks. We talked about the size of the property and the price of the land as we watched that crazy lab. The property was outside what we could afford and it wasn’t a good candidate for sub dividing it, but more importantly out of our common interests in hunting and fishing we started talking that afternoon and became instant friends.
Now a few months later, we have seen a nice buck and got his photo on a game camera. We have a stand, two feeding stations, and that buck has Harry’s name on it. Harry lets me hunt ducks with Abby on blustery mornings, and I’m sure we will harvest a couple of bucks this winter.
We have another friend who has let Maggie hang a stand and hunt in the back of his property, she is getting photos of 4 different bucks, but is competing with other hunters, hunting their land in the adjacent properties (quite a bit of shooting in these parts).
Having moved away from Destin with its thousands acres of Eglin air force land to explore, we are adapting to a new part of Florida. We are just an hour or so outside of Tampa, and there are a lot of people here! But Maggie is sitting in her tree every morning before going into the store to do her books, and I am getting to spend some great mornings with Abby learning the difference between a Florida molted duck and a hen mallard.
We will sometime in the near future buy ourselves some land here and have another place to hang a tree stand, yep we are now urban hunters.