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By Dick Scorzafava

Dick - Psychotic Swamp Bucks

Dick and the Psychotic Swamp Bucks

A radical deer hunter goes where the big bucks are – even if that means wading through a big swamp. Let’s face it; there are times when the deer are not moving around during daylight hours. It could be because it’s to hot, very windy, or raining heavily – the reason isn’t important. At these times, you can just sit there and watch time go by, or you can employ some active radical tactics in challenging habitats that just might put you on to that big buck.

First, a word on safety is required. No matter how familiar you think you are with a swamp, marsh, or other challenging habitat, on a cloudy or rainy day it is very easy to get turned around and lost. Walking around in thick, dense cedar swamps with even an experienced woodsman can become confused. Always carry a good compass, topographical map of the area, also a GPS unit with extra batteries with you; check them before you enter the area to get your bearings. It’s smart to carry some type of fanny or backpack with enough water, food, and gear to get you through a night, in addition to some type of signaling device.

Some of the biggest and most sought after bucks have historically made their homes in swamps and other types of wetlands, and this is true across the entire range of the white-tailed deer. River bottoms typically have an abundance of different high-quality food sources, helping the bucks that live there grow big very quickly. The soil is rich, producing the high-quality food that the deer eat, which in turn enables the bucks to attain tremendous weights and heavy racks. Although many wetlands flood at some time of year, they usually have several places with dry ground that allow you to hunt throughout the deer season.

Most swamps (which I will use as a generic term for flooded habitat) have some type of creek, stream, or river running through or into them. If so, you can use a small boat or canoe to penetrate the depths of the swamp, getting as deep as needed while hauling your gear in and out quietly. A boat can also come in handy if you harvest a good buck it will be the easiest way of getting him out of that swamp.
The bucks use trails in a swamp just as they do on dry land. They have certain routes they use related to the depth of the water. Not surprisingly, bucks always seem to cross at the shallowest points in the swamp. If you can pinpoint a few places where the water is the shallowest, you will greatly increase the odds of seeing a good buck.

This requires you scout a swamp throughout the year, especially during the drier seasons of summer. When scouting look for any natural humps or small ridges in the swamp; they will be visible when the water level is low. Even when these areas are covered with water, the bucks know where these high places are and will use them in their travels. I have proved this time and time again over the last decade by using my Cuddeback digital scouting cameras in these swamps to pin point a bucks movement patterns. This would key me into the best locations to set up my treestands. My Cuddebacks seem to always capture an image of at least one real bruiser that really gets my adrenaline going to hunt that area. That is one of the things I love about using scouting cameras they give me the patience to hunt long hours in a location because that big buck can walk by at any minute.

Once you find these potential shallow water locations in a swamp, save them in your GPS unit or mark them on your topographical map. Being able to quickly relocate these spots just before and during the hunting season might help you harvest more bucks.
To successfully hunt swamp bucks you have to get into the water with them and put up a treestand over the water in a strategic location.

These bucks will bed on high spots in the swamp out of the water. Setting up a treestand close to these beds can be very productive for a morning ambush location. Rubs facing the water’s edge usually indicate an exit route from the swamp. Hanging a stand in a tree about ten yards into the swamp near the rubs and along the exit route can be very productive.

Even though bucks move almost silently in the water while they feed, in most cases you will hear them long before you see them. On a very still morning, I’ve heard a buck scoop acorns up off the top of the water and could even the water dripping from his mouth as he picked them up. Then I heard the cracking, popping sound of the nuts as he crushed them with his teeth. In a swamp, you can hear for a much greater distance because the water is still and very calm, and there is no vegetation around your treestand to muffle the sound.
Just a few years ago in Saskatchewan, I watched a really impressive 170 class buck wade into a swamp and look back toward the land a few times. It was at the end of the day, with only about fifteen minutes of legal shooting light remaining. The buck bedded down on the edge of the water. He could hear and see anything coming his way from the land at his great vantage point, and that is exactly why he was bedded in that spot.

It was at angle to him about twenty five yards and I didn’t have a clear shot because of cover. He was a really big bodied animal with a massive ten point frame. I could see him moving his head around and how extremely long and heavy the G2’s and G3’s were on both sides of his rack. They all had to be over ten inches in length.

The wind direction was perfect. I had my entire Scent-Lok system on to eliminate any human odors that may drift his way. But it looked like the day was going to end with me starring at him bedded down from my stand as the last few precious minutes of shooting light faded away.

Suddenly I got this inspiration in my mind. From my treestand location in the swamp, I spooked the buck out of his bed, back into the water right by my stand, by throwing an open bottle of doe in heat lure onto the land near him. As he slowly passed my ambush site, located right off his trail through the swamp water I made a very short buck grunt sound. He immediately stopped in his tracks and I instinctively came to full draw with my Mathews compound bow, picked a spot behind his shoulder, and released my Rage tipped Carbon Express Maxima arrow. Almost instantaneously I heard the thunk of the arrow hitting its mark and my orange Blazer vanes drilling through both his lungs. He bolted frantically deeper into the thick cover of the swamp. I could hear the splashing water loudly as he made his last steps. Suddenly I heard the last extremely loud slash echo through the swamp and abruptly the area became silent again.

I finally realized I was shaking so roughly that my entire tree was moving from side to side from this adrenaline rush. I had to sit down in my stand set to calm myself down for a few minutes before descending my treestand to recover my buck. We had matched wits one-on-one, and this time I was the winner. Isn’t that why we all hunt the excitement of these up close and personal one-on-one encounters with a great buck are memories we never seem to forget.

A swamp can be a very game-rich area that most deer hunters never penetrate. So here you go, get psychotic and go into that new spot that has not had any pressure. Remembering that when you venture into these areas that are less frequented by hunters, you will likely be entering the home turf of the most mature and biggest bucks in the vicinity, animals that very few hunters ever get to see.

Autographed copies of Dick’s highly acclaimed books Radical Bowhunter, Radical Bear Hunter, and Spies in the Deer Woods can be obtained by going to www.radicalbowhunter.com or www.spiesinthedeerwoods.com.

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