Beetles and Bowhunting……
What was I thinking? Here I am hot, bruised, and bleeding, trying to figure the quickest and easiest path to get out of this mess. O.K., let me explain my problem here. It started out a beautiful mid spring morning, the kind of day custom made to take a nice long nature walk. I decided to go to a place that I had visited several years before on Dale Hollow lake. A short drive to the entrance of the Accordion Trail located near the famed Willow Grove Resort on the Tennessee side of the lake started my journey. This trail runs from Willow Grove to Lillydale camping area, both very popular recreational areas on Dale Hollow.
I made my way through the hardwoods very easily, as the trail meandered along the lake’s edge. I would soon find this to not be the case as I work my way along the trail. Here is where the fun begins, halfway around the trail I started to find fallen trees. The farther I go the more deadfalls I find. These were Pine trees and the fallen trunks made for difficult walking. It was soon obvious that this was not going to be the pleasurable walk that I had anticipated. I soon found myself in a near impenetrable pile of dead pine trees. It was clear at this point that I should have asked more about the trail before taking this hike. The trip around this small section of the lake should have taken around one hour to complete, but with the added obstacles it was more like three. I was finally able to climb, crawl and scratch my way over and through the fallen fauna. Occasionally I would take a break and try to enjoy myself, despite the unwanted pitfalls that I had encountered. It was during these periods of rest that I made the discoveries that lead me to the reason for writing this story.
The large areas of fallen trees had really opened the canopy of the surrounding woods. There where some areas that looked very similar to the way a portion of logged woods would look. The extra sunlight that now made its way to the forest floor caused a surge in growth of green shoots from young hardwoods and bushes. Some of these included valuable deer browse such as young greenbrier, honeysuckle, hearts-a-bursting and other woody plants. Young honey locust trees, as well as young mast bearing trees now received considerably more sunlight and thus flourished. This was a special find on this public tract of land. The substantial plant life and new structure provided excellent cover and food for whitetail and what had began as a brisk nature walk now turned into a preseason scouting trip.
In early September, with just a few weeks left till archery season I made one final scouting trip to the area. My suspicions were confirmed when a jumped several bedded deer, which took very little time retreating from the area. Not to worry, as I knew they would return, because the place had everything a whitetail needs security, subsistence, and with the lake nearby, water.
Early bow season found me hunting my old familiar haunts. The agricultural edges and woodlots that I have hunted and harvested deer at for years, however the little sanctuary stayed on my mind and I vowed that when activity at my usual hotspots subsided, that I would return to it and try my fortune. My chance came in late October after coming back home from a bow hunt in Southeastern Missouri and after filling my Kentucky deer tags earlier in the season. I made my approach quietly through the calm morning water. A dense fog lay heavy on the lake and surrounding woods. It was still archery season in Tennessee and the deer had not received very much hunting pressure at this point. I tied up my boat in a nearby hollow and entered the woods.
I was able to find a suitable white oak tree to attach my stand and soon was looking over a nice opening in the tangle of trees and vines. From this vantage point I could see several small rubs on the remaining pine saplings. This observation was cut short when I noticed movement to my right, a mature doe and her yearling fawn nibbled away at the leaves of some scrubby looking bush. They were unaware of my presence and soon fed on lichen that covered a decaying log before leaving. The shot presentation was tempting, but with a freezer full of venison, I elected to just enjoy the two deer as the feed out of sight. Throughout the morning I saw several other deer, including some small bucks that moved past my elevated position. I never harvested a deer that morning, but I had proven my theory about the newly created habitat. I will return next year to see how much those young bucks have grown and if I haven’t been as fortunate as I was this year, I might look at harvesting one of those plump does for the freezer. As I layout plans for next bow season, I will include this little spot in my rotation.
Once again through nature’s destructive ways something new has emerged and I couldn’t be happier then the day I found a little overlooked section of trail now clogged with fallen trees. With the pine beetles came destruction, but somehow the deer and the Bowhunter have taken advantage of the situation.
Written By: Jason Wilborn Allons, Tennessee
Jason, lives in Allons TN and enjoys bowhunting and competing in archery events throughout Tennessee and surounding states. Jason is also a National Bowhunter Education IBEP/NBEF Instructor and a member of the Christian Bowhunters of America