East Bound and Down

Throughout the 1800’s and the western expansion the younger generation, in search of adventure, was told to “head west.” But when it comes to hunting there are still many grand adventures to be had east of the Mississippi. These marvelous adventures are available to any willing, energetic, and persistent thrill seeker if they just head east.

Many of the properties, both public and private, that you may find yourself hunting could be a lot smaller in the east than you may be used to out west. Be certain of those property boundaries! This is where OnX maps really shines and make sure you download the map of your area before you start hunting. It's amazing how spotty cell service can be even towards the east coast. Also, if you're camping, note that eastern national forest/public ground rules can be a lot different than western rules.

Sika Deer are a unique deer found in Virginia and Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Their name Sika comes from “Shika” the Japanese word for “Deer” and are small members of the elk family that have a dark brown to black coat. Sika stags typically weigh 90 pounds while females, or “hinds,” weigh in around 70 pounds and are 2 ½ feet high at the shoulder. Sika deer originate mostly from Japan, Taiwan, and East Asia and were introduced to Maryland in the early 1900’s when Clement Henry released 5 or 6 deer on James Island. Today, the population primarily inhabits Dorchester, Wicomico, Somerset, and Worcester counties as well as Assateague Island. The uber skittish Sika deer prefer marshes and thick forested wetlands and Sika hinds typically have home ranges of about 1 square mile while stag home ranges can be much larger, especially during the October breeding season. Sikas are one of the most vocal members of the deer family and have at least 5 distinct calls. During the fall and early winter breeding season, stags can be heard bugling, which is best described as a multi-pitched, extended wail. Hinds use soft bleats and whistles to communicate with other females and offspring, and their alarm call is a short, high-pitched bark. With the exception of the breeding season, stags and hinds typically remain segregated. Hinds during the day generally move about a half mile between feeding and bedding areas, while stags move much longer distances in a given day. Sika deer are also excellent swimmers and have no trouble navigating waterways. The season bag limit for all three seasons (Archery, Muzzleloader, and Firearms) is three per season, including one stag per season, for a total of nine per year. They are a mini-elk in every sense. They bugle to challenge other stags and to attract hinds, and they wallow in the mud. They also respond well to calling, particularly during the mid-October rut. These deer are elusive and highly prized, not only for their unique antler configuration, but also for their delicious meat as well. With the generous bag limits and extended hunting season the Sika deer is definitely an adventure worth pursuing.

Photo: PJ Perea

Heading to the south east takes you into alligator country and a thrilling hunting experience unlike anything in the western United States. The American Alligator is a prehistoric animal that lurks in the water of many southern states. With mature gators reaching 13 feet in length and having razor filled jaws built for tearing meat, these reptiles demand respect. Hunting these creatures in their waters creates an exhilarating challenge that takes concentration and precision regardless of whether you hunt them with a bow, crossbow, muzzleloader or rifle. If you are looking for a trophy, a new pair of gator skin boots, delicious gator meat, or just a redneck good time, this is an adventure that should be on your bucket list.

We can’t do an overview of hunting in the eastern United States without bringing up Whitetail. East of the Mississippi still holds more deer than anywhere else in the US, which translates into a multitude of opportunities. The generous archery, muzzleloader and rifle seasons, which last as late as February in Alabama, allow for multiple deer tags and a plethora of opportunities. Although the Midwest is known for its larger racked whitetail bucks the pure challenge of harvesting one of these smaller “amped up” deer brings its own unique difficulties as they seem to always be on alert and are known for their “Matrix-like” ducking of arrows shot from even the most experienced of bowhunters.

Don’t be lulled or fooled into the notion that only western hunts have the exclusive rights on a great adventure. Sometimes you don’t need high elevations and thousands of acres for a thrilling hunting experience, sometimes you just need to head east.

For more info on Sika Deer or Alligator Hunting contact Chris Muller at Outdoor Adventure Specialists www.oashunts.com

-MTD Staff

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