Field of Dreams

by Phillip Gentry

Upstate Outdoors
September 06, 2019 - 10:57 am

South Carolina deer hunters spend three to four months a year dreaming about the right combination of circumstances that will put them within gun or bow range of a trophy buck. Most hunters typically involve some phase of rutting activity into that mix. 

Although it’s hard to deny that late October, pre-rutting activity isn’t a consideration, many veteran deer hunters prefer to hunt bucks that are still on a reliable feeding pattern.  

“In my opinion, the best way to kill a big deer is to when he’s on his feed pattern,” said veteran hunter Jay Taylor of Anderson.  “Once he gets into the rut, there’s no telling where he’s going to be, what he’s going to be doing.  He’s not predictable.  Up until mid-October, when they’re still regularly eating, you can still catch him on a pattern and predict him.” 

Because bucks travel and socialize in bachelor groups up until the breeding season, many hunters put a lot of stock in hunting open agricultural fields and large food plot areas both early in the season when deer are eating the plants as browse and later in the season when crops mature. 

Of course much of the transition depends on when the crops were planted, how far along they are, and what kind of crops they are. 

With only a week left before opening day of archery season in Game Zone 2 and another couple weeks in Game Zone 1, many deer hunters are out scouting and planning on where they want to be hunting come Opening Day. 

Below are a few good tips on why that planted area, agricultural field or other open area could be one of your better options and how to make the best of them.

*Trail cameras offer substantial scouting opportunities. Use a mineral lick or salt block during the off season to bring deer into trail camera range.  Remember to bring an extra memory card and batteries every time you check your game cameras.  Locate your cameras where they are easily accessible so you don’t over-pressure the deer.

*Most successful hunts are from tree stands, either permanent or portable, where deer pass underneath. But know that deer DO look up and can spot you from ground level. Tree stands also allow you to view a larger area. Always, always wear a safety belt or harness while in a tree stand, and never climb into a tree with a loaded gun.

*A bow hunter’s range is much shorter, generally between 10 and 40 yards. As a result, a bow hunter must be especially skilled in knowing deer patterns and tendencies; then set his stand accordingly. Most deer kills are within 30 yards.

* Scanning field edges with a good pair of binoculars is a great way to spot a buck slipping into a field or along the edge of a large field.

* Avoid shooting the first buck you see entering a field or passing along a trail if you hope to tag a deer with a good-sized rack.  Smaller, younger animals will often move into an area before the larger deer come out to feed.  This is usually just before the end of legal shooting time.  Patience is a virtue and it usually pays off.

*Open fields often offer long shot opportunities. Don’t shoot further than what you are comfortable shooting. Stay within your comfortable range. Have enough respect for a mature buck to let him walk if he doesn’t offer a good shot. When you do shoot, pay close attention to a deer’s reaction after taking a shot to determine where it is hit.


Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. This week’s guest will be Major League Fishing AOY Edwin Evers. You can also stream the show live or on podcast at

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