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Driven Hunts for Deer – Three Shots and a Miss

The last day of whitetail deer hunting season in South Carolina is January 1, and deer drivers will spend lots of time and energy during the final days, beating the bushes looking for big game.

While these driven hunts are traditional, they are still evolving too, such as when regulations change and invasive critters appear. Bringing home some meat for the freezer is always the goal, but simply getting in the field and on the hunt are the true dividends. A New Year’s Day man drive for deer on a Lowcountry plantation is my last shot at deer hunting glory this year, or else I will have to live with the three shots and a miss I recorded in December.

Driven hunts for deer are those that use dogs or horses or manpower (or any combination thereof) to motivate the deer to break cover and get up and run. Standers are prepositioned at locations where they are likely to view any game before taking aim with a shotgun and firing shells loaded with buckshot towards the target. Antler restrictions on bucks and size restrictions on does are longtime constraints, but now one must factor in the new SCDNR buck tags too. Most driven hunts today also include the opportunity to open fire at wild pigs, coyotes and armadillos if they are encountered.

The setting for a many driven hunts involves large-acreage tracts of land with a pack of deer hounds that are under the control of a huntmaster and other drivers. However, it is becoming more common to go on a driven hunt where no dogs are deployed, instead horseback drivers ride through the woods whooping and hollering as they execute a plan to drive a certain block of woods. And of course a man drive for deer can actually be productive with only two drivers, but for covering any large acreage it is helpful to enlist ten standers or more.

What ensues after the start of the hunt is something akin to the pure joy found in imagining a once in a lifetime hunt. One never knows if they will glimpse any deer that day, or if a mature buck will spring forth from the woods in the first minutes of the hunt, so focus must be maintained for the duration of the driven hunt. Swinging your gun and firing buckshot produces a personal test of one’s mettle and aim in the most dramatic of situations. Will it be a hit or a miss?

My December hunt story of woe, three shots and a miss, still has me scratching my head just a little bit – as misses often do. I was stationed on a powerline right of way with plenty of open space to view any driven game. I was told that harvesting a coyote would bring goodwill from the hunt hosts and sure enough a coyote ran out into the powerline coming towards me. I raised my gun with stealth to avoid flaring the target, drew a bead on the coyote and squeezed the trigger. The predator stopped in his tracks and stammered briefly, before turning 180-degrees and running away, and

I fired two more rounds of buckshot.

I went to the place where the coyote was staggered and I found no blood and no fur and so I studied the earth along the path it used to flee and saw no other signs. My efforts may have well served as a three-shot salute to the wiley critter that has a penchant for survival. My scouting did allow me to recover a shed antler from a buck, revealing the sign that another survivor had made it through a past hunting season. While I did not get another chance to fire my shotgun that day, recording a miss is perhaps better than not seeing anything to shoot at during the hunt, which is common. Some good-natured ribbing from the hunt party over missed shots, may make any future harvest just a little sweeter perhaps.

The ultimate sign of camaraderie from any successful driven deer hunt is the directive to split up the venison meat to those who want some. By the end of the deer season, some folks still need venison, while others don’t want any extra. The deer can be cleaned on the spot and lots are drawn for the cut of meat they will receive. My good fortune was to draw a venison tenderloin from an 8-point buck that was harvested, earned simply by taking my stand during the hunt and firing at that coyote. I won’t soon forget those three shots and a miss, especially the next time I take a stand hoping for positive outcomes from a driven hunt.

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at LowcountryOutdoors.com

Jeff Dennis, Contributor (359 Posts)

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com