South Carolinians are fortunate to have very liberal bag limits for deer. Not only is the annual limit generous, but hunters are allowed to take two deer daily in most locations. However, taking advantage of this opportunity is not always an easy task. Taking two deer on any one set-up is sometimes a matter of luck, but in order to do so consistently requires skill and an intimate knowledge of deer habits.
Chuck Mulkey is one of those hunters who has developed a high level of skill and frequently takes two deer on a single outing. The owner of Chuck's Taxidermy and Deer Processing in Anderson, he is constantly exposed to deer hunters and their tales of success. As enlightening as that may be, he owes his own success to long hours in the woods in pursuit of deer and turkeys.
Having taken several hundred deer with a gun and bow in South Carolina and Kentucky, he has honed his skills to a high level.
"The No. 1 requirement is patience," said Mulkey, who remains quiet and attentive in his stand after taking a deer with his bow, waiting for another opportunity. "Most of the doubles I have had on deer have occurred within 30 minutes of each other. In past years, hunting with inexperienced friends, I have observed that upon shooting a deer, they immediately descended from their stand and approached the deer, or (they) called me for assistance or to let me know that they had a deer down. This is a mistake ... it takes away their opportunity to possibly have a chance at a second animal."
Mulkey says that he has found that hunting with archery equipment contributes to his chances for doubling up because of the quiet nature of the bow. He recommends hunting the early bow season when deer have not been alerted by hunters in the woods. He hunts dense areas where visibility is usually 60 yards or less. By being in the proper location he can cover 30 yards in each direction, so any deer passing through the area is within range. Most of his early season success has been between 9 to 10 a.m.
Mulkey also likes to hunt less-pressured areas, and he likes to rotate between different areas to keep deer from patterning your comings and goings.
"We try to pattern deer, but when we hunt the same location too often, the deer begin to pattern us," he said.
One of Mulkey's most-memorable hunts was three years ago with a friend, Kevin Turner. Hunting a farm for the first time, they saw so much sign they had a difficult time selecting stand sites. Finally, Turner took a stand, and Mulkey moved further into the woods. As he was climbing the tree he'd selected, he got a telephone call from his wife. Already 10 feet up, with his bow still on the ground, he saw a buck approaching and quickly ended the conversation with his wife.
"I hurriedly pulled my bow up, nocked an arrow and got in position to shoot. I spine-shot him, and it required a second arrow to dispatch him," Mulkey said. "I remained quietly in my stand, and soon a doe came past, being chased by a buck. They were out of bow range and headed toward my friend. I called him on my cell phone and told him they were headed his way. "
"After the telephone call, I called to the deer and they circled back, and I killed the buck. My buddy heard the 'Thwack' of the bow and called me and asked, 'Did you kill my buck?' (He) went on to take two does, (so) it was a memorable hunt for both of us, with four whitetails harvested in one short hunt."
Mulkey has experimented with many different calls but has had his greatest success calling softly with a bleat call. He has tried rattling and grunt calls; they can be successful at times, but aggressive calling can turn less-dominant bucks away, and he said the buck-to-doe ratio has a negative effect on those methods across much of South Carolina.
Russell Cooper, who owns the Saluda River Archery Club near Greenville, has doubled up on deer on numerous occasions and passed up the opportunity many times as well. He is a meticulous hunter and skilled archer whose set-ups offer him many opportunities to take two deer daily if he desires. He hunts out of lock-on stands and hangs them at least 18 feet high to stay above a deer's field of vision and keep his scent above their noses. He places his stands off trails, out of sight of approaching deer, looking and in a position that will give him a shot from about 18 yards.
Almost all of Cooper's stand sites are pre-selected well before the season based on seasonal food supplies and other critical factors. One requirement is that stands can be accessed without having to cross a main deer trail. He prints a map of his hunting area and marks his stand location, then, before hunting, he checks weather reports for the prevailing wind direction.
One property that he hunts has 15 stand sites. On any given day, he might eliminate 10 or 11 due to seasonal food supplies, and of the remaining four or five, the wind direction may eliminate two or three. The only ones he'll hunt are the ones he hasn't eliminated.
Cooper takes great care with scent control and tries to avoid touching anything near his stand. He rests nothing on the ground near his stand and but takes his bow up as he ascends to his stand.
"Strict scent control is especially important in the south due to variable winds," he said. "If the wind changes drastically during the hunt, I may decide to back out and leave the stand rather than alert the deer to my location."
Set-ups are better between food sources and bedding areas. Heavily used travel corridors are also good sites. He has found that mature bucks will not always travel the main corridors, but they may parallel the main trail at a distance on the downwind side. One such set-up led to one of his doubles/
"I was hunting a pinch point between the edge of a pasture and a steep drain," he said. "The trail came up from the bottoms containing heavy browse, muscadines and greenbrier. There was lots of buck sign along the trail; the approach was easily accessible through the clear pasture. The set-up was 'too good to be true'. It was only 10 yards inside the tree line. I took two good bucks from this location, and it was an unforgettable experience."