Woodland Waypoints

The White Stump

I boarded my flight with muddy hunting boots, two carry-ons stuffed with camo, an overpriced cup of black coffee in my hand, and a chip on my shoulder. The last four days of my Georgia hunting trip had been difficult and pen needed to be put to paper. I collapsed into the cramped leather seats and with little more than a “hello” to the woman next to me, flipped my journal open, and furiously began to scratch out my frustrations. If there was something to take away from the calamity that was the 2015 Simply Traditional “Blue and Gray” hunt, I was going to find it.

In our three days on Cumberland Island, we walked at least 40 miles, spent 30-plus hours on stand, and saw a single doe for our effort. It rained the majority of the time, the bugs were terrible, and the humidity made it impossible for our gear to dry out.

Inexperience made my hunt a bit worse than my cohorts (Steve Angell and Brannon Gravitt). Two terrible flights put me in a foul mood; new hunting boots resulted in blistered feet; and a protein-loaded camp diet had me battling diarrhea. All of that would have seen trivial had we seen game, but out of 32 hunters on the island only two animals were taken.

Yes, things could have been better, but I filled my journal by the time the plane touched down in Grand Rapids. As it turns out, this “yankee” learned a great deal from hunting Cumberland and would like to spend a few posts sharing these things with you.

Tip 1: Use Natural Way Points to Mark Your Way

A hunter can’t always depend on artificial markers such as red tape or “bright eyes” to navigate the woods. This is especially true when hunting public land. Markers like these are easily manipulated and far too common to depend on. I figured this out on Cumberland the morning of my first hunt, having missed my trail marker by several hundred yards in the dark. Had it not been for a very unique holly tree in the middle of the trail, there’s no telling where I’d have ended up.

I noticed this particular tree while scouting the day before and committed it to memory. The bark glowed white and had odd marks all over it that reminded me of ancient engravings. It really stood out a midst the pines and gnarly oaks and I’d bet there isn’t another like it on the entire island. I found out later that Steve had used this same tree to mark his stand the year before.

Another example of a natural way point was a decaying stump near my tree stand. It was only a foot high, but was completely covered with a bright, white moss that glowed when struck by the beam of my flashlight. The brush thickened quickly once off the trail and it was this weird stump (pictured above) that carried me in every morning.

Oddities like these make trail navigation a whole lot easier. Especially when used in tandem with a compass or GPS. Mother nature will always show you where you need to go if you let her.

– Nick

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