Deadly Water Access Hunting Strategies - #8 "MOBILE MINUTE" FT. GREG STAGGS

September 22, 2023 4 min read

Deadly Water Access Hunting Strategies - #8 "MOBILE MINUTE" FT. GREG STAGGS

Water Access Deer Hunting Strategy

BY: Greg Staggs, FT. Jacob Emery 

Jacob Emery lifted one foot from the water’s edge and gave it a vigorous shake to throw the water off his rubber boot before placing it gingerly inside his kayak. Placing his weight on that foot, he proceeded to do the same with the second boot before easing himself onto the mesh seat of his Ascend 12T kayak and easing the floating torpedo out into the water. With his bow lying atop his pack in the front section, Emery noiselessly alternated dipping his paddle from the left side to the right, enjoying the resistance against sinewy shoulder muscles long honed by countless expeditions just like this one.

His red headlamp cut through the predawn fog just enough to give him visibility of the tree stumps he maneuvered around, keeping the shore line at the edge of the illuminated circle in front of him. A full twenty minutes later, he stepped out and grabbed the front handle of his craft, pulling it halfway onto the shore, ensuring it would not float away in his absence. Gathering his bow and pack, he stole a quick look at the clock on his phone. Five a.m. “Good,” he thought to himself. Thirty minutes before gray light, and when the woods would begin slowly waking.

He eased off towards the tree he had picked out during his summer scouting, less than 25 yards away and began his ascent. Two hours later, Emery watched his nock disappear behind the shoulder of yet another stud public-land buck, caught completely unaware by the intruder who had made virtually no noise on his approach and left almost no scent entering his sacred sanctuary. Perhaps the buck’s last fleeting thought was how someone had penetrated his fortress without him knowing…

Water access. It's a deadly strategy. And it’s not just the stealthy access, according to Emery.

“It creates a lot of pinch opportunities,” he said. “That’s one of the biggest reasons I use it. The way creeks and rivers wind back and forth, they always create those great travel corridors for deer, and they can really pinch them down close to you.”

Emery said a lot of times oxbows and bends in the waterway will push up against a steep terrain feature, leaving a bit of a funnel for the deer to move through. “With hunting out of a boat or kayak, a lot of times you can get out and be hunting that feature within 20-25 yards best-case scenario.” He said he looks for opportunities to come in where the wind blows his scent back across the water, and the only ground disturbance left is the short trek to his tree.

Kayaks are easy to haul out of state and easy for a single person to handle, making them the ideal hunting tool to access hard-to-reach tracts of land that are otherwise off limits to foot travelers. Emery begins his e-scouting sessions each year by keying in on those areas.

“It used to really separate me from everyone else,” he said. “But nowadays the more people hear about it and learn of it as a hunting tactic, more people are doing it. It’ll probably eventually get to the point that water access is the norm and we’ll have to go back to foot travel, like going in deep while most of the big bucks are 100 yards from the parking lot nowadays.”

In discussing water access and all its advantages, Emery also cautioned readers about its potential dangers: “Safety is just a huge thing with water,” he stressed, “because it’s unforgiving – especially when it’s cold out.” He said he doesn’t like to travel water that’s moving too quickly, and he doesn’t like to travel water that he hasn’t seen in the daylight. “It’s just not a good idea,” he emphasized. “I’ve done it, and I’ll continue to do it… but you’re taking a big risk.”

Paddling in can be one of the quietest ways to access a deer’s sanctuary deep away from most people, but it can all be ruined at the last minute, Emery said.

“Access within your access… you might be sneaking into these bucks’ bedrooms and getting close and doing all the right things, but if you’re not careful with your sound – getting out of your boat, your kayak… clanking your paddle against the side, you’re messing up just the same as if you were tromping through a huge briar thicket. That’s actually even MORE alarming because those are just sounds that don’t happen in the wild.”

One thing that will be certain to happen each fall though is that you’ll see a new picture of Jacob Emery floating a big buck deep out of a national forest on his kayak. I’d bet money on it.

VIDEO: Jacob Emery "This has to be one of my all time favorite hunts as I finally got to use my kayak to access some really tough areas on some public up here in Indiana! I was able to walk in after daylight and be very careful covering my ground scent, and checking for fresh sign. I was only up in the tree for an hour and a 1/2 when I had a hot doe come right underneath my tree and shortly after this book was frantically trying to find her and after a few convincing grunts and bleats he made his way right to the base of my tree!"

ABOUT: Greg Staggs is a frequent feature writer for Petersen’s Bowhunting among other magazines, and for many years he was the former back-page columnist for Inside Archery. His mobile-hunting videos are extremely popular on his YouTube channel, Staggs in the Wild, and you can read some of his past feature articles and numerous blogs at staggsinthewild.com.

ABOUT: Jacob Emery is a proficient public land whitetail hunter, especially when it comes to water access. You can view more videos and hunts over at his channel DO3 OUTDOORS 


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