I pulled the string back to my face while watching the coues buck nervously sip water out of the corner of my eye from an Arizona water hole.
“You on him?” I asked Tyler Hock, Guidefitter's digital content manager, as he looked through the viewfinder.
“Wait for him to…”, the arrow was already gone.
In places like the Arizona desert, water holes can pay huge dividends. Unfortunately, it's not as easy as just putting up your Barronett blind on found waterhole, climbing inside and killing a critter. It takes time to figure out water holes. It takes no time to ruin them.
Planning and attention to detail, go a long way in being successful on water hole sits. Here are a few reasons why they fail to produce.
Who would think you could have too much water in the arid southwest and other drought invested locales? You will quickly learn the importance of a water balance when you are trying to pinpoint the whereabouts of your intended quarry.
Excessive amounts of water will make water hole hunting nothing more than a shot in the dark. Animals can wander their territory aimlessly, drinking when and where they choose. More often than not, there will be no pattern to their daily travel routes at all. Worst of all, if you do luck into a hunt-able animal and bump him, it's pretty well over.
I'm not busting on trail cams, nor their use. But, many waterholes and wallows have been ruined by them. The camera itself is not doing harm to the critters your pursing but the attention they attract from other hunters sure will. I am mainly speaking of their use on public lands but any location where there is more than one person hunting can feel the affects.
Using cameras on water holes is a good way to find out what's coming to it and the time of day they are coming. Hiding your camera in a tree, well above eye level, is one way of concealing it from other hunters. Another option would be to hang it away from the water, on trails that are coming or going. The whole idea is to not pressure the water hole or make it obvious to others.
There are no secrets anymore, especially in hunting. Google earth and all of the other “map apps” have virtually made it impossible to have a secret water hole. Don't get me wrong, these are great tools we have at our fingertips and they make scouting a whole lot easier. However, unless you find a remote waterhole, that is extremely difficult to get to, there will be other human traffic to contend with. All of the human disturbance does nothing but drive animals deeper into the timber or makes them visit water holes at night. Either way, your sits may be very boring and uneventful.
If you've read any of my writings in the past, you know I'm a stickler on having the right wind direction. A lot of water holes are located in the bottom of draws and ravines. This often creates swirling winds that gives away your location long before your quarry ever makes an appearance.
Do you hunt these places? My opinion, which is very contradictory of what I usually think, is yes. If you have no other option and the animals are using it daily, you should roll the dice. Keep in mind, you may wear out your welcome, pretty quickly. If you want to learn more about how the wind impacts hunting, check out The Wind: Makes or Breaks a Hunt Every Time.
Watching hunting shows that take place in Africa, really gives you a good idea on how prey species approach water. Very, very cautiously. It's really no different here in the states. They will try to circle downwind and if they can't do that, they will stand and stare until they feel it is safe. It is during this time, that careless hunters get picked off and the gig is up.
Staying alert is tough during long sits when you're watching a small chunk of real estate. But it's imperative to your success.
Prime time to sit water holes may be at first light, last light or during the middle of the day, as we learned in Arizona. The majority of the deer movement was during mid afternoon. The gray ghost seemed to avoid water during "prime time" because that's also when other predators were out hunting. It was tough paying attention for 15 hours at a clip with the temperatures reaching 100 degrees fahrenheit but thank God we did.
Back to my story. The arrow hit further back than I would have liked. Fortunately, the Ramcat tipped arrow hit the femoral artery and my first Arizona animal lay dead not 30 yards from the waterhole. It wasn't the P&Y coues buck that we came for. Instead, we got to kill a beautiful mountain lion that had hid out in the brush on the downwind side of the waterhole for four hours, waiting for her chance at a coues deer. Luckily, we were there to witness and film one of natures most keen predators during daylight hours.
None of this would have been possible if not for the hard working guides at Antler Canyon Outfitters. They put in the effort to get us away from other people. Ran cameras that were hidden from view and brushed in our blind so it disappeared in the natural vegetation.
Failure was not an option for them.
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