It was a beautiful but hot and humid day at the Crystal Pig Hunt Club. I spent a couple days mowing the yard and the path to our closest feeder, straightening up camp, taking a few large bags of “stuff” to the dumpster, cleaning inside the RV, spraying lots of bug spray and weed killer, spread fire ant killer, changed oil in generator which is a backup now that we have electric installed and more.
Our biggest issue has been mice in the RV. It’s a constant battle. We’re trying some new tactics this year and hopefully they will work.
So, camp is in pretty good shape since it will be a while before we can get back out. We’ll get trails mowed soon and then again just prior to season.
It is a challenge to get the whole team together anymore since the “young guns” have jobs.
This deer season at my mid-Georgia hunting lease property I was selected to test drive a John Deere Gator XUV 855M S4 model year 2021. I’ve been deer hunting for over 30 years and my Crystal Pig Hunt Club buddies and I have test driven a number of vehicles. I have to say I got most excited about them when we moved from 4-wheelers to utility vehicles. This is the second Gator we’ve used and it’s a beauty. Our local dealer, Blanchard Equipment, delivered the unit which had brush guards and front/back windows attached. Those are very handy for the amount of weeds and vines we have to run through. This is also the first diesel I’ve tested too.
So, let’s get started with a little bit about what’s new on this model that I was most impressed with. This includes improvements to the transmission controls, digital displays, gear positions and power steering. The power steering is huge when you’ve got very tight turns that come up fast!
Some of the key uses for a Gator for us include hauling corn to fill feeders, getting to and from stands and hauling a harvested deer back to camp which also includes driving a little off trail in the woods to get to it. The standard lights package also provides more visibility at night than any vehicle I’ve driven and that’s great for those end of the day hunts.
Likes: Power, hey it’s a diesel. Two seats for comfort and back seat flips into a table with storage compartments below that. Digital display to see what gear we’re in along with speed, fuel level and messaging. One touch 4-wheel drive. Super responsive power steering. Much more comfortable suspension for rugged trails. Very easy cargo bed dump control.
Suggestions: Cup holders need to move away from transmission stick. I know this sounds minor but you can’t put a full size tumbler there. Seat side rails need some cushion. Very easy to catch on them sitting down onto the seat, especially a big body. If you’re hunting, a gun rack accessory is a must. I also think a winch is too. Too many times over the years they have been more than worth it.
In the video you can see some footage of the Gator in action and I end with a recap on location before the unit was returned to John Deere.
I want to thank John Deere for allowing me and my hunt camp members to use one of the newest Gator models. We have had a very successful season and using a Gator made it very enjoyable. Hope we can do it all again next year.
We had the best weather for opening days of the season at the Crystal Pig Hunt Club that we’ve had yet and took advantage of it to harvest a few deer. Paul and I got these bucks on the same afternoon. We have seen some much larger racks and will be back, hopefully during the rut.
We saw a lot of deer and mostly does. I had a spike buck walk up underneath me while sitting in my stand. He literally sniffed the foot of the ladder. I let him go since we have lots of better choices and maybe he’ll be back nest year.
A couple of us were on site before opening day and glad we did that. Basically, all our feeders were not working for different reasons. We had to change motors, batteries, re-program and refill. Of course, it’s a good workout. But the property is in the best shape for hunting since we leased it.
One of the most significant improvements to our camp is the installation of electricity. We’re run a lot of hours on generators over the years and now everything is quiet and we have lots of outlets to handle everything we need electricity for.
Big thanks go out to John Deere for the use of a new Gator which we’re test driving, making notes and will be writing about soon.
This is an exciting time for deer hunters. The season is about to get started for those of us who hunt in Georgia. So, preparations are being made for a great opening day at the Crystal Pig Hunt Club.
My preparation includes getting to test drive a new John Deere Gator XUV855M S4. This crossover utility vehicle will take us out into the woods over some tough terrain and hopefully to include transporting some of our harvest. I’ll be documenting our experience but thought I’d kick start things with an interview with Mark Davey, John Deere Marketing Manager, in my weekly podcast, The ZimmCast.
There are many features on these new Gators that make them ideal for hunting. Some of those include easier shifting and instant engagement of 4-wheel drive, better power steering and a digital display panel to see important indicators. In this week’s program Mark and I talk about the new Gator models and what the key updates are. I hope you enjoy it and thank you for listening.
We’re getting closer to opening day for Georgia firearm deer season. So the CPHC Team has been on location, mowing, checking feeders and filling them, camp cleaning and of course, relaxing a little bit.
When we got to camp last weekend the grass was the tallest in the camp yard that we’ve ever had. In the morning there were thousands of bees buzzing in it. It was so loud you could hear it very clearly. I think there’s a short video clip of them in our photo album. There is no lack of pollinators on our property.
We have installed electricity and have a couple of container pods at camp for storage. So far, everything is looking pretty good. Now we just need the weather to cooperate as we get ready for another great year of hunting.
Well, we probably would have more time on the property but the pandemic threw us all for a loop. Things have started opening up though and a few of us used the opportunity to get there and accomplish a few needed projects.
The first one was rescuing/repairing Paul’s John Deere tractor. We got it unstuck and fixed up and mowing commenced. We also built a structure for our camp generator(s) and some camp clean up.
We drove most of our trails and roads and they were in better shape than expected although there are a couple of rough washouts to deal with. There is lots of sign of deer and of course, hogs. Freaking Hogs! I am not a fan. Hopefully we can reduce those numbers before this fall’s season.
Here’s something you really don’t want to see on your “deer” trail cam. This very large black bear has demolished two of our feeders.
At first look when I saw the photo I thought, “I’d really hate to run in to him accidentally.” So I did a little research and it is actually very rare to have an encounter. I’m fine with that. I also found that there are areas in Georgia that have either no bear season or only one day. In our area they used to be pretty scarce but I’ve spoken with a number of farmers who say they’ve been seeing many more the last couple years. That’s also true of panhandle Florida where I live.
Although I’d rather not have a face to face meeting with a feral hog, those we can shoot anytime, year round. I’m hoping to have that chance soon. As well as a shot at a big buck before the season ends in January.
Opening day for the 2019 Georgia firearms deer season was wet. I mean it rained all day. But the southeast needed that rain in a big way and it did not stop deer activity. The next day we had sunshine as you can see in this photo of our Can-Am Defender from my stand. Right after that I harvested a spike buck. Opening day I harvested two does. So I’ve got a lot of venison I’ll be freezing this week while taking a large portion to a local processor for summer sausage and hamburger.
Now let’s talk feral hogs. I am happy to report that my brother Paul deleted their number by seven on opening day. Here’s a Can-Am Defender load of five of them. It sounds like a lot but we’ve got one group of them numbering almost forty and another that it is a little less. For the first time in the years I’ve been hunting in Georgia I’m seeing hogs on the sides of the roads that have been hit by cars. I counted five in just one hour long drive one morning. They are a serious problem. We’re doing our part but it’s not enough.
Georgia’s season continues through mid-January so the Crystal Pig Hunt Club members will be out several times trying to reduce hog numbers and hopefully seeing some of the large bucks which are showing up on our cameras. If you hunt deer let me know how things are going for you. I’ve seen some great photos on social media already which include children who are getting their first opportunity to hunt with Mom or Dad.
It’s that time. Time to work on roads, trails, stands, feeders and camp.
It was just a few short years ago that these pines were seedlings. Amazing how fast they grow. This photo really brings it home since this road was wider and now the branches are grown together so much they’re scraping the sides of a pickup. That will have to change.
So the Pig Team will be on location this weekend into next week doing some work on all of it. It’s going to be hot but you can bet we’ll have a good time and enjoy the company while doing it.
Although the 2018 deer season in central Georgia was not the best we’ve ever had it was not the worst. We harvested deer. Saw more deer and got a lot of work done to make a growing pine forest easier to hunt in.
This is my last post from the season since I had to show what one of the most important benefits of having a good utility vehicle with the right accessories is. Besides getting you to and from your deer stand there’s the issue of bringing a large animal out of some of the worst conditions possible. In our case that was a buck in 6 to 10 feet high pricker vine thickets that are covering a hillside and across a creek bed. My bother Paul got the deer down the hill to the creek somehow. I got the Can-Am Defender we had the honor to be using as close to the creek bed as I could. From there we let the WARN winch do the rest. That last 40 yards may not have been possible without it!
I had hoped to shoot a lot more video this season but conditions were mostly rainy, windy, muddy and filled with scratches and learning how the pine growth and intense weed growth has changed patterns and paths for the deer. We learned a lot and have some very high hopes for the next season and sure hope we can do it with a Can-Am!