Northern Zone deer season opens with high hopes
The first orange light appears on the southeastern horizon as the sun rises and its soft light filters through the barren branches of the trees along a hillside. A hunter snuggles into his jacket to protect against the early morning chill while watching the gray shadows along what he hopes will be a route for a whitetail buck. As the forest comes alive with the sound of birds, squirrels and other creatures, the anticipation, excitement and hope build.
The weather forecast for this weekend seems good, unlike the past week or last weekend. Cool clear weather will be a welcome change and make for a pleasant weekend in the woods or fields instead of the rain and chill that characterized the week of muzzleloading season.
Calendars have been marked for weeks. Hours of scouting resulting in plans have been made and revised. On Saturday thousands of red or orange clad hunters will be afield at daybreak eagerly watching for America’s number one big game animal – the whitetail deer.
The traditional Northern Zone deer season opener is still a magic moment, even though it has lost some of the significance since the advent of the popular bow hunting and muzzleloading seasons. It is still a big event for those who enjoy hunting the big woods and carrying on tradition.
For those who hunt the northern zone, there is a special feeling that can’t be described or easily put into words. Of course there is the eagerness and hope that we will be successful in bagging a deer but it is the special feeling of being in the woods, the challenge of trying to outwit one of nature’s noblest animals and a feeling that we have several weeks of fun and adventure ahead of us.
Opening day in the northern zone is more of a time of excitement and anticipation than it is a time of increased success. Unlike the southern zone where over 40 percent of the bucks taken are shot on opening day, success throughout the northern zone is evenly spaced throughout the season. Thus the odds this weekend are no better but the excitement is greater. Nevertheless there never will be more deer in the woods than there will be this weekend.
The fact that northern woods have less deer per square mile, bigger territory and less hunters afield means that success is lower. But the challenge of hunting these wily animals, the excitement and the chance for a big buck keeps many hunters going. The tradition of deer camps or testing your skill and woodsmanship in the big woods is a magnet for many people regardless of success ratio.This does not mean that there is a deer behind every tree or that they will be easy to get. These are big woods and deer will use their many keen senses to avoid hunters. Your best bet is to find escape routes or funnels and let others move deer past you or hunt the popular food sources. There doesn’t seem to be many beechnuts or even apples in the north country this year but in areas of oak trees there is a good crop of acorns.
Of course many of us who hunt the northern zone do because we like to. There may be less deer than in many areas of the southern zone but we like the challenge and experience. Your odds of getting a deer in the northern zone are perhaps half of what they will be in the southern zone but most hunters like the big woods, the variety of wildlife they often see and the challenge of testing your skills as a hunter.
You feel like you are hunting because you typically have lots of area to try your favorite tactics. If the deer are not in the location you anticipate you often have the room and ability to move elsewhere. You are not hemmed into a small patch, hoping that deer pass through, as in many areas of the southern zone. A part of the appeal of northern zone hunting is the ability to look into a patch of woods and not see out the other side!
Hunters have their own favorite methods of hunting including sitting on watch, driving or still-hunting. One thing you should definitely not do is wander aimlessly through the woods or fields, expecting a deer to pop up in front of you and stand there.
Remember that deer have great senses of smell, hearing, and sight and they will easily detect and avoid anybody just out for a stroll.
Sitting on watch may be more productive this weekend because there will be more hunters than normal in some areas and they may move deer around. Normally early morning or just before sunset are the periods when deer are on the move. Keep in mind that most big bucks are nocturnal by nature.
Since there are fewer hunters these days and consequently smaller groups of hunters, many opt for having some hunters sitting a likely spots while one or two others still hunt towards them. The key is to move slowly and have the watchers at likely escape routes or funnels. Consider wind direction when placing watchers or planning the route of the hunters on the move.
Of course safety should be a concern in any method we use. Be sure of your target and beyond. Always treat every gun as if it is loaded, and be certain to keep it under control. Unload your gun while climbing tree stands, stone walls, etc. Wear orange or red for your own safety. Remember that blaze orange is most visible, especially in periods of low light.
Good luck to everyone. Remember that any buck is a trophy, regardless of size. And even if you don’t have any action on opening weekend, keep in mind that it is a long season for a reason. Enjoy the experience because the season will be over before you know it.
Deer Hides Wanted: This weekend with the opening of Northern Zone Season should see a lot of deer harvested. For the deer hunters who have been successful and are wondering what to do with the hide, Jim Ward of Oneida Trap Supply is again buying hides. Call Jim at 363-2913 for information and hours.
Adirondack Railroad Comments: The DEC and DOT have announced that they will be holding public hearings and accepting comment on the future of the Adirondack Railroad and the travel corridor. As reported recently, there are some of the extremists who want to tear up the track and make a “super highway” trail for hikers and bikers. The cost of this would be more than the cost of rehabilitating the tracks.
Make your opinions known by attending the meeting next Tuesday, October 28 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the State Office Building in Utica. You can also send e-mail to Nystravelcorridor@dot.ny.gov until December 15. Don’t let some of the wealthy elitists keep the average tourist or sportsman out of much of the Adirondacks by replacing the tracks with an expensive hiking trail that won’t get much usage.
Adirondack Outdoors: The fall issue of Adirondack Outdoors features a trophy buck on the cover and that is no accident. The special hunting edition has lots of articles on deer hunting, including some important tips that can be used anywhere. One feature article focuses on local hunting legend, Jim Massett, and his traditional methods of hunting.
There are also articles on fall fishing, hiking, photography and paddling. This publication is now available at many major newsstands throughout the area or you can check out the digital edition and other information at www.adirondackoutdoorsmagazine.com. Meanwhile complimentary copies are available at Hanifin Tires & Service Center and at Sweet Temptations Café.
IFHCNY: The Independent Fur Harvesters of Central NY will hold a work day on Sunday, October 26 to start repairs on the clubhouse. The next regular meeting will be November 13 at the clubhouse with food served at 5 p.m. and meeting at 6 p.m. There are still raffle tickets left for the bear hunt so call 682-2050 if you need tickets.