One final shot: Deer season ends this weekend
It is easy to get discouraged but there are enough examples of late season success to give everyone hope. A few years ago Terry Yardley and I hunted the last day of the season just ahead of a major storm and got a deer about mid day. A couple years later Dick Cooper shot a nice buck late in the afternoon of the final day. Last year despite deep snow and cold temperatures, Joe Beckwith closed out the northern season by taking a deer near Florence.
Are there deer out there? Yes. Are they going to be easy to get? No. There are additional factors working against the hunter at the end of the season. The weather is colder. Deer have been pressured and are more wary. The rut is essentially over. There are far less hunters afield moving deer around.
We have to adjust if we want to be successful. Although some people will advise sitting in your usual tree stands for the end of the season, others see this as a waste of time. Deer have been pressured in many cases and will spend much of the day bedded in heavy cover. Your best bet is to watch food sources, especially those that adjoin areas of heavy cover.
Most of the deer, especially bucks, will feed during the night or just about dusk. Don’t waste your time deep in the woods along some doe trails or funnels. You might consider watching in the heavy cover near food sources if you can.
Hunt the fringes or thickets. Deer will frequently seek refuge in the most inhospitable areas such as patches of honeysuckle, multiflora rose or other nasty vegetation. If you have the stamina and the weather isn’t too extreme, you might consider staying in your stand all day. Even though the deer are unlikely to move much, they often get up and stir a bit at mid-day when the weather is cold.
If you know that other hunters will be putting on a final push during the last weekend, consider the possible escape routes of deer and be on watch in these often thick areas. For most of the past couple weeks the hunting pressure has been light, but in some cases there will be groups of hunters pushing the woods for the final opportunity of the season.
Consider still hunting the heavy cover where you think the bucks might be bedding. Although the current trend is to not disturb core or bedding areas, this is the last weekend so what do you have to lose? Deer will have all year to get over the fact of being disturbed and they will return to their old haunts soon enough when the season is over.
If you have several hunters, the best bet is to probably put some hunters on watch along the likely escape routes while others still hunt or slowly move through likely areas. Remember, you want to nudge the deer towards the other hunters, not send them flying into the next zip code.
Although the weather forecast calls for milder weather this week it is likely to turn colder by the weekend. Deer have generally moved off the high ridges and into the sheltered valleys with the coming of snow and cold weather the past couple weeks. Look for the sheltered areas out of the wind, especially the lowlands with heavy evergreen cover that are near their wintering territory.
Dress warmly. You won’t be able to spend the entire day afield, much less sit still, if you are cold. With colder temperatures and snow cover in the higher elevations both north and south you need to be prepared for harsher conditions than earlier in the season. Dress in layers than can be added and removed as needed. Be sure to wear some warm, wicking undergarments such as Under Armor or other material like Thermax, etc.
Have insulated boots, wool socks and gloves with gore-tex and insulation. Carry spares so you won’t have to be moving or heading back to your vehicle when a deer finally does appear.
Good luck to everybody. Be safe and let us know of any interesting stories from the final weekend.
DMP Transfers: With the end of the regular season, a lot of hunters will not have filled their Deer Management Permits (“doe tag”). Many will probably not have the opportunity to go hunting this final weekend. A recent change in the hunting regulations allows hunters to transfer their unused permits to other licensed hunters.
However the hunter who receives and carries this permit must record the number on his or her own license. One of the plastic tags in our string of tags and permits has a space for recording the numbers of the DMPs that we receive from others. Once you have taken a deer on that permit you must fill it out and attach it to the carcass as you normally do. You must report the kill by calling 1-866-426-3778. See page 28 of the current Hunting Guide for instructions.
Remember Landowner: At any time of year, but especially now with the end of hunting season and the onset of the holiday season, it is appropriate to remember the landowners who let you use their property with some gift. Some small gift will show your appreciation for them for letting you hunt or fish on their property. It also helps mark you as a considerate and responsible sportsman and may go a long way towards getting permission to hunt or fish there again next year.
Muzzleloader Season: Regular firearms seasons for deer in both northern and southern zones close at sundown this Sunday, December 8. Monday, December 9 will be the beginning of the special muzzleloader and bowhunting season in the southern zone that will extend until December 17. Hunters with a special muzzleloader license or bowhunting privilege may take a deer of either sex during this time. However in Regions 3 and 4 in southeastern NY where there are antler restrictions. Only a buck with at least 3 points on one side may be taken. Hunters may use any unfilled DMPs in areas where the permits are valid.
Christmas Shopping: As we mentioned previously, please try to do your Christmas shopping locally whenever possible. Try to buy American, and especially New York, made products. There are lots of them if you carefully check. Even if a Remington 870 shotgun won’t fit in your budget or a Placid Boatworks pack canoe won’t fit under your tree, there are lots of smaller items or stocking stuffers that are available. For example, the best jigs for bass and walleye are made by Bill Alexander (MTO jigs) based on his tournament winning experience. Jeff Upfold makes great ice fishing lures with the e-chip implanted. Dave Smith ties excellent salmon and steelhead flies that are available at Fat Nancy’s tackle shop in Pulaski.
Turkey calls made by Lou Pulverenti (Boss Tom Calls) or Shawn Fox of Camden have a proven record and are of high quality. Other good calls for waterfowl, turkey, etc. that are made in NYS are produced by Oak Ridge or Quaker Boy.
You will be spending your money locally and getting a great product at the same time when you patronize the above people.
Feeding Birds: With the coming of snow and cold weather many of the area songbirds will be flocking to local backyard birdfeeders. If you want to attract and enjoy birds all winter long, now is the time to put out feeders. It is best to have a variety of feeders for various food and of the type that certain birds prefer. Tube feeders with thistle seed will attract finches and chickadees. Tube, hopper or sheltered feeders with black sunflower seeds will appeal to most birds, including cardinals, chickadees, juncos, redpolls, finches and tufted titmice.