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An online space for outdoorsmen from CNY and beyond. Tell us about the one you caught or the one that got away.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Deer drives aid hunting in northern zone

Deer hunting activity has picked up somewhat this past week as several bowhunters report seeing more activity and some northern zone hunters have seen more deer. Much of this can be attributed to the onset of the rut. Most of the northern zone deer seen or harvested have been the result of “deer drives.”

Some people have the image of large groups tramping through the Adirondack forests “driving deer” to other waiting hunters. Those days are long gone, just like the log drives of a century ago. Bumping or pushing deer might be a more accurate description.

Of course those who have spent much time in the woods know that deer cannot be “driven.” Deer go exactly where they please. Secondly, the days of large deer camps or large parties of deer hunters are a distant memory for most.

A more likely tactic is a small groups of hunters with one or two of the party taking turns still hunting or bumping deer towards members of their group. This is still one of the most effective ways to hunt the north country. Remember that this is big woods and even a “deer runway” is likely a half mile wide so sitting on watch is definitely a crap shoot.

Deer are most active at dawn or dusk so for much of the day you are not likely to see anything besides squirrels. Big bucks are generally nocturnal. Hunting activity does not make them nocturnal, they are naturally nocturnal. Southern zone bowhunters have a slightly different scenario as we will discuss later.

But, pushing deer to waiting hunters is hardly a sure thing.

Deer will go where they want and the best you can hope for is to guess correctly. The most common factors to consider are cover, natural funnels and wind currents. And the skill of the drivers and hunters cannot be overlooked.

Generally a slow methodical stalk or still hunting is best to move deer. That way the hunter also has a chance at a shot as well as moving deer.

Besides you want the deer to move slowly past the watchers, not go flying into the next zip code. Experience has shown that deer are more likely to get up and move ahead of a quiet hunter than a group of noisy drivers who are shouting.

Natural funnels, including heavy cover, are where deer often —but not always— choose to go. True, it is harder to spot a deer moving through, but there is no point in picking wide open areas if there are no deer going there.

Wind direction is key. Since deer prefer to run into the wind so they can be aware of danger ahead of them, it also means that they will detect hunters there. If at all possible, try to pick some area where the watchers are cross wind rather than upwind from the approaching deer. Scent control is important but difficult to achieve.

Bow hunters are the most dedicated of hunters, paying attention to little details because they need to in order to bag their quarry at close range. In much of the southern zone the cover is broken up with definite feeding, bedding and travel areas. Scouting or trail cameras help determine travel routes and areas where deer are likely to be found in early morning or evening.

But even that is no guarantee. Studies have shown that deer do not keep schedules like suburban commuters. You may see deer in the same field every evening, but that does not mean they are the same deer. Typically deer are on a two or three day cycle of their feeding routes. Trail cameras confirm that much of the feeding activity is still done during the hours of darkness.

As stated before, scent control is important. Successful bowhunters will start as clean as possible with unscented soap for bathing and washing clothes, use cover scent to help, and use attractant scents such as doe urine to lure bucks near their stand, but not drawing attention to themselves or their stand. And of course a tree stand helps to dissipate the scent.

A key part of the bowhunters plan is to ambush the deer, but not enter into a buck’s core area or sanctuary. Invading this zone is likely to cause a buck, especially a mature one, to leave the area for safer territory. It is similar to our plans to move out if we had armed terrorists tramping through our home on a routine basis.

This is something that northern zone hunters need to keep in mind. Moving through a buck’s territory will send him to another location for awhile.

Frequently stomping through his sanctuary cover will cause him to find a new safety zone. It is not like a buck has only an acre or two of thick cover to hide in like many places in the southern zone.

But since big woods bucks frequently move more and do not bed in the same place each night, a push or “drive” might be the most effective way of taking one. Of course with the onset of the rut all of the above can change quickly.

Just remember that while bucks are actively seeking does during the rut, it does not mean that they are running willy-nilly with no regard to safety. And secondly, it can mean that a buck may abandon its normal routes or area. Thus the deer you scouted hard for weeks in summer or early fall can be running a few miles away under someone else’s treestand.


DEER HIDES WANTED: With deer season getting into full swing and the opening of the southern zone only a couple weeks away, Jim Ward of Oneida Fur and Trap Supply wants to remind area sportsmen that he is buying deer hides again this year. Successful hunters who do not know what to do with their deer hides can sell them to Ward in Oneida Valley. Call 363-2913 for more information.

BACK DECK DEER: One of my friends and hunting partners who we shall refer to as “the Music Man” is a constant source of amusing and interesting stories. His latest adventure involves bowhunting from the back deck of his camp.

It seems on the opening day of bow season he was at his camp having an extra cup coffee and watching several does eating apples in his back yard. Soon he noticed a four point buck wandering in and proceeded to make a scrape in his back yard. The thought crossed “Music Man’s” mind that this was within bow range, but he passed on the opportunity. Later he paced off the scrape as 25 yards from his back deck.

After not seeing any deer for four days, he was again having breakfast at camp when he noticed the buck again. This time, while the buck was behind some evergreens, he got his bow ready and went out on the back deck. As the buck emerged to check the scrape, “Music Man” downed him with a well placed shot. Soon after he retrieved the deer, dragging it back across the yard while still wearing his pajamas and slippers.

CATCH & CLEAN TOURNAMENT: Anglers can take an active role in cleaning up the banks of the Salmon River in the second annual “Catch and Clean” tournament sponsored by the Lake Ontario Tributary Anglers Council (LOTAC) Saturday.

The tournament will be headquartered at Fox Hollow Lodge at 2740 NYS Route 13, Altmar. Registration is from 6-8 p.m. today and at 4 a.m. tomorrow at Fox Hollow. The entry fee is $15 for LOTAC members and $25 for non-members.

The tournament format is catch and release, but to qualify your fish for the prizes, you must pick up and submit at least one bag of garbage collected on the tributary the entrant or team has fished.

Fishing ends at 4 p.m. with awards, raffles and dinner to follow. LOTAC was formed four years ago by a group of anglers who encourage conservation and ethical fishing on the Lake Ontario tributaries. For more information call Kirtland at 607-239-7861, e-mail or visit

WALLEYE REPORT: There has been a good night bite for walleyes on Oneida Lake according to Capt. Tony Buffa. Sometimes it is at dusk, sometimes at 8 p.m. or occasionally later. Anglers have been taking walleyes by wading, drifting or anchored in boats. Buffa’s clients have had most success with XPS Lazer Blades (holographic gold) or Jr. Thundersticks.


Blogger spike said...

Deer go wherever they please. That is so true. That's what makes it so exciting though. Not knowing where the deer will go. While hunting I try to see the pattern. Those deer never seem to have a pattern. They are tricky, again part of the hunt.

November 10, 2011 at 9:51 AM 

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