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Thursday, October 24, 2013

NY 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.
This scene, or variations of it, will be repeated countless times across the Northern Zone this opening weekend. We all have our favorite methods of hunting, just like we all have our special areas. But regardless of where and how we hunt, the anticipation and excitement will be similar.
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 threat of rain or chilly temperatures will not dampen the enthusiasm of hunters for this weekend or the following six weeks.
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
The fact that northern woods have less deer per square mile, the 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.
The numbers of deer across the north country seems good so far this year. Last year’s mild winter following a normal one the year before has meant that deer survival has improved. People afield have observed an increased number of deer and have seen more mature bucks.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. An abundance of mast crops this year means that deer will not be concentrated in small areas.
Of course, many of us who hunt the Northern Zone do it 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 is hunting is the ability to look into a patch of woods and not see out the other side!
Hunting the Northern Zone is special because you feel that you are part of the natural world. It is big country and hunting the way it used to be. It is not like those artificial “Bubba videos” featuring an Alabama hunt on fenced in property with food plots, seven different tree stands and more bucks than most people see in an entire season. If you just want to shoot, go to a sporting clays range. If you want to hunt, go to the North Country.
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 at 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: 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 (315-363-2913) for information and hours. Reel Drag: By now only a few dedicated anglers are still fishing. The rest of the fishing fraternity have put away their tackle. But was it properly put away?Rods should be carefully stored so they won’t be damaged or take a “set,” and unused monofilament should be stored in a cool, dark area away from sunlight. But the most important thing is to lighten the drag on your reels. Leaving the drag tight or with too much tension on it for long periods of time can ruin your drag, so put down this column and go down and release the drag on all your reels now! Field Dressing Game Guide: Waterford Press has a pocket-sized, waterproof guide that is ideal for every hunter¹s pack. Field Dressing Game provides a simplified introduction to safe practices and procedures for field dressing various species of game and fish, including rabbits, squirrels, deer, ducks, geese, pheasant, turkeys and small game birds. Also included in this handy guide are useful facts about safe cooking of wild game.
Waterford Press Guides are available for purchase at (800-434-2555), at book and outdoor retailers around the country and at select online retailers. See for more information.


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