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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.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Deer season heating up

Archery season for deer enters its second month and the northern zone firearms season has finished its second week. Although there have been some nice deer taken, the numbers are nothing special. But the sightings and the signs that the best is about to come has many hunters excited.
Most area bowhunters have seen quite a few deer, even though they haven’t taken a large number. Terry Yardley and Ken Cronn are two of my hunting partners who both took deer with 3 points on one antler and a spike on the other. Dick Cooper has passed up a number of smaller bucks but when he finally saw a bigger one that he wanted to shoot, some nearby does spotted him and spooked the entire group so “Coop” came up empty. As mentioned elsewhere in today’s column, Christina Cortes got her first deer with a bow. There are a few other stories of local hunters – both male and female – that we will be reporting in the next week or two.
During opening weekend in the northern zone two weeks ago, our gang had lots of excitement and action with Bill Batdorf getting a dandy 8 point buck. We saw 14 deer on opening day with a couple other deer getting away due to bad luck, including a misfire. The next day, with a few less hunters in the gang, we saw eight deer. However, last weekend it was a different story with only two sighted.
But Craig Dougherty of North Country Whitetails said it best in his weekly report when he said that this is a normal cycle and it indicates that the rut will be soon starting. In October, the bucks are keeping close to cover and coming to feed in the early dawn or just before dark. Thus, the majority of sightings are does, with bucks being seen in the half hour after sunrise or before sunset.
According to his reports and the observations of lots of area hunters, the bucks are becoming interested in the does, acting aggressively towards other bucks and making plenty of scrapes and rubs, etc. This shows that they are ready but the does are generally not receptive.
Since bucks do not usually move much during the day when the temperature is above 50 degrees and does aren’t receptive to the bucks yet, many hunters refer to this as the “pre-rut lull.” Hunters concentrate now on the funnels or ridges between areas where does feed in hopes of intercepting a buck in search of does in heat.
But this only means that the rut, or active breeding time will probably be a week away. Despite what some people may think, the rut has nothing to do with cold weather. It typically occurs within a week of Veterans Day every year.
And of course it does not mean that bucks will be running crazy with no caution or regard for hunters. It does mean that they will be more active and this is the time you should be in the woods at every opportunity. Don’t overthink the rut. Just get in a good funnel and be patient.
A few things that you should keep in mind are that deer will still be most active during the periods of low light. When a buck finds a doe in heat they will probably travel together but spend much of the mid-day in heavy cover. This is the time to hunt areas of fresh tracks and main trails. At other times a buck may use a different route in heavy cover but now they probably follow the trails in search of does in heat.
Don’t waste your time hunting over scrapes. Most of them are made during the night. But they do show you the line of travel of a buck and the areas he probably uses for bedding cover or feeding.
Don’t get stuck in your stand. Especially in pressured areas deer, learn of “danger above” and learn to scan the trees. Mature bucks are also aware of trail cams and learn to avoid them.
We try to “pattern deer” but at the same time deer may be “patterning us.” If we use the same stands, the same routes, etc. deer will become aware of scent or sight of hunters and tend to avoid the area.
The same is true of still hunters or those who drive or plush deer. Hunting the same area will pressure the deer to change locations. Using the same drives very frequently will cause deer to learn how to avoid the hunters or move to a different area.
Using a bleat call will attract curious does and often bucks will follow. A grunt call can bring a buck in closer into archery range or cause it to stop sometimes. But too many hunters over-use them or use them improperly. Using a grunt call too much or too loudly will scare some deer away.
Although hunting in the rain isn’t much fun, it can be productive. After all, the deer do not have the luxury of staying inside where it’s warm and dry. They are still out there and rainy days can be a good time for still hunting.
Enjoy your time afield and remember that any deer is a trophy. Let us know of your success and we will include these tales in some future columns.
First archery deer: A hunter’s first deer is always special. It is even more so when that deer is a nice buck. For Christina Cortes of Munnsville, it was her first deer with a bow. She took the 8 point buck that weighed 143 pounds earlier this week near her home in Munnsville.
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 363-2913 for information and hours.
DMPs Available: In the Deer Management Units where the DMPs (doe permits) issued did not meet the quotas there was a recent lottery among unsuccessful applicants. Those who were successful in this second chance received their DMP in the mail. This did not affect any preference points that were issued when the permits were originally unsuccessfully applied for. Many DMPs are still available in some units primarily in the western Finger Lakes (Region 8) and western NY (Region 9) regions. Some of the management units in Region 7 (Madison & Onondaga Counties) still have DMPs available. These are available for purchase daily at all licensing units. Clerks will be able to tell each day on their computer which units have permits available.
Project Feeder Watch: Cornell Lab of Ornithology is inviting people to join their project feeder watch this year. The current year is beginning this weekend and there is more information about the program at or e-mailing Even if you do not join the feeder watch program, you may find it useful to look at the website for their listing of 100 common birds (not all of them are common in this area in winter). There is an illustration to help you identify birds, map of their winter range, listing of what each likes to eat and what type of feeder works best for their preference.
VNSP Events: Vernon National Shooting Preserve (VNSP) will hold a pistol permit class this Saturday, November 9 beginning at 9 a.m. It is open to the public. Call Art Coriale at 225-3245 to register. Saturday, December 14, is Beretta Demo Day. There will be a Beretta rep on hand and guns to shoot, etc. There will also be a “shoot” later that day. Call 982-7045 or 796-4587 for information on these and other events.


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