Blogs > Oneida Outdoors

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cold weather doesn't dampen enthusiasm for southern zone deer opener

The Southern Zone deer season opened in frigid temperatures across most of the region. Temperatures in the teens were the rule in higher elevations of the southern tier on Saturday morning but that did not keep the legions of hunters home. However, later in the day it did send many of them home early even if they did not have success.
There is no accurate gauge on if the weather had any impact on the harvest or not. Judging by reports at processing plants like Phil Roe’s in Hamilton or some other deer cutting shops, there was an average amount of deer killed and brought in.
If you check with individual hunters, it naturally depends on whether or not they were successful. There were also reports from different local areas that indicate that the hunter activity and amount of shooting on nearby properties was lighter than normal. Friends say that areas near Vernon Center, west of Canastota and East Hamilton were much quieter than most opening weekends.
Typically on the days after opening weekend I get quite a few calls from people that I know asking how I did. Of course that is really a lead in to tell me that they were successful. This year I haven’t had very many so I’m assuming that my contacts weren’t as successful as other years.
But overall there were probably a significant number of bucks and does taken. In the next week or two we will probably have lots of individual tales to share with you. Ken Cronn continued his string of success with a buck taken near home. Blaine Cook was actually hunting at his home and took a four-point buck. Of course, earlier that day he was at his house warming up and looked down the field to see an eight point buck crossing by his tree stand.
Pumpkin Gang Trifecta
The three original members of the “Pumpkin Gang” (nicknamed for their orange hunting vests, not their body shapes!) hunt together throughout the bow season and through the gun season. Bob Washbon, Dick Cooper and Terry Yardley have hunted together for 40 years but last Saturday was the first time that they have all gotten bucks on the same day. On opening day all three of them got nice bucks in different spots within half an hour of each other.
It Only Takes a Few Seconds 
Sunday evening I was comparing results and hunting stories with my friend Bill Batdorf. As we discussed our opening weekend results, Bill mentioned that he had not seen many deer but missed a great opportunity on Sunday. He climbed up in a tree stand and was watching a hunter on nearby property and then turned the other way to see a nice buck bounding off into the woods. Apparently it was bedded down nearby and when Bill was looking the other way it jumped up and ran away. It only took a few seconds of looking away for a missed opportunity.
It Only Takes Seconds – Part II 
The few seconds that make the difference between success and frustration hit home for me earlier this week. Terry Yardley and I were hunting near Hamilton in frigid conditions on Tuesday. With temperatures in the teens and wind chill factor in single digits we decided to move and hunt towards each other around a small valley. We met along an area where last summer’s wind shear had knocked down many trees. After we talked there for several minutes I moved towards the blowdowns to see how the mess might affect next spring’s turkey hunting. Less than 30 yards away up sprang a big buck that had been bedded down in the tree tops all that time. In my surprise I hesitated and then by the time I had gotten my gun up the big buck bounded away through the tangle of trunks and limbs with only the sight of those big antlers visible!
Make Your Opinions Known
Several people have spoken to me about making their comments on the Open Space Plan or the Adirondack Railroad. At a recent presentation at the Oneida’s Club, I promised to make the addresses available again.
The Open Space Plans are the priorities or projects of the DEC to conserve a valuable resource, increase public access or create a new area. Two possible projects that are of interest to local people are the Seneca White Deer and the Keesler Boat Launch on Hinckley Reservoir.
Creating a park or Wildlife management Area out of part of the Seneca Army Depot would help preserve an important part of our military heritage, save the rare Seneca White Deer herd, and create a nature viewing area for the public. Tell the DEC that this is more important than creating another landfill!
The Keesler Boat Launch would provide a much needed larger boat launch on Hinckley Reservoir and be named after an important person who did much to publicize the outdoor world.
E-mail comments to or send them to:
Open Space Conservation Plan
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233 
Deadline is Dec. 17.
The Adirondack Railway Plan would offer several options. At the recent hearing in Utica it was revealed that rehabilitating the tracks would cost less than the “superhighway” biking and hiking trail that many of the greenies want. It is possible to have hiking and biking access along the present track right-of-way and preserve the railroad.  An operating railroad from Utica to Lake Placid would give tourists access to beautiful backcountry that they would never see otherwise. It would make rail travel to Lake Placid possible and help tourism and the economy. It would provide access for sportsmen to be dropped off for camping, canoeing, fishing, hunting, etc. in remote areas that are otherwise inaccessible.
Indicate your support for the Adirondack Railroad operating all the way to Lake Placid by sending an e-mail to: by Dec. 15.
Subject: Venison vs. Beef - The controversy ends
Note: This satire has made the rounds before but it is worth repeating with the peak of the deer season upon us.
Controversy has long raged about the relative quality and taste of venison and beef as gourmet foods. Some people say venison is tough, with a strong “wild” taste. Others insist venison’s flavor is delicate. An independent food research group was retained by the Venison Council to conduct a taste test to determine the truth of these conflicting assertions once and for all.
First, a Grade A Choice Holstein steer was chased into a swamp a mile and a half from a road and shot several times. After some of the entrails were removed, the carcass was dragged back over rocks and logs and through mud and dust to the road. It was then thrown into the back of a pickup truck and driven through rain and snow for 100 miles before being hung out in the sun for a day.
It was then lugged into a garage where it was skinned and rolled around on the floor for a while. Strict sanitary precautions were observed throughout the test, within the limitations of the butchering environment. For instance, dogs and cats were allowed to sniff and lick the steer carcass, but were chased away when they attempted to bite chunks out of it.
Next, a sheet of plywood left from last year’s butchering was set up in the basement on two saw horses. The pieces of dried blood, hair and fat left from last year were scraped off with a wire brush last used to clean out the grass stuck under the lawn mower.
The skinned carcass was then dragged down the steps into the basement where a half dozen inexperienced but enthusiastic and intoxicated men worked on it with meat saws, cleavers and dull knives. The result was 375 pounds of soup bones, four bushel baskets of meat scraps, and a couple of steaks that were an eighth of an inch thick on one edge and an inch and a half thick on the other.
The steaks were seared on a glowing red hot cast iron skillet to lock in the flavor. When the smoke cleared, rancid bacon grease was added, along with three pounds of onions, and the whole conglomeration was fried for two hours.
The meat was gently teased from the frying pan and served to three blindfolded taste panel volunteers. Every member of the panel thought it was venison. One volunteer even said it tasted exactly like the venison he has eaten in hunting camps for the past 27 years. The results of this scientific test conclusively show that there is no difference between the taste of beef and venison.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Southern zone deer season opens with high hopes

This coming Saturday, November 15, will see an amazing transformation. People who normally have to be dragged out of bed after hitting the snooze alarm several times will be up and about long before the alarm goes off. The person who is always misplacing glasses or is unable to find their keys will have all their clothing and equipment laid out in military precision. Those who complain or put off tasks because it is raining or too cold outside will not give a second thought to the frigid temperatures, rain or snow forecast for the day.
Hundreds of auto headlights will criss-cross the country roads of Madison, southern Oneida, Onondaga and Chenango counties in the pre-dawn darkness on Saturday morning. Sunrise will find orange-clad hunters sitting on stonewalls or in tree stands hunched against the chilly air of dawn as they scan the fields and forests for sight of a deer. All across the southern part of New York State hunters will set out in pursuit of the nation’s most popular big game animal; the whitetail deer.
For a lot of people it is “The” deer season. Opening day is still a big event for deer hunters but it is a far cry from what it used to be. Due to the popularity of bowhunting in recent years, a lot of the anticipation and excitement of opening day of regular firearms season is lost.
Now many hunters take to the woods on October 1 with their stands, compound bows, etc. and enjoy several weeks of seeing and trying to bag a deer. This year crossbows became a legal instrument to use at the end of the bowhunting season. And of course the total number of deer hunters has declined in recent years for a variety of reasons.
Unlike other season openers, which are mostly psychological or a welcome beginning of good times to come, the opening days of southern zone deer season are directly related to success. Statistics show that 55 percent of the bucks taken are shot on the first two days of the season. Thus if you hunt later in the season, your odds of getting a buck are reduced, although there will still be bucks around. Somebody recently put it in perspective when he said, “there will never be more bucks in the woods than there are on opening day.”
The past few years the season have opened on Saturday instead of the traditional Monday opener. This is designed to make it easier for people, especially youngsters, to be able to hunt on the opening of the season.
Easier hunting conditions, the familiarity of hunting small woodlots or farms instead of bigger woods and increased deer numbers all contribute to the immense popularity of southern zone hunting. Increased numbers of hunters afield also increase your chances of seeing deer since they often move deer from one area to another. The availability of Deer Management Permits which allow hunters to take an antlerless deer in specific units means that approximately one in five hunters will be successful in taking a deer during the season. Sixty percent of the state’s total deer harvest comes from the southern zone.
There has been considerable discussion about the prospects and number of deer in various areas. Generally there are increased numbers of deer in most areas, partially due to the easy winters in the southern tier the past few years. Many bowhunters, including my hunting partners Dick Cooper and Bob Washbon, have been seeing a lot of bucks in recent weeks.
Everyone has their favorite areas and tactics,but one of the methods that will probably still pay off if there are other hunters in the area is to be sitting on watch about mid day. Many hunters get cold, restless or head out to the truck or nearby diner for lunch. In the process they often move deer that they never see. Thus a large number of deer are shot by hunters on watch between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
There are a lot of different opinions and favorite methods but it is probably true that if you are ever going to sit on watch much of the day, this should be the day. Hunters moving to and from their hunting spots, others in nearby areas still-hunting or driving are likely to cause deer to be on the move most of the day. If you have a good spot in likely cover or a funnel area the odds are that you will make yourself comfortable and hope someone else moves a deer towards you.
Of course regardless of where you hunt, your number one concern should be safety. Keep firm control of your gun at all times, do not carry it loaded unless you are actually hunting and only point at what you intend to shoot. Be certain of your target and what is beyond it. Wear some blaze orange since statistics show that most accidents involve people who weren’t wearing orange.
Finally, be sure and be an ethical sportsman. In addition to safety, you should be sure of your shot for quick, clean kills. Follow up every shot, even an apparent miss. Remember that even a fatal shot may not show any apparent effects. Follow even a bloodless trail for at least 200 yards. It is the mark of a responsible sportsman to make sure that every possible wounded animal is found.
Good luck to all hunters next week and in the remaining season, which ends December 7 in both northern and southern zone. Remember to enjoy the experience and don’t forget that any deer is a trophy. Even though you may not get one in the first few days, do not get discouraged. Although half of the bucks may be taken in the first couple days, less than 10 percent of the trophy bucks are taken then.
Be sure to let us know of any nice deer that you get or any interesting stories.
Processing Venison: Although some people like to cut up and package their own venison, for those who do not have the facilities or skill, it is a good idea to go to a professional. Phil Roe of Hamilton is one of the best. He will not only do a great job of cutting your deer the way you want, he offers a variety of specialty services and products for your venison such as summer sausage, pepperoni, etc.
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.
Venison Donation: Again this year the Venison Donation Coalition is sponsoring free processing of any deer that you would like to donate to the food bank. You can also check the website for a list of participating meat processors. You must call ahead for free processing of any deer you wish to donate.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Considerations for the ethical deer hunter

Ethics is defined as a system of right and wrong. In some cases these behaviors are defined by law. In most cases, however, they are simply a matter of conscience and generally accepted behavior.
When it comes to hunting, especially deer hunting, there are lots of questions of ethics. Some might involve so-called “canned hunts” where animals are confined. Others might involve baiting, which is illegal, or the use of food plots which some people consider to be akin to baiting even though they are legal.
Many of the questions that are not a legal issue but involve deeply held beliefs are about what weapons are used for shooting deer, what types of shots hunters take and following up on their shots. The law only says that rimfire cartridges (.22 caliber) may not be used for deer hunting. However there are a considerable number of people that opt for light calibers for deer hunting because the high velocity cartridges have a flat trajectory and the guns are light to carry.
Although it does not take a huge bullet to kill a deer, many hunters question the ethics of using some of the light calibers. They claim that these bullets are not effective and will not produce quick, clean kills. Without getting into the specifics of foot-pounds of energy and the characteristics of some these smaller caliber bullets, it is safe to say that an ethical hunter should be sure to use a gun that has enough knock-down power to kill quickly and cleanly.
Maybe even more important is the fact that the ethical hunter will not take shots that he or she is not sure of. Don’t shoot beyond the effective range of the gun. Don’t shoot beyond the range of your own ability. Don’t shoot at impossible angles or try difficult shots when the animal is moving at high speeds. Needlessly wounding an animal is showing lack of respect for your quarry and very likely letting that animal die a slow death. It also wastes valuable game if you can’t recover it.
A third closely related issue is following up every shot, including an apparent miss. The ethical hunter will make sure that an apparent miss really was a miss. If it was wounded game, the ethics demand that a hunter make every effort to recover it.
Follow up even an apparent miss or bloodless trail for at least 200 yards. Not all deer will drop quickly when shot, even in a vital organ. Many will not show any signs of being hit. Many years ago I shot a buck through the heart at close range and it turned and ran without showing any signs of being hit. There was no blood sign for 100 yards, yet I found the deer dead 200 yards away. Many hunters can tell of similar tales.
Learn the skills of following wounded game. Look for signs of blood, not only on the ground, but on brush or weeds that an animal may be passing through. Search in widening circles or use the grid method. Bow hunters are usually adept at this skill but all hunters should use this. Too often gun hunters expect to see an animal drop and when it does not, they assume that it was a miss.
With northern gun season getting into high swing and the southern zone season set to open in a little over a week, this becomes an important issue. Know your gun and what it is capable of and certainly know what you are capable of. Practice with your gun is not only a practical matter; it is a matter of ethics.
Don’t take foolish shots. When you do shoot and the deer runs away, make sure that it really was a miss. Make every effort to recover wounded game.
These are already key ethics of most hunters but they need to be standard behavior for all hunters. The success of your hunt, the image of the sport to outsiders and respect for a noble animal like the whitetail deer demand it.
CWD IN Ohio and Pennsylvania: Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has recently been detected in a deer in Ohio. New York State recently enacted stricter laws about the importation of deer from states or areas where CWD has been found.
CWD is a highly contagious, fatal disease that affects the brain, spine and nervous system. It can be sprad through a variety of ways as the prions live in these tissues and fluids.
Any deer imported must have these organs removed and essentially only the meat processed and packaged. The bigger problem involves bringing back a skull for mounting. Complete specific directions and regulations can be found on the DEC website – Anyone planning on hunting in these sates or other areas where CWD is detected should check all of these regulations.
Emerald Ash Borer: The invasive species of Emerald Ash Borer has recently been detected near Peekskill in Westchester County and south of Binghamton in Broome County. There have been special regulations about the transfer of firewood, lumber, etc. to try and stop the spread of this destructive insect.
Essentially this will cause the death of ash trees, and the spread of this to many counties so far is not good news. But for the time being 98 percent of our forests are not yet affected. To familiarize yourself with the regulations and the issues, check out the DEC website – You can also ask the DEC for assistance if you have ash tree on your property and a forester will come and give you advice.
Last of the Mohicans: Earlier this week Tuesday was a beautiful day to be afield, although not a great day for hunting. Warm dry weather made it too nice to stay home and work but the dry crunchy leaves in the woods made it impossible to still hunt and the warm weather meant that the deer were not moving on their own.
While I was hunting up in East Florence near 46 Corners, I met my old friend Bob Hamner and we had a good visit about a lot of things, mainly deer hunting. We agreed that the deer hunting in many ways is better than it ever was. There are many more deer around, even in the north woods beyond Camden and Florence.
But in many ways it has changed, and not always to our liking. Today there is much more emphasis on technical knowledge. Some of it can be good, but a lot of it such as the so called experts analyzing the rut and seem to make it so complicated that it discourages some people. There is also a growing obsession with antler size rather than the experience of hunting and a trend towards managing deer like beef cattle. A lot of the younger hunters think that unless you have 25 food plots and 30 different tree stands, you might as well stay home.
Many years ago I had a big gang that hunted that area with me and Bob had an even larger group that hunted out of his camp. We would usually see some of each other’s group, ask where they were hunting, and tell them we would be hunting a few miles away to not interfere with each other’s hunt. Now it seems that a lot of our friends have given up hunting or most days find other things to do. More often than not, Bob and I end up going hunting alone or with one other person. Both in numbers and in attitude, we sometimes feel like the last of the Mohicans.