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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.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Northern Zone deer season opens with mixed results

Sunrise was bright and beautiful on Saturday morning, the opening day of the Northern Zone Deer Season. The day turned out to be a good day for weather, although the results in many areas were definitely not as high as the expectations. Sunday was a different story as a steady rain, often accompanied by high winds made it unpleasant or downright miserable to be afield.
Generally the number of deer taken was not very high. Some hunters had success and there were some impressive bucks taken according to reports from various areas. This is not really surprising because statistics show that opening weekend success is about the same as other weekends in the Northern Zone. The number of deer shot in the north is usually evenly spread out through the entire season.
Sunday it was predictable that numbers would be down since the wet nasty weather made for tough hunting and a lot of hunters called it quits by mid day. Of course the deer do not have that option and some hunters found success by sticking it out. Bob Hamner told me that one of his hunting party was successful in bagging a nice 9-point buck early Sunday afternoon.
Most of the deer that I’ve heard about were taken on deer drives. This is also predictable since Sunday was a miserable day to sit on watch and the deer were not moving on their own. Of course in the Northern Zone it is not a popular method to sit on watch because the deer are primarily nocturnal or on the move mainly in hours around dawn and dusk. And when you consider that in the north country a “deer run” can be one half-mile wide, you see that your odds are not great.
Some people hear the term “deer drives” and think it is unsportsmanlike or that deer do not have a chance. They may visualize the huge numbers of hunters over large areas that characterized Adirondack hunting a century ago. Today the number of participants is much smaller and the tactics have changed.
First of all you have to realize that it is difficult to drive cattle where you want them to go, much less deer. The term is more accurately called pushing or bumping where some hunters still hunt through a likely area and other hunters are posted at likely escape routes. But wind, vision and a deer’s particular preference will determine where they go. The hope is that deer will move in a careful fashion near where other hunters are posted, or quietly try to sneak back past the drivers.
Hunters with patience, a knowledge of local deer habits, and lots of time can be successful sitting on watch in the north woods. Scouting and trail cameras help narrow the odds by giving hunters a good idea of the best spots to watch. Keep in mind that deer are not always going to follow the same routes as they may do in the southern tier in areas of less cover.
My buddy Tom VanPelt uses his trail cameras to find out what bucks may frequent an area and what their common routes may be. Tom was laughing that his trail cam shows that the best time to see a big buck is about midnight until 2 a.m. Although he did see some pictures of nice bucks near Big Moose his camera also recorded the travels of several big bear and a moose.
Whatever your favorite methods are, remember that it is a long season and there are many good hunting days ahead. But don’t waste any good days watching TV when you could be out hunting. You are not going to get a buck while sitting in your living room and the season will slip by before you know it.
Bear Facts: Ken Cronn spent the opening weekend of the muzzleloader season hunting the area around Long Lake with some of his friends. They did not see many deer but on the Saturday opener Ken spotted a bear running through the woods. He took aim and fired and when the smoke had cleared he saw that he had hit the bear but it took off running. On the advice of one of his friends, they waited for a while before trying to find the bear. The trail became increasingly difficult to follow but with the aid of friends they were able to find the bear about a quarter of a mile away. The bear had to be bought across the lake by boat. Ken is planning on having a wall rug made from his first bear.
Close But: Bowhunters are the most serious of deer hunters. They pay great attention to the wind, go to great lengths to keep scent free, and place themselves in position for a close shot with their bow. Often they will see a good number of deer but they will be out of range or the shot will be blocked by branches, etc.
Such was the case for Terry Yardley earlier this week. Terry told me that he was hunting a spot other than his regular ones so he was positioned on the ground rather than in a tree stand. He was excited, yet frustrated because he had 16 deer parade past him yet was unable to get a shot!
Some of the deer were moving too rapidly to get a good shot while others passed or paused in areas where he could not get a clear shot at a vital area. One buck passed within three yards of him but he was unable to get in position for a shot! As he waited for the buck to pass by and get a shot, another buck appeared and spotted him, and Terry was unable to get a shot at either one.
Bowhunters have lots of these stories, but usually not as close or as many as Terry had in one day.
Deer–Car Collisions: This is the time of year when deer hunting gets underway with the opening of bowhunting in the southern zone and regular firearms in the northern zone. But it is also the time when deer are in the news in another less popular way – deer-car collisions.
There are close to 57,000 deer-car collisions in New York State annually and the majority of them occur in October and November. Not only is this a significant economic loss in automobile damage, it is a serious threat to human injury or even fatalities. Those of us who live in Central New York are aware of this threat. However there are ways we can minimize this threat.
Most deer travel in groups so when you see one, be alert for others that may follow. Many times the first one may be aware of you while it crosses the road, but the others rush to catch up and are more likely to dash heedlessly into the path of your car. If it appears that you are going to hit a deer, resist the urge to swerve. That could turn a potential property damage accident into a possible fatal rollover.
Whenever possible drive with your lights on high beam. Be especially alert in areas where deer are frequently seen. Certainly you should not be texting or some other asinine activity when you need to devote full attention to your driving.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

High hopes for Northern Zone opener

The gray light of dawn starts to illuminate the shadows of the northern forests and creatures start to stir. A deer hunter waits at his chosen spot, hoping to spot a deer moving in the early morning light. This will be the scene all across the northern zone as hunters clad in orange or red and black plaid jackets will be afield for the northern zone deer season opener. For many it is the anticipation of a yearly drama, much like the feeling we experienced as kids on Christmas morning.
The weather forecast for this weekend seems good, unlike last weekend. Cool clear weather will be a welcome change and make for a pleasant weekend in the woods or fields instead of the rain and chill that characterized the week of muzzleloading season.
Calendars have been marked for weeks. Hours of scouting resulting in plans have been made and revised. On Saturday thousands of hunters will be afield at daybreak eagerly watching for America’s number one big game animal – the whitetail deer.
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. Nevertheless there never will be more deer in the woods than there will be this weekend.
Despite the fact that northern woods have less deer per square mile, bigger territory and lower success rate it is a special time for many of us. 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.
These are big woods and deer will use their many keen senses to avoid hunters. Just because you don’t see deer or fresh sign does not mean that there are no deer around. A deer will have a range of one square mile or more and they may be in the high country now. Deer may have also changed their habits or areas due to hunter activity.
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!
Sitting on watch may be more productive in certain locations 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 a 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. When moved, deer will normally quickly cover about 200 yards then veer left or right and often circle back behind the hunter.
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.
Woman Rescued by Drift Boat Guide:  Many people read about the dramatic rescue of a woman angler from the Oswego River a week ago, but in case you missed it the story is worth re-telling. A female angler fell into the Oswego River in downtown Oswego and was being swept downstream. She was on the verge of being pulled by the strong current into the river’s deep, dangerous section behind the Brookfield powerhouse.
Guide Chris Mulpagano, a former local resident, who operates a charter service on the Oswego and Salmon Rivers was fishing with some clients and saw her being swept downstream. Chris maneuvered his drift boat into position and they grabbed the woman with the net. They were able to pull her over to shallow water near the wall where she was able to stand up.
The woman was extremely grateful to say the least. Other anglers saw and videotaped the incident. Later Chris and his clients were rewarded with a pretty good day of salmon fishing.
Deer Hides Wanted:  The bow season has been open for three weeks and the northern zone rifle season opens next Saturday so there should be an increasing number of deer harvested. 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.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Muzzleloader season opens Saturday

Saturday is the opening of the special muzzleloader season in the northern zone. This is a special one-week season for the privilege of those purchasing the muzzleloader tag in addition to their regular hunting season. It allows those hunters to take an additional deer of either sex in most management units.
An increasing number of northern zone hunters are enthusiastically taking advantage of this opportunity. However, this year’s opener may pose problems for hunters keeping their powder dry. The weather forecast earlier in the week calls for a cold and rainy weekend. Obviously this does cause problems for muzzleloaders in keeping the black powder or pyrodex pellets dry under those conditions.
The blackpowder seasons in New York are an outgrowth of the popularity of shooting primitive, muzzleloading firearms such as flintlock or percussion cap rifles that fire a single bullet propelled with black powder. During the bicentennial celebration in 1976, Bill Lloyd of Newport organized a group from Herkimer County to re-enact the march of the Tryon County Militia to relieve the siege of Fort Stanwix and the ensuing Battle of Oriskany.
This event led to the formation of the New York State Muzzleloaders Association. This organization and others successfully lobbied for the extra season privilege of those holding the muzzleloader tag. In the southern zone, this season is held at the close of the regular firearms season in December.
There are several reasons for the attraction and popularity of the muzzleloading season. One big reason is the opportunity and enjoyment of being out deer hunting while the weather is usually milder and the deer are relatively undisturbed. It provides a good opportunity to hunt by traditional methods such as still hunting.
There is also the challenge of bagging a whitetail with only one shot which places a premium on getting close and accuracy of shooting. It gives hunters an extra week to pursue their sport, and of course a chance at possibly taking an extra deer.
Originally, most of the shooting was done with reproductions of percussion cap rifles which were similar to weapons of the Civil War era. Today most hunters use the in-line muzzleloaders which use shotgun 209 primers and superficially resemble modern rifles. However they are still propelled by black powder or pyrodex pellets and shoot a single lead ball or bullet. They must be loaded from the muzzle and powder and ammunition tamped into place by a ramrod.
These rifles are very accurate, although the range is considerably less than most modern rifles. There is still the premium placed on one single, accurate shot. As improvements are made in equipment and more people discover the fun and challenge of muzzleloader hunting, an increasing number of hunters are taking up the sport. Recent deer take reports by the DEC show a significant number of deer taken by muzzleloaders.
In making plans with my hunting partners earlier in the week, there was the usual excitement and anticipation. Some were also encouraged that there might be some snow for the Saturday opener. Now all we have to do is meet the challenge of keeping our powder dry.
Joe’s Jerky: With deer hunting season is swinging into high gear with archery season and the opening of the northern zone muzzleloader season this weekend, we should see an increase in the number of deer harvested. Several people have asked me about having products made from their venison such as jerky, summer sausage and other products. One of the best places for this type of processing is Joe’s Jerky in Sherrill. Joe Robinson is a veteran meat cutter who makes a variety of great products.
I have had summer sausage and Italian sausage made from venison and they are excellent. He makes either hot or sweet sausage by mixing the venison with pork butt and I can highly recommend all his products. Call 367-0237 for more information.
The name and the inspiration for the store come from his daughter Jodie, due the popularity of the jerky Joe has made for commercial customers as well as sending it overseas to the troops. He makes seven flavors of beef jerky that he sells at his store on State St. in Sherrill and all are tasty and high quality. They also have a nice program of sending jerky to the troops overseas that customers can assist with.
Incidentally if you haven’t gotten your deer yet or are looking for a change from wild game he also has excellent regular cuts of meat such as beef and pork for sale. His store is a local outlet for several Pride of New York items such as local maple syrup, cheeses, sauces and seasonings.
One of my personal favorites is the line of Iron Skillet Seasonings. These are packets of great rubs and seasonings for all types of game and fish ranging from fish to venison, turkey and other items. Check the line of Iron Skillet Seasonings and other items at Joe’s Jerky. Support local business and a good cause at the same time.
Salmon Report: The long anticipated salmon run on the Lake Ontario tributaries still has not occurred as of early this week. Last week’s rain was expected to trigger a run of salmon up the lake but relatively few entered the Salmon River or other streams. Last weekend there were a decent number of fish that entered the lower Salmon River but most stayed down in the estuary or the area of the Douglaston Run.
Fishing pressure in the upper river was heavy with lots of anglers but relatively few fish last weekend. Still, some anglers were having success. Dr. John Costello and his sons John and Patrick, along with his grandchildren went fishing and caught six good sized kings. They chartered two boats guided by Chris Mulpagano and his son Nick and enjoyed the experience as well as having more success than most anglers.
Earlier this week I checked with Whitakers Sport Shop in Pulaski who reported the same situation. There were plenty of anglers but relatively few were enjoying success. This was mainly due to the low number of fish in the upper areas of the river. Those that were catching fish had luck fly fishing with Wooly Buggers, Comets and estaz egg flies.
There were many theories on why the run has been disappointing, including water temperature or low water levels. Indications are that there are still a lot of fish staging off the mouth of the Salmon River as well as other streams like the Oswego River. Whenever the run does start, either because of water conditions or the biological clock of the fish, it will probably result in some wild fishing.
Mike Kelly’s Latest Book: “Trout Streams of Central New York” by J. Michael Kelly, a former outdoor columnist, will be released next week. Like his earlier books and award-winning columns, This book is based on Kelly’s actual experience and extensive fishing skill. I was fortunate to have an advance copy and believe that all serious trout fishermen should have this on their bookshelf.
Section One covers the area from Central New York to Rochester and the Southern Tier by sections and describes over 100 trout streams and rivers. Each stream has the location, a rating for fishing quality, the best times to fish it, and descriptions of access. There are descriptions of the water, fish found there, and lots of tips and techniques.
This is not one of those “dictionary” type fishing guides where an author simply compiles a listing of advice from DEC personnel or local tackle shop owners. It is an up-to-date guide based on Kelly’s experience. Nor is it a dry listing of statistics and lures. It is written in an informative, interesting style that illustrates why Kelly won so many awards for his writing.
Section Two contains nine chapters of special tactics ranging from bait fishing and fly fishing to ethics. There are illustrations on popular flies, a chart of fly hatches, and changes in the fisheries. The book is generously supplied with photos and maps.
The book will be available Oct. 23 at book stores, online book retailers, and tackle shops, as well as from the publisher Burford Books at