Opening Week And Beyond
From field reports, two visits to Troyer’s in Panama and my own observations, big bucks are being taken and the number of big-buck sightings have increased so far this season.
What more could big-game hunter’s want?
It looked like the rut was in the final stage opening weekend, with many mature deer being locked down and small deer being spotted alone. This all will change as the holiday weekend begins. The past few years, roughly 60% of all the deer in New York state for the combined seasons are taken on Opening Day. The percentage goes down after that with Thanksgiving being the second largest day and the second Saturday coming in third.
Fortunately, I had to make a trip to Troyer’s to drop off a buck to be processed opening evening. Speaking with Troyer family members they confirmed that this was one of the best opening days in a while. Having to make a return trip the following evening, I witnessed more deer being dropped off than I can remember.
The number of bucks I saw tagged was equally impressive. But what really got us excited was the size of the bucks. It’s no doubt local taxidermists will have be busy in the coming month preserving local hunters’ memories.
While the state this year has issued a fair number of DMU tags in Region 9, it is nowhere near the number issued a few years ago, especially in 9K and 9R where tags have been limited for some. There are still more than enough hunting opportunities that will in turn help with deer movement. With plenty of DMU tags out this year, it is as important as ever that all hunters know their target and what lies beyond it.
For those that have been in the field this year, they know that there are plenty of good bucks in the Southern Tier this season. Mature bucks will begin to break away from the does as the season continues until the second rut begins.
There are really two schools of thought on hunting during the busy Opening Day and the week following. Those two schools of thought are: stand and/or ground blind hunting or setting up deer drives.
While deer drives have traditionally been a popular way to hunt when deer aren’t moving, recent years have seen them decrease in popularity. For some, drives have been traditionally the most popular choice for gun hunters.
Both methods have positives and negatives, like everything to do with hunting. It generally boils down to personal preference. Many times, it really depends on the area you are hunting and the given pressure an area is going to get, as to how you’re going to hunt.
For farmland hunters that are hunting pressured land, stand hunting is generally the best bet. For hunters working large tracts of land with little pressure, still hunting or driving will get deer up and moving around.
For sportsmen that haven’t been able to get out and do any scouting, deer drives are popular. Drives generally produce plenty of action, and keep you warm on the cool mornings. Safety should always be the first thing on the mind of every hunter, but no more so than when with the group that puts on drives. Knowing where your hunting partners are and where the drivers are coming through decreases the opportunity for mistakes.
Stand hunting is basically broken down into two different techniques. The first is walking in long before first light and climbing into your tree stand. The second is a ground blind, located close to travel or escape routes. Deer will be pushed during the first few days of the season, and it’s your job to find out where they are going, their escape routes and how they’re going to get there.
Over the years I have customized a blend of the two techniques that most sportsmen use during gun season. I prefer putting my hunters in stands that are overlooking well-used travel and escape routes. This technique can be used in conjunction with both drives and still hunters. Remember travel and escape routes are some of the best areas to set up. Your set-ups should have good cover around and sit so you can see as far as possible. Knowing the area and which way the deer are going to come is very important.
To be successful while sitting 15-20 feet off the ground, place stands near travel and escape routes. Getting into the woods long before everybody else does also is a big plus. Getting set up before other hunters start works to your advantage, as does sitting on your stand all day or as long as you can hold out. Remember that most hunters leave the woods around 10 a.m. and come back in around 2 p.m.
This is when you can get some great midday action. Don’t wait until after breakfast to head into the woods, get out as early as possible, especially the first few days of the season. The first few days is when hunters will hit the woodlots the hardest and is also when the majority of hunters are out.
Probably the most important little trick to being successful during the first part of the gun season again is staying in your stand as long as you can. I know it’s hard when everybody else is walking around or going out to eat, but the hunters that stay in their stand throughout the day will see more deer than those taking breaks.
When hunters are walking around and coming back in, they are bound to jump deer toward you. Staying in the same spot all day will produce deer. as long as there are deer in the area. That’s where your scouting will pay off. As guys are walking around, you’ll have the best opportunity to shoot a quality buck who doesn’t even know you are there.
From the low-lying land in Gerry to the vineyards of Fredonia to the farmlands in Frewsburg, hunters in Chautauqua County this year should enjoy some of the best opening week of gun hunting in recent memory.
For most of us, hunting is a passion and we take it very seriously. If you come across another hunter, don’t set up close to him; chances are he has spent time in the area and knows where the deer are. Please back off and let him hunt the area. We are very fortunate to have some of the best whitetail hunting in the Empire State right here in our own backyard, so respect others’ right to enjoy the same sport you enjoy.
If you plan on hunting from a tree stand this season, make sure you are using a quality safety harness. The days of a long strap holding you to the tree are gone. The Treestand Manufacturers Association insists that all of its members include a safety harness with every tree stand sold. While each harness may be different, it is important for our safety that we each learn how to use it, then use it.
Never point a gun in a direction where it could hurt someone else. Each year, more hunting accidents happen while hunters are climbing into their stands, loading, unloading and crossing fences. Make sure your safety is always on until you’re ready to shoot and remember the first rule of safe hunting: know your target and beyond before you pull the trigger.