Sunday, November 25, 2007

Last Days of the Rut

November 10, 2007

The last couple of weeks have been extremely busy. I had to travel for business and spent also spent 5 days hunting in New York State.. So I have neglected my journal but also had some great experiences. It all started one cold morning a few weeks back……

I already made up my mind to sit the thicket stand. The most difficult thing about this stand is the approach. There is no way to get to the stand without crossing a deer trail. I try my best and walk through briars and jump across one trail about 15 yards from the stand. Once in the stand, I am pretty well concealed… The morning started like the ones before, except with high hopes that some bucks would still be on the move looking for does... Shortly after first light, there is movement coming from the oaks. I have broken views through the brush but can see a set of antlers...He took a trail that was going to pass my stand at 10 yards. When I saw his leg step from behind a briar patch, I came to full draw. He emerged and I was looking at nice 6 pt. He had a high rack with about a 12 inch spread. A beautiful deer but I know there is much bigger in my area. I was about to let down when he caught my scent. The wind shifted and he was now directly down wind. He came to full attention, held his nose strait in the air and using all his senses to find the danger. He looked right at me, did the head bob and slowly back tracked while keeping an eye on my tree, not knowing exactly what was wrong...

There were plenty of deer moving around the thicket all morning including a few small spikes and a 4 pt...But Mr. Big still hasn’t made an appearance...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The "Thicket" Stand

Nov. 3, 2007

This was the day I was to kill Mr. Big..The plan was simple; sit all day in a stand that would take advantage of the rut activity. I had the perfect stand, the “thicket” stand, sitting on the edge a bedding area and at the intersection of two heavily used trails. The stand wasn’t used yet this season, I was saving it for the perfect conditions and today was that day..Except I had a problem, I called the landowner the day before and told him I would be hunting the farm and as always, asked if he needed any help. He said he could use assistance in moving a generator at 9:30..I asked if we could do it later in the morning and he said it was the only time that worked..I told him I would see him at 9:30..Now I had a dilemma, I would be leaving my stand at the Prime Time and needed to keep scent to a minimum which meant I needed to change my plan…The weather forecast was calling for possibility of early rain with high winds. Only two of my stands were set up for a NE wind, the thicket stand and my oak stand… Morning light came late with the high overcast sky..The weatherman was partially correct, it was windy but no rain.. I was sitting in the oaks again and was surprised that the canopy was still full. The oaks were holding their leaves late this year and they just started to change color. There was still enough cover to feel comfortable but the acorns were gone and the deer activity has dropped drastically from early season…Just before first light I heard loud snorts about 200 yards downwind from high on a neighboring hardwood ridge…The day started out slow and it was an hour before I saw my first deer, a spike buck moved through the oaks never stopping to feed. The entire morning I was hearing snorts from the ridge. I assumed, the deer were getting a noseful of my scent or there was another hunter in the area…I kept looking at my watch..When I had a half hour left in my morning hunt, I was disappointed in the lack of deer movement and figured the wind affected my hunt..That is when I saw movement on the far side of the gully..It was a small herd of does, about 6 in all and they trotted to within 30 yards and kept looking towards the ridge..I expected a buck to come into few but he never did..They continued to feed when I look down and it is time for me to leave but I didn’t want to give up my location so I stayed put until they finally walked off..I made double time out of the woods and was back at my truck putting my bow away when I see a big buck enter the top of the field..He had a wide rack with 5 pts on one side and just a main beam on the other. If he was a typical 10, he would score in the 130s..A shooter in my book..I tried to take a picture, but discovered my camera lense was broken..I watched him enter the woods going in the direction of the “thicket” stand….I helped the landowner and an hour later was back at the truck..There was another hunter parked next to me and he was leaving when I returned..He said he was hunting the neighboring ridge and had a nice 8 pt within range but couldn’t pull off a shot..He also had deer snorting at him all morning..As we were talking, another buck enters the top of the field, this time a shooter 8 pt..He started across, saw us and returned towards the marsh…We finished our goodbyes and I headed back in the woods and towards the “thicket” stand..While walking towards the stand, I kicked up a racked buck that didn’t want to run off and I saw why..He had a doe in the bushes along a creek..I continued and was in my favorite stand for the first time this season...I didn’t have to wait long before a doe with 2 yearlings fed through and looked like they were going to bed under my stand when a spike came in and ran them off…Not too long afterwards two button bucks fed on acorns that fell in the thick briars, about 20 yards away they decide to bed down. They bedded within clear view for 2 ½ hours and I was stuck standing at attention with my bow in hand..It got very painful trying make believe I was a tree for that long but finally they got up and left..Over the next few hours, I watched over a dozen deer walk by including a nice little 6 pt that will be a shooter next season.. A doe was entering my thicket when I saw antlers in the distance..A big 6 pt was following her..He had a wide, high rack with lots of mass..There is some weird genetics in the area that produce these big Y bucks..I was preparing for the shot and he was 2 steps away from a clear 25 yard shot when the buck jumps off the trail into a thick briar patch. I tried calling him in my direction with grunts and the Can but he saw another doe and took off after her and out of my life… I continued calling all day and had a solid response just before dark when a deer came in from downwind but must have caught my scent because he took off before he entered the thicket….There were deer around me most of the day and I saw over 2 dozen including 9 bucks and 3 shooters..A great, exciting day in the woods but I feel like my best opportunities may have passed..I have one more bowhunt before I leave for the Catskills and my annual rifle hunt..

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Chase is On..

Oct. 27, 2007

The alarm clock went off at 4:30 am, I lifted my head off the pillow, heard the rain pounding on the roof and overflowing the gutters and went right back to sleep. The rain stopped in mid afternoon and the sun starting peeking through the clouds. I already made the decision to hunt that afternoon with hopes of increased deer activity after two days of rain and the pre rut chases starting..As I was getting ready, I look out my window and see a 6 pt buck going off on a small tree and then start chasing an unwilling doe up the ridge behind the house..As I climb into my truck for the drive to the farm, I see him 150 yards up the hill right under one of my stands…

The deer were taking full advantage of the change of weather and were on the move. I saw dozens on my short trip to my hunting area. ..I wanted to hunt my stand in the thicket but the wind was all wrong. My other options weren’t any better, the river stand was getting flooded out, my stand in the marsh also had wind problems and it was too late for a climber. So it was back to the oaks. This would probably be the last hunt from this stand, with the leaves down and the canopy open the deer tend to move around the oak flat instead of through it and I feel too exposed. I still had high hopes, with deer on the move and the last of the acorns blown of the trees, there should be some action..

I was 10 yards from my stand when I kicked up a small buck that was bedded in the thicket behind my stand. I quickly got up the tree and a few minutes later see some movement from a far side of the thicket. I tried grunting and the Can, but the deer kept moving away towards the marsh….I quickly settled in for the afternoon hunt and it wasn’t long before I see movement to my left..A button buck came trotting up the trail behind my stand, the same one I just hiked up..He stopped near my tree, munched a few acorns and moved off into the thicket, following the first deer into the marsh..

The next hour, nothing moved..Then I hear that snap of a twig behind my tree, and my heart is suddenly in my stomach as I am slooowwwly try and distort my body for a better view. I can see the brown of a deer and what seemed like forever, he came into view..Another button buck..But I see another deer following him..Could this one be my shooter..No another button buck…Then they do what I absolutely didn’t want them to do..They fed under my tree for the next 15 minutes. At one point, I had the two directly under me less than 3 yards from the tree. I wanted to shoo them away, I have been bit too many times by small bucks as Mr. Big comes in range…Once I had a huge Wall Twp 12 pt buck 15 yards from my stand only to get caught by a spike that didn’t like the look of the Huge squirrel and walked right to my tree and sniffed my step and snorted soo loud I almost fell out of the tree..Never saw that buck again…A few years ago I had a small rack buck catch movement as I was trying to get off a shot at a nice 10 pt, again a loud snort..Too many of those stories in my hunting career, I didn’t want these two around when Mr. Big showed up and that what was going through my head when a doe entered the oaks..Luckily she moved on and the small bucks followed her..

A few minutes later I hear something running and I see a doe at full speed coming from the gully in my direction..I can see a deer behind her..She climbs out of the gully and enters the oaks 20 yards from my stand and stops..Her tongue is hanging out of her mouth and she is panting hard…I am preparing for Mr. Big to come out of the gully right behind her..Instead I get a decent 8 pt, but he decides to flank her and he enters the oaks 50 yards away..As soon as she sees him, she starts running again and she ran right under my tree..He continued trying to cut her off and didn’t even look back as I tried grunting and the Can..They ran through the thicket towards my stand that I originally wanted to use today….I continued calling but didn’t attract anything but an angry tree rat…I saw a few more deer moving through the thicket but nothing in range…as I was walking out of the woods just after last light, I kicked up a dozen deer in a small grove of oaks and another 5 does were feeding on the field edge 15 yards from my truck..

The chase is on..Its time to hit the woods…My next hunt will be next Sat and I will try and do an all day sit in hopes of seeing a horny Monster..

Monday, October 29, 2007

We aren't the only Hunters in the woods

Oct. 20, 2007

I was really excited about hunting this morning..I had visions of big 8 pointers in my head all night..These same visions were haunting me in the morning darkness as I waited in my stand for first light.. The visions turned into my morning mirages as the every blowdown and honeysuckle thicket did a great impression of a big buck in the early grey light..Morning came slowly, but it came and with it my hopes grew..My watch showed it was 7:15 and I knew the deer would show up in about 15 minutes like they have every other day I hunted this season..The only problem was someone forgot to remind the deer of this schedule..I waited and waited and waited until I finally caught some movement along the creek which flows about 60 yards away..A young Red Fox emerged from the creek in stealth like form..He slowly hunted along the creek, searching under logs, brush piles and undercut banks for it morning bounty..The small fury hunter did his best but finally gave up on the creek and trotted towards a neighboring pasture..It was time for this hunter to do the same..I decided to do a little scouting along a transition area between a thick marsh and pine grove..Saw a few rubs and a scrapes but nothing to get excited about..I slowly still hunted my way across the pines to where my truck was parked on the edge of a field where it meets the pines..I can see my truck through the pines about 50 yards away when I catch movement..A flicker of an ear and the hunt was on..I slowly worked my way towards the movement until I could see a small group of does bedded down in some high grass. I inched to within 20 yards when an unseen fawn jumped up and ran towards the group..This caused all 4 does to stand up, giving me plenty of opportunities for a shot. They just stood there and watched, confused by this fat camo object standing infront of them..They were safe, not what I was hunting for today..I slowly continued walking and the group finally bound off when I passed by and I had to wonder if the fox got as close as I did that morning...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

He took the Low Road...

October 13, 2007

It was good to be in the woods, it was the perfect place to reflect on the mornings events. The family and I spent the morning at a charity march for a support group for parents of newborn and infant deaths. I was holding my 3 month old son when they started reading the names of all the children who passed. I thought just how blessed I am to have healthy children and couldn’t imagine what these parents are going through... So it was relieving to take my mind from these thoughts and try and just enjoy a beautiful afternoon in the deer woods. There was a light breeze and its constant shifting worried me as it would occasionally shift towards the bedding area. This was my first afternoon hunt of the year and I didn’t know what to expect with the deer movement. All I could do was use my past years knowledge. The acorns were still falling and I expected the deer to slowly feed their way through the oaks towards the pasture land on the adjacent property. It took over an hour but that is exactly what the deer did. The first was a group of 6 does, they emerged from the thicket, one by one. Crossing the bridal path and they entered the oaks using a deer trail 20 yds away. They spent the next 40 minutes feeding on acorns until they finally crossed the gully and out of my life...For the next few hours I watched does leave the thicket and munch on the oaks droppings. Their patterns were the same, I would first get a glimpse of a leg or tail within the thicket. They would all cross the bridal path in the exact same location and take one of two trails past my stand. The more popular route passed my stand at 15 yards, the secondary trail was just over 20 yards but they both emptied into the oak flat between 20 and 30 yards away from my perch. There seemed to always be a feeding deer within 20 yards of my stand, which made it difficult to relax. Standing at attention, with bow at the ready can be tiring...

Like the others before, I first caught some movement in the thicket and I strained my eyes for a clearer view. I could see there was two deer following the typical path except this time I saw antlers. My heart went into overdrive, I told myself to calm down, breath deep, take control of the situation. I was finally able to calm as I identified the bucks as smaller deer. They exited the thicket and stopped in the middle of the bridal path, the lead buck was a high fork horn but the second buck was much bigger than I initially thought. He was a beautiful 8 pt with long tines; this was the same buck I saw in early September that I estimated as a 110 class buck. He was standing in the middle of the path, 10 yards from my stand, but with the 4 pt just as close, any movement on my part would have given away my position. I just needed the 8 pt to follow the smaller buck and all the previous deer take the trail and offer a 15 yard shot. But like all big bucks, he didn’t follow the herd, he fed behind my tree at one point he was less than 5 yards away crunching acorns. He eventually followed the bridal path, where I don’t have any shot opportunities, and faded out of sight, leaving only the 4 pt and a few does in the oaks. But I didn’t wait too long before I heard footsteps behind me. Maybe the buck is returng; I look over and see antlers but couldn’t tell if it was the same deer. He stood staring at the oak flat with his head obstructed by branches. My heart is racing again..Calm Down, Breath Deep…He makes a step and I see a nice high 6 pt...He follows the same trail as the others and feeds 20 yards away, occasionally poking the 4 pt with his rack...I hear more footsteps behind me, maybe the 8 pt, NO, it was a fox. He trotted past the deer with hardly a glance from the bucks. Five Minutes later, more footsteps, maybe the 8 pt, NO, another fox. He followed the same exact route as the first. A few minutes go by and I hear commotion in the gully. The fox are chasing each other…The deer all slowly exit the oak flat as the sun does the same…I saw 17 deer in all including 3 bucks and two fox…Another exciting day in the deer woods.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Out of the Fog.....

October 6, 2007

The fog hung low and thick as I made my way across the field just before dawn. It was an eerie feeling that made me think I was entering a horror movie, the only thing missing was a fog horn and buoy bell in the background... The thick tree canopy was turning the fog into rain which made it feel and sound more like a rain forest than Eastern Hardwoods… I was all set up waiting for first light when I saw my first morning mirage... The first was a nice racked buck that was working over a small tree 50 yards away. I could see his tail and rack and the movement of the brush as he rub his bleached out rack…To my right was two deer slowly feeding along the edge of the bridal path. I could see the movement of their heads and ears as they fed on the honeysuckle and constantly checked for approaching dangers. As the morning light entered my woodlot, my racked buck turned into a log and bush while the honeysuckle was devoid of life. I call them morning mirages and have been seeing them from the time I first started hunting. I expect to see them every morning but still get that rush when one materializes as I anticipate the possibilities… The morning started slowly, I theorize the deer were staying in the fields longer this morning with the comfort of the fog... about 20 minutes after shooting light I see my first deer. A doe and yearling are feeding on acorns just at the top of the gully and moving in my direction. It didn’t take long for two more does to join them. They happily munched and crunched on the acorns for 45 minutes, most of the time they were less than 20 yards from my tree. They finally moved off towards their bedding area but immediately following them was another group of 4 does…I spent the next two hours watching does feed between my oak flat and the gully. I saw 14 does in total; all looked healthy and have shed their summer coat. It wasn’t until just after 9am that I saw my first and only buck of the morning. A small 6 pointer fed along the slope to the gully, never climbing into the oak flat. He had a small, tight, symmetrical rack. He eventually crossed the small creek in the gully and entered the adjacent property. I had morning errands and fatherly responsibilities, so I quickly climbed down and exited the woods trying not to spook any deer but as I entered the front field, I saw a few deer high tailing across the field, with the fog still lingering so were the deer….

I helped the landowner move some heavy objects into his barn and he told me he has been seeing some big bucks with antlers thicker than his wrist. Unfortunately, they have been all on the neighboring property. Hopefully they get interested in some of those does that are bedding on my farm…

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Next Years Buck..

Sept. 29, 2007

It is a unique experience, sitting in a treestand in the dark waiting for those first rays of light to break through the forest...The anticipation and expections make your mind go wild.. A feeling only a hunter can truely understand..This morning was no different, except the bright moon created a a piece of abstract art on the forest floor..A checkerboard of light patches that was slowly changing and moving until it eventually faded to bright..shooting light came slowly but by 6:30 I was expecting to see deer start to enter the oaks to feed and as if on a schedule, a young buck came trotting down the bridal path and entered the oaks and started munching away on fresh acorns. The spike was only 10 yards away when he got a nose full of my scent. He couldnt figure out my location but he knew that he didnt want to spend any more time in the oaks and trotted down the gully and out of sight..The rest of the morning I watched about a half dozen does slowly feed through the gully but never came into the oaks or even closer than 80 yards..I looked at my watch and noticed it was 8:30, I only had a half hour left to hunt and wished hard that a nice big buck would make his way in my direction. A few minutes later and I caught movement in the gully. The next thing I saw was the top of a nice rack entering the oaks. He was a decent 8 pt buck, slightly smaller than the 8 pt I saw last week..He fed on the edge of the drop off just outside my hunting range..A nearby squirrel startled him and he moved in my direction eventually standing 8 yards away..I had my camera ready but he was just too close and I didnt want him to hear the load "click" of my nikon..He slowly fed down the bridal path and entered the thicket behind me..He will be a shooter next year and maybe our paths will cross again....

It's Raining Acorns..

I haven’t hunted since opening day and really wanted to get in the woods. My opening day hunt was so short that I didn’t get my fill... I chose to stick with the stand overlooking the oak flat, the wind was good and the food source is still strong with acorns falling. I was settled in my stand by 6am, I have been having a bear of a time getting out of bed lately, those late night baby feedings are adding up...It was overcast with a strong smell of fall in the air. My stand is on the edge of an oak flat with a bridal path 10 yards behind me and a thicket and pine grove on the other side of the path. The thicket drops off into a marsh where majority of the deer spend their day. The oak flat is about 25 yards wide with a steep drop off into a wide gully with a small creek. I have broken views for 100 yards covering much of the gully and anything feeding in the oaks is within my range… By 6:30 I had shooting light and not long after I saw a doe moving in my direction, the deer like to walk along the steep slope and either drop into the gully or up into the flat. All I could see was her head and she was not alone as they came closer I could see flashes of antlers. Not long after I could see there were 5 deer including a small 6 pt and a nice 8 pt. The 8 pt had a box rack slightly wider than his ears and in my estimation a 110 class buck. The antlerless deer already were on the flat crunching acorns, I could see that at least 2 were button bucks. The bucks finally entered the flat...Now it was decision time..The 8 pt was really nice but there are much bigger bucks on the property, but I still had to fight off my urge to shoot this buck. He didn’t let me think about it long as he passed 20 yards away and walked off into the thicket behind me. He was followed a few minutes later by the 6 pt.If the larger buck fed in front of me for a few minutes, I would have probably shot him (weak willed)..I am already regretting letting him walk. I did the same last year with a nice 8 and never got another opportunity. The rest of the deer feed for about 15 minutes and eventually all followed the bucks. I spent the rest of the morning watching deer file in and out of the oaks and feeding on the acorns. At one point I see a deer about 80 yards in the gully; she was running in circles with her tail high. She was going all out, jumping logs and running in a big circle. Eventually she too came into the flat…By 9:30 I saw 16 deer, all within shooting range, but except for a handful of button bucks only the 2 racked deer. It was a great morning and as I was walking out the fog set in and the rain started...The bucks are safe until next Saturday...Hopefully my decision to pass on the 8 pt pays off….

The Suicide Run to The Salmon River

I didn’t hunt this weekend..Instead me and a few friends did the suicide run to the Salmon River in NY..They picked me up at 1:30 am on Saturday, a few cups of coffee and driving 80 miles an hour and we arrived in Pulaski NY at 5:30am.. The first stop was at Fat Nancy's to grab a few supplies and get a bad fishing report and then a quick bite to eat (absolutely necessary with this group)..The river has been in drought conditions, I have never seen it that low, which prompted the state to shut down the Lower Fly Fishing stretch to protect the good head of fish that took up residence..According to the reports the Cohos were stacked in the estuary, so we decided to fish as low as possible, which meant the Douglaston Stretch (DSR)..The DSR is a private 2.5 miles on the lower river. The owner charges $30 a head to access the river (yes, the landowners OWN the river and the fishing rights, they have one a half dozen law suits over the years, even one that went to the supreme court)..Everyone else had the same idea, and the river was crowded. We fished the clay hole and out of the 4 of us, only one caught a salmon ( a nice, fresh 20# coho)..I hooked one on an egg pattern and he made a run and went right under a log jam and broke my tippet..My other friend hooked 3 but lost all..We all caught about half a dozen Salmon River Tarpon (chubs)each..No-one was really catching fish..I saw about a dozen go by from in the 5 hours we fished the DSR..We broke for a late lunch and stopped by the hatchery on the Upper River, barely any fish had entered the hatchery..We fished Altmar, I caught a few smallmouth but we didn’t see a Salmon..Last stop was the Tropper Hole, I caught 3 chubs and a 13in rainbow..The leaves just started to change and with the chill in the air, it felt like Fall and Hunting Season..I really wanted to be in my treestand that afternoon but it was 300 miles away..With no fish in the river we called it quits at 5pm and headed South..I walked in the house at 9pm (not bad timing for the suicide run)...So I spent a beautiful Fall day on the Salmon River with some close friends, I really didn’t miss anything..My treestand will be there next Saturday, hopefully Mr. Big will stop by to say hello...(sorry, I forgot my camera)

Opening Day 2007 Bow Season

This season is going to be tough...With two boys, a six week old and 19 month old, family obligations are going to limit my time in the woods this season. Add a busy work schedule and I will be lucky to get half a day hunt in on Saturdays... I also hurt my shoulder this past spring and it really never healed, every time I shoot the bow, I feel the pain. I didn’t have anytime to scout, luckily I hunt private land and my stands are still in place from last year... My goals are to shoot a few deer for the freezer and hope to get a shot at Mr. Big...He is still roaming the farm...

I was planning to check my stands last Saturday, but I got a call from work and they told me to prepare for a project and I would have a 4 day business trip immediately after Labor Day. The wife wasn’t happy but it’s my job….I got back from my business trip late Friday afternoon and took about an hour to get my gear ready for the morning hunt...

I hit the snooze too many times this morning and was running late... It was 6am as I was walking across the front field. Like I expected, I heard a loud snort and I kicked up a small herd that just entered the field for their morning feed. I was a little nervous walking in the woods, hoping that my stands were still in place. And sure enough they were there. It was already 72 degrees when I reached my stand and I was hot and sweaty. By 6:15 I was all settled in my stand looking over my favorite Oak flat. I knew the acorns would be falling and the deer would be feeding...Of course after only 20 minutes in stand, I started to doubt myself, probably because of the lack of scouting or preparation...It wasn’t too much longer when I saw two does walking directly towards my stand. They were coming up to a trail intersection, a short 15 yard shot away. I positioned myself to cover both shots and when the lead doe turned right and entered the oak flat I made a little grunt sound and stopped her at 12 yards. The shot was perfect and the muzzy performed as always. I watched her run off with the other doe following. She ran down the hill and died in the middle of the creek bed, within view of my stand. With the temps climbing, I immediately climbed down the tree and when I was retrieving my arrow, I saw a herd of 6 more does coming in my direction. They saw me and hightailed it...I made a quick job of field dressing and dragging her out of the woods...I expected to be the first at the check-in station but I was surprised that there were already 3 guys checking does and 2 more pulled up while I was there. By 8 am I was leaving the butcher and on the way home. A great way to break in the new season and my new Bowtech Commander...Now where is Mr. Big...