Autumn in Western New York: Part II- Deer, Ducks, & Decisions

October

swamp

The maple leaves have turned, you can hear the thump of fresh acorns dropping from the heavens, and the elusive whitetail buck sneaks through the brush like a whisper from the spirits.  This will be the scene on October 1st for most Western New York hunters as our whitetail archery season takes flight.  Many of us have been dreaming of this day since the previous season and our minds are filled with new and exciting possibilities that the brilliance of autumn has yet to bring.  Archery season takes control of our lives during October, but if you don’t fill your buck tag early, decisions can get very perplexing when the onset of duck season hits.  Personally, the whistling wings of a group of fowl circling overhead is probably the only thing that can pull me away from the hardwoods in mid-to-late October.  To hunt or to hunt?…that is the question; and this is one I will never complain about having to answer.  Ducks or deer may be an easy choice for many, but the Postletown W&W crew doesn’t like to miss out on anything.  Let’s take a look at our perception of the benefits of each season and you can decide for yourself, if you haven’t already.

Whitetail Archery

October offers a wide range of seasonal stages for the whitetail deer as well as favorable temperatures for the archery hunter.  As each week passes, we start to see different behaviors and patterns from the bucks.  In the early part of the month, there is a good chance you will see them in bachelor groups as they are still buddy-buddy with their prospective challengers.  When a couple of unbesought ivory colored basket racks slowly graze the tall oaks in search of acorns, it gathers quite the adrenaline rush.  During this phase, it is a good idea to base your hunt around prime feeding sources.

BUCK!
7-point buck harvested during archery season on October 14th, 2014. This buck was searching the ground for acorns along with another buck and a doe.

As time goes by and the days get colder and shorter, we start to see signs of the pre-rut.  We start finding leaves that are scraped away from the dark brown soil that sticks out like a beacon across the leaf bedded forest floor, the bucks start to feel their testosterone increasing as they spar with one another to establish their dominance throughout the herd, and the hunter waits patiently for one of them to make a wrong move.  During this phase it is a good time to use mock scrapes, scents, subtle sparring noises, and grunt calls.

Just shy of Halloween, the whitetail bucks begin the seeking and chasing stage of the rut waiting for a prime doe to go into heat so he can make his move.  This is a really exciting time to be a hunter as you will see bucks making decisions that make them extremely vulnerable to the archery hunter; they have one thing on their mind which takes some of the attention off of you.  During this phase it is a good idea to focus your hunts where you think the does are hanging out and hopefully that buck comes in to raise some havoc.  Things are just getting hot and November is right around the corner.

Whitetail archery season is a great time for the hunter to spend some time in the outdoors alone.  It allows the hunter to slow the world down and experience the true beauty of nature.  Waiting on a deer in October is like the calm before the storm.  We can be so much at peace one second, but then we hear the  sound of hooves turning over the fallen leaves and we know its “game on” in a matter of seconds.  The thrill of this season is truly something that can’t be beat…Or can it?

Early Duck Season

Scott Connor and Joe Fiorella stretching their legs before the next round of mallards come in.
Scott Connor and Joe Fiorella stretching their legs before the next round of mallards come in.

 It’s 4:30 on a crisp morning and we are sipping on a freshly brewed cup of coffee; the decoys are tossed into the back of the boat, and we are waiting on one more Postletown W&W member to arrive at the house.  Yes, its October 24th, the opening morning of duck season in our region.  With bloodshot eyes, due to the lack of sleep from the excitement the night before, this crew cannot wait to set the decoys and drop some steel on some local puddle ducks.  Although I did just mention that this is one of the most exciting times in October to hunt the elusive whitetail, opening day of duck season brings a whole different element to the thrill seeking hunter.

I know I talked about the beauty of spending time alone in the woods during the archery season, but one of the great things about duck hunting is that you get to hunt with a group of family and friends.  There aren’t many other hunting opportunities that allow you the jokes and conversations that occur on the duck boat.  Our hunts consist of a true team effort and when you reach your goal as a team it creates a bond like no other.  Then, when the hunt is over, we have stories to tell for the rest of our lives.

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Chris Holewinski and Bill Sager after their first duck hunt ever.

The early duck season in October usually includes some fast action on local waters that do not require you to depend on a lottery blind drawing.  You are hunting flyers that aren’t under much hunting pressure, if any at all.  Ducks that haven’t been hunted will flock to an average decoy spread fairly easy; and that gets our blood pumping.  In the early weeks of the 2014 duck season, on a hunt with Tom Postle and Scott Connor, the wood ducks were soaring over our decoys as if they were a colony of bats feeding on mosquitoes.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t get them to land because our circumstances that day did not allow us to play the winds correctly, but they did come within shooting range.  I remember a specific period of that hunt when Tom was retrieving a couple of ducks with the kayak off to our left and ducks were still coming in from our right where Scott and I were able to drop a few and continue to shoot at more.  These ducks are a pure example of what the October duck season is all about and we wouldn’t miss it for anything.

Woods ducks harvested in October 2014.
Woods ducks harvested in October 2014.

Decisions

If someone were to ask me which season I prefer between archery whitetail and the early duck season in our area, I probably would not be able to answer that question.  Either is a win-win in our book.  In a perfect world, duck season and deer season wouldn’t coincide with each other, but that is what we are given here in Western New York and we are forced to make decisions that could leave us checking our trail cameras after a lousy duck hunt only to find that Mr. buck was at our stand earlier that morning.  The bottom line is that even if our luck went that way, at least we were still out there…and if we’re out there, you know we had a good time either way.  Please comment below and tell us what you think!

Written by Chris Postle of Postletown Woods & Water

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Karen says:

    I have always enjoyed the stories that your Uncle David, Uncle Mark, Dad and Uncle Kenny have told about their hunting trips. I enjoy keeping up with what you boys have been doing through the years. I love seeing the pics of all your catches. It does wonders to see how close you boys are and the closeness of your entire family! I hope that your children are able to uphold this tradition, girls and boys alike! Get those little girls involved in fishing/hunting, if they seem interested. I personally love those things and wish that my father would have taken me along to do those things!

    Liked by 1 person

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