I absolutely love the whitetail archery season in Western New York and I always have a mixed bag of feelings as we approach the regular gun season. While I am sitting in the woods with my bow, I sometimes think about the gun opener and how I don’t want it to come; almost like “The Grinch” wanting to stop Christmas from happening. It is not because I dread the gun season, I just have a true passion for archery hunting because it brings a unique vibe that I truly enjoy and I wish it would last longer; however, as the gun opener gets closer I start to remember that there is no reason why I should be underplaying the magic of the days that are ahead of us. I start to get really, really excited to get this show on the road. As with most groups of deer hunters, the PWW crew carries many traditions throughout the regular season and I wouldn’t trade this for the world. Between all of us there have been some really amazing harvests, some challenges, some letdowns, and some hilarious incidents; that’s fun and all (and essentially the reasons we are out there), but the bigger picture that I believe we are all after is the time spent together every weekend in the woods, the cabin, the local restaurant and in Tom’s garage during the week when we get together to process our harvests. Now that most of us agree on that, we do love to deer hunt and we take it pretty seriously.
Opening day/weekend is a pretty different day of hunting for most diehard hunters. There are many inexperienced hunters in the woods, hunters that are not very patient, and hunters that hunt the opening weekend and then call it quits for the season. This can be very frustrating for someone who takes deer hunting seriously- especially if you don’t have a ton of land to yourself and your group of hunters; however, you don’t have to think that way. The deer are still in the woods and there is plenty of opportunity for you to take full advantage of what might be happening on the outskirts of your hunting property. It can be very easy to focus on the negative aspects of what goes on during this busy weekend and I think we all prefer to hunt our game in a natural unruffled setting, but unfortunately we cannot change the situation. All we can do is adapt. Here are some tips for taking advantage of the other hunters that will flood the woods this weekend:
- Stay True to Your Plan.
Ok, yes I said that we need to adapt, but sometimes the best thing to do is to go out and do what you have done all through archery season. The deer that reside on your property will still be there as long as the other hunters haven’t trespassed on your property.
- Sit Tight.
With other hunters disturbing the woods around you, be sure to stay in a spot where deer are likely to travel when they get kicked up. This would include funnels, ravines, ditches, creek beds, thick brush. etc. There is a good chance you will see some hefty deer that have been unpressured and hiding on bordering properties all season long.
- Be Patient.
Pack a lunch and be prepared for an all-day sit. Many hunters will leave the woods by noon and possibly return again in the afternoon. The more the other hunters move around, the more chance there is that a deer will move in on you.
- Continue to Play the Wind Correctly.
This might be an obvious one, but during the gun season, many hunters downplay the importance of the wind because they think that pressured deer randomly run away from danger. That may have some truth to it, but when a deer smells danger, they remember that smell for a long time. If you are upwind from a scurrying buck, he will likely smell you and choose an alternate escape route.
- Never Underestimate the Rut.
Even though it may seem that the bucks are going to smell danger and go into hiding until after Christmas, you have to remember that the rut is on right now. For example, several years ago, a hunter from our group shot and missed a mature 8-point buck. Later that same day, my brother Tom saw the same deer trying to have its way with a doe. Tom took this buck and it is now hanging on his living room wall. The rut produces very unpredictable behavior in bucks, even in the face of severe hunting pressure.
- Hunt the Entire Season.
There comes a point in the regular season when it seems that all of the deer on our property have gone solely nocturnal or have left altogether. It is important to know that there is more than one rut during the whitetail hunting season, and you need to be out there for all of them. There is also a point during the rut when the bucks have their does on what is called “lock down”. The bucks will literally do everything they can to keep a doe corralled and this is sometimes why hunters think the deer have left their property. They might not have gone anywhere, they are just bedded down in very secluded places and not going anywhere. The more you are out there, the more you will catch different periods of the rut, which usually plays into the hunter’s favor over time.
I have come to realize that although I prefer the archery season and wish I could hunt it more often, the regular whitetail season can be just as exciting and sometimes more exciting because of the people family and friends I spend it with. It is important to remember that anything can happen on opening day and you never know when the buck of a lifetime will cross your scope. We might have to alter our hunting strategies and deal with other variables that affect the game we are pursuing, but we adjust and we reach our goals as a group- whether it’s getting venison in the freezer or just having a great time in the great outdoors.
Good luck to all the hunters out there in WNY this season. Wear your orange and always be aware of your surroundings. Hopefully the PWW crew can get some video footage from our harvests and our experiences so we can share our traditions with you.
Written by Chris Postle of Postletown Woods and Water.