By Dan Ladd
---- — Another unique deer season has passed.
Unique in the fact that we had a very limited food source in the North Country this year, which made for some challenging hunting conditions.
As opposed to the past few years when we had ample sources of mast crops like beechnuts and acorns, this year there was very little. Even the apples were scarce. Many of the deer taken this year were gorging on ferns.
Still, some beautiful bucks were taken again this year, especially in the Adirondacks. I’ve spent some time over the holidays updating my website, www.ADKHunter.com, and I’m always amazed at the quality of the bucks we have up here. I’m equally impressed with the hunters who harvest them, especially in such a challenging year.
One thing that is popping up in the southern zone and catching on further north are Quality Deer Management Co-ops or even just simple antler restriction programs. While I’m not one to support mandatory antler restrictions because I feel they are one group of hunters imposing their desires on others, I believe they work. These co-ops are benefiting not only the hunters who participate in them but others as well.
And then there is that first youth season that was held this year. If you are a critic of this program, I’ve got a story to share.
A friend of mine has a 12-year-old daughter who is suddenly interested in hunting. Why? Because her 14-year-old friend participated in the youth hunt and got a deer and now my buddy’s daughter thinks that’s really cool. This type of enthusiasm doesn’t show up in the harvest statistics but is a perfect example of the trickle-down effects such a program has. I hope they stick with it.
Once again this fall, I logged several hours in the woods and many miles on my legs, most of it in the Adirondacks. Our crew thought we were headed for a slam-dunk season after taking an eight-pointer and a spike during the early muzzleloading season.
But things quieted down for us. Once again this year we spent time learning new sterritory that will pay off in seasons to come. But, in hindsight, we should’ve spent more time in that familiar area where we killed those two early season bucks.
When the heart of the rut hit, we hunted hard and some days spotted numerous does. Buck sign suddenly appeared but we just couldn’t seem to connect.
One of the guys missed a buck and a few others were not able to get shots at bucks they’d encountered. We did have some great times at hunting camps, and on a late season trip to my brother’s camp in St. Lawrence County, I connected on a small buck during a cold, snowy, backcountry hunt. It would be the only northern zone buck our crew would take during the rifle season.
But our luck changed when the late muzzleloading season rolled around in the northern zone.
One mid-week morning we set up a drive where I missed a nice buck with my muzzleloader during the early season. Looking back, it was a shot I should not have taken and I had hoped for another chance. It was a cold, crunchy morning and when I set the watches out I put Chantel Couture, a gal who occasionally hunts with us, on a watch where I’d gotten a nice buck on a similar day about 10 years ago.
Early on in the drive, I heard something moving in the leaves and at one point even thought it was a person. But, when I heard Chantel shoot I knew otherwise. We had to do some tracking but we found her buck, which turned out to be a wide-racked eight-pointer. An impressive deer to say the least.
I’m not 100-percent positive but I’m pretty sure it was the same buck I had missed earlier in the season.
This hunt was definitely redeeming and a fitting end to another unique deer season. I hope you had some luck too. Happy New Year!
Dan Ladd is the author of “Deer Hunting in the Adirondacks,” outdoors editor for the Glens Falls Chronicle, columnist for Outdoors Magazine and contributor to New York Outdoor News. Contact him at www.adkhunter.com.