By Dan Ladd
---- — Hunting the early archery season is always hit or miss for me. More often, miss.
The season seems to get underway just about the time deer are changing from their summer pattern to that of fall. Along with weather and changing food sources, the hunting pressure we apply as hunters has something to with this, I believe.
I took some time off from work last week and opening morning found my hunting partner Ron and I in our stands before daylight. Ron was in a tree stand on the edge of the woods looking down into a wooded valley and I was not far from him in a ground blind. Both stands were between a known bedding area and a half-dozen productive apple trees scattered over two clearings.
Two of these apple trees have been receiving regular visits from the local deer population, including bucks. I’ve observed them numerous times as well as captured them on my trail cameras. But these two trees were also running out of apples as opening day neared. The deer sightings got scarce and I noticed the deer were checking for acorns under the oak trees before heading for the apples.
I’d been gambling that the apples would hold for the first part of the season and focused my strategy around it. This scenario has played out many times in years past, especially in those when there are multiple food sources.
So there we were on a foggy opening morning. An hour into the hunt I was starting to wonder if I should’ve set up on the hardwood ridge a half-mile a way where acorns and beechnuts are replacing apples as a main food source. Everybody and their brother also hunts this ridge.
I didn’t have a watch with me and I knew it was getting time for a radio check-in with Ron. After fiddling with my pack and getting the radio turned on I looked up from my blind to see a buck 30 yards away just coming to halt and looking my way. He was nervous and in two quick hops he was out of sight. But he was headed in Ron’s direction.
“Thwack” was the sound I heard about a minute later, followed by the sound of an animal running through the brush. Ron had gotten a shot. Five minutes later he called me on the radio and told me he shot at a buck and could see his arrow in the ground below. We agreed to wait another 20 minutes before checking things out.
With Ron still in his stand, I went and found the arrow, which didn’t show any sign of a hit. Nor did the area where the deer was standing when Ron shot. We followed the running track for some distance without seeing a drop of blood or piece of hair. We determined a clean miss. At least we had some action.
Things changed drastically after that. A warm front moved in and we fought mosquitos on stand Friday night. Saturday morning I was a solo hunter and stayed close to the clearing, not wanting to stir things up in the woods yet. I bumped two deer walking in under darkness. That evening was even warmer on stand, and buggier.
On Sunday and Monday mornings we hunted different spots without seeing a single deer. We didn’t bother for the evening hunt on either evening.
When Oct. 1 came I decided to take a break from bow hunting and go after some turkeys. I’ve got permission to hunt turkeys, but not deer, near a golf course where the birds are doing some damage. I got in early, listened, called, walked, listened and called again. Nothing.
However, everywhere I went I saw deer, including one buck. By 8 a.m. I’d seen nine deer and not a single turkey. “To heck with this, the deer are moving,” I told myself and hopped in my Jeep, ran home, grabbed my bow and headed for my blind. Again, nothing.
After spending the better part of five days chasing critters I decided to put some effort into the seasons ahead. A trip to the rifle range has been in order so I took my two main deer rifles and got them sighted in for the Oct. 26 opener of rifle season. The range was quiet, which is unusual this time of year. I’ll do the muzzleloaders another day.
Like I said, early deer hunting is hit and miss and last week’s four-day early archery season was more conducive to fishing, kayaking or hiking than hunting.
But the sunrises and sunsets were spectacular and it sure beats sitting in a cubical.
I love this time of 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.