Opening day in the Empire State arrived October 1st with Pennsylvania’s opener following closely behind on the 3rd. And while the tropical storm/hurricane, which is moving up the east coast and dumping buckets of rain on us, is putting a dampener on our opening day in PA, October 1st in New York was prime conditions for deer movement.
The barometer rose north of 30.2 and the rain broke for a day between fronts. The moon was a few days past full and the Northeast wind seemed to be the last piece needed in order to align all the stars for a great hunt.
This year I decided to give up October mornings, well, at least 90% of the time anyway. I decided that there might be a few mornings that could warrant taking a chance if the access was good and trail camera pictures showed bucks on their feet in the first hours of daylight. Another exception I decided I would make if the conditions warranted it would be to hunt the morning of opening day. Since a good many positive factors aligned I headed to one of my better stands for a morning hunt. On the way, I would walk right past several trail cameras so in the darkness I swapped cards and then scrolled through the photos on my DSLR camera.
One of our target bucks. He is a regular on the property.
The stand I sat for this hunt was located about 75 yards from a bedding area on the adjacent parcel. I sat on the edge of a transition between thicker succession timber and a more open portion of the woods. My spot was still relatively thick, visibility of only 30-40 yards, max, and the deer felt comfortable moving in this part of the woods because it received little to no human activity all year long. The bedding is located slightly north west of my position and a Northeast wind carries scent past the bedding area where a bedded deer would not be able to detect a hunter’s presence. A deer approaching the stand from the Northwest could do so with a NE cross wind and feel secure, so I felt confident that an all day sit could produce results of either deer entering the bedding in the morning or exiting the bedding in the evening on the way to a alfalfa field further down the ridgeline.
The hunt, 10/01/2015:
I got to my stand between 5:00-5:15 AM and was situated around 5:45 AM, about an hour before daylight. For the first 3 hours of daylight I began to wonder if I had made a mistake because no deer were moving through the area. I was continuously checking the wind currents to make sure they were doing what I thought they were. The wind was coming over my back from the NE as expected, but the heavy, moisture laden cool air was causing my scent to drop more quickly than I had hoped. To exacerbate the problem, the pines behind me created an unexpected eddy-ing effect, causing the wind stream to plummet in front of me where the main course of travel was.
Buck Bed is indicated by red circle, stand location by red ‘X’. Blue arrows show wind direction. White lines indicate deer trails. (Alfalfa, standing corn and clover food plots to the east.
Even with these unexpected conditions, I knew the scenario would improve as the day progressed because of thermal activity heating the air and causing the currents to rise. I also knew that a deer would have to expose itself for a shot opportunity before it could ever catch my scent, so being quick on the draw would still allow me a chance at a buck, if one showed.
9:50 AM- A group of two adult does and two fawns traveled through my shooting lane and never stopped or indicated that they caught any intruders scent. The were headed East to West as I suspected most of the morning activity would occur.
10:50 AM- Another family group of does moved one of my other shooting lanes. This time only a doe fawn was on the trail ten yards south of me, while the two mature does were another 15 yards below her. By this time the thermal drafts had begun carrying the milkweed out farther from my stand before it was dropping to the ground below. The largest doe stood at 25 yards and continued to scent check the wind and eventually turned and walked further down hill to continue in the westward direction with the other two deer in toe.
11:50 AM- Two adult doe and two fawns walked from the East right beneath my stand and began to smell the ground where I had walked. The wind was carrying my scent over their backs, but the seemed uneasy about ground scent and moved further south along the same path as the previous deer before they continued west.
12:50 PM- A lone adult doe moved from the East to the north of my location. The wind had become unpredictable and had briefly switched from NE to SE. As the doe passed my stand she caught my scent in the swirling wind and loped off to the bedding area to the NW of my position.
2:00 PM- I saw movement on the west side of the bedding area which is located to the NW of my stand. I was nervous because the wind had more East in it than North by this time and I thought there was a good chance a deer coming past my stand from the bedding area would be able to smell me before it entered my shooting lane. The first deer I saw headed back into the thicket and then I noticed a large body moving South. It was one of those times when you didn’t need to see the headgear to know it was a buck, because it was significantly bigger than all the mature does you had been seeing up that point. It was indeed a buck, but not one of the ones I wanted to kill. This was fork horn that was a regular on trail camera. The buck had the biggest yearling body I have ever seen and I kept expecting more antlers to accompany it as he moved closer. Luckily, the wind shifted as the buck approached and I continued to put out milkweed seeds to see exactly what the currents were doing. The sun broke through the clouds and almost instantly the milkweed began to rise as the air heated rapidly. This allowed the buck to approach to 15 yards without detecting me. He stood and surveyed the area for a bit and then somehow he picked me out of the tree, even looking through a hemlock tree that was between us. He bounded off about 40 yards and the last glimpse I caught was him walking back into the bedding area casually.
3:00 PM- The wind current changed and was coming almost due East with gusts coming from the ESE. I was afraid this wind would carry my scent straight into the bedding area I was hunting over and further time in the stand would begin to do more damage than good. At 3:00 PM I packed up and quietly slipped out of the area and headed home.
What went right:
The deer are utilizing that area on a regular basis, and they aren’t afraid to move there during daylight hours, even during midday. This is a spot that can produce, but it has to be hunted right. Choosing days with the right wind, and/or saving it for high barometric pressure days during the pre-rut is going to be key. Hunted sparingly, this spot should stay good all season.
What went wrong:
I think some of the unknowns of hunting a new area of the property caught up to me during this hunt. I suspected that the Northest wind would carry my scent further down hill. However, several factors, including some of the compenents of the weather as well as the vegetation features around me inhibited the wind from doing exactly what I thought it would. While I don’t believe the wind activity hindered any deer sightings (to bust me they had to be in my shooting lane), there is just something I hate about any deer getting an education that I was/am in the area. To combat this, I picked a tree further to the south that still provides great shot opportunities and less chance of being winded. It is further from the hemlock trees and should allow for more consistent wind current and less swirling activity. Sometimes 25 yards makes all the difference in the world. The tradeoff is going to be a bit of a sacrifice of available cover, so I will have to position the stand on the back side of the tree, which will make shot opportunities more limited and filming a bit more challenging, but that’s the way its going to have to go. I will need to stay out of this area over the next 4 weeks and only return in late October to intercept a rutting buck if I haven’t already tagged out by that time (I’m usually not that lucky!).
Thanks for reading the beginning of the 2015 Common Ground Bowhunter Field Journal, I hope you will follow along this season, and I promise the following posts will be more concise.