This may be the easiest and the most difficult column I’ve ever had to write. Easy, in the fact that I don’t have to sift through a never-ending pile of details and situations. Difficult, in that the piece should have some substance to it, however, there is little substance to go around. Mercifully, the rifle season for whitetail deer (are there any?) has ended.
I hunted nine out of 16 days. I saw zero deer. None. Zilch. Nada. This is the first time this has happened to me. To make matters worse, my dad did not see a single deer either. It’s like they cease to exist.
We hunted hard. We found good buck sign in the preseason. I hung cameras over these locations and had some nice bucks cruise by. The problem is that most of the bucks showed their face under the cover of darkness. Only once, did I get a picture of a buck during daytime hours, and of course it was a day I went into the woods a little later in the morning. There’s nobody to blame on that but myself.
The weather did not cooperate for much of the season. Opening day ended early in the afternoon due to a downpour. A snowstorm that night created a squall of melting snow from the stand of pines I was sitting in on the second day and forced me elsewhere. The third day was interrupted by rain. Another day in the first week saw temperatures rise to sixty degrees. This final weekend produced more than a foot of snow, making walking conditions almost impossible even to and from our stands.
The deer did not cooperate either. It seems they have adapted to going strictly nocturnal. One good thing about the snow was that it gave us the opportunity to see their travel patterns a little more clearly. The problem here was that there was no one pattern that they would follow. There was no smoking hot trail that was evident one of us needed to park ourselves at. They would cross this wood road in one spot one evening and another spot 200 yards away the next. They simply go here and there, meandering. That said, I do not think there are many deer at all. A couple of deer can make an awful lot of tracks when they travel in this manner.
All of this has me wondering how we are supposed to get our youth interested in the sport of hunting. I have a pre-teen. It is a tough sell to get him to look forward to getting up in the middle of the night, freeze our butt off, and not see any deer. At least when I took him turkey hunting this spring, we had some action. He’s fired up about chasing longbeards. Deer, not so much.
At mid-morning yesterday, I did make a point to head down to my old stand where Dad and I have taken many bucks over the years. And wouldn’t you know, the place was torn up! Before the season, there was little sign here and it forced me to make the inevitable decision to hunt elsewhere. I should have known. When there is snow and the acorn crop is substantial, the place holds deer. Want to guess where I’ll be in muzzleloader season?