Opening Day 2013

     I’ve been meaning to get a post up regarding New York State’s Regular Season opener, Saturday November 16th, so here it is.
     I was in my blind about 30 minutes before sunrise and sat until 9 without seeing anything. The predicted high for the day was in the upper 50s so I took a break and switched out some of my cold weather gear for lighter clothing and was heading for the woods by 9:45. My plan was to still hunt for several hours and get to another stand for the evening. Conditions in my area were a bit windy with swirling currents making things difficult. It didn’t take long for a pair of does to materialize off to my left. The one was too far off in the trees to consider shooting but the second deer was only 50 yards away. There was just enough brush in the way to make me hesitant to shoot but she was on track to walk right into an opening. Sadly, she must have picked up my scent. She spent a few minutes staring at me intently, occasionally moving her head to get a better perspective. It was obvious she was nervous and eventually she ran off. I never saw her after that.
      I worked my way to a spot that has historically witnessed substantial deer activity and was not disappointed with the quantity of sign. I considered setting up here for the evening and mulled this option over while I continued my still hunt. I was paralleling a pasture, only 15 yards away. I saw the movement of ears flicking about 50 yards ahead, in the cattle pasture. For a brief moment I was confused. By this time of year all the cows were usually moved out. Why were they here now? It didn’t take but a second to realize I was looking at a pair of deer. They were upwind of me and had no idea I was there. But the brush and spindly saplings along the fence line were so thick I couldn’t get a shot. So I waited while ever so slowly stalking forward and toward the pasture. The leaves were dry and, without great care being exercised with every step, I was liable to ruin the whole business. I lost sight of one behind a tree and while I waited for it to come round the other side I focused my attention on the other deer, slightly further away. After several minutes of watching it’s every move I lost sight of her (I had ascertained they were both does, or at least a doe with fawn) as she gradually turned away from me and appeared to walk off. But I still hadn’t seen the other deer come out from behind the tree. By this time I had eased far enough to the left to tell if she was still there and I could plainly see she wasn’t. I stood motionless, the breeze still in my favor, trying to figure out just how far she had moved off. Then I caught a glimpse of movement low to the ground, just past the tree and off to the side. She had bedded down.
     It seemed my only option was to continue my painfully slow stalk while I waited her out. As this went on an irritating pattern set in. After several minutes of seeing the golden rod and milkweed blow in the breeze and checking through the scope I would start to question whether or not I had even seen this bedded-down deer at all. It didn’t look at all like there was a deer there. But then I would see a brief but distinct movement of head or ears which would instantly dissolve all uncertainty. This went on for about 20 minutes. Finally she started to stir and came to her feet. She wasn’t a big deer but not small either. She was the size of what I have come to consider an average-sized doe. I shouldered my rifle and peeped through the scope in preparation for a shot. She spent several minutes licking her tail and backside, brush and branches obscuring my shot. I lowered the rifle in frustration. After several contortions on her part she finally decided to go back to feeding and turned, quartering away, into a small but clear opening. I put the cross hairs behind her shoulder and lower than I usually would so as to mitigate meat damage to the opposite shoulder. I squeezed the trigger and as the gun recoiled I saw her laying on the ground. I threw the bolt handle and cycled the action as I watched her. She never moved.
      As I approached her the other deer, a fawn, ran off. My deer was definitely down for good. It was nice to know I had some venison to look forward to, particularly after what had been a trying bow season. I got her hauled out of the pasture and into the wood line where I set to work. It wasn’t until then that I discovered my doe was in fact a button buck. The warm temperatures dictated that I work quickly, a reality made clear by the flies that had already started to congregate when I momentarily diverted my attention from the carcass to rifle through my pack. I had shot this deer at 1pm and hoped I could get it squared away in time to catch the last hour or two of daylight. This was not to be, again a result of the warm weather. To prevent spoilage I had to get him quartered and on ice as soon as possible. No matter, I was happy to have had gotten some meat for the freezer and to have had an exciting rewarding experience getting it.

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