NYS Regular Season Update

     The extended Thanksgiving weekend was my final opportunity to shoot another deer during New York State’s regular season. I put in a three hour hunt Thanksgiving morning under cold conditions (daytime high in the mid-20s) and intermittent snow flurries, during which I saw one deer, a small doe, which spend approximately 10 minutes within easy gun range. Had I not filled my one and only doe tag on opening day I would gladly have shot her. My morning hunt ended around 10 and, after assisting with preparations for Thanksgiving dinner and eating Thanksgiving dinner, I trudged back out to catch the last hour and a half of shooting light. It was especially sunny which certainly helped keep things comfortable in terms of temperature but I sure was glad I had my sunglasses. I saw nothing until about the last half hour before sunset. With a few inches of frozen, crunchy snow on the ground I heard deer approaching before I saw them. I clicked off the safety on my 30-06 and slowly turned around. They came in from directly behind my stand, an average-size doe with a fawn. They walked within easy bow range and the doe gave a few signs of being nervous, but continued on her way. The fawn skipped along, going about it’s business, never giving me a thought.  I was overlooking a cornfield to my right and an alfalfa field to my left and the pair walked past me on the right, traversing a small corner of woods and headed into the corn, the first 10 rows of which had been cut. I watched them walk off, heading further along the edge of standing crop.
     Only 10 or 15 minutes later I heard the sound of another deer approaching, again from directly behind my stand. Again I clicked the safety off and subtly turned. It was another doe and fawn. They followed the same route as the first pair except this time the fawn decided to exercise it’s own will. It entered the cornfield, behind mama, and made an unexpected turn to it’s left instead of going to the right like the doe. The fawn came to the corner of the standing corn and proceeded along the edge, heading almost directly away from me. The doe continued to move perpendicular to the fawn, heading away from it and moving to my right. She realized something wasn’t right just as the fawn headed into the standing corn. The doe turned suddenly and started grunting as she trotted along the corn, heading for junior. She entered the corn and shooed her fawn along. I watched the cornstalks jostle as they moved further in. I checked my watch. It was 10 minutes past legal shooting light.
     The next morning, after working up a sweat hauling gear in the pre-dawn light I was settled back in on the same stand half an hour before sunrise. The sky was overcast and there was no wind. I watched a red squirrel hurrying about. He took notice of me and barked and chattered incessantly as he twitched up and down a tree trunk. Eventually he settled down and left me be. I scanned the edge of the cornfield, estimating distances to help prepare myself for the myriad shot opportunities that might present. I heard a distant, distinct sound coming from the alfalfa. It was a deer grunting. I looked out into the field and saw a deer trotting along, heading for the hedgerow that separated the cornfield from the alfalfa. I couldn’t see horns so I shouldered the rifle and checked through the scope. No horns. I watched a few seconds longer and realized there was a lot of grunting, more than an antlerless deer would be making. She was almost at the hedgerow now and I looked at the expanse of field behind her. Another deer was approaching and this one had antlers.
     When the doe got to the hedgerow she was around 125 yards away. She turned and trotted along heading toward me. At the fifty yard mark she stepped into the hedgerow, making for the corn. She quickly walked into the cut section and passed directly in front of my stand. The buck followed her path exactly with his nose to the ground almost the whole way. He mirrored her movements precisely, stopping where ever she had stopped for the same duration. When he got to the hedgerow he crossed into it and stopped for what seemed like several minutes, but after the fact I ascertained it could not have been any more than two. When he finally stepped out into the corn I had my crosshairs on him in an instant. I stayed on target and squeezed the trigger as he calmly walked further into the field. He jumped at the sound of the shot and hustled off, in the same direction he was already heading, his shoulders humped. After covering 15 yards he stopped at the corner of the standing corn. I had already cycled the rifle’s action and, in a moment of irrational concern, lined up and fired again. I watched him trot off and disappear behind brush and branches. Seconds later I heard  brush and cornstalks break, as if something large and heavy had fallen down.
     I took a moment to gather my thoughts and get my gear together. As soon as I was on the ground I put another round in the chamber and cautiously approached the spot where the deer was standing when I shot. There was no blood but less then 10 yards further along his trail I saw the first drops which progressed to several large, spattered patches in the snow. As I slowly followed the trail I had the rifle at my shoulder ready to snap off the safety and shoot if need be, but I knew this was not necessary. Sure enough, a short distance further there was my deer, stone dead, barely 40 yards from where it stood when I fired the first shot.

A large 4-point, November 29th, 2013, at sunrise.

     With about 3 inches of snow on the ground including an inch of fresh powder and a mostly level alfalfa field to traverse, dragging conditions were ideal. But even if it had been uphill through the brush the whole way I wouldn’t have cared. Having a deer to drag is a wonderful problem to have.

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