So far the deer season has offered the type of weather conditions most hope for. A beautiful cover of snow blanketed the county for the first day of antlerless deer season.
In the area I hunted on Saturday, it was evident those looking to bag their doe wasted little time. By early morning the woods had grown quiet, but even though I saw other hunters, it seemed pressure was down.
Curious if the lack of hunter activity was isolated, I took a drive and saw more evidence. Numerous pull-offs indicated hunters had given up early, with many never returning after warming up.
Hunting whitetails requires deer movement, and when everyone sits and waits, things can be slow. While I am capable of sitting all day when conditions dictate, the presence of snow urges a more proactive approach. Cold feet are rare while posting for a deer push, but when sitting for several hours, that can quickly become problematic.
With all of this information in mind, it was just past lunch on Saturday when I was participating in a deer drive. Within minutes of the second push, the sound of shots rewarded the pushers, although the drive was far from over.
The heavy snow cover had deer reluctant to leave their beds, but once jumped they had no problem covering ground. Late in the evening, deer were spotted running from a woodlot driven only hours earlier.
While some cringe at pushing their parcel for fear of the deer being shot elsewhere, some of the best hunting I’ve experienced was due to a drive. When other groups push adjacent parcels, the hunting gets better, and having deer come into a drive doesn’t happen like it used to. Properties that receive limited hunting pressure might harbor more deer, but that does not translate into hunter success.
The recent obsession with antlers has pushed some hunters to the point of avoiding hunting with others for fear of someone else shooting “their” buck. While some hunters call the deer their own, a wild animal knows no boundaries. A hunting license and a place to hunt is all that is needed to obtain a buck, but one does not experience ownership until the tag is filled.
While antlers have always drawn extra effort, doe hunting obviously offers much of the same excitement. The recognition of a legal target is less complicated, but one must look twice to make sure it is not a spike. Several years ago I had a single deer enter the field I watched, and it took a while before the spikes became evident.
Antler restrictions do allow lesser-racked bucks to survive, but they can quickly be erased by those who are simply deer hunting and not positively identifying their target. Harvesting only mature does is good practice for the herd and yields more venison than shooting yearlings.
The forecast for the rest of week is perfect for those who cut up their own deer but lack a cooler. With snow on the ground there is still plenty of good hunting left for those still holding out hope.
• In recent hunts it has been tough not to notice an abundance of squirrels. Young hunters who find a rimfire underneath the tree should have little problem finding late-season shooting.