The acorns have begun to drop in earnest and the thunk of acorns off the roof of our garage is a loud reminder that autumn and archery season for deer is in full swing.
Statewide archery is a beautiful time of the year to be in Penn’s Woods and appreciating the splashes of color, the earthy smells and of course all of the wildlife activity.
In one morning, I watched a raccoon, young fork horn buck, and a ground hog chomping down on freshly dropping acorns. Not to be outdone, the squirrels had been hard at work for several weeks in the tree tops helping themselves to the fruits out of reach for their neighbors.
This is the time of year when archers and all outdoor activities come in contact with wildlife and are likely to see just about anything. Wood ducks often land in oak tree branches as they do love to eat the mast crops along the creek bottoms. Creek bottoms are like animal highways and you have a high probability of seeing a great variety of wildlife species.
The whitetail deer frequents the waterways and riparian edge like no other areas (except for our gardens). I have always found this type of location to be a good place to start your deer hunting forays.
Food, water, cover are the keys to locating deer in the early season. If there is one thing that I know about deer, it’s that once they find a preferred food source, they will return to it often until it is gone. Deer don’t care about variety in their diet ... they are opportunists.
Deer also like agricultural areas and edges of woodlots and fields. Find a farmer who is having deer damages and you will have a friend in archery season. Respect the livestock and standing crops. A farmer has enough worries to his everyday survival without having to deal with human issues. Always ask for permission!
My favorite archery story is one of playing cat and mouse with a nice 10-point buck. Over the course of several weeks, I had patterned this buck’s every movement and I knew that he crossed an old fence at one spot nearly every morning going to a bedding area. I set up a tree stand near an old wooden stand with the hopes of getting a shot at him with my old Browning recurve bow.
The wooden stand was definitely built for a gun hunter, so I knew that I wouldn’t be disturbing someone else’s hunt. I decided every morning at day break I would be at that crossing until I had my opportunity.
The plan was apparently too simple to work, as the buck would come, stop and look around at the crossing. He always looked up at both stands and took the trail away from me.
I began to think it was a scent thing or that I was silhouetted against the skyline and I needed to make some changes. This is when man’s cunning as a predator really comes into play or so I thought. I took an old hunting coat and placed it in my stand and I totally ignored the gun stand and then picked a ground blind area behind a huge oak tree that would allow the buck to pass closely by me.
It was sound in theory, but execution of a plan is always the tough part in hunting. I waited the next morning for the buck and sure as clockwork he came down the trail.
I watched him look up at the tree stand with the coat in it and immediately he chose the other trail. Only this time he was heading right for me, my plan was working and I would have a great opportunity for this buck that I had outsmarted.
The trail would bring him past the oak tree and within yards of my location. He came closer and closer and I began my draw as he went behind a tree and was almost in range.
He was a few steps from my full draw when fate intervened; the tip of my broad head brushed a small twig, making a small ting sound.
That buck whipped around so fast and was up that trail in a flash never to be seen again at that crossing.
That, my friend, was another hunting lesson to store away in the memory bank about the one that got away!
Until we meet again keep your wits about you and your arrows straight.
Jay Hewitt is an outdoors columnist for the Butler Eagle