Archery deer season typically starts slow, then heats up when temps cool

Well, Oct. 1 is long gone and thousands of New York bowhunters are afield with the hope of killing a big deer. I’m one of them.

Early archery season, which to me means the first three weeks of October, can be warm and with comfortable hunting conditions. But comfort usually come at a price. Seeing big bucks or even deer of any sex at this time of year can sometimes be a problem because of warm weather conditions.

So far, here in the Southern Tier, the first three weeks of October found daytime temperatures hitting the 70s. When it’s warm, deer are less likely to be seen during daylight hours because they’ve transitioned to their winter coats and, like us wearing a heavy winter coat when it’s warm, they get hot when moving.

To counteract the negative impact warm weather has on deer behavior and to maximize my chance for seeing deer during legal shooting hours, I’ve learned to set a stand near a hilltop pond and near a small stream that meanders through a hemlock grove. These stands aren’t foolproof by any means, but they do tip the odds of a deer encounter a bit more in my favor.

Deer researchers tell us bucks and does generally remain segregated from each other during the summer and may remain so throughout much of October. This may explain why many of my trail cam photos show mostly all does or all bucks. I do occasionally get photos of yearling bucks and does together, but the really big bucks usually show up alone or in pairs. However, as the November rut approaches, bucks and does can be found together and they generally remain together throughout the winter.

Researchers in Illinois found that the really big bucks frequented areas that were usually avoided by does and yearling males. It seems the big boys prefer habitat like overgrown fields and thick brushy areas but they often visit lush alfalfa as well as picked corn fields to feed. For this reason I have a morning stand located in a long-abandoned cow pasture overgrown with multiflora rose. The idea is to catch a nice buck as he returns from his feeding area to his bedding area. Again, the setup isn’t foolproof, but it has worked often enough to make it worthwhile for me to set up a stand in this spot prior to the season opener.

Any bowhunter worth his arrows knows early archery season means hunting the food sources, and a wild apple or pear tree will bring in deer like flies to a pile of cow flop. The only problem with wild pear trees is that the fruit drops long before archery season begins, but apples hang on much longer. One of my best stands overlooks an old apple tree, and when it produces apples, eventually I can count on seeing deer. The farm I hunt has a lot of oak trees and they are mostly red oak. The white oak was sold off years ago but a good red oak acorn mast will bring in deer as well.

Don’t overlook a corn field that was picked rather than cut, because when field corn is picked, there are a lot of ears that are missed by the picker. These missed ears will bring in a variety of wildlife, including but not limited to squirrels, turkeys and, of course, deer. As any hunter knows, corn and alfalfa fields can be huge and deer can enter them almost anywhere. Therefore, to hunt them successfully, there has to be a plan. One of the best ones is to hunt the corners of these fields where they meet the woods, because in many cases, this is where deer will pop out to feed.

Some say it’s luck when planning and preparation come together. I’ve been setting stands and checking cameras since the first of September and I know others have been doing the same. I feel very optimistic about the outcome of this archery season, but then again, I feel that way about every archery season. The number of deer I’ve seen so far has been minimal and I’ve yet to see a good buck, but November is almost here, and I’m counting on that to change.

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