Monday, January 30th, 2023
Monday, January 30th, 2023

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Bucking the odds in the Northern Zone

Steve PiattI'm a firm believer that any time I get out deer hunting and don't fill a tag I still have boosted my odds of doing so later through simple math. Any time I can jump up on a ridge for a few hours, in my mind I'm tipping the odds toward harvesting a buck by just being out there and putting in the time afield. Hours spent afield generally equate to a certain level of success, although there are seasons when it just doesn't happen.

It's a good attitude to have up here in the Northern Zone, and especially in Essex County, which statistically has the sparsest deer population in the state based on its annual buck harvest that usually runs about 0.6 per square mile. It's a sobering number and if you think about it long enough you'll stay home in front of the TV watching a lot of football.

Admittedly, it took a while to develop that kind of outlook on hunting big-woods bucks. After moving up here from the Southern Tier over 15 years ago I ping-ponged between the legitimate prospect of a one-on-one showdown with a backcountry buck and a dejected feeling that it was never going to happen and I belonged in a treestand in Chemung County where you expect to see deer. Up here, there are seasons where even a glimpse of a fleeing whitetail's flag is something bordering on a religious experience.

There are still times when I convince myself that it's too warm, too windy, the bucks are locked down with does, any number of excuses to stay home and work or watch college football. But more often than not I jump in the truck and hit a couple favorite spots where the concentration of deer seems to thumb its nose to the DEC statistics.

Sure, I might step up the effort when conditions (i.e, snow) improve. That's when I'll ignore the cluttered desk and head into the big woods, the kind of effort that requires a full day and has Paula worrying until I return home well after dark. But for now, a few hours here, a couple hours there and in my mind I'm paying the kind of dues you need to pay to tag a buck in the Northern Zone.

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