Fishing for trout, thinking deer

We're fast approaching that time of year when even when we're doing other things, like fishing, deer hunting is on our mind. It's been that way with me for decades, but probably even more so since I started bowhunting about 20 years ago. So even when I'm on the water, as I was yesterday morning on the West Branch of the Ausable, I was wondering whether I should be shooting my bow instead, or getting a couple trail cams out, or checking to see what, if anything, I might need heading into the season.

Things are a little more complicated these days because I can't really do any scouting because I'm not going to be bowhunting in the Adirondacks this year. Instead, I'll be hop-scotching on both sides of the New York-Pennsylvania border, a result of our move back to the Southern Tier. We'll finally be under one roof in September, and if my body survives the move I should be in a treestand for the Oct. 1 Southern Zone opener.

One of the big reasons I'm looking forward to the move, aside from the fact it puts me back under one roof with Paula, who's been down there since mid-May, is I'll be back in the bowhunting culture. It's such a short season in the Northern Zone, given the fact that most folks grab a muzzleloader when that popular weeklong offering arrives in mid-October, there's really not a large fraternity of archers around these parts. Back in my home region, it borders on religion. Instead of teeing it up on a Saturday or Sunday morning on the golf course, many sportsmen take to the 3D course to hone their skills through the summer and heading into another season in the woods. I typically toted my hunting setup to the 3D course – there's an entire rotation of clubs that offer 3D shoots – and used the competition simply to maintain some semblance of shooting form and prep for the deer woods. Friends and competitors shook their heads at my setup – one sight pin, a short stabilizer – but when the season began my confidence was always running high. Wait 'til this year when they see I've added a second sight pin; I'm sure they'll be impressed.

Even though I won't be hunting the big woods of the Adirondacks much, if at all this season, old habits die hard. As I hiked through the woods, working my way a half mile or so downstream before hitting the Ausable, I noticed a decent acorn crop this year. My fishing partner this day pointed out several old rubs on soft maples. And just a few minutes after we began working the pocketwater with nymphs, I spotted a flicker of legs in the morning sunlight – a deer moving through the woods right on the path where we had just traveled. My guess is the whitetail was just satisfying some sort of curiosity and following our scent trail. The deer eventually jogged off, perhaps ducking my buddy's backcast.

I'll have some catching up to do when we finally get settled in down there. A couple friends have offered to do some scouting for me and have already sent some promising reports – and trail cam images. But it's always nice to do your own homework ahead of deer season – even if you have a fishing rod in your hand at the time.

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