Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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As the rut heats up, the work piles up

Steve PiattI'm not one of those drop-everything-it's-deer-season kind of hunters. That philosophy is reserved for spring gobblers, and if it carried over into deer hunting I probably would be selling Amway or stuffing envelopes at home instead of writing this.

Still, I do have moments when I'm capable of ignoring a cluttered desk and looming deadline – there's always a deadline looming – and climbing up into a treestand. That's especially true right now, when the rut is starting to fire up and deer are on their feet. It's a magical time for any bowhunter, especially one who knows he's guiding his wife during the firearms season and won't likely be pulling the trigger.

So the time is now, and although it's a dreary, drizzly Sunday morning as I type this and I'm not planning to hunt at all today, that doesn't mean I'm not thinking about it. And I did, actually, dedicate an entire day Saturday to the treestand, hunting for a few hours in the morning, heading home to grab some lunch, catch a little college football on the tube and then take a hot shower before settling back into the tree for the evening sit.

While deer hunters who see even one scrape or watch a pair of bucks playfully sparring will insist the rut is "on," they usually jump the gun in making that call – especially if it's early October. There has to be a preponderance of evidence, as outlined in Craig and Neil Dougherty's recent book, "Whitetails: From Ground to Gun. Craig has been doing some welcome contributing to New York Outdoor News, and he spelled it out best in a Nov. 1 feature on Page 25 of that issue.

Right now, it seems that things are, in fact, heating up, as evidence by the yearling buck hot on the trail of a doe 50 yards in front of me on Saturday, Nov. 9. It was like watching a tennis match as he feverishly ran her back and forth, always out of shooting range and never allowing me to make a decision on whether to draw or pass.

And to be honest, I probably would have taken him, based on several factors. I'm hunting a single Chemung County stand this fall, courtesy of a hunting buddy who knew my arrival back in town coincided with the archery opener and I hadn't had time to do any real scouting or hang a stand of my own down here. Too, I hadn't seen a lot of deer movement, my work schedule was beginning to tighten up, and I likely won't be firing a shot during the firearms season, especially on opening day, when I'll have Paula along for the first time in the deer woods. I'm looking forward to that more so than most recent firearms openers, but I sorely would like to tag a buck with my bow before the rifle kickoff.

I'll be back in THE stand, probably tomorrow morning. It's turning out to be one of those rare locations where the morning action is better than the evening. I did see a couple does Saturday afternoon, but the highlight of that outing was almost the lowlight – I narrowly missed hitting a solid 8-point with my pickup on the drive home. This was a serious near-miss, complete with a big swerve into the other lane of traffic, screeching of brakes and a brace for the anticipated thud of the buck against the side of the truck. Thankfully, that didn't happen, but it was another indicator, in my mind, that rut activity was picking up.

I guess my real barometer of when the rut has arrived is when I'm disappointed that shooting hours end and the hunting day is done. Earlier this season, my thoughts, as darkness approached, turned to dinnertime, work duties and whether there were any hockey games on TV that night.

Now, I'm wondering how many times I can climb back into the stand this week.

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