No apples? No problem

It’s early September and I’m already stoked for the upcoming archery season. Cool September mornings excite me and make me want to dig out my treestands and other equipment to prepare for the season opening in a few short weeks. Only this year things seem different. Here in the Southern Tier dairy farms prevail and I’m fortunate enough to have one on which to hunt. Same thing goes in Pennsylvania. Because of the large fields on these farms, I’ve learned to hunt the edges because along these edges there are apple trees and it’s the apples that bring in the deer. Having does and fawns appear at least occasionally to feed on the apples keeps me occupied and constantly alert for a buck. Besides, their appearance sure beats standing for days on end without seeing anything. Only thing is, this year there are no apples on either of the farms I hunt. Not one.

Last week I took advantage of a cool morning and checked out the stand locations I planned to hunt. Some were overlooking secluded apple trees and some were located on trails leading to them. It was disheartening to discover not a single apple was to be found on any tree in either state and I couldn’t understand why.

As a spring turkey hunter I’m in the woods almost every morning and I pay particular attention to any late frosts that may kill off the apple buds. But this year I couldn’t remember a single morning where the temperatures were low enough over so wide an area to do damage to the apple crop. Besides, even in years where there is a killing spring frost, some trees, at leas,t escape the effects of the frost and produce some fruit. But this year, for the first time ever in my memory, not a single tree in either state had an apple on it. What’s even more surprising is that guys I know who hunt more then 20 miles from me report the same thing. Consequently, I wondered if something more sinister could account for the lack of an apple crop.

Since there wasn’t going to be any soft mast available I turned my attention to the oak trees. I was happy to see some of the trees had acorns and some were already falling. With the squirrels, turkeys and deer being provided a September all-you-can-eat buffet, it became a no brainer: I had to rely on this food source. 

I cruised the property speculating about the best place to put up a stand. Several possible locations near the oaks looked good, but I also reasoned I could place a stand or two along one of the old logging roads that crisscrossed the area. Undisturbed deer often take the path of least resistance when moving through the woods and I knew from past experience some of these roads almost always had several telltale buck scrapes somewhere along the path.

This is what I love about deer hunting. To me, at least, it's like a chess game. The deer move then I move in an attempt to predict where they may be next. This is what hunting is all about. There are no “gimmies” and it’s up to the hunter to figure things out. No apples? No problem! The acorns will be a big attraction but it remains to be seen how the season will eventually play out. However, regardless of how it does, I know I will have enjoyed every minute of it.

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