Lessons learned in November
Rain pelted the fleece exterior of my jacket but I wouldn't leave the tree. Gray skies sent the approach of darkness and wind shook the tree I had perched myself in my climber.
I work hard at two jobs and run myself ragged spending all my pent-up hunting energy from the year between September and December, losing sleep, body weight and patience much like the game I chase. This near-primal grip the wild has on my soul cannot go unheeded, and right, wrong or indifferent, I sometimes put brawn over brain when chasing whitetails. Sometimes it works; usually it does not. Scheduling the last of my vacation time from my sales job for the second week of November to chase the rut, the way the weather ruled the week had me second-guessing just about everything from my own skill and strategy to cursing the existence of deer themselves. Oh, the joy deer bring to our lives.
November brings lessons each year like an educational Santa Claus; you can’t wait to try them out a year from now. Just don’t forget the lessons. My week long galavant in the woodlands taught me several lessons which I seem to have to re-learn the hard way each year. By putting these in writing, I hope to not forget them in November 2016.
Don’t hunt pretty-looking spots
On nearly every episode of professionally produced deer hunting television, the setup of the hunters seems impeccable – flawless and beautiful which, I think, has lulled many into picking less than optimal stand locations. I found myself choosing and setting stand locations because they looked pleasing to the eye. Sure, there was sign, but I was forgetting a simple rule: deer want to feel safe and will follow mini funnels of brush within funnels to stay safe. Case in point: the first Saturday of this November I struggled to pick between three trees and chose the tree which gave me the best view. All the bucks I saw that evening traveled though the junky looking strips of saplings I decided to disregard. From now on, my rule of thumb is the uglier, the better.
Make your move
Climbing treestands are a disregarded option by most. They are an afterthought. Yes, they are bulky and clumsy. And if you’re not careful you can make tons of extra noise. I made a choice to hunt mainly from a climber about six years ago to give me the flexibility to adjust on different pieces of property. In the fall of 2013 I made a move on a new piece I had hunted one time. The goal was to get closer to the low swamp which split the corn field and the jungle of briars the deer used for bedding. Following instincts, I chose a tree in the gray light of the young day and it proved to be the right choice as my biggest buck – a 150-inch P&Y beauty – trailed a rut party underneath my tree. Use climbers to make your final move, just don’t be like me and overthink and end up moving away from the deer movement, which has happened on occasion in the past.
New York Outdoor News columnist Oak Duke taught me the power of bringing in new licking branches to an area and how deer react to them. This year I essentially made excuses to not go look for other scrapes, citing my busy sales job and a lack of time. Never again. I could have made the deer play my game and brought them into my area; instead, I have spent the year playing their game and chasing nocturnal trail cam images.
There is only one November per year and, like a bittersweet farewell to a favorite family member at Thanksgiving, so is it tough to turn the calendar and wait another year to watch the woods come alive with bow in one hand and release on another.