Early-season conditions challenge deer and turkey hunters
Archery season is open across New York and hunters couldn’t be happier. With the exception of a mid-October warm-up, the weather has been much cooler this year compared to the past two early archery seasons. Encouraging, to say the least, when considering a morning or evening in a tree stand or ground blind.
In the Northern Zone, the early muzzleloading season gets under way on Oct. 13, which is as early as it can occur based on the fact that the season begins the Saturday after Columbus Day, which is always the second Monday in October.
Next year, things will be different, but right now hunters are waiting for a hard freeze to knock some leaves down and increase visibility. While the splendor that is fall foliage is taking place before our very eyes, it is happening at a slow pace and the underbrush is the last to go. Things are about as green as they can be and the interior of the woodlands is still very summer-like.
I live and hunt mostly in the Northern Zone, and after a few days of hunting the early archery season, which opened on Sept. 27, I opted to do a little turkey hunting when that season opened here Oct. 1. What would be nearly three days of much-needed rain began that day, but it let up in the afternoon, just enough to entice me to chase some mountain birds that had out-dueled me last spring.
I parked my Jeep on a dirt road that leads into a camp/house where I’ve hunted most of my life, and proceeded to walk up a grass logging road that connects a pair of clearings. The birds have been hanging around all summer and, sure enough, I spotted three or four of them way out in front of me. They spotted me and disappeared and I could not see them in the thick, green underbrush or hear them with the rain falling off the trees.
But I got lucky. Playing a hunch, I found two of them an hour later in a clearing near the camp. My attempt to scatter them must have worked. But the truth is, I took a fine gobbler without ever making a single call. It felt redeeming and anti-climactic at the same time. But it is the first fall turkey I’ve taken in many years.
Getting back to deer hunting, the early days of muzzleloading and the rifle season in the Northern Zone can be frustrating. Just as those turkeys vanished, deer can also. I’ve had many instances where I’ve encountered deer and not even been able to tell if they were bucks or does.
At the end of the day, it’s part of hunting. Some say to wait until better conditions are present before heading to the woods. For me and my hunting party, however, in-season scouting is paramount. What we find in October for food sources and, especially, doe groups, typically leads us to where the boys are later in the season. Or perhaps leads them to us.
Hunting season is here. Get out and enjoy it no matter what the weather or conditions.