Shooting – but mostly not shooting – does
It was a perfect October morning during the Northern Zone’s early muzzleloading season and I was heading out for a quick morning hunt near my home. Had my buddy not left a brand new pair of gloves in the woods the previous weekend, I may not have bothered to slip out that morning, but did so just the same. Whenever possible, a morning walk is a regular part of my routine anyway.
I went to a spot where I’ve seen plenty of deer over the years. Sure enough, just about sunrise (and the former legal shooting time) an average size doe and her fawn made their way into a small clearing to feed just 40 yards away and well within range of my 50-caliber smoke pole. The opportunity to fill my freezer was knocking.
After watching the deer for a few minutes I pulled up on the larger deer and put the armature sight on her chest. But I never pulled the hammer back. Seconds later, as she moved up the trail towards me, I snapped a quick photo of her with my cell phone.
There’s a number of reasons I didn’t shoot that deer. In fact, I passed on her the first day of the early archery season too. Mainly, a busy work day was ahead of me. Even though I couldn’t have asked for a better chance to drop a deer in its tracks, there’s always the possibility of something not working out.
But mainly, the days ahead would find me mentoring two other hunters who both would be ecstatic to harvest this deer. One is a 15-year-old I’ve been taking on youth hunts, the other, a mentee in the NDA’s Field-to-Fork program. Both would be hunting this property during the muzzleloading week, although the F2F guy uses a crossbow.
Still, several times over the years I’ve let seemingly “sure thing” shots on does pass. Although I’m anxious to fill my freezer, an entire hunting season was still ahead. Even though this particular area has plenty of deer, and could stand some population thinning, I still often find myself undecided when an opportunity on an antlerless deer presents itself. Sometimes I pull the trigger, but more often than not, I don’t.
When it comes to shooting does, myself and most of the crew I hunt with only do so in select locations. Most of the Adirondack terrain we hunt has relatively few deer overall so – with the occasional exception of having a youth hunter along – as a policy we don’t take does there. But, we do hunt a few more populated areas where we are more likely to target them.
The regular big game season is winding down in the Northern Zone, where I do most of my hunting, and having filled my buck tag earlier in the season, I’m anxious to be able to chase a buck during the late muzzleloading season. Perhaps, if I’m in the right spot and a doe presents a shot, I may take it. But it will be a last-second decision and I like having that choice.