Ending the season with unfilled tags is not a failure, but not learning from your mistakes is. As I reflect on the past season, I am still trying to determine what mistakes, if any, I made. I am not talking about lazy mistakes, such as not paying attention at a critical time. I made plenty of those. I’m referring to strategic mistakes like interpreting sign wrong, moving too often, and hunting the same areas over and over to name a few.
Once again we have reached the start of a new hunting season, and once again I am unprepared. Go figure. It sneaks up on me every year!
Thursday evening, opening day or archery in New Hampshire, I was able to head to the woods unexpectedly thanks to my wife’s willingness to rearrange her schedule. I have done zero scouting to date, so my plan for the first night was to wander through the woods to see if I could spot anything interesting on my way to an old faithful ladder stand. I saw some tracks and plenty of nuts, indicating that it could be another difficult year to pattern the deer thanks to an abundance of food. A plethora of food is good for the deer, but it sure can make them hard to hunt.
Fawns. They taste good, but I generally try to avoid shooting them. The emotional toll it puts on a hunter is almost too much to bear this day and age. Not only will your buddies give you a hard time, but you’ll be just about crucified on the internet.
On the other hand, the harvest of fawns can provide some useful data on the health of the deer herd. Just ask someone who knows what they are talking about if you disagree. Today, I plan to use some of that data to reveal an interesting pattern that might help predict the harvest for future hunting seasons. Once I’m done explaining everything I didn’t know, you’ll likely file this information in your own “Everything I didn’t need to know” category.
Last fall I found myself slowly working through a mix of hardwood and softwood trees at daybreak on the second day of rifle season in New Hampshire. The weather was perfect – no wind and dry leaves – one of my favorite conditions to hunt. I love having the ability to hear deer coming from a long way away. For one, it affords the time to be ready when they show up, and second, hearing the sound of approaching deer hooves in the leaves is exciting!
There were five of us out hunting that morning – my dad, my brother in law Josh, and two others. The previous evening Dad had shot a deer but we hadn’t been able to locate it before nightfall. We left the trail at dark and decided to pick it up in the morning with a game plan in place to see if we could connect with another deer while on the search. Dad and Josh hung back by the parking lot until daybreak, while myself and the others, were positioned out ahead of their future direction of travel. I made a wide loop to avoid spooking any deer that might be between the parking lot and the area we had left the blood trail the night before and the other guys sat in permanent stands about half a mile away. Regardless of the fact that the blood trail was there, it was also a great place to hunt. With Dad and Josh slowly walking to meet up with me I was in a good position if they happened to bump any deer my direction.
That’s it! I can’t take it anymore! I’ve been staring longingly into the woods because I have not had a chance to experience it firsthand for months. I haven’t even made it to the golf course yet! This is getting ridiculous. However, I was able to draw a bead on a springtime woodchuck last weekend after belly crawling around the pool and through my mother’s immaculately kept flower beds. I slipped the barrel of that Stevens .22 through a hole in the fence and waited for him offer me a clean shot as he basked in the evening sunlight. He was heavily guarded by thick blades of grass and was unaware of my presence.