Those who enjoy the taste of squirrel pot pie were able to spend a few of the last days of summer in pursuit of squirrel throughout the state since September 12. While squirrel hunters tend to be a smaller, yet very dedicated group, those who have been awaiting the opening of archery deer hunting make up a small army of highly motivated individuals, most of whom have been scouting and planning for months prior to the opening of the season. Now, as the fall colors are upon us and the temperatures have dropped, sometimes producing a morning frost, their time has come.
From all corners of Lycoming and adjoining counties, the reports of deer sightings are encouraging. Almost every doe seen has borne a fawn this spring, and many of them are mothering a pair of fawns. The young are doing well and have been developing their winter coats and losing their spots in the process. Does and yearlings can be seen throughout the day, as they graze on grasses and clovers and raid the occasional corn field. Bucks, on the other hand, continue to be more secretive, waiting until nightfall to venture out of their bedding locations in search of food. They remain in bachelor groups and will do so until the pre-rut begins later this month. Then, they will begin to travel in search of does that are ready to breed and their time of feeding will diminish as they focus their time and energy on breeding during the rut, which normally occurs around the first two weeks of November. Until that happens, are there any helpful techniques that will lead to success in the next few weeks?
One of the most beneficial tools to use in preparation for archery hunting is the trail camera. Even if you have not yet set out any this fall, it would be helpful in deploying them now to aid in identifying what deer are in the area you intend to hunt and what their travel routes and times of activities are. Gathering this information will help determine the best location for tree stands or ground blinds.
Food sources are critical. Does, yearlings and bucks are all intent on feeding in order to build up their winter reserve of fat in preparation for the months ahead. Standing corn fields are very good, but freshly cut corn fields with grain remaining on the ground after harvest are even better. The oak trees are beginning to drop acorns and present another important source of feed for deer. While all acorns are eaten by deer, those produced by the white oak trees are preferred by both deer and bear alike. As long as our dry weather conditions continue, water sources are an important factor. Deer will frequently drink from ponds, brooks and other waterways as they travel for food.
Since the does and yearlings have been tending to appear throughout the day, your chance of success can occur at any time from sunrise to sunset. The bucks, however, will remain more active during the hours of darkness, thus success will occur more likely during the first hour or two of daylight or just prior to darkness. Hunting stands near or at feeding areas will work best for antlerless deer, but stands for bucks during these early weeks of the season will work better when placed nearer to their bedding areas.
Keep in mind that during the warmer weather of the early weeks of the season, it is critical to properly field dress any deer and begin cooling the carcass as quickly as possible to insure tasty venison for the dinner table.
Please note that archery deer hunters this fall will also have the opportunity to take a black bear with archery equipment from October 17 to 24. A bear should be field dressed before being taken to a check station and the hunter should contact the appropriate Game Commission regional office for instructions to have the animal checked.