Today is the deer hunter's big day. Thousands of hunters are criss-crossing the state on their way to deer camp.
Frankly, deer hunters add a lot to the economy. New rifles, scopes, cases and ammunition add up to a lot of dollars spent each year. Hunting clothes and boots add another huge chunk to that pie and then on this day, restaurants will do a booming business, as well as grocery and convenience stores as hunters grab last minute snack items and batteries and gas up on the way to camp.
Preparation for rifle deer season has been going on for weeks. Whatever they have gone afield to hunt in the weeks leading up to deer season, hunters are always looking for signs of deer. Preseason scouting has been completed as hunters have looked for the perfect spot to locate their deer stands. Rubs, scrapes, food sources, droppings and actual sightings of bucks all figure into the planning.
This year, with acorns so plentiful, deer can be feeding about anyplace and a hunter will do well to still hunt the ridges until he finds a spot torn up by feeding deer and then stop to watch there for awhile. This fall turkey season, my hunting buddy and I were set up on an oak ridge calling to turkeys when a doe came bounding across the ridge. We knew a buck was probably not far behind her since it was the peak of the rut. Sure enough, he soon came racing by us in pursuit of her.
In a moment, along came another buck, a nice 8 pointer. My buddy, not having brought a deer grunt tube along on a turkey hunt, bleated by mouth and the buck screeched to a stop. That was impressive to see. A couple more soft grunts made him begin circling us, in that mincing step deer use when the are unsure and looking, stretching its neck as it tried to spot us.
We were both clad in camouflage of course, so he didn't see us at first. My buddy's back was actually to the buck as it circled and when the buck began to take some steps toward us at a distance of about 10 yards, I had to whisper," stop grunting, or this buck will walk on us."
I do not want a buck in rut to be within 5 yards of me; this can lead to real trouble if he is startled. He kept on circling, trying to get a scent and when he did he snorted and ran for his life. In a few moments a smaller buck came along. He wasn't in such a hurry, knowing he'd better not intrude onto the big boy's territory. All this was a sight to watch and if I were hunting there, I'd sure want to spend some time in that spot.
Every plug in my house hummed one day last week, charging up the batteries for all the "necessities" for the hunt: the cell phone, camera, battery socks and other paraphernalia. The beef stew for camp is cooked, the bags packed into the truck and as soon as the last Amen sounds in church this morning, my deer hunting buddy and I will be on our way to camp. We'll have to catch today's Steelers game on the truck radio on the drive to camp.
Deer season will open with a five-day, antlered deer-only season in wildlife management units 2C, 2D, 2E, 2G, 3C, 4B, 4D and 4E from Nov. 29-Dec. 3. It is followed immediately in these WMUs by seven days of concurrent, antlered and antlerless deer hunting beginning Dec. 4, and continuing through Dec. 11. The rest of the state follows the two-week concurrent, antlered and antlerless season Nov. 29-Dec. 11 that has been in place since 2001. Please take note of this as I know that many deer hunters will still be unaware that the antlerless deer seasons are changed in many WMUs across the state, including 4D.
I talked with a local game protector earlier, and I got a sense that there will not be much mercy extended to those who shoot antlerless deer out of season. Ignorance of the law is still not an excuse, and this change has been much publicized. Some hunters just don't pay enough attention, apparently not having caught onto the fact that the seasons, and laws seem to change every year anymore.
As you have no doubt heard by now a hunter in Pike County bagged a black bear that weighed almost 900 pounds. That's almost unbelievable and I know that if ever I saw a bear that size in the woods, I'd probably faint. And he took it with bow and arrow.
Remember too that nowhere in the state this year may you harvest a bear during the deer season. That's another change from past years.