Firearms deer season is around the corner

October 26, 2003|by

The calendar says the end of October, and the weather forecast is calling for nighttime temperatures in the 30s. The deer hunters know that the opening of the firearms deer season is only weeks away.

Now that deer can be found living in nearly every wood lot, the importance of preparing for the opening day may seem less critical. This is probably the case if you have access to some prime farmland where the food supplies are never in question, and the landowner controls the hunting pressure.

But much of the deer hunting in this part of the country takes place on public hunting areas - state lands, and federally owned national forest lands. Many areas feature plenty of deer (and other game animals) that move according to foods supplies, the time of year and other factors such as hunting pressure and people activity.

In an ideal situation, the smart deer hunter can make his hunting plans based upon natural factors such as food sources, preferred bedding areas and similar deer factors. This approach works well in bow season when hunting pressure in limited and also in the early muzzleloader seasons in Maryland and Virginia. But during general firearms seasons, normal movements are out - most deer activity is based on hunting pressure and avoiding people. Especially the people wearing bright orange coats and smelling up the woods with the scent of aftershave.


Many years ago some friends and I learned that the way to take advantage of the opening day mob was to scout out an area for deer and then attempt to predict how the deer would react to hunting pressure. In most cases, deer movement is pretty predictable in that they head for the thickest, nastiest cover available. Swampy areas are good, as are thick stands of pines, or clearcuts that have grown back with nearly impassable stands of brush and briers.

In some of the more remote areas, the deer can completely escape people by moving away from roads. Some of the national forest areas feature thousands of acres, and most of the hunting pressure takes place within a half mile of the roads. Those willing to go farther into the bush can usually find limited hunting pressure and generally undisturbed deer to hunt.

The downside to this approach is that you have to deal with the logistics of getting your deer back out to the road. On private lands you can often use 4-wheelers to fetch home the venison. On national forest lands it usually means lots of people power. I find this more of an issue as the years roll by, but there is a lot of great hunting in there for those willing to do the work.

It is also true that you can find great hunting in more accessible areas by figuring out the escape routes that the deer will use when the season opens. Some of the best deer stands are in travel corridors that deer use on their way to the thick escape cover. Examples vary according to the areas you are hunting. In open farm county, the travel corridor may be a fence row or thick hollow of honeysuckle. Carefully scout out your hunting area, and try to predict how the deer will react to hunting pressure when the season opens.

Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached by e-mail at

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