Variables change first day, later action of deer season

November 21, 2004|by BILL ANDERSON

Wildlife managers always point to the weather as the most important factor affecting the annual deer harvest.

The very best weather for deer hunting is a cold, clear day, with little or no wind. On days like this you can hear the crunching of deer hooves for great distances, giving a hunter on a stand a real advantage.

Cold temperatures promote good deer and hunter movement. If it is really cold, hunters will be moving around to stay warm. The moving hunters will bump into deer, giving the hunters in the stands a benefit.

A cold rain is the worst possible weather for deer hunting. Rain makes it very uncomfortable to stay on stand, and often includes fog with reduced visibility. Rainy opening days almost always mean a greatly reduced kill.


Wildlife managers from the entire region are hoping for clear cool weather for opening day.

Everyone knows opening day is the best and most successful day of deer season. The numbers are hard to refute. But even with the most successful of opening days, there will be plenty of deer left to be hunted. If you are one of the many hunters left with an unfilled deer tag or tags after opening day, the question will be how to adapt to hunting after the excitement of opening day.

The conditions the deer hunter faces after opening day are often quite different. A lot of the deer have been taken out of the population, but there is still a lot of quality deer hunting remaining. Hunters must be able to successfully anticipate the movements of the deer, and how they will react from the pressure of the first day and the subsequent changes.

Here are a few tips and tactics that have worked in the past. You may find they help you after the opening-day barrage is over.

· Deer in general, and especially old bucks, have an amazing ability to find the small patches of cover that will protect them from hunting pressure.

· The most important factor is to identify the places that may have been overlooked by others. This often means small pieces of undisturbed cover that deer have identified as sanctuaries.

· In some of the most popular areas, the serious hunting pressure is over after the first few days of the season. After many years of hunting what I call the "big woods" areas of West Virginia (major national forest lands) have shown that while the hunting pressure may be intense the first few days, it falls off dramatically after Thanksgiving, especially when nonresident hunters break camp to go home for the holiday and Maryland and Pennsylvania seasons begin.

One of the things I have always found surprising is how quickly deer sense the pressure is off in the main areas, and start moving back to more normal patterns.

During the second week of the season, it can be almost like the movement patterns that were in place before the season started. Minus, of course, those deer that didn't make it to the later part of the season.

Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail.

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