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The lucky deer hunter often is the prepared one

September 30, 2007|By BILL ANDERSON

The arrival of October means that deer season will be in full swing for the entire region.

In West Virginia, this means bow season. In Maryland, the early muzzleloader season offers hunters great chances to bag big bucks before the general rifle season. Of course, the highlight is the upcoming general firearms season in November.

The continued growth in deer populations has created many unique opportunities for deer hunters. For example, the Maryland DNR announced this week the opening of the crossbow hunting season for deer on Oct. 1. The need for a crossbow season has always escaped me, but we have a season nonetheless. You would hope that no one is confusing this method of deer extermination with bowhunting. I guess Maryland's next special season will be for something like blowguns - scopes optional.

Many hunters now routinely take multiple deer each fall. In fact, there are a few hunters who consistently take more than one mature buck each fall. If you can get them to talk about their approach, it becomes clear that luck has little to do with their success. As the old saying goes, luck is where preparation meets opportunity.

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There are two distinct areas that the consistently lucky hunters mention when asked about their approach - scouting and equipment preparation. The following are some suggestions:

· The really successful hunters usually point to scouting as the key. This applies to every hunting area, but is especially important if you hunt in what I call big-woods areas - public lands that include state hunting areas and national forests. In these areas, the deer will move for miles each season to find preferred foods, or to escape hunting pressure. Scouting is less important when you hunt small farms or woodlots where the deer stay in relatively small areas and change very little from season to season.

In the big woods, the key factor is the available food sources for that year. This fall, the reports indicate that the mast crops such as acorns and beechnuts vary a great deal from area to area. This means it's time to do some hiking to find areas with good mast production.

Identifying the food sources is only one part of the scouting. Other areas to look for include bedding areas and the travel lanes the deer will use when moving from spot to spot. On public lands, you also need to try to predict the areas the deer will move to when the guns start popping on opening day.

· The most consistent hunters pay attention to details. That means buying good equipment and making sure it is ready before opening day. The obvious things are your rifle or bow. But this also applies to scope or sights and making sure your gun or bow is properly checked for sight-in or zero.

Clothing is another very important factor. As I get older, it seems as important as the gun or bow. In our area, the weather can range from warm to very cold. You can't stay in a tree stand all day if you are cold and miserable, so you need to choose clothes that will help you remain comfortable in all weather conditions. The modern deer hunter has many new clothing materials and features, such as scent-control clothing. New technologies have taken us a long way from the old days of wool and flannel.

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

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