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Outdoors -- Hunters are looking for cold and clear days

November 16, 2008|By BILL ANDERSON

When asked to predict the harvest for an upcoming deer season, wildlife managers always point the role played by the weather. The perfect weather for opening day would probably be a cold and clear with little to no wind. On days like this, the sound of deer crunching in the leaves travels great distances, giving a hunter on stand a real advantage.

Another advantage to cold temperatures is a lot of movement by hunters. When the fingers and toes start getting a little frosty, hunters move around in an attempt to stay warm. The moving hunters will bump into deer and the hunters still on stands will benefit.

The worst possible weather is cold rain, which makes it very uncomfortable to stay on a stand. It often includes fog and reduced visibility, leading to a greatly reduced kill.

The numbers show that opening day is the most successful day of the deer season. But even after a very successful opening day, there will be plenty of deer left to be hunted. The key is adapting to hunting after the excitement of opening day.

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The situation that the deer hunter faces after opening day is quite different than before the season. Obviously, a lot of deer have been taken out of the population, but there is still plenty of deer hunting left if you can figure out the movements of the deer and how they will react to the hunting pressure of the first days of the season.

Most deer, 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. Many years of hunting the national forest lands in West Virginia showed that while the hunting pressure may be high for the first few days, it falls off dramatically after the first week. This is particularly true as the many non-resident hunters break camp and go home for the holiday and the beginning of the Maryland and Pennsylvania seasons.

One of the things I have always found surprising is how quickly deer seem to sense that the pressure is off and move 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.

A lot of deer will be gone from the population, but more than enough remain to make for some interesting hunting.

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