Deer talk and takes occupy the minds and mouths of hunters everywhere right now.

Attendees chatted whitetail encounters and hunt plant before, during and after the November Safari Club International meeting at Michael’s Banquet Facility in Hamburg.

Jim Monteleone has led these informative discussions at November SCI meetings regularly, and each panel brings together experienced, skilled hunting-related experts who not only provide useful information to listeners, they also deliver their messages with frank simplicity in interesting presentations.

Before conducting the panel discussion, Monteleone and SCI president Mark Mann presented a donated “robo” deer to ECO Robert Peinkofer for a DEC officer to use in apprehending illegal hunters/shooters. This deer “decoy” will see service during the gun season, which begins Saturday and continues to Dec. 18.

During discussions, Monteleone had these experts provide everything from best hunt times and approaches to those musts-to-avoid before, during and after the hunt.

The panel consisted of Gary Katta from Fredonia, current president of the WNY Chapter of Deer Search; Chuck Tiranno, call and scent maker; Shaun Thompson with Antler Ice (frozen deer attractants); and Jack Coad, representative for Elite Archery and many hunting-related outfits.

First consideration Monteleone posed was shot distance. Based on searches he and fellow Deer Search responders see, Cotta said that successful bow kills drop dramatically on shots taken beyond 25 yards. Tiranno stressed that gunners should know their gun and target practice as much as possible; he recommends shotgun shots of 50 to 100 yards to be certain of accuracy.

Thompson, a bow shooter, suggests, “Practice at 50 yards but only take 30-yard shots.” Coad summed up the comments saying, “Practice long shots; take the closest shots possible with a bow or a gun.” All experts said or implied that one should avoid taking risky, low-percentage kill shots.

On the question of hunt locations and map use, Kotta noted that wind direction is all. “I won’t go to a stand that I know will send my scent in the direction of deer,” he said, which got a nod from Coad. Thompson does not use maps but hunts areas he knows well enough to navigate and hunt.

Tiranno, who hunts mainly on his expansive acres, uses GPS locators and numbers stand sites to keep track of fellow hunters and deer movement.

Experts varied on their sites - public or private lands - but all agreed that attention to shooting directions and movements of known and unknown hunters are essential.

Kotta hunts entirely on public lands and enjoys his outings; Tiranno favors private-land hunts, but recommends public lands to hunters seeking access.

He cautions, “Be careful, you just don’t know what kind of nuts are out there.” Coad agreed.

As for setting up a stand or blind location, Kotta said, “Wind direction is the key to all.” Wherever possible, pick a site down wind from prospective deer passage. Coad looks for not only movement between bedding, feeding and water and other spots, but he likes to set up along deer escape routes.

Thompson, noting deer can detect one part per million in a scent, also works the best areas down wind from deer movement.

All agreed that “best times” depend on the hunter but often come at mid-morning or midday. Kotta likes late morning for the early-chase and peak rut season right now. Tiranno favors the 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. slot; Thompson goes for the later morning and late afternoon times; Coad looks at the 9 a.m. to noon period but suggests hunter stay in the stand until 1 p.m.

For tips to avoid foibles they have experienced, experts offered these advice items: Be sure the gun is loaded; make sure you knock a broad head (not target) arrow; be patient and focus to fight off buck fever/jitters, stick with the pre-set plan, and - above all - be cautious with a firearm that should always be considered loaded and with tree stand gear whenever leaving the ground. Be safe out there!