First week of deer season for hunters with guns began warmly – for air temperatures and the heat-up, if not the peak, for the rut run.
More bucks than doe deer went through the Department of Environmental Conservation check station south of Holland on opening weekend.
Despite low numbers at the start, some impressive antlers headed north on Route 16 those days. Of the 75 deer checked on Saturday, several individuals arrived in vehicles with more than one buck deer for inspection.
Saturday afternoon was one of the slowest opening days for the Holland DEC station, noted Tim Spierto, wildlife biologist managing the program.
A canvassing of the deer hunters checked during the Saturday afternoon told that more than half the buck deer taken were in pursuit of a doe deer at the time they were harvested.
Numbers improved on Sunday; rut movement remained high among the 203 deer checked that day. Archers had seen steady signs of rut movement well before the gun opener; the Saturday and Sunday lower count, with more bucks taken than usual, confirms rut reports bow and gun hunters have made throughout the first week of gun season.
Many nice 8- to 10-point bucks came through the check station, but the most notable take Saturday afternoon was a smaller buck John Marlow of Orchard Park donated to the venison donation program. Marlow, a regular volunteer with activities at West Falls Conservation Club, took his deer in assigned Area 1 at West Valley.
Jake Pawlowski of East Aurora hunted at Ashford and brought in the first 10-pointer. Pawlowski took his trophy at 9:30 a.m. while it chased a doe in an area where hunters try to practice Quality Deer Management (QDM) hunting.
Joe Molnar, hunting with son Russ Molnar of West Seneca, tagged a hefty 8-pointer just after the morning opener (at about 7:10 a.m.) in Cuba. The weighty whitetail was aged at 3.5 years. Russ took a 6-pointer during the bow season at a spot about 15 yards from where his dad took the big eight opening morning.
When women or newly-introduced youths hunt with elder/veteran hunters, usually the ladies and kids bring in the big one. But when Lancaster hunters Tim Bojanowski and adult daughter Jaclyn Bojanowski arrived at the check station, roles reversed. Dad had a tag on an 8-point buck; daughter had a respectable doe she took about an hour before dad dropped his buck at 9 a.m. in an area of Machias the Bojanowskis regularly hunt.
Machias was the hot spot for brothers Steve and Brian Kasprzak of Amherst. Brian got his older brother interested in hunting three seasons earlier, and this season, at age 40, Steve took his first deer, a respectable 7 pointer aged at 2.5 years.
Doug Brown of East Aurora hunted with his dad, Jerry Brown at their homestead property in Yorkshire and Doug brought in the widest, thickest rack seen Saturday afternoon.
Brown had seen solid numbers of bucks throughout the archery season and passed on quite a few. But when this 3.5-year-old bruiser buck moved through he made sure it headed home that afternoon. His 10-point buck sported sticker/drop tines and a thick base with mature, high inside tines.
Many of these deer will eventually appear on walls sometime soon.
First Buck Tales
Trophies come for hunters at all ages. Two young hunters tagged their first bucks on opening morning, and both deer would be wall-worthy for many area hunters.
Ashley Butcher, 18, has hunted steadily with Dad, John Butcher of Lockport, and did well while turkey hunting. But it took until this year for Ashley, out with dad on a hunt near home, to take her first whitetail.
Shooting a 20-gauge Remington 1100, Ashley took a 30-yard shot and got her 6-point buck at 8 a.m. on opening morning. Dad had set up a double treestand blind to accompany Ashley. “I don’t even take a gun now that I’m out with Ashley,” he said of their hunts.
Anthony King, 15, of Elma and his favily have brought in many sizeable deer with many hours devoted throughout the bow and gun seasons.
But Anthony, hunting with dad Tim King, dropped what will probably be a wall hanger at 8:30 a.m. opening morning. Dad proudly measured the 9-point buck with a 17-inch inside spread and 7-inch brow tines. His buck topped sizes of his older brother Tim’s three previous buck takes. Younger brother Michael, not yet age 14, told dad that when he turns 14 he will get one bigger.
Every year, monster bucks — in body and antler size —are taken around Western New York. Two exceptional takes stand out for the starting week of the gun season.
Brian McCrae of Belmont took a 6-point buck at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, which may not seem all that impressive until his deer hit the scales. Brian’s deer, running with six doe and another smaller buck, hit the 247-pound mark when dressed out.
Robin Heintz hunts her hillside 10 acres in Colden. A regular, she has logged more than 30 years working whitetails and regularly takes her share of deer.
This year, it took helpful assistance from nearby hunters at the end of opening day to bring in her big buck from out back.
“I got off to a late start, about 8 a.m., opening morning and had a shot at a big buck moving with some does,” Robin said of a sighting at about 10:30 a.m.
“But I only saw the does run away and I couldn’t find the buck,” she said of her search for about three hours. Later, a friend went back and found the deer had run in the opposite direction and fell just 25 yards out of sight from where she had last seen this buck.
Back home, the antler count went to a typical (concentric) 14 points, with one point just making the inch mark.
Neil and Craig Dougherty at North County Whitetails offers sound advice in their most recent deer report: “Don’t be afraid to sit all day. Hunt anywhere you are likely to find does. Don’t be afraid to relocate a few times each day to find a hot spot — I did.”
Thanksgiving afternoon I decided to hunt the rest of the day. With no family commitments or hosting at home, I sat in wife Jean’s hunting tower just to look around.
We have yet to start a QDM program, but since we put a moose and caribou in the freezer from an earlier Newfoundland hunt, my resolve now for goal/targets are either a true, personal trophy, something with 10 or more points, or a wounded animal.
Saw neither, but most hunters would like to see the forward-swooping six points on a buck we have viewed in trail camera shots throughout the fall.
Following this six was a high-tined, young but mature 8 pointer. This animal would probably hit 125 to 130 in Boone and Crocket scoring; it was the nicest buck I have seen since we moved to southeast Genesee County seven deer seasons ago. I passed on both; maybe Jean will see them later in the season.
Seeing those two healthy bucks slowly cross an open field some 30 yards away was a Thanksgiving treat matching a tagging session or even holiday table fare.