Deer season winds down with scattered reports of average kill counts and above-average trophy takes. Taxidermists have seen moderate to nice gains in mature deer brought in for mounting. The bear count seems to be following the same pattern during a season of moderate temperatures, modest snow cover and abundant food sources to allow for deer and bear movement and feeding forays when they choose.
Our lone trail camera quit recording antlered animals during daylight hours at the start of the gun season. Bucks mainly showed after daylight hours once archery season started on Oct. 1.
Even daylight movement during gun season went from crossing lanes in open fields to walking edges at change-of-light hours. Experts suggested hunting the mid-day hours even after the end of the rut run. They were right, but the waits were long for most hunters needing to fill that first tag.
With iffy chances for snow this week before the official close of the late bow, crossbow and muzzleloader season at sunset on Tuesday, this may end up a season to remember deer sizes rather than numbers.
Big game reports about bruin sightings and harvests almost always involve an intended deer hunt, rather than a purposeful bear hunt.
Greg Kuminski, 46, of Buffalo has hunted for deer without sighting a killable bear for more than 30 years around the Southern Tier during both bow and gun seasons. “I’d never seen a bear to shoot, but this year I had two,” Kuminski said of his past hunting season at Angelica.
He passed on a smaller adult bear during the archery season, but a 200-pound, 3-year-old moved by at about 30 yards in the open at 9:30 a.m. on Nov. 30 and his .270 caliber rifle dropped this bear in place.
In the same area, he took a nice 8-point buck on opening day of the gun season for deer.
Like fishing, sometimes the big one gets away. For Lancaster hunter Brian Meidenbauer that sinking feeling came at about 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 6 while hunting in East Aurora.
Meidenbauer had a 60-yard shot from a ladder stand and put a good hit on the deer, but it didn’t go down and he found only dark blood starting on the exit trail that evening.
He called Gary Huber, master handler with Deer Search, and Huber suggested tracking the deer the next day; that Thursday Huber saw as a rain- and snow-free day for tracking. He praised the hunter’s willingness to pass on a close tracking effort just before dark that Wednesday.
“What I didn’t count on was the bitter cold,” Huber said of an 18-degree air temperature that greeted Meidenbauer and him that next morning. “We had to wait until things warmed up that morning, but Kita, Huber’s wire haired dachshund tracking dog, was onto that deer and found him,” he said of a large-framed 9-pointer that he estimates might go 150 points or more on the Boone and Crocket scale. The New York State Big Buck ranking enters scores at 140 points for deer taken with a gun.
Meidenbauer plans to have this deer mounted as a trophy. For Huber, this was the sixth recovery of 12 tracking searches he did with Kita this gun season. “On average, we usually recover about 35 percent of deer tracked during the gun season and about 25 percent during bow season,” he said of past season,
For Kita, this was her ninth year for tracking deer with Huber. The averages were up for Deer Search recoveries and Huber’s own tags were filled with bucks during the bow and gun season plus a doe to add to the freezer fill.
The Dougherty family, Neil and Craig, at North Country Whitetails suggest a stalk rather than a drive to end the season. They write, “Still hunting is a pretty good tactic if you know how to pull off a still hunt without running deer off your property. Wet leaves are a must and windy stormy days are generally the best days to sneak a deer.”
Trophy hunters must know where a mature buck is bedded down right now, after all the early-season shooting and hunter movement, before planning a sneak attack. Wet leaves and hefty winds both help in upping the odds for stalking a wall hanger.
For the freezer-filling meat hunter, doe counts remain fair and reduced hunter pressure might bring on movement these last two days of the late season.