Take aim at a coyote

Usually by this time we’ve seen the snow fly and 20-degree days have arrived. Not this year.

If you are a hunter and have some time to, ah, kill, why not head to the woods for a little coyote hunting. It can be a lot of fun, and the action comes surprisingly quick. Last spring I was hunting with a friend who told me the coyotes were on a property he knew. Five minutes into the sit and the call blaring a rabbit squeal, the dogs were on us.

I highly suggest it if you haven’t tried it. Maybe some day hunters will be paid the $25 bounty lawmakers have been talking about. Until then, we’ll have to wait for any cash.

Another good way to pass the time outdoors is setting up a trail camera. That’s right, now is an excellent time to see what has survived the hunting season. Now that most hunters have left the woods, and the risk of having a camera stolen (sad but true) has dipped, put a camera out and look for any deer which slipped through the cracks.

You know they’re bucks out there … go find them! And while you’re at it, put a dent in the coyote population.

 

 

 

 

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Chances of landing a buck dwindling

Tyler Deiter from Stroudsburg with his first buck taken on Nov. 30, 2015, while hunting with his stepfather Keith St.Clair. Tyler is 13 years old. Photo sent in by his mother Kristi St.Clair.

If you are lucky enough to have tagged a deer this season, stand up and take a bow.

For the rest of Pennsylvania’s hunters, the final day of the two-week rifle season on Saturday Dec. 12 may be the best chance to take that buck of a lifetime. Most hunters have hopes that a big buck is still in the grasp of possibilities, but getting past the mental block of “it’ll never happen this year,” can be tough.

The last day can offer a better-than-average chance though, especially if you consider the numbers of hunters that will head to the woods. Hunters in the woods searching for a deer always seem to help activity, but almost always those deer are on high alert.

During the bear season I spotted a buck which was being pushed through the woods by hunters. His bone-white eight-point rack stood out in the sunlight as he ran by my stand. I couldn’t help but laugh as the biggest buck I had seen all year trotted right by during the bear season. Why couldn’t I had seen him during the archery season, I thought.

Isn’t that the way hunting works? Oh well, spring gobbler is less than six months away. Maybe if I think about turkey hunting, I’ll get a chance at a good buck.

Good luck to all and be safe.

 

 

 

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Black bears: Pennsylvania’s majestic animal

I’ve had a fascination with bears for some time. Amazing animals if you ask me.

Some can grow very large in Pennsylvania, but can run upwards of 25 miles per hour, can climb way up a tree, swim across a lake or river, and sometimes act like they don’t have a care in the world. They flip fallen logs and big rocks like we kick a rock down the sidewalk.

When they’re born, a bear can fit in the palm of your hand and weigh less than a pound. Oh yeah, they are born in the dead of winter in a den.

So when I see a bear, I have tons of respect for them. I’ve watched them walk over saplings to eat the leaves, and I’ve had them follow my footsteps to my treestand.

My trail cameras have captured some large bears over the years, one guesstimate of 600 or more pounds by a park ranger. I’ve seen plenty on camera in the 400-plus range, which is plenty big to get my attention.

I’ve never shot a bear, although I’ve hunted for them several times. Actually, I’ve never even seen a bear during the hunting season here in Pennsylvania. In 2014, I saw three the week prior to the archery bear season.

If you are lucky enough to see a bear, count your lucky stars and enjoy the sight. They are truly one of Pennsylvania’s majestic animals.

 

 

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Two bucks, one doe and no luck

When you were a kid, you played a game called “tag.”

It was a simple game – there was home base and you ran around in circles trying to avoid the person who was “it.”

On Wednesday, I witnessed the whitetail deer’s version of tag. Two bucks versus one doe and there was no home base.

I spotted the antlers 80 yards down the hill from my perch. A bone white rack was my first impression of the first buck and he was blocking a mature doe who must have been ready to breed any day. Behind those deer was a third, a smaller 7-point buck.

What to do, I thought. I pulled out my grunt tube and all three looked my direction. At 80 yards, I felt I was safe not to give too much information away. I paused and then grunted again.

Finally a reaction came. The smaller of the two bucks made a bee-line for my set up. Not what I had hoped, but I was still OK. He walked directly under me and kept on going.

Now I have two deer, a doe at 50 yards and the larger of the two bucks just beyond at 60 yards. Back and forth they went – she walked right, he moved right and so on. This went on for about 20 minutes and I stood patiently wondering if I was ever going to get a shot.

She drifted slowly my way — 40 yards, 30 yards, 25 yards. I’m starting to think that this may just happen.

And as quickly as I thought I’d have a shot, she jumped to her right with two hops. He looked anxious and nervous as she started to put some distance between the buck that had been shadowing her.

At 40 yards and brush to contend with, I had no shot and had to watch him walk off. My heart sank as I realized my best chance at a good buck was just steps away.

 

 

 

 

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‘Burning the candle’

Time. It’s a precious thing, they say.

For a hunter, it’s everything. For a hunter who works, time in the woods can be quite limited. For me, my time gets crunched on both ends — up early to hunt, grab a quick 45 minute nap, and then off to work for a shift that often lasts close to 11 p.m.

At 45, I don’t hold up as well as I used to when it comes to “burning the candle at both ends.” Still, I try.

The alarm will go off at 4:35 a.m. tomorrow. Right now it’s 10:49 p.m. and I’m at the office. I wish I had a little more time to rest.

But it’s the rut, the prime time to hunt whitetail in Pennsylvania. I couldn’t prove it though, as I haven’t seen a deer in over three weeks. That’s a heck of a drought in anyone’s hunting log. I’d like to burn my 2015 season log and start over.

Time doesn’t work that way, though, and we get what the woods gives us.

There is two weeks left in the early archery season in Pennsylvania. It’s my favorite time to be in the woods. I’ll never complain about my lack of sleep because I know all too soon this season will be over. I’ll be wondering if I gave the season an honest effort.

Sports and hunting — it’s my two favorite passions and I’m lucky enough to partake in both. As for the time to enjoy both, I make the time. Well, with a little help of a trusted alarm clock that reminds me it’s time to start a new day all over again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Complaining about deer? You are not alone

Mature bucks like this one can move in the middle of the day during the rut.

Ah, hunters. We are a pessimistic breed at times.

Deer? There are no deer in the woods! They’re all gone, some say.

I know, we’ve all felt that way at times. We’ll take a week off from work to chase an invisible animal which only exists on the walls of Cabela’s or our local sporting goods shop.

The e-mails and text messages I receive at times are quite funny. Yes, these are actual messages from hunters.

 

“Man once that sun gets over the trees it’s really hard to see in here.”

The sun makes it hard to see? OK then.

 

“Only way I’m gonna kill one is with my truck.”

That one is pretty funny. Hope it’s an old truck.

 

“When’s breakfast?!?!”

I received that text at 7:07 a.m.

 

“Haven’t seen a deer in forever.”

How long is forever, anyway?

 

So, if you haven’t seen many deer and you are feeling a little frustrated, just remember that you’ve got no shot from the couch. Every hunter has his/her low point, but now is not the time to feel sorry for yourself.

And if you don’t see a deer the next time you are in the woods, it’s OK to complain. You are not alone.

 

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Be smart, your opportunity awaits

Earlier this fall I warned hunters about educating deer.

Don’t start now. Don’t you dare start now.

Now is the time of year when some hunters get sloppy. We’ve all had those moments where “I don’t need to spray down my boots,” or “I won’t worry about the wind today.”

What are you doing? Chances are you have put some time into the season, and maybe you’ve learned a few things. Maybe you have figured travel routes, or better yet, you’ve seen a good buck on his feet. Don’t blow it now!

The No. 1 mistake hunters make is overhunting one area. They go to one stand night after night after night and can’t figure out why they haven’t seen as many deer lately. Ah, hello? McFly? Chances are the deer have patterned you.

There comes a time in a season where you have to give a particular spot a rest. Mix it up. You have another spot, so go check it out. Use your trail cameras and let them do some of the work for you.

And when the time is right, and you’ve let that sweet spot relax a bit, sneak in and wait for that magic moment. You’ll be glad you played it smart.

 

 

 

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The experiment and the results

For the first time, I decided to try an early-season mock scrape experiment.

Last week I made multiple scrapes with buck urine in two different areas I have been hunting. For the last week, I have seen some reaction, found some rubs and scrapes in the area of one mock scrape, and have more evidence on camera of does visiting the sites.

I saw a group of does who seemed to be very curious about a mock scrape last week. A group of five wandered around the spot, and calmly walked off.

The next day I found a scrape 40 yards away. Interesting, I thought. Three days later, another scrape appeared 25 yards in the opposite direction.

In another mock scrape I built 500 yards away, there were some similar responses. My trail camera captured reactions as does walked up to the scrape and walked off.

What I haven’t found in my early-season scrape experiment is any bucks investigating the area. Cameras have been on both areas and I have yet to capture an image of a curious buck even though I have two new scrapes at one site. It’s a little confusing if you ask me.

Overall, I would describe the results as mixed. The mock scrapes don’t appear to be attracting many bucks in large numbers or frequency, but the does are investigating the area.

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Early-season encounters a good sign

The good news is I’m seeing some deer early in the archery season.

The bad news is I have yet to release an arrow.

I thought today was going to be the day when at about 8 o’clock I noticed a spike buck headed my way with more deer following. The trick with multiple deer, especially at close range, is keeping an eye on the deer you don’t plan to shoot and the deer you intend to shoot.

Minimal movement is key. If you have a group of five deer, and one spots you, the gig is over usually.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with how relaxed these deer were. They came in directly downwind and didn’t spook a bit. I have been hunting this year with buck urine as a cover scent hanging in a nearby tree. In three cases this year, the scent seems to relax the deer.

Today’s encounter was more of the same. I had a spike, a 5-point, and a 6-point within range, but none were a deer I would consider shooting. I’m happy to be seeing deer, happy to watch the sunrise, happy to be in the woods.

 

 

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Scrapes: It’s definitely worth a shot

I have always known what scrapes were and that bucks made them. What I didn’t know long ago was how effective hunting over and around mock scrapes could be.

About five years ago, I started reading more about mock scrapes, educating myself the best I could. What I learned is that bucks make scrapes not only during the rut, but during all times of the year.

During the hunting season, there is a time and place to use and make mock scrapes. In early to mid-October, it’s safe to make a scrape with buck urine. A word of advice: Use gloves and keep your scent away as best as possible around the site.

This week I used an old stick and scratched up an area, followed by eight drops of urine in the dirt. The idea is that a dominant buck will find it and take the scrape over as his own.

A properly placed camera at the site will show you what’s checking out the area. In the photo, you will see that often I had multiple bucks cruising around my mock scrape.

As Halloween approaches, start to mix in doe in estrus urine, especially if you’ve been seeing antlers on those photos. It’s important that you wait until late October to make the switch to estrus.

If you’re lucky, you’ll have a visitor at the right time, and you’ll be waiting.

 

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