I, along with many of the other hunters I talked with, had a rough first week of deer hunting. It was by far the least amount of shots I can remember hearing during the first 3 days of buck season when most of the harvest takes place. Once again, weather played a main factor in the lack of activity.
On Monday, the deer were moving right at daylight; then the mach 10 winds started to blow. The temperatures warmed to near 70 degrees, which always causes the deer to bed up and not move very much throughout the day. I stuck it out, but at times it was scary as the treetops were whipping and limbs were falling.
Tuesday the weather conditions were better, but I only saw a bunch of does and little ones and no bucks. It’s been a weird season for me so far, as I’ve hardly seen any rutting activity at all. I’m a firm believer in finding the does and watching them as a buck usually isn’t far behind, but that hasn’t been the case for me this year.
Buck season opened a week later than it did last year due to the calendar, and I think that was another factor. Nov. 6-9 is when I saw a couple of the shooter bucks I was after, as well as several pictures taken on my trail camera. I think this is when the peak of the rut occurred.
Of course, the does come in heat at different times, and I think the key to being successful this year is finding the 1 or 2 hot does in the area and the big bucks with them. All of the does I have seen were still grouped together and had their last year’s fawns with them. Another thing I noticed this year was the lack of road kill deer. Sure there are always a few here and there, but they weren’t nearly as many as I normally see during the month of November.
I don’t have to tell you folks in Hampshire County what happened on Wednesday. Heavy wet snowfall covered the area, dumping a foot and a half of snow. That makes it tough to get around. I’m sure there were stories of hunters getting stranded at deer camps for a couple extra days.
With 2 out of the 3 busiest days of buck season being less than ideal, it’s surely going to have the buck kill down this year. I’ve heard some reports of counties down 50-60 percent. It will be interesting to see the totals once all of the check-in tags are tallied.
I kept on hunting and actually saw my first buck chase of the year on Friday and again Saturday. I finally found a couple hot does that came back into heat. After the peak of the rut, the does that didn’t come into heat the first cycle will come in 21 days later. This matches up with my observation of the peak, taking place Nov. 6-9. Black Friday was on Nov. 28, exactly 21 days later.
I had an interesting day on Friday. Not long after I got settled in my stand I saw a doe and little one below me glaring in one direction. I just knew they were looking at a buck, so I scanned the woods. Sure enough, I caught movement. I grabbed my binoculars and had to do a double take at the big, black object I was looking at. I immediately grabbed my rifle, and as I was putting it to my shoulder, a bear ran across the shooting lane.
I was hunting in Braxton County, which was open to concurrent bear season and almost had a shot at a nice one. After that, I ended up seeing 3 spikes, two 6-points and a young 8-point that had a busted g2 on his left side. All of the bucks were after 5 does, and I watched them do circles in the woods, chasing after them for over 2 hours.
I’m after a big mature buck, so all of the younger bucks got a pass from me, hoping I’ll see them again next year. On Saturday, I watched another young 8-point single out a lone doe and chase after her like a racehorse. It was the best chase I have seen the whole season so far.
The first week came to an end, but I’m not ready to throw in the towel yet. Buck season is in this week and ends on Saturday, Dec. 6. Even though I had action those 2 days, overall it was the least amount of rutting activity I’ve ever witnessed in my 20-plus years of hunting.
Two of the shooter bucks that I was after were shot by neighbors, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. All you can do is stick with it, and if that big buck doesn’t show himself, there’s always muzzleloader and antlerless seasons to fill the freezer with a couple of does. Good luck to those that are still hunting, and don’t feel bad if you’re having a rough season, as I feel your pain. There’s always next year.