Monday, November 22, 2010

Recap: 2010 New York Whitetail Deer Bowhunting Trip
It has taken me a long time (in my eyes) to get this post written up. Between a lot of work, helping out friends with some graphic design projects, family time and my brain just needing a break from hunting I have finally found the time to get this typed up. This is going to be a long post, but short in details. Why? Well, because I failed to take a journal on my trip to write down each days events and I waited more than a week to write this up. Note to self, write in a journal while ON the trip, not after.

There is no hunting trip I anticipate more each year than the one in November with my dad and my brother. Every year, no matter what the weather, travel issues or realizing how much crap I have to pack, I look forward to a week of hilarity, scenery and the aroma of Mother Earth.

Nov. 4, 2010: Travel Day. I tried to pack a bit differently this trip so I would have less to carry on and so my check-ins wouldn't be too bad. Little did I know that this would be a very costly mistake on my part. I want to travel with a smaller backpack for hunting out of the stands, so I packed a third check-in bag. It wound up costing me an extra $75. OUCH! In my haste I read the check-in cost sheet too quickly and didn't see the $75 for a 3rd bag. Maybe my brain conveniently breezed over it, but either way I was out a good chunk of money. I vowed that my return trip back home would be reviewed differently. When I arrived in NY, it was cold and going to get rainy, but I wasn't worried. I was hopeful that we'd start seeing some good deer as it was closer to the rut. My brother, his wife and my dad met me at the airport, helped me load up my gear and had also brought me dinner. A Subway sub never tasted so good! After the 45 minute drive from the airport we arrived at camp (my brother's house) and we unloaded the truck. While everyone else hit the sack at 11:00 PM, my body and brain were still on West Coast time. I spent the next hour unpacking my gear, assembling my archery tackle and trying to fall asleep. It was a very long night to say the least.

Water was standing everywhere.
Nov. 5, 2010: The photo on the right pretty much describes my trip. WET! No, I would say it was wetter than wet, it was super wet. It rained for days before I set foot in New York, but I was not discouraged. (Actually, I was pumped. Two years before I shot my 5-point buck the first day I was there and it was right after a rainstorm.) We got into the woods at first light and we dropped my dad off at his stand. My brother and I walked in to our video stands.The stands were set up so we could have a full 360 degree view of the woods between the two of us. After drawing straws, yeah right, my brother offered to video first so I could be the shooter. What a great brother, right? We sat for the first hour and saw nothing.  

He was very happy to have his thermos of coffee.
I then took out my phone and snapped this photo of my brother drinking his first cup of coffee. Not five minutes later I see him pointing behind me and mouthing 'deer'. I slowly turned around, bow in hand, and spot a doe about 60 yards off. She was walking right in the water, not in the leaves or on a trail. Right in the middle of some standing water. She turned and started rubbing her hind end on a sapling over and over. My guess is that she had just been bred and was trying to either rid her body of some buck funk or had a bad itch. I'll stick with the first scenario. We watched her for 15 minutes and she wandered off. We kept looking for the buck that had bred her, but saw nothing and heard nothing. I turned around, sat down and just as I got comfortable, less than five minutes after the doe left, my brother is frantically pointing behind me again. Sure enough, Mr. Buck decided to make an appearance. Of course, I had to be cautious and by the time I had turned around with my bow he was walking behind a row of saplings. He had come in directly behind my stand and was only 20 yards from me. Dammit! He wandered away and I decided to try to get him to stop. I snort-wheezed and he stopped on a dime. 40 yards away and right behind a tree. I waited about two minutes (20 seconds of real time) and I grunted. Well he decided that he didn't want any part of another buck kicking his ass and he walked away. He didn't raise his tail or run off, he just turned and walked down through the woods.

We ended up seeing a couple more deer that day, but nothing in range to shoot. It was pretty uneventful after that.

I love my safety harness instructions.
Nov. 6, 2010: The rain kept coming down. The great thing about the cold and the rain is that it gave me the opportunity to do a few product reviews. I'll be posting them in the next couple of weeks. I was kept dry and warm, for the most part. My fingers got cold and I got a bit chilled/bored from time to time, but nothing like I had in past years. With 5 or 6 layers on I was bound to be pretty comfortable. We talked on the radios at a set time and after a brief discussion it was decided my dad would walk through the woods toward us and try to look for buck sign. We hadn't seen any deer by the time he got to us, so we packed up and started heading out of the woods. On our way out, my brother quickly stops us and points. Directly ahead of us was a small buck and a doe that had been bedded by a pond. I got an arrow nocked, then grunted and waited. We watched for about ten minutes as they turned and walked away. They were on posted property and I would have had to wait for them to come over on our side in order to shoot. They never did. It was still a very exciting way to leave the woods for breakfast. We left the property and headed back to my brother's house where we got warm, ate breakfast and planned out the evening hunt. He had been seeing deer on his small chunk of property and thought it was worth a shot to get in the stands and wait them out. Perched in our trees we waited, and for three hours there was nothing but the sound of vehicles stopping at the road below me and then driving off. Over and over I listened hoping to hear a branch break or some leaves rustle. An hour before we lost shooting light, I peered over to my left and there was a doe walking 60 yards up to where I had seen my dad standing just a half hour earlier. She walked up the hill and when she got to his trail she stopped, sniffed, looked around and started eating. Must be my dad didn't stink as bad as I thought he might! She walked up through the woods and disappeared. She was the only deer I would see on this beautiful evening hunt. When we all met back up later on, my dad had excited eyes and couldn't wait to tell us about his encounter. My brother had seen a deer, but no shot presented itself. My dad had wanted to get out of our way, so he stalked toward the opposite edge of the property. As he was walking up he found a huge scrape. A few seconds later he hears a snort from a deer in the hedgerow. It was loud because I had heard the deer snort from my stand. He waited for a while and decided to continue his stalk. Once at the other side he found scrapes all over the property! The treestands we had up were in the wrong places, so they would have to be moved for gun season. Still, with all of the sign he found, my dad didn't see any deer. We had no deer on the rack, but it was exciting to hear all of the stories!

You can't really see much of the snow, but I swear it was there!
Nov. 7, 2010: We woke up to very cold temperatures in the twenties. My dad made the smart move and stayed indoors and allowed my brother and I to our cold weather gear. We sat and sat and sat and froze our butts off. We knew we were in for a cold day of hunting. After two hours we went inside, ate breakfast and decided to head over to the farm we had been hunting. Throughout the day we saw nothing, so for the evening hunt my brother and I ventured off together across a pasture. After sitting for over two hours, I had a small 4-point walk in behind me, but he stayed behind a large group of saplings with way too many branches to get a clean, ethical shot. As he turned to walk away, I grunted and he bolted. He didn't want any part of a bigger buck. He acted just like the deer from the first day. I knew there had to be a big buck in the woods someplace for them to act like that. He vanished into the hardwoods as darkness fell. I walked through the woods and met up with my brother at his stand. He hadn't seen the buck, but had seen some does earlier on. It's tough to hear about seeing all of these deer and getting no shots off. We weren't discouraged, but it was starting to feel like we weren't going to have any good fortune.

You can see the corner of the pasture from this view.
Nov. 8, 2010: The sky had cleared, the rain stopped and then the 5 mph gusts of wind turned into 25-30 mph cold gusts with some serious bite. We started the day in our stands with a slight breeze and the wind just kept picking up. A few of the stands were facing directly into the wind and although we are a pretty tough bunch, it can really dig deep into your bones. At one point, my dad went in to take down one of his stands while my brother and I took a nap in his truck. We had been in the stands all morning and I had devoured my two sandwiches, my thermos of coffee and even half my Gatorade. We rested for an hour and decided we had to give the afternoon a shot. We were out there and I only had one more day to hunt. My brother and I headed out to hunt the chunk of woods across the road from where my dad would be. I had a stand that was set up about 35 yards from the corner of a cow pasture. As the wind slowly died down, I stood in my stand and waited intently. An hour before dark I heard it. The distinctive sound of a deer jumping over a creek. I knew that sound anywhere, so I picked up my bow and waited. Ten minutes went by and nothing appeared. Eleven minutes... twelve... thirteen... movement! He was 40 yards out and coming in slowly. He was a nice looking spike horn and was following a trail that would bring him right by me. He then decided to turn and head toward the corner of the field. I tried to range the area, but there were too many small branches getting in the way. I looked ahead of the buck and saw only one spot for a shot opportunity. I figured it to be 30 yards, so as soon as he got to that spot, I grunted and he stopped. I was already at full draw and I let the arrow fly. Ka-chunk! He jumped, looked around and slowly sauntered off. My Lumenock failed to light, but I had seen my arrow fly directly over his back and into an old gallon can of some sort in a junk pile. No, he didn't jump the string. I had made a very obvious error. He was standing about 25 yards instead of 30, and I had failed to aim a bit lower as I was 20 feet up in a stand. My dad pointed that out later when I described the shot. A few expletives were ringing in my head, but it was a clean miss. It was my own fault, but I was glad it was a clean miss and that I hadn't injured him. I checked for blood and hair, but there were only hoofprints and mud on my broadhead. No one else saw anything that night. On our way home we saw two nice bucks in someone's front yard. We jokingly contemplated stopping and asking if we could post up on their porch the next morning. That got a chuckle out of all of us.

Nov. 9, 2010: It was do or die time as it was my last day to hunt. My brother had decided to hunt the opposite end of the property and when we pulled up to drop him off, my dad noticed a huge buck rub on a tree about 150 yards off. I kept saying it was nothing, but my brother checked it out and low-and-behold it was a rub. The tree looked too big to have a rub and it was out in the middle of an open field. It had been made the night before because we hadn't seen it at all during the week. We figured it might be that big eight we had the photo of. It was a hopeful sight and we all hoping to have a chance at seeing him. We decided we wanted to cover this side of the woods in the hope we would spot the big eight. I went to the stand set-up with the mock scrape my brother had made the week before and where we captured the photo of the big buck. For a long time I saw nothing but squirrels. Damn nut-eating noise makers! I sat in my stand right up until last light. When I started to pack up my things I heard a commotion coming through the woods that got my adrenaline flowing. I grabbed my bow and turned to look. All of a sudden a doe came cruising right down the trail and through the scrape with a buck right on her tail. He was grunting and snorting at her for all he was worth. He chased he around some small pines and then up through the woods. This all happened in about twenty seconds, and without killing a deer it was the best way to end my hunting trip. It was very exciting! 

I had a great time on this trip. Yes, I admit I was disappointed that I hadn't shot a deer, but I measure success a bit different than others. Success for me was being able to make this trip. To see my family and to hunt. Period. It would have been sweeter tasting if I had arrowed a deer, but I still had a great time. Now my dad and brother are in the stands with their shotguns and while I was writing this I got a message from my brother that he shot a buck just a few hours ago. It figures, I leave NY and they get all the deer. Maybe next year I'll go during gun season! A big thank you to my brother and sister-in-law for hosting me. Thank you to my brother and dad for taking care of all of the food, gas and setting up all of the stands, too. A lot of work went into this trip and I appreciate it all guys.

On a side note, I traded my small backpack for my dad's backpack. He didn't want it and I didn't want mine, so it all worked out. I was able to reduce my check-in bags to two and saved myself $75. Plus, the new backpack is brand new and perfect for my hunts!

My healthy breakfast on my return trip. Dunkin Donuts rocks!


  1. Dunkin Donuts, the food of champions!

    happy hunting, dv

  2. Well that just sounds like a great trip! Sorry you didn't get a deer but I'm sure glad to hear it was worth it for you. As you know I love hunting and just getting out there (most days) is way better then not going at all and you got to see deer. Which, in and of itself, is awesome!

    My congrats to your brother on getting a deer and I'm hoping you have better luck next time!

  3. Nice report on your trip and even without getting a deer it sounds like you enjoyed yourself!