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November's woods: Dark, cold and damp

Novembers woods: Dark, cold and damp
The woods have suddenly returned to the norm of November. Finally, that pungy, mustiness of autumns decay is in the air as the hoar frost crunches underfoot. Ive even noticed rim ice forming on some of the smaller ponds and many of the peaks remain frosted. Sure, it all melts away in the heat of day, but its a good sign of days to come. The foliage is thinning quickly now and the woods are opening up. In the marshes, even the last of the tamaracks have lost their golden glow. Geese have become noisier and seem to pass more frequently; while loons are few and far between. Darkness sets in now, before the evening news. Its also a time to remember that the familiar, round trip back to the ledges that was so easy just two weeks ago; cant be accomplished in daylight hours today. Adjust your travels accordingly. The season has progressed into full on fall, with blustery, damp, bone-chilling cold mornings and snow spitting afternoons. This is the time that hunters love; its whether weather. Whether you like it or not, youre going to hunt because you know the bucks are going to be moving. The time is now here and youll be out there. Bundle up well, down another tall stack of pancakes and slug an extra cup of coffee. Its going to be a long day on the trail of the whitetail! Tips, techniques and tales of whitetails
Although Ive always enjoyed the hunt; I didnt grow up in a hunting family. In the Adirondacks, however, thats close to being considered disadvantaged. The only element of a deprived childhood I experienced was the lack of a hunting camp that was generational in stature. Sure, I hunted with friends and I hunted alone. But that experience cant compare with the wildwood education provided by relatives who arent afraid to tell you how to hunt and how not to get lost in the process. These are the same folks that will laugh at you until their sides ache, when either of the lessons are forgotten. Ive been both a student and a teacher. And Ive still got a lot to learn. Likely, the best lesson in deer hunting is listening well. Its about listening to other hunters and paying attention to what the woods have to tell you. With that in mind, Id like to share some sound advice on hunting whitetails that Ive received over the years. While I cant credit each source, rest assured; Im always open to further suggestions. On drives: Finish the drive. A drive isnt over until you meet the watchers and a watch isnt over until the drivers reach you. That is gospel! On listening: Although youre after whitetail deer, always be aware of the rest of the forests inhabitants. They can provide important clues of a deers whereabouts. Birds and animals will sound the alarm when their territory is encroached upon. The more alert and aware a hunter is to the sounds and movement of all woodland creatures; the better he will be at finding deer. On traveling: It takes a while to stop traveling in a ground eating gait, but you must develop a hunters pace. Step and look, wait, step and listen. You can only detect movement when you are motionless. Youll hear better also, when you are silent. When traveling through the woods, stay hidden as often as possible. Move from one tree or clump of bushes to the next and move slowly. Deer pick up on movement more than anything else. Stop in cover only, never in the middle of a trail or out in the open. Always try to keep your back to a large enough object to prevent forming a silhouette. On a hunters frame of mind: Deer hunting requires concentration and patience. You must slow down your approach and digest what you see to get yourself into a different mode of travel and look at things differently. You rarely see a whole deer, so you learn to recognize simple parts and pieces; just a leg stomping, a tail flicking, the antlers, the V of the face or even the black dot of a nose. On tracks and signs: Take note of trails and runs, look for signs of rubs, scrapes, beds or feeding areas. Weather really affects deer movement, theyre up and moving in the cold but down and still in the wind, snow or rain. Often the best time to hunt is immediately before or following a storm. These are the times when deer are most active. Learned the hard way: Be on the hunt from the second you step on forest duff; right until you leave the woods. Too often hunters are unprepared for a shot as they enter or exit the woods. Hunt early or stay late: Dont be in a hurry to get to the vehicle or back to camp, take it slow. If you stay with the hunt and concentrate, it will dramatically improve your odds of getting a shot; rather than watching a tail flag bounding off in the distance. On equipment issues: When youre in the woods, always carry your gun at the ready. Over the years, gun slings have saved a lot of deer from being shot! They should only be used when youre dragging. In the Adirondacks, redundancy of gear is key. Bring two sets of all essential items, an extra flashlight, extra matches, extra socks, extra snacks, etc. Get comfortable: If sitting on watch, dress warm and comfortable. A fidgeting hunter is easily picked off by wary deer. Small pocket heaters can make the difference between shivering on a cold morning or sitting still, tuck one inside a breast pocket to keep the core of the body warm. If youre warm; you can stay focused on the hunt.

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