Saturday, November 11, 2006

A mediocre day hunting...

...really is better than a day doing just about anything else,at least for me; and my son seemes to enjoy it too. My son Brendan, and I, took a drive up the Taconic Parkway this Friday (the observed Veteran's day holiday) to see what we could find in the way of a decent deer hunting spot. Brendan drove all the way up and part way back so it was a better trip than most for me with me not having to drive all that much.

I had already scouted out some areas on the west side of the Hudson River, now it was time to check on the east side. Truth be told, I had a few particular spots in mind, ones I had been to last year; then scouted out a bit earlier this year. As luck would have it though, before we got to the happy hunting grounds we had to make a detour of about 15 miles. Our first stop was a gas station, it took a while to find one. I should have listened to Brendan when he told me we should stop near home to get gas, gut I thought we had enough – a lesson learned especially since he was driving. Next time he thinks he should get gas he will, I had him worried there for a bit that we would run out because I told him 3/8 of a tank would be enough. Now he knows when beginning a trip to top off first. I could not have planned it better, to bad I cannot claim that credit – that is the plan part. Oh well, we gassed up, got some hot food into us and were off again.

We got to the hunting area, The Lafayetteville State Forest MUA (Multiple use Area), and drove to the half of it in which Brendan had a doe permit. We parked the Ford, grabbed our gear, took a compass reading to know which way it would be back to the car in case we got turned around; then we the took a hike, literally. It was a balmy mid November day with temps in the 60s – not the greatest deer hunting weather, but then again, we were not hunting – we were looking for sign. We headed up the hill into the woods, and in almost no time we ran across a deer trail with a nice active scrape on it. I showed Brendan how the buck has scraped away the earth to scent mark, and how bucks prefer to do so under the low hanging branches of a shrub or tree. The branches had been twisted and broken from his antlers thrashing about as he marked his territory. We made sure not to step too close to his scented area, and walked around to look for more sign. Before we left that area though, I heard a deer bleat/grunt. Brendan thought it had been a goose, and for a moment he had me wondering, but I was pretty sure it had been either a deer, or maybe deer hunter with a call since archery season was open.

We moved on, following the deer trail. It ran parallel to the road from which we had just walked, then opened into a meadow. We looked around for more deer sign but did not see any. Instead what we saw, or I should say what Brendan saw was a deer, just before the edge of the woods on the other side of the field, maybe 50 yards off. The deer spooked and took off before I could get a look but I heard it crashing through the undergrowth. He thought it had been a doe. That was a good sign, better than just seeing deer doody, rubs or scrapes. Bucks wind up where the does are during the rut. We were only about 100 yards from the road, and I was not surprised at all. I had told Brendan before we started off: “Don’t be surprised to see deer close to the road”. We then decided to head further up the hill straight away from the road.

I was carrying, my old and trusted friend, a Remington 870 with number 6 shot. Brendan was carrying a very reliable scoped Marlin 25MN in .22WMR; we were hoping to bag some bushytails for dinner, and maybe even a turkey or two with the shotgun. We continued uphill looking for more sign and came across a rub here and there, lots of deer trails, and lots of acorns laden oak trees. That was another good sign. While many acorns had already hit the ground and been devoured by local wildlife, there were still an awful lot of them up in the trees. This is not something I have often seen this late in November, maybe I just never looked up as much, but this time I noticed. Deer, and squirrels, love acorns. Hope was building that this would be a good hunting site. I was lucky to have found it while hunting last year; I was even luckier that Brendan was with me this year. It was just nice to be out in the woods with a good friend, and loved one. It was also nice to know that my 16 year old son still wanted to do things with his old man.

Shortly after we walked into the woods from the fringe, to check on the acorn crop, I heard a rustle that Brendan did not catch, or at least did not distinguish from the rustle of the tree tops in the breeze. Then I scanned the forest floor up ahead from whence came the rustling noise, and I spotted a busytail. I had not even loaded the shotgun. I figured I’d give Brendan all the chances. I told him there was a squirrel up ahead and he should look for it. He saw it pretty quickly and slowly raised the Marlin to shoulder level, but could not get a clear shot as the gray ghost disappeared for a few seconds. I softly told him to get down into a kneeling position and use his knee as a rest. He did just that. After about another 30 to 45 seconds of waiting for a clear shot, he squeezed one off and the little gray ghost skyrocketed into the air doing somersaults. I knew Brendan had hit his mark. We walked over to claim Brendan’s first gray squirrel, and the little booger got up and ran, he was not finished yet. Since we were only a few feet from him, I took the rifle and gave him the coup de gras. I had wanted to be sure to avo8id a ricochet shot. I gutted it, rinsed off my hands, and we had one in the bag.

We continued up the hill, stopping now and then to look and listen, even to smell. We saw a lot of crows flying overhead, and a lot of little chickadees (I think) flying through the trees and undergrowth around head level looking for their own dinner. We also found a couple more rubs and quite a few more deer trials crisscrossing the area. We got almost to the top of the hill, maybe even a mountain by NY state standards, and took a break. Then we circled around and headed down. The slope was pretty steep where we decided to walk down so we unloaded the marlin, and I double checked the Remington to make sure it was likewise. After getting about halfway down, we headed back toward a gentler slope. While I was plodding along, telling Brendan the deer hunting secrets of many generations (not my family but those I had read about in publications like Outdoor Life Magazine) Brendan spotted another busytail. He raised the rifle but again like a ghost clad in gray, the little guy disappeared from his site. This one seemed headed to a tree. We scoured the trees, even with me walking around a few hoping to spook it, but no luck. Yes Brendan had already reloaded once we got back to easier footing so had there been a shot, he would have been ready to make it. Again I noted lots of acorns in the trees in this particular spot. Another good sign.

It was getting on late into the afternoon, and we had wanted to find one other MUA before heading home, so we headed back toward the car. Back near the road, Brendan saw another deer. I just got to see the flash of its white tail flagging a warning to any other deer in the area. Another good sign for sure. We reached the car, then drove to the other location. We did not get out to scout around there, it was getting to late. Anyway. that was going to be a back up location in the event the first place wound up having to many knucklehead hunters on opening day. I thought maybe we could scout it out next weekend, then I remembered, heck next Saturday would be day one of the regular deer season; heck where had the time gone – deer season only a week away.

One the drive home we talked about deer and such things as a dad will talk to his son about and actually have the son answer back. It was a nice drive. Once we were home the hunting clothes went into the washer to be ready for next week. After that I cleaned up the sole squirrel Brendan had bagged then fried in us in some breadcrumbs. I ate some right after cooking it – delicious. Brendan had a piece the next day and ate it cold like cold fried chicken (no it does not taste like chicken, more like rabbit, but not quite). Brendan liked it. That too was a good of more good hunting days to come for father and son.

I am anxiously awaiting next week’s opening day, so too I think is Brendan. As opposed to my usual several days to week long hunt, this one will be a day hunt as Brendan has work the next day. Maybe I’ll get a few more days in before Thanksgiving, and we plan to go Friday and Saturday, as a team, right after Thanksgiving day. It surely would be sweet if he bags a deer in his first deer hunting season. I sure hope so, but even if he doesn’t, he knows the thrill and enjoyment of the hunt is not just in the bagging of the game. We will have a great time hunting together even if we don’t bag a thing.