Whitetail wisdom

By on September 25, 2017

As most deer hunters know, October 1 is the opener of archery deer season in our area. We in Western New York are in what the DEC refers to as the Southern Zone of the state. I started out this piece with the thought that I would write a column listing all the deer hunting regulations, season dates, bow and crossbow regulations, yada, yada, yada. I finished three paragraphs and it was so boring I fell asleep writing it. When I awoke and wiped the drool off the keyboard, I wondered why I would need to rewrite what the DEC already has on their web-site or printed in their regulation booklet. All I would have been doing is retyping what they have written. So, let me just start off by saying for those that don’t already know, go to http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/28182.html  or grab the DEC’s booklet covering all the hunting regulations. They are free wherever hunting licenses are sold. Everything you need to know is right there.

Ralph Angelo with a monster 150 class, 8 point whitetail harvested in Missouri. Provided photo

Ralph Angelo with a monster 150 class, 8 point whitetail harvested in Missouri. Provided photo

Now, let’s get down to the fun stuff. What all good hunters know and all anti-hunters don’t is that fooling these game animals is what we love about the sport of hunting so much…not the killing of an animal. The challenge of being in that animal’s living room and have him not know you are there is what it is all about. A mature whitetail deer is the toughest animal in North America to pull that off on. It is one of the few big game animals in the country that outfitters will not give you a guaranteed harvest on.

Some readers may remember Will Falcheck, a veterinarian in Hilton for some years.  Will was a hardcore big game hunter, although he kept that under wraps so as not to offend any of his pet owners. Many years back Will had a plan to shoot the four species of deer in North America all in the same year: whitetail, mule deer, black-tail and Coues deer. He would shoot bucks only. Will figured that he would travel the country and hunt the first three species of deer and, if successful, then come home to New York and harvest his whitetail buck with no problem. The plan was going perfectly and the good doctor was right on track to do exactly that by harvesting the mule deer, the black-tail deer and Coues deer to start his plan. But the problem was that when he got back to New York where he has killed plenty of whitetail bucks over the years he couldn’t harvest a whitetail buck no matter how hard he hunted that season. So his desire to complete his single year deer slam was foiled by our local whitetails, proving again that the mature whitetail buck is the hardest big game animal to harvest consistently.

One may get lucky and kill one big buck in their lifetime, but only the best deer hunters can do it yearly. One such deer hunter is Ralph Angelo. If you read my Deer Dynasty column a few weeks back you’ll recall Ralph’s credentials. He’s been chasing whitetails for thirty years here in Upstate New York and now travels the country as well hunting deer to feed his obsession. I contacted Ralph which is no easy chore at this time of year and asked him to give my readers some tips that will help them kill their deer this season.

Here is what Ralph graciously passed on, “Most deer hunters know about scent and wind when it comes to hunting whitetails and that is still the most important thing to remember. Scent-free clothing and cover-up scents are all well and good, but you must do your best to keep the wind in your face when deer hunting.  The golden rule is that you cannot beat a whitetail’s nose!

“Know the deer you are hunting, where their bedding area is, and where they are feeding. Obviously, the more trail cams you can monitor the better. Early in the season you need to hunt food sources. The rut hasn’t started yet so don’t use grunt calls, rattle or doe estrus scents in October. Hunt the food sources and do that just in the evening. You are wasting your time otherwise and, worse yet, you can booger up your area with noise and scent which will move the deer that are living there out to other more secure ground. Also, when hunting food early, hunt the fringes of your area; don’t get deep into their bedding area this early in the year. Save those stands for mid-November when the rut is on and the big boys are at their most vulnerable. Also, and this is very important, find a route into your stand that doesn’t bump deer even if you have to go way out of your way not to be seen or, worse yet, scented. Always try to come in downwind.

“From Halloween on try to stay in your stand all day. The rut will be on and a big buck in love could make a mistake at any time of day. During the rut it is a percentage game. The longer you stay in the stand, the better your odds are to score. Moon phases can trigger deer movement, but the science there could fill a column on its own. Remember to be patient and don’t hunt a stand on a bad wind. It could move the deer out of the area for the remainder of the season. And like foul shots in basketball you must practice, practice, practice with your bow so that when the game is on the line you are able to do everything without thinking and hit that kill zone to win the game.”

Thanks to Ralph for his whitetail wisdom. The man lives and breathes whitetail deer and has stacked up more deer than many of those television hosts on the outdoor networks. As a matter of fact, I believe his family of deer predators would make a great cast on a show of their own.

Western New York has plenty of deer, so go out and harvest some tasty venison.

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