NorthCountry Whitetails Deer Report #4 10-22-12

NorthCountry Whitetails Deer Report #4     10-22-12

 The message for the week– OK, you may see some rut related buck behavior but don’t bet the farm on it, keep hunting food sources, and whatever you do, tread softly. This is no time to put a bunch of pressure on the deer using your property.

Last week we observed 6.6 deer per hr. when sitting in stand. We hunted food plots as our resident deer clearly are back on our green plots. This is plenty of sightings to keep us awake, alert, and having fun through the entire sit. While we saw plenty of deer, older bucks were in short supply. And, as hard as we wished, the word that best described last week would be “calm”.

While we saw many of old young buck “friends” on both camera and sits, the bucks were the “same old, same old” with very few “fresh” bucks showing up to brighten up the sit or get their picture taken. The 2 shooters we have been tracking all fall never got in front of either a hunter or a lens all week. Behavior wise, the bucks were a little more restless, feeding along side does and fawns before leaving the plot for a new destination.

We are seeing the same “soft signs” (scrape making, rubs, using licking branches) by the young bucks but have yet to see an “estrus driven” chase. We are still seeing many bucks buddied up grooming each other and then doing a little gentle sparring. This is very typical of mid-October. The majority of bucks we photographed have very light tarsal staining. Again typical of mid-October.

Our cameras are starting to capture more “restless” behavior by bucks walking through the middle of a 3 acre field mid-morning without feeding and more pushing and posturing. What we are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg; good movement is soon to come. We have yet to see the older aged bucks show up on film with any regularity and when they do it is still under the cover of darkness. The bucks we are after always seem to be “fogged out” or “just out of range” (at least according to Neil). As we worked on this report this morning Neil did observe more than a dozen does and fawns “boil” out of a brushy hillside behind his house. They were acting as if something got them up on their feet and moving. A few minutes later 3 mid- aged bucks showed up from the same brushy hillside. They were obviously “bird-dogging” the hillside. Once the deer entered the food plot, bucks and does immediately settled down and grabbed a few late morning mouthfuls of clover.

About 5%-10% of you are starting to see more serious behavior by older aged bucks. The first possible “estrus chase” of the year was reported last night by a hunter who watched 4 old timers show up with a doe who was being “hard chased” by the biggest and baddest buck in the bunch. He ran her off of the field while the others stayed behind and decided to do some intense sparring or light fighting. Something about her was attracting some serious attention by this group of mature bucks. Our guess is, she just may be breeding as you read this report. If we had to guess, we would expect to see a real up tick in buck sightings by Halloween (for sure the week after).

As far as hunting this week, we’re going to continue to try to keep the pressure off. But, we pretty much have the luxury of hunting any time we choose and we choose to hunt hard when we know the big boys we are after are out and about operating in a fog of testosterone.  This year at Kindred Spirits we just haven’t had a good buck set up in a huntable pattern during the early bow season. Hunting mature deer is a season long chess match. Our plan is to keep the pressure off for now and slide in and try and catch one of the big guys by surprise when the rut kicks in. That will be a few weeks from now. For us, it’s a percentage game; yes, we will hunt, and probably take a few more does this week but we will hunt the fringes of the core areas and try to do nothing to alert our older aged bucks to our presence. We will probably be out there when the cold snap hits our area later this week.

Road traffic is up 10 fold, hunting camps are open, posters are being nailed to trees, and 4 wheelers are in the woods. If you think experienced deer do not detect and increase in human activity you are nuts. The last thing we want to do is have one of our shooter bucks run into a hunter the first time he breaks his nocturnal movement pattern and starts checking out the does during daylight hours.

Craig ran into (from the cab of his truck) two very nice shooters last week leaving the neighbor’s corn just as gray dawn was showing. They both took off in a hurry and headed up the hill into Kindred Spirits to wait out the rest of the day. They are working this field after dark and the last thing he wants them to do is abandon their core areas on Kindred Spirits for a quieter place to lay up. In a couple of weeks they will be up and about looking for does and Craig will run into one of them with a bow in hand.

We know you are going to be hunting this upcoming weekend and you just might catch a buck or two with a nose full of estrus doe. The percentages are still quite low but they will improve every day from now until sometime around mid-late November. You should still be hunting food as the does will be there and this early in the season does are definitely buck magnets. Virtually any breeding data you review will indicate that a small percentage of does are being bred as you read this report and the frequency will gradually climb, but the peak of breeding is almost a month away. The peak of buck activity and the best time to hunt the rut will come a few days before the peak of breeding. This is discussed in full detail in our new book Whitetails: from Ground to Gun” which we are taking orders for now.

Managing hunting pressure is the key to the game this time of the year. Over the years we have noticed that a hunting weekend followed by 4-5 days of rest will keep a property relatively fresh.  Very few properties are situated in a manner to allow daily hunting pressure this time of the year. Our mature bucks are still cautious enough to go underground after smelling a 12 hour old man track.

Once the “hunter’s rut” is upon us you can generally get away with more pressure but a little restraint now will pay real benefits in a few weeks. If you can hunt 2 days and rest 5 in a row until the hard signs of the rut are upon us it should pay off.

Call Sharon at 315-331-6959 to pre-order your book now.

Posted in Deer Reports | Comments Off

NorthCountry Whitetails Deer Report #3 10-15-12

NorthCountry Whitetails Deer Report #3     10-15-12

If we have one message to send this week it would be “don’t rush the rut”. It’s on its way but as much as we want Santa to come down the chimney, he and his reindeer are still at the North Pole. Buck behavior is still being dominated by feeding but some “soft signs” of the upcoming rut are starting to appear.

We are seeing more sparring by young bucks and more aimless walking about by young bucks without a brain but the old timers are still nocturnal, their tarsal glands are still relatively unstained and we have seen very little in the way of serious statements of buck dominance.

We have seen no evidence of the “rut to be” in does or fawns. No single does nervously running about, no fawns looking for momma and certainly, no abandonment of food plots and staging areas by does and fawns. We have always believed that doe behavior is key to tracking the rut. It is one of the strongest rut markers discussed in our soon to be released new book. Buck behavior can be all over the place, but if you want to know where you are in the rut’s progression, watch the does.

We have seen an up tick in older aged bucks on our cameras, we picked up 3 new bucks this week and we were able to identify another “shooter” this week. He appears to be 4.5. We now are looking at two as the one who disappeared last week is now back. He was on camera 4 of 7 nights and has Neil smiling again.

We have also had a number of “serious” rut reports from the field of bucks urinating on their hocks and tarsal glands, grunting while walking around and bothering does and more and more scraping being reported. But, over the years, we have learned that our rut watchers tend to report more rut evidence than non-evidence or for that matter “soft” evidence. Remember, we need to hear what you are not seeing as well as what you are seeing in the deer behavior department for this report to work.

In the interest of improved communication we have started a conversation around what constitutes a “chase”. We’re suggesting that we need to differentiate between a “testosterone driven” chase and an “estrus driven” chase; the latter being much more intense, longer lasting and sometimes violent. Some of you have characterized a “testosterone driven” chase as more of a “bump” or “flush” than an intense event: almost and afterthought or a “thought bubble” about to float off into space. Not the chase we have traditionally associated with breeding (or about to be bred). If native peoples from the North can identify 20 varieties of snow seems like the deer watching community can have a few meanings of “chase”. What say you?

So, if the rut is still very much ahead of us, where are we? From where we and most of our reporters sit, deer behavior is still dominated by feeding. Find the feed and you’ll find the deer. Last week Craig whined about “loosing” his deer and posited that they had left his green plots for browner pastures (acorns). Sure enough, the very day he wrote the report, they “came home”. He and a friend hunted green plots that night and between the two saw over 20 deer. This pattern held all week and sightings averaged 8.4 deer per hr. Every sighting included bucks that divided their time between feeding and “bumping” does who would have nothing to do with these silly boys. Contrast this with 3 goose egg sits the week before where you couldn’t find a deer on a green plot.

Our cameras reflected the return to green as well. Even though we moved some cameras and took a few sits in the oaks, the deer clearly showed a return to green plots. Our green plot camera photos were up 80% from the 2 weeks prior. In fact we logged something like 2,300 photos on a green plot while not breaking 100 in a few acorn areas. A little “ruminating” (as in rumen) this weekend confirmed that as well.

This does not mean that the deer you hunt are not on acorns or soft mast or whatever they feed on in your neck of the woods. It simply means that they are still food driven and on our 500 acre Kindred Spirits property they have cleaned up the acorns and soft mast and are back on the green. There is some standing corn nearby and they just may shift to that later in the season if it is still available.

On the management side, the return to the green has afforded us ample opportunity to assess our doe situation and more importantly our recruitment rate. Most of the mature does we have seen are accompanied by a single fawn or in about 50% of the cases twins. We estimate our fawn recruitment to be about .8 or even higher as it is looking better than last year. This is excellent given the number of predators in our area. It also is looking like we have plenty of deer on the place so some sort of doe harvest is in order. We need to do some more counting, but we have already started to take a few does out of our population.

As far as hunting goes, food is still where it’s at. Neil spent part of the weekend with clients in NY’s Adirondack Mountains and reports bucks all over the green food plots they planted. No fighting or messing around with does, just feeding and packing on the pounds for the upcoming rut. And boy did they pack them on. They managed to hang two bucks on the meat pole and both tipped the scales at slightly over a cool 300 lbs. live weight. They and another bunch of bucks they passed up were in tip top condition as far as winter weight goes and had yet to run off a single pound by missing a meal or bothering does.

We’ll hunt food this week and try to take a doe or two for the freezer. We won’t hunt the core of our property or any areas that we feel are holding the older aged bucks. They are starting to show and the last thing we want to do is take in the welcome mat. We’ll be looking for a further up tick in older buck numbers and some movement toward daytime movement.

Traditionally this period in the rut is a tough hunting time. The late summer feeding patterns are dissolving daily and the bucks are starting to think about things other than food. They are reorganizing themselves and the sightings can get pretty random. Unfortunately, they are not doe crazy yet and marching about with reckless abandon so there is no payoff in pressuring them or invading their core areas other than making and keeping them nocturnal. We’d like to recommend you stay out of the woods and rake leaves but that ain’t gonna happen so once again we will recommend hunting whatever food sources they are using and treading softly.

And, if you can bare to leave the rattling horns in the garage for another week or so, we’d do it.

Posted in Deer Reports | Comments Off

NorthCountry Whitetails Deer Report #2 10-09-12

NorthCountry Whitetails Deer Report            #2         10-09-12

We managed to get in a few sits since the NY season opened and can only state with total certainty it’s all about food! Unfortunately most of our sits were on the wrong foods.

The sightings while on stand at Kindred Spirits are less than 1 deer per hr. This is the lowest weekly tally in years but what is —-is. Old habits die slow and we are still taking “inventory” so Craig spent most evenings watching different green food plots that normally are used by a half dozen to a dozen deer each evening. After 3 zeros in a row on 3 different areas, he was ready to take up fishing. Finally on his last sit of the week he got into some real deer and was able to log some observations.

Our cameras are way off as well. The number of photos are still down 60% from past years as are our buck counts. The only cameras holding their numbers are in transition zones from our bedding areas and sanctuaries to our woodlands. We were unable to add to our unique buck count this week nor was Neil able to photograph the “shooter” he is trying to pattern. However most evenings the area he has been photographed at has been fogged in with few pics being taken. We have put more cameras on acorns this week and fewer on green plots and fruit trees that have already dropped their fruit.

Neil has been watching deer all week at his home farm. His green plots and soybean fields are filling up with deer and he has started filling his freezer with meat for the winter. He is seeing good buck numbers and reports that most of the bucks are still hanging together.

So how can both Dougherty properties be so different? In a word—acorns! The food sources (clover, chicory, brassicas, and rye) at Kindred Spirits are surrounded by thousands of acres of oaks who have just finished dropping their acorns. The crop is not as huge as some years but it has only been available for a few weeks and they are all over it. Our fruit crops have dropped and are already cleaned up.

Neil and Craig checked cameras yesterday around noon and as Neil was leaving the hill where Kindred is located he counted almost a dozen deer (in ones and twos) in the oak woods as he was driving off the hill. Bottom line, the deer here are spread over thousands of acres of oaks and we are not set up to keep an eye on them. We have moved more cameras into the hardwoods to try to catch them but without traipsing all over the place looking for signs, it is a little tough to intercept them in the oaks. The last thing we want to do this early in the year is start putting pressure on the deer using our property.

Neil’s farm has some nice plots including soybeans and corn but his deer are all over his green plots and the soybean fields. He watches them all day long from his office window and reports heavy feeding each evening and periodically during the day. The older bucks are coming to the plots just before dark. So what’s the difference? Neil does not have the acorn crop Craig does. He has some oaks on and near his farm but nothing compared to Kindred Spirits. Bottom line, they are definitely food driven and deer being deer, they are going to seek out those foods they like best and acorns almost always win.

As far as rut related behavior goes we have received scores of reports this week (and a big thank you for this). 90% are reporting deer in a feeding mode with few signs of the approaching rut. Many are reporting buck groups still hanging together with no interest in doe groups. A few “soft chases” have been reported and one or two chases lasting for 10-15 minutes. It is not uncommon for the occasional doe to go into estrus this early but from the description of things, these chases were testosterone driven as opposed to estrus driven. Scrapes and rubs are being seen as well as one very smelly buck but by and large it is still all about food with some “soft” rut related behavior. Our bucks are working the food and are not much distracted by does at this point.

We will hunt a bit more in the oak woods at Kindred this week to try to catch something working acorns. But, truth be known, we have yet to locate and pattern the shooter we saw 2 weeks ago and we want to hang back and watch until things start to happen. We are not taking does yet from Kindred as we are not sure how many or if any need to be taken this year. Our fawn recruitment thus far seams to be near almost one fawn to each doe which is pretty good for here. We will hunt acorns next week but be careful not to impact the property too much.

We got all kinds of reports this week of some nice bucks being taken. Most of them were animals that had been patterned and most of them were food driven deer. This is a great time to pattern and take a good buck. Your next chance to pattern them on food will be in early December after the rut.

Bottom line, as far as next week’s hunt goes, if you know what a good one is doing and it’s all about feeding, go ahead and set up on him and get ‘er done because in a week or two things will change in the woods and they will start to slow down on the food. Good bucks often go nocturnal during this period as they are no longer “on the feed” and not yet ready to start after the does. If you don’t have the one pinned down yet, there is a long season ahead and the last thing you want to do is put your deer on red alert this early in the season so hunt low impact and keep your eye on what foods they are on.

Your reports have been really terrific. Please keep them coming we try to answer them and definitely read each and every one of them.

Posted in Deer Reports | Comments Off

NorthCountry Whitetails Deer Report# 1 10-01-12

NorthCountry Whitetails Deer Report# 1   10-01-12

OK, bow season is upon us and it’s time to send out our first official report of the year. Prior years our reports came out a full two -3 weeks later (as did bow season) but we’re sitting stands and have stuff to report.

Craig hunted last night and saw 5 deer from his stand 3 does and 2 fawns. The first doe and her fawn were peacefully feeding on some late plantings of brassicas and rye (grain) when a large mature doe trotted through the far end of the field some 200 yards away. Two minutes later her fawn ran through as well, followed a yearling doe 5 minutes later. The running deer spooked the feeding doe and her fawn and that was it for the evening (an hour before dark). Five deer in 2 hrs. (2.5 deer per hr). Well below our usual sighting average from this stand this time of year.

So what’s wrong with this picture? Five spooked deer where there should have been a dozen or so calmly chomping down the groceries. Our good buddy once told us that when it comes to out of the usual animal behavior- “there is a reason for everything unusual you see”. This one was easy to figure out. Remember the bears we whined about all last year? You know, the ones that ruined most of our corn and caused us not to grow corn this year? Well they like clover as well, and momma and the two kids showed up on an adjoining plot last night as well. This put all the deer in our food plot complex on red alert and no doubt ultimately ran off the deer. A few more evenings like this and you all will be invited in for a massive bear drive to take care of the problem. They eat our fawns, they ruin our corn, they get into our garbage, disturb our cameras and they ruin our sits. Other than that we just love them! Especially the 6 in one pic. Neil got a few weeks ago.

But we digress, this report is supposed to be about deer not bears. Since we only have one sit thus far, most of our deer info is drawn from our cameras and reports we have been receiving from the field.

Our deer numbers appear to be down this year. We are about 10 unique bucks light compared to other years (we picked up 3 more last week) and only have identified 1 shooter buck thus far. We generally have about 3 shooters to play with and are hoping to pick up another one or two shortly. Our doe counts are down at least 20% but our fawn to doe ratios appear to be ok (thus far).

Our cameras right now are easily down 60% they are on destination food plots and soft mast sources like apple and pear trees so the down trend could be because they are feeding on acorns in our woods. Our cameras are up almost 100% on necked down woodland sights. Soft mast sources (apples and pears) are out producing green food plots 4-1 but the fruit is just about cleaned up. We are also working a few ideas like bear pressure and a poor growing summer affecting our summer feeding and holding capability. Next week we will begin “chasing” bucks with our cameras by pulling some from plots and taking a closer look at hardwoods (acorn places) and areas nearer to bedding areas. We won’t pressure our deer by hunting these areas until we have a good idea where the good deer are.

The state is also reporting deer numbers very much down in this area. We have always been immune to population fluctuations due to how we treat our property but at this time the jury is still out. Stay tuned. We hope to better understand the sighting phenomenon as time goes on.

As far as behavior goes, deer still in their late summer – early fall heavy feeding pattern. They are intent on putting on the pounds before the rut changes their comfortable life for a month or more. Bucks generally back off the heavy feeding behavior in about 2 weeks. Does and fawns will stay with it (especially fawns) as long as the bucks let them.

We expect it to continue this way for some time to come. Our deer have pretty much softened on food plots and are actively seeking acorns. They are also working soybeans heavily and of course soft mast. No corn use yet as our corn is still milky and no turnip use as they prefer them later in the year. Sweeter tasting (at least to us) brassicas plants are getting hit; turnips are not. A report came in yesterday indicating heavy food plot feeding and light acorn use and they had a deer rumen to prove it. Bottom line, they are still on the feed, what food they use depends on what is available and what they tend to prefer.

Right now the does and fawns are wadded up in small family units which are joined by other family units at social meeting places and food sources. The bucks have quit being bachelors and have formed roaming “packs” of 2-3 which, unlike bachelor bucks, are interested in interacting with doe groups. Some bucks have already gone “solo”. The roaming “packs” appear for a while in social areas and then seem to move on (maybe to introduce themselves with as many doe groups as possible?). Last week a pair of unfamiliar 2.5 year old 8′s showed up at an apple tree camera site and hung out for a few days before moving on. The younger buck deck of cards is being shuffled and reshuffled (fall dispersal) as you read this report. Mature bucks generally have their program set by now but much of it can be nocturnal (depending on local conditions and personalities).

We’ve seen and photographed some “soft” pre-rut behavior by young bucks that are making some scrapes and rubs and trying to interact with doe groups for the first time since last winter. We see a little “posturing” by older bucks to remind the little guys that they “own” this particular corner of whatever world they happen to be at any given time.

As far as hunting goes, Neil is trying to pattern the nice 10 (our only shooter thus far) but he is not cooperating. The buck is hanging with a young 6 point and holds a loose alliance with two 8′s. Knowing who he runs with, increases the odds of patterning him so Neil is keeping an eye on them as well. So far he has been photographed only at night but he may be working secure areas of the woods during the day. We will not hunt this buck until we know a whole lot more about what he is doing during daylight hours. To do so would be a major mistake as it could run him off the property or make and keep him nocturnal.

Next week we will hunt soft and hard mast sources to keep an eye on some destination plots and set up a few times on acorns to try to catch our “shooter” out for an evening snack of acorns and spring water. We will continue to work the fringes and we will stay out of our core areas as we have lots of season ahead to work with.

If you have a bead on a good buck, by all means move on him especially if you have him patterned on foods. In a few weeks, he’ll have other things on his mind and have to be figured out all over again. If you know of a good buck but have no idea of where he is, give him plenty of space until your hunt is more than a random event which depends on “lady luck” to deliver the buck you are looking for.

Send reports. It really helps us figure things out and we depend on them. A line or two is fine.

Posted in Deer Reports | Comments Off

NorthCountry Whitetails Deer Report Pre-Season 9/27/12

A big thank you to all of you who have weighed in already even though we have not officially begun tracking the rut yet. That will begin next week as we hit the woods to celebrate NY’s new and improved bow season which now opens Oct.1 (instead of the customary Oct. 15). The early opener will present more opportunities both good and bad. On the good side, we can hunt early deer “on the feed”; on the bad side we can hunt early deer “on the feed” (no typo). The early opener dangles the very real temptation to “over hunt a piece of property”. You can lay down a lot of boot tracks in two extra weeks and laying them down early can create a high pressure area around your property which can send and keep the older aged bucks most of you are hunting in a nocturnal pattern. Remember, the best hunting time is still a good month away so don’t blow your chances now by sending all your good bucks running for the hills. If you have a good one patterned and think you have a good chance of taking him, go for it. But, if you are not onto one, pick your days carefully and tread gently.

Most of you who have weighed in so far are looking for the older aged bucks you watched all summer to show up. Well join the club. We are looking for ours as well. No they haven’t disappeared. Yes they will eventually show up —provided you don’t over do it by over hunting and over working your cameras. Not really sure a mature deer knows the difference between a trip to a treestand and a trip to a camera.

So far we have identified one shooter. The tight ten is a holdover from last year who has made it to the shooter list (bet he is really happy about that). He appears to be totally nocturnal but had been hitting a large destination plot 5 of 7 nights. Last week his frequency went down (we think due to acorn drop). We have yet to draw a fine bead on him, so hunting him is out of the question but Neil is thinking about a few box blind sits (safe location) and maybe a camera move to get a better idea of what he is up to. Hopefully we will have more on him as the weeks progress.

Our acorns are currently on the ground and our deer are out and about chasing them down. As the crop is very spotty around here, (same for apples and pears) we will be hunting a moving target next week. They will be cleaned up shortly and we expect our deer to re-assemble most evenings on our known food sources (food plots).

A lot of you are mentioning fawn recruitment and setting your doe harvest goals. That is terrific! That’s the professional way to manage a property. We expect to have our recruitment counts done in a few weeks or so. Happily seeing plenty of fawns so I suspect we might be looking to take even more does than last year. The acorn drop has the count off for a while. Remember around a 30% doe harvest rate will keep your numbers steady provided the other predators aren’t getting more than usual. Count the recruits and look for .8-1.2 ratio fawns to does.

Sorry to go off a week early but we are really excited about the back and forth we have going with you guys out there and looks like we will be having some really cool news to share with you next week.

More next week when our official reporting season begins.

A little business though…………. We recently mentioned a new property becoming available on our facebook page. It received a lot of interest but much of it was “tire kicking” facebook style.

If you receive this report you are an official member of the NCW family so here are the details and an invitation to call Craig directly for more information if you or anyone you vouch for is interested: 325 acres, recently deerscaped by NCW, network of access roads and hunting trails installed, 4 new food plots (10 acres) currently green and pulling deer, a heavy cover property with high deer density and a good timber resource (some ready to harvest). Chenango Co. Near NY 88, ½ hr. N. of Binghamton, 1 ½ hr S.of Albany, and 2 ½ hrs. from NYC.

Best of all this property is smack dab in the middle of gas country and the mineral rights (gas) go with it. There is no gas lease on it at this time which means you can start receiving lease revenue and possibly a signing bonus immediately.

Those are some of the details that did not appear on facebook last week. We have worked this piece for 2 years now and Neil will be on it next week putting up a couple of Shadow Hunter blinds and finishing up by posting the whole place. This would be a great time to meet him if you are interested.

If you have an interest or any additional questions call Craig at his mountain number 607 695 9004. We don’t expect it to last through hunting season as it is ready to go.

Posted in Deer Reports | Comments Off

Welcome to the NCW Blog!

Welcome to NCW blog, check back soon for news and updates.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment