-Early Season Deer Hunting
-Scent and Scrape Control
-Understanding Moon Phase
By Forrest Fisher
At this time of year, sportsmen that live to hunt deer with a bow crave the sweet dreams of active outdoor weekends. For archery hunters, every weekend is a hopeful time for finding the deer in their reproductive rut and in full disregard for hunters and hunter mistakes. If only it could be!
In the archery woods, the deer-watching action is at full throttle way ahead of the season or the rut. In New York, the early archery season opens for six weeks starting October 1st, this year that’s 6-7 weeks ahead of the predicted fall rut cycle.
While the bucks always seem ready to mate, experts teach us that the doe’s need the recipe of shorter daylight hours, the changing low angle of the sun and the full moon plus seven to 10 days (after), to allow their hormone system to reach fertile. After that, they become more commonly know as “hot doe’s” or the deer that bucks are looking for.
From opening day until about one week after the full rutting moon, the deer often appear unaware that their survival-oriented mating season is coming up.
The deer meet in local open field food plots, oak tree groves and apple orchards each afternoon just before sunset and seem to have a sacred conversation of sorts. It is their habitual social ritual and they are perhaps discussing the sweet delight of sugary apples. It’s fun to watch them, it’s a time that hunters often learn quickly that too much calling will usually cause the deer to flee. The deer gather like that in groups until they break up just before the full rut.
The formula for when the full rut should happen is complicated, but most folks that hunt with arrows believe in the Alsheimer theory and this year, that means the rut will peak after the full moon in November, so the full rut will occur in the middle of November. False rut occurs in the moon prior to the rutting moon when bucks think they should be mating, but the doe’s are not ready. Scrapes, rubs, lots of deer action can occur in the woods and it’s a good time to get out there if you can.
Peak rut is the time when rutting bucks chase doe’s that are actually ready to mate, with some doe’s literally screaming for their buck to find them using their high-pitched bleat call. Indeed, their gesture to signify immediate need to mate.
During this October, a month before peak rut this year, the bucks can become frustrated, providing vulnerability for the deer and adding to hunter advantage with the proper use of downwind location and use of scent attractants. It’s a hot time to be in the hunting woods if you can accurately place an arrow on the mark of your aim. That’s what young hunter, Alessio Gulino, 23 years old from Clarence, New York, did last weekend.
Using a Grim Reaper broadhead and Diamond compound bow set up for a 65-pound draw, Gulino dropped the buck at 30 yards with a clean heart shot. Gulino says, “The deer did not even take one step, he simply crashed on the spot.”
Gulino adds, “Since October 14th, I have seen signs of false rut. I have had a few smaller bucks come around my food plot leaving their scent behind. Making rubs and scrapes, it been a joy watching the little ones. On the day I got my buck, I switched to a stand in a more wooded area. When this buck came out his behavior was different. More of a strut as he walked, neck was swollen and nose to the ground. That was my false rut experience, I have also been monitoring the moon phases, as well as the weather. To me, the biggest things that matter about the rut, false or full rut, are moon phase and temperature.”
Many experts will say, “Yes, very true.”
Mid-day scouting and a quiet walk around your hunting terrain in search of tree rubs and ground scrapes can help identify active buck locales. The bucks that made those rubs and scrapes are not far away and they usually return to check for tell-tale signs of a hot doe at least twice a day, just before sunset and again in the morning sunrise hours just before they head to their bedding area for a daytime snooze.
Once an active buck zone is located with the rubs and scrapes, there are a number of things to take advantage of the location. Savvy hunters set up in a tree stand downwind and wait for the buck to check his area, though in the meantime, you may have to willingly pass on multiple doe’s traveling the area because of scrape and rub marks, and the smell scent left by the buck.
This is where use of scent lines can offer honest advantage to bring the deer right to the hunter. There are two ways to think about using scent, one is to attract a buck by use of hot doe scent, also known as “doe-in-heat” or “doe-in-estrus” scent, and the other is to upset the buck and trigger him into a more aggressive mode with the use of “buck scent”.
The use of buck scent is working when you see the buck come back to his scrape and then start a violent surge of attacking the ground all around his scrape. He is upset. When that happens, you know this buck is upset and considers this area “his area” and thinks he is the dominant buck there. On the other hand, if he knows he is not the dominant buck, the buck scent may cause him to bolt away and never return, so you gotta be careful with buck scent if you are willing to settle for an ordinary six-point buck.
With “doe-in-heat” scent, you will attract whatever buck is making the scrape and by dragging a scent line from the scrape to your stand location, can win the prize of a possible perfect shot at a range of your choosing. Sounds easy right?
It can be at the right time of year, like now, when bucks are in heavy search for estrus doe’s and not finding many. It’s a nice time to drag a scent line tied from to your boot from the scrape area to your stand area, with the scent line loaded up with “doe-in-heat” liquid lure. Use a small piece of rag tied to a 6-foot string line for the scent line (drag line).
So which “doe-in-heat” scent lure to use? Some hunters will say they are all good, that may be true. In Western New York we have at least one source of natural “doe-in-heat” lure that is bottled from local deer herd stock specifically for hunters at Pines & Tines Whitetail Farm. This is a deer farm with over 60 live deer animals located at 7852 Lewis Road in Colden, about six miles south of East Aurora.
While commercial store versions of “doe-in-heat” are sold in one or two ounce bottles at $12-$14, most of these are chemical equivalents of the real thing. Pines & Tines sells an eight-ounce bottle for $10. Yes, that is a buy. This real nature local product has worked for me and many hunting friends for the last several years and we just never told anyone where we bought our hunting attractant scent. Well now the secret is out! Call Eric and Cheryl Lafferty at 716-655-5007, or stop in, there is a sign on the door that will direct you to the refrigerator stock of “doe-in-heat” and “buck lure”. Use this stuff sparingly to help you set the stage for deer hunting success.
One of the other well-proven local scent formulas made in East Aurora, New York, is Kishel Scents. Their mock scrape kit is among the most effective ever made. Born from the experience of a young boy as a trapper, several of my close friends have used the Kishel Mock Scrape Kit to harvest trophy deer in the past few years. There are other companies that make similar products, but for some secret reason, the Kishel Product Kit lasts for weeks and deer keep coming back.
Not saying other products are ineffective, we have all tried many of them – they do not all work, but this local Kishel Mock Scrape Product Kit is quite amazing. To visually see how a mock scrape is made, go visit this link on You-Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8irLbm7kCs. Without the kit, get out there, find a scrape line, set up your fixed or climbing tree stand down-wind and drag the scent line from the scrape area to your preferred tree stand location.
Gulino was hunting on his own land and using a safe, metal, fixed ladder stand with a full body harness for fall protection and safety. He put on his patience hat, sat down and relaxed until the deer of his choice showed up, took his time and made a very clean kill shot.
Prime time is at sunrise and sunset, most hunters know that. Don’t forget your full body harness to stay safe when you go vertical, anything less than a full body harness is asking for trouble. The most exciting fun of the year is between Friday’s and Mondays if you can settle your honey-do chores before hitting the outdoors.
Good luck to everyone on the water or in the woods!