Opening day of the regular firearm season for deer and black bear is in 10 days. This can mean something different for each hunter out there. For bowhunters, it means you have 10 days to connect with your deer before he could be taken by someone with a rifle.
For trappers, it can mean having to pull your traps before you risk hunters finding your catch and deciding to shoot it with something that will make the pelt worthless. And for procrastinators who gun hunt, it means 10 days to sight in your firearm and get you gear ready.
If you are an archery hunter or using your muzzleloader privilege to use a crossbow, the clock is ticking before the woods are saturated with hunters and your target buck can get shot, head for heavy cover to hide, or turn nocturnal. The rut is in full effect now with does coming into heat. Bucks will go into lockdown once they find a doe that is in heat. They won’t leave her for pretty much anything. Once she lets him breed her though, he has to start looking again for another doe that is ready to breed. In either case, the best bet is to hunt tight to bedding areas on pinch points where deer coming or going must travel.
Sneak your way in, being extremely careful to be stealthy and to make sure the wind doesn’t blow your scent into the bedding area. Since the bucks are active pretty much non-stop now, be prepared to sit in your stand for as long as you can. The middle of the day, from 10 to 2, can be surprisingly good for harvesting a mature buck as he starts searching for a new doe.
If you can’t hunt close to the bedding area, feeding areas can be a good second option. Does will stay on their feeding and bedding schedules for the most part, so bucks know to come check for does that are in heat by checking the from downwind of the feeding area. Deer can become very vocal in the rut, so consider using a grunt tube or a doe bleat either blindly calling every so often or when you see a deer at a distance.
Gun hunters who have waited until the last moment to prepare for the season can still get everything done on time, short of food plot type work. If you need to sight your firearm in, make sure you have your range bag packed with everything you need to get it done in one session. Targets, ammunition, and hearing protection are obvious. Some often overlooked gear includes a quality rest or sandbags and a flathead screwdriver for turning scope turrets.
I have a Caldwell Lead Sled that I use for every firearm when sighting them in. I like being able to adjust the sled so that the crosshairs of my scope sit perfectly on the target without me needing to torque the gun in anyway. This makes it easy to repeat my shot without wondering if I did anything that affected the shot.
If you need to do any last minute tree stand or ground blind maintenance, get it done ASAP. It has been shown that it takes about 3 days for deer to go back to “normal” after a stand has been hunted. So if you get everything done over the upcoming weekend, the deer should return to normal by opening day. Make sure each stand has a pull-up rope so you don’t carry your firearm with you up into the stand. A hanging hook to hold your firearm while you are in the stand keeps you from having it in your lap the entire time, possibly fogging up the scope and it keeps the muzzle pointed away from you and other hunters.
A reminder that there are new regulations in effect this fall when it comes to big game hunting. During the firearms season, hunters MUST wear blaze orange or fluorescent pink when afield. See the NYSDEC website for the definitions for exactly how much a hunter must wear. Also, hunting hours are now half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset.