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Putting Pressure on Yourself

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020




Shortly after I got out of college, I spent every waking hour in the woods because I never wanted to end a season with an unfilled tag. I thought about it every day of the year. While many Adirondack hunters had years pass between kills, I was determined to fill my tag every year.

Luckily, I got off to a good start and filled my tag every year. As the years passed, I put more and more pressure on myself to succeed. With the added pressure, my attitude changed. Instead of going out to enjoy myself and take everything in, I began questioning every move I made. The enjoyment quickly faded without me even knowing it.

Instead, my friends and family took the heat. Since the majority of the days spent in the woods didn’t result in filled tags, my frustrations were taken out on everyone around me. I became short and irritable. If I messed up on a buck, I would take the disappointment with me everywhere I went.

As the season progressed and the deer sightings were low, I would become more aggravated. I would try harder and spend all of my efforts trying to focus on the negative events that were leading to my unsuccessful year. A few years I even went into the last weekend of the season before filling my tag, but I always accomplished the goal. I never did fail.

Maturing

When I began killing big bucks regularly, I realized that somewhere along the line, I had stopped putting pressure on myself. I no longer cared whether or not I filled my tag. I let all of that go.

Instead, I focused on finding big deer and trying to kill them. Instead of coming back to the tent every evening and complaining about everything that had gone wrong, I thought about the day’s events and how I would use the information I had gained to get the job done. I was now looking forward to every day. I took the challenge and made it fun. I got to the point where I knew I would be successful.

When you’re putting too much pressure on yourself, a lot of your attention goes away from where it should be. When you are hunting be ALL IN. You can’t have a wandering mind and think about what you’re having for dinner. You can’t think about the fight you had with your girlfriend. You can’t think about where you are going to hunt tomorrow. You have to stay in the moment and make sure all of your senses are completely aware.

You might only get one chance a year to get it done, and that one chance might come and go in a matter of five seconds. If you’re not on point, you could watch your dream buck disappear over a knob and walk out of your life.

Enjoying the pursuit will help relieve the self-induced pressure. You have to be confident to succeed and the confidence can’t waver. If you lose confidence, you can find yourself going down a rabbit hole that can be hard to climb out of. Every night I go to bed during hunting season, I think that tomorrow will be the day — and I firmly believe it.

Why do we go hunting? We hunt because we want to pursue wild animals and outsmart them on their own turf. We want memories that will last a lifetime, and we want to feed our bellies with the game we take. We don’t go hunting to wander around the woods with no hopes of catching up with what we are after. That would be senseless.

If you have had success regularly, you have the skills to get the job done. It’s a lot easier to relax and have fun every day in the woods. You need to trust all of your skills, then research your memory to put the pieces of the puzzle together every day. When you gain experience, you have to use the experience to help in the future. Experience is a huge factor that often gets overlooked. Many people have different methods when hunting. Some guys do things that go against the norm, but they still get it done regularly. How does that happen? It’s because they trust what they’re doing, and they let things play out in front of them without getting all worked up about it. They know that if they keep putting one foot in front of the other, they will get an opportunity. Opportunities come about when we use experience and stay optimistic.

I encourage people to ease up on the self-induced pressure. Although many people have never played baseball, you can look at it this way: Why are some great players great in the playoffs every year, while others are absolutely horrendous? Well, it’s because of self-induced pressure. When people put pressure on themselves, their conscious mind becomes active and they get tight. When they get tight, it doesn’t allow them to trust everything they’ve trained for throughout their lives. They let external pressure determine the outcome rather than just going out there, enjoying the experience, and doing what they already know how to do.

Try to get out of your own way during next hunting season and let your experience and training lead you to the promised land of deer hunting.

Spring Scouting

Saturday, March 21st, 2020

I had gone many miles and hoped to find something that caught my attention. Just like so many other hunters, I was putting the miles on in hopes of stacking information in my memory to draw from in the years to come.

Across one stream, over the next mountain, weaving around the numerous beaver ponds in the lowlands, I never gave up. With every step, I could feel success hidden throughout the landscape in front of me. Then, looking at my watch, I knew I had to begin cutting back toward the road. Hopefully, I would make it to my truck before it got dark. There weren’t any buds on the trees yet, so getting lost in the springtime jungle was the last thing on my mind. With hints of winter still in the forest, it was only a matter of time before summer would overtake the short spring.

The sun was barely visible above the mountain in front of me, but it lit up a tree in the swamp I had to cross to get back to familiar territory. Looking closer, I noticed the tree had been shredded by a buck’s antlers. It was the only promising sign I had found all day, and the sign was good enough to make be return the next fall.



Every year, I see people posting on social media about their spring scouting. It always amazes me that people are usually in areas that they normally hunt. The sign seen in the spring is the same sign that was there at the end of the season. Why do so many people waste time in the same areas they regularly hunt when they could be making much better use of their time?

It’s probably because most people get stuck in a rut and return to the same places to hunt every year. Although I’m guilty of it, I also spend a lot of time in other areas every fall. I might spend every weekend in the same general area, but I venture into other areas throughout the week or if I have an extended period of time off.

I use spring to explore areas that interest me. I’ll put on as many miles as possible to get a good idea about what went on there during the season. It’s easy to see if a few big deer inhabit an area if you cover enough ground. You will find rubs, scrapes, runways and beds, providing you get into the areas that are most likely to support those types of sign.

Another thing that many people do in the spring that takes away from the purpose of the outing is to just go for a walk without storing the information they come across. People begin wandering all over the place without studying the land in front of them like they’re preparing for a test.

If you don’t study the topics that will appear on the test, your chance of getting an A becomes slim. To kill mature bucks regularly, you have to put in the efforts needed to ace the test. You might not always put a big buck on the ground, but your studies will usually present you with opportunities that others don’t get. Very rarely will you get an A for effort when it comes to chasing big bucks. A lot of people put in a lot of effort and come up empty-handed. You need to find the areas where big bucks work, then figure out what draws them there. You might not kill them in those spots, but you could find a hidden gem over the next hill or in the next bowl. There could be a stream crossing that funnels him to that spot, but the funnel could be more than 200 yards away.

Your eyes and gut instinct will become essential to figuring these things out. You must trust both of them. I’ve hunted with many people who tell me they never have a gut feeling. That’s not a good thing when it comes to deer hunting. Don’t create a gut feeling but listen to what your mind tells you when you wake up every morning. Your gut will almost always be right when it comes to making a choice.

This spring, instead of aimlessly wandering around the places you normally hunt, try spread your wings and explore many areas. You might end up never going back to your “old faithful” hunting area — or you might find a handful of places that can produce big bucks. Never waste time while scouting. Good luck this spring. Hopefully, you’ll find a few new places or learn some new things about areas where you have hunted in the past. You probably won’t learn much if you’re scouting an area you’ve hunted for a number of years. After three years in an area, you should have things figured out well enough to score regularly.

I learned this lesson when I was a young chap. I was 20 years old, the I killed this buck. Although he does’t have a big rack, he was a heavy, mature deer. He dressed out at 170 pounds, a great Adirondack deer. He just didn’t have the genetics to have good antlers. He was a 4 1/2 year old deer. I found the area in the spring, and I killed him during the so-called October lull the next fall.


Recapping the 2019 Season

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

This year had its share of ups and downs, and it led me in a lot of different directions. My complacency ended up costing me a few good deer this year, and I’ve vowed to keep that from happening in 2020. The last few years, I’ve said that I was going to find a few bucks in the late summer/early fall that I could hunt with my bow or muzzleloader. Unfortunately, competitive archery prevented me from making that happen. 

  In the beginning of the year, I decided I would let archery become secondary. Instead of shooting, I would focus on the upcoming deer season. Well, when the time came to do that, I was shooting better than I have in a few years, so I hopped on that train and road it to the finish line. I’ll never regret doing that because I had some top finishes at national events, and it felt good to be returning to a level that I used to be at regularly. 

  As we rolled into hunting season, I had a hard time getting motivated. I used to enjoy every day of every hunting season, but as the years have passed, I have a hard time getting into it when the woods are inundated with leaf cover. It makes it difficult for me to be confident when I’m blazing my way through a jungle every day and big deer in big woods aren’t putting on the miles they do once mid-November rolls around.

  With a lot of rain, heavy wind and cool temperatures in the beginning of the season, the leaves came down earlier than normal. Before the leaves began coming down, I had some cool encounters with deer while hunting with my bow. I only saw one deer I wanted to shoot in the Adirondacks and couldn’t get a shot at it due to low light. I passed three small bucks with the bow before the Northern Zone season closed. I’ll consider this year’s Northern Zone bow season a success. I picked my days wisely and was rewarded with buck sightings. Although I didn’t shoot an arrow, I did have one good opportunity at a mature buck.

  As muzzleloader season closed and rifle opened, I felt confident about my chances. I found some decent sign for early season, and sign of that sort has led to a lot of my success over the years. Early season has always treated me well when I find where good bucks are laying down some sign.

  Going into the season, I had decided to hunt a lot of different places. Instead of throwing all my eggs into one basket, I would hunt different areas for one or two days at a time before rotating through many other spots. I also wanted to gain more knowledge about places I had scouted but not seriously hunted. On the other hand, my dad decided that he would do less tramping around this year and focus more on one or two places. As he has gotten older, he thinks it’s in his best interest to reign it in a little bit and spend less time still-hunting and more time sitting. Instead of putting on 8 to 10 miles a day, he thinks 4 to 5 isn’t too bad. The guy kills me. I can recall two or three days over the course of this season that we probably put on 10 miles in the Adirondacks, walking from sunup until sundown…………………but he’s reigning it in. I just go along with it, and I must admit that it’s awesome that he still gets around so easily. I’m not looking forward to the day that he does slow down. His presence is the primary reason for my success over the years. There is no debating that.

  The first week of the season, I passed a small buck and didn’t think twice about it. I enjoy taking deer, but I want to give it my best shot to take a mature deer. I enjoyed watching the deer, and I even learned a little bit in the process. After spotting deer, I think many hunters pull the trigger too early and don’t give themselves the best opportunity to kill the deer. Many of the deer I have passed tend to give several better opportunities than the original one I thought I had when I spotted the deer. Sometimes waiting for the deer to come to you is a better option than blazing down the woods. I have had enough experiences along the way to know when to hold them and when to fold them. If I sense it’s time to fold them, lead starts flying through the timber. If you don’t take the shot when you have it, sometimes you never get another chance. For some reason, that tends to happen with the bigger bucks. They have a sixth sense, and that quality makes them more difficult to kill than the immature bucks.

  At the end of the first week of the season in the Adirondacks, the region got hammered with torrential rain and heavy wind. Some places got as much as six inches of rain in less than 24 hours, and this weather event caused many changes in the woods. Places where normal pre-rut activity occurs annually were flooded, and many trees came down and blocked perennial passageways that deer use. With all of that going on and an abundant beech crop, my plans had to change on the fly: I needed to find some areas to spend time in since previously scouted areas became unhuntable.

  The first weekend after the storm was ideal for hunting. Unfortunately, due to other obligations, I could only spend that Saturday in the woods. My Dad and I hunted in an area where we knew there would be a chance to see some deer. It turns out that we picked the right place, and I passed another small buck that morning. After walking around the rest of the day and realizing how many things had changed, I knew we would have to do a few things differently after returning from the Midwest. 

                                                Off to the Midwest

  My trip to the Midwest took place a little later this year than previous years, but I didn’t mind. Looking at the extended forecast, I saw that we were supposed to have ideal weather conditions for hunting. Once I got there, that forecast went down the drain quickly. Brian and Dad went out a few days before me, so they didn’t get their normal time in the woods to check things out. This held me back a little bit when I arrived. I felt lost and didn’t have a lot of options to choose from when I got there. It was disappointing early in the week, and I wasn’t feeling overly optimistic about my chances.

  Brian tagged out early, and Dad missed a few deer, but I wasn’t seeing much. When I finally returned to the area where I killed the buck last year, things started picking up. I saw some deer and found some good sign. 

  Being the second year we’ve hunted in this area, we quickly learned that it’s essential to hunt active scrapes, especially if you’re using trail cameras. Although I have scaled way down on trail cameras in the specific areas where I hunt in the Adirondacks, leaving none in some places, I have ramped up on them in potential hunting areas in the region and the areas we hunt in in the Midwest. If you use the data these cameras give you and keep track of it for a few years, it will be easy to identify a lot of things that can lead you to success. We have learned in this area that if bucks are coming to scrapes, especially in the daylight, you should set up on those scrapes and wait them out. While scrape hunting isn’t great in a lot of places, the cameras told us we should be focusing our efforts around scrapes.

  When we are in the Midwest, we put cameras in all sorts of pieces of woods. This year we had them as far apart as 50 miles. We might not check them until we pull them out of the woods, but we will have gained knowledge for future use. Other times, we can use the knowledge we gain in one day and use it immediately. It just depends where the cameras are located. I have recently started doing the same thing in the Adirondacks. I now have cameras all over public land within two hours of my house. I might put some in the woods during the season and leave them until the next season, or I might put them there in September and pick them up in January. I do it to gain as much information as possible. I no longer chase cameras while I’m hunting in the Adirondacks. I found myself becoming too involved with seeing what was on the cameras every time in the woods instead of hunting. After gaining the information I needed from them and researching it, I no longer need them in the areas I hunt the most. If something changes, I might bring them back in and set them up again. For now, I’m content with different things I’ve found and learned. It has helped me achieve success on a regular basis again because my focus is 100% on hunting, not checking cameras or moving them around the woods. 

  The knowledge gained on my Midwest trip will serve its purpose for next year, too. We also found out that a lot of the big bucks were moving in that 10-2 timeframe. They weren’t moving at dusk and dawn as much as I would’ve hoped. When we are in good spots next year, we will know that those all-day sits could pay off in a big way. Putting the puzzle together can take a long time, but once you complete the outside of the puzzle, the key pieces in the middle will start falling into place. At that point, your odds will increase, and you’ll waste less time trying to figure things out.

                                November 11 came and went

  Traditionally, Nov. 11 has always been one of my best days in the Midwest. If I were to give anyone advice about hunting in the Midwest, I would say that being in a tree somewhere on that day should be a priority. Deer activity has always been good at that time.

  After the day got past me, I began to wonder if I would get the job done. I hadn’t seen many deer, and it felt like I couldn’t make the right decision. That’s when I got out of my own way and decided to listen to my gut after Brian and I checked a camera that had been sitting idle for a few days.

  A handful of bucks had been in front of it, and one nice 10-pointer was in front of it nonstop, both in the dark and in the daylight. After seeing that, I knew I had to return the next day. The day was November 14, another date that has been good to me over the years.

  I had a short sit, as the buck that had been in front of the camera the last few days showed up at 7:30. I made a good shot, and it died a few hundred yards from the stand. While waiting for Brian and Jeff to come help me recover the deer, I found out that Dad had also shot a big buck. After pulling the camera where he shot it, we discovered that his deer had also been in a scrape a handful of times during the 24 hours before he shot it. That type of intel is the type that allows us to succeed. Many people ignore the obvious things and just return to their “old reliable” spots every year. While we have those places, too, we might not sit in them at all on given years. We always hunt near the most active sign and the places where big bucks are working. It greatly increases your odds. Don’t waste time in wastelands, even if those wastelands were Walmart Supercenters in past years.

                                           Back to the Adirondacks

   As Brian, Dad and I battled sickness, our trip home wasn’t too much fun. Looking back on it, I think I probably had the flu. Now, a month later, my ribs are still bruised from coughing. It still feels like someone is punching me in the ribs every time I move.

  Instead of getting in the woods right when we got home, we let a few days pass. Looking at some of the sign we found in the woods, I think we probably missed the best rutting activity of the year. It appeared that bucks had been chasing does, as I saw the evidence in the snow to prove it. I also found some big tracks that led me to fresh rubs and open scrapes. 

  Although I passed up a few more bucks in those first few days home, the activity quickly went in the other direction and slowed to a crawl. As with anything in life, timing is everything. We just didn’t hit it right to stack the odds in our favor. Looking at the calendar, I thought we would be set up for success. It’s amazing how just a few days can make all the difference in the world when it comes to deer hunting.  In my younger years, I never would have known what was going on, but as I’ve gained many years of experience, it has become much easier to decipher everything happening around me.  Paying attention to these things, learning from them, and adjusting on the go are essential if you want to be successful. Far too many people repeat their process day after day and year after year, and these people wonder why they can’t consistently see bucks.

  As I wandered through the woods the week before Thanksgiving, I saw that deer were holed up in pockets……………here today, there tomorrow, nowhere to be found after that. I could see where they were digging through the snow for beechnuts and destroying different flats on different mountains. I couldn’t find any hard evidence that they were staying put in any certain areas for any length of time, but I did see that they were bedding right where they were feeding. After lying down and letting their dinner settle, they wandered to another area and repeated the process. I’ve never found as many beds in places where deer were feeding as I did this year in the Adirondacks. I think that’s what probably allows many people to have more success during heavy mast years. If you put on enough miles, you’re bound to run into the deer where they’re feeding. If you’re a sitter, your odds go down significantly in big woods when the deer don’t use their general travel routes. Instead, they’re wandering all over the place to eat mast crops and find does. They’re not cruising through natural funnels that does use when the food is sparse and forces them to rely on browsing to get their fill for the day.

  Although things got frustrating, I knew the big bucks were still roaming through the woods. It drove me to go the extra mile and catch up to one. When I started going to the Midwest many years ago, I didn’t have much interest in heading back to the big woods. After seeing that many deer and letting a lot of nice bucks walk past me, it depleted my interest from hunting in an area where I was lucky to see any deer. Now, I’m more driven than ever when I come back. The trip out there reinvigorates my desire to find what I’m looking for in the big woods. It makes me work harder and pay more attention to what I’m doing while in the woods. This approach has helped me become a better hunter. It has made me work harder. I’ve also gained a great deal of knowledge about how deer act.

                                              Put Your Time In

  If you followed my season, you probably saw that I don’t take much time off from hunting. I try to get into the woods as much as I possibly can. While work sometimes keeps me from doing things I want to do, the flexibility of my schedule also allows me to be out there more than many other hunters. 

  I kept at it day after day from sunup until sundown. I didn’t waste a minute of daylight. I’ve often heard people say they’re not hunting because the weather is crappy. Well, deer live in the woods and can’t escape the weather. That’s what drives me to be out when there’s a blinding snowstorm or torrential rain. I know that my odds aren’t that high to connect on anything on those days, but I know my odds stay at zero if I never leave the house. I’ll take the low odds over the no odds on any given day. If I only have a tiny chance of success, at least I have that chance. There are many people out there who are far better hunters than me, but I know there aren’t many who are outworking me.

                                           Remembering Why We Hunt

  Many people think I’m all about shooting big deer. While I like shooting big deer, I also like shooting deer. I don’t have any standards to passing on deer. I shoot deer that excite me, and sometimes a small buck might excite me more than a larger one. Every hunt is unique and carries its own challenges with it. I try to take advantage of what’s in front of me and create memories that will last a lifetime.

  While I didn’t shoot the biggest buck in the woods this year, I killed a respectable 3 ½ year old. We age all the deer we kill, and this deer was 3 ½. Looking at him, I’d say it’s safe to assume that he was probably never going to carry a big rack, even at 6 ½ if he made it there. The amazing thing about deer and antlers is that we will never truly know what could have been after we pull the trigger or release the arrow. We make a choice at that moment in time, and we must be good with that choice. Luckily, I’ve had very few regrets since I started passing up bucks 25 years ago. I may go home empty-handed, but I no longer feel the need to shoot an animal to feel successful.

  When you can go to the woods and not put pressure on yourself to shoot a deer, shooting deer will become much easier. Pressure creates tension, and tension causes us to do things we wouldn’t normally do. When I was younger, I put all sorts of pressure on myself to shoot a deer, and at times, the season became miserable…………………and I became miserable. I couldn’t believe I was letting deer hunting affect the way I acted toward other people. Now, I sit back and take it all in. I relish in the memories of past deer hunts and try to see if I can make new memories. If I don’t, I always have the other ones to look back on and smile about. I also love following the adventures of my friends. I cheer for them to be successful every day I step foot in the woods. I’m their number one fan.

                                                   Wrapping It Up

  This was a great season for many reasons. The primary reason was that I was able to go hunting. I also spent more time with my dad this year than I have in a long time. We hit it hard almost every day of November and early December. I’ll be forever thankful for the time. If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that time is fleeting. 

  People don’t see the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. Instead, they think that successful hunters are just lucky. I’ve been around enough successful people that I’ve learned many of them share the same traits. They are up early. They don’t waste time. They set goals. They give 100% in their efforts.

  I’ve also seen how hunting can bring out the best and worst in people. I’ve been able to witness it up close and from afar more times than I’d like to count. Egos get in the way, accusations are made, and friendships are lost. What makes these things happen? Well, it usually comes down to jealousy of some sort. If it’s not that, disrespecting your friends who have shared hunting ideas, tactics and places can lead to bad blood. In turn, people go back to places others brought them, then they bring their whole tribe of people. What happened to being ethical and respecting people? I’ve been told that everyone is brought up differently and that is what causes the dissention. I’m not sure I agree. I think it’s easy to respect others and stay in your own lane. If you need to make a new lane, then go ahead and make it. Find your own way.

  I’ve been debating on keeping this online journal next year. I ran into a lot of issues this year that were somewhat disturbing, including the major amount of money I had to use to fix my truck after someone decided to pour turpentine into my gas tank in hopes of stranding me miles from nowhere. These things I encountered involve integrity, ethics and respect. In some ways, I’d like to take all of you with me for a few weeks. I’m certain that not many people would sign up for a return trip. Nothing about what I do is easy, and I enjoy doing things that way. I enjoy the hard work. Yes, I’ve gotten lucky here and there, but nine out of ten times, the only reason I’m successful is because I simply outworked most other hunters. If anyone has any comments or viewpoints, I’d love to hear them. Send me a private email or comment below. I hope all of you had a fantastic 2019 hunting season and thanks for following me on my journey. I hope I made it enjoyable for you.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Thursday, December 19th, 2019

It was extremely windy today, with winds gusting over 20 mph. I spent the morning searching for the deer but came up empty-handed. I gave it everything I had, but in the end, I decided I didn’t hit the deer.

Thinking back on the moment in time when I pulled the trigger, I think I subconsciously made myself miss. Although I wanted to shoot a deer with my muzzleloader, I knew Dad had dinner plans and had to be home ASAP to make it to dinner for his reservation. I also didn’t really know if I wanted to shoot the deer. I’ve found myself lost in recent years between wanting to shoot deer and wanting to watch them. I think I just pulled the crosshairs away from the deer right before the gun fired. I’ll never know for certain, but my mind is leading me in that direction

When I walked out of the woods today, I was disappointed that the season was over. I already can’t wait for next year. I feel like I learned more this year than I have in a number of years, and I want to get back at it to see if I can use any of the lessons to help me be more successful next year.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Thursday, December 19th, 2019

I woke up this morning to a pouring rain. The season has been long, and I wasn’t overly excited about going out and getting soaked since I just recovered from being sick. I called my dad and decided to wait until later in the day to see if the weather was going to break.

By late morning, the rain had turned to a drizzle. I headed to Dad’s house, and we decided to wander around the woods until dark. We went to our old stomping grounds close to home, and I covered some ground to find good spot to sit on Sunday morning.

After battling the heavy fog and steady drizzle, I decided I better head back to the truck. I figured I would still-hunt and try to walk up on something. The woods were quiet, and it felt like deer should have been moving.

As I picked my way through some big oak trees, I peeked over a bank and stared blankly at the woods in front of me. Something told me a deer was there, but I couldn’t see anything. Satisfied that nothing was there, I glanced at the ground and attempted to take a step.

That split second was all it took for a deer to take off running. Pulling the gun to my shoulder, I couldn’t get it settled in fast enough to get on the deer. I watched a nice buck bound off through the woods. I was pissed at myself, but knew it was my own fault. I had lost my concentration for a matter of seconds, which cost me the opportunity to take the buck.

After taking it all in, I continued across the mountain. I did everything I could to make sure I didn’t miss anything in front of me. As the fog seemed to become thicker, I knew I needed to start covering ground to get out before it got dark.

As soon as I began moving faster, I jumped a deer and saw that it had antlers on its head. I pulled the gun up and found myself lost in thought between pulling the trigger or letting the deer walk. I settled the crosshairs on its shoulder but didn’t touch it off. Instead, I watched the deer when it stopped. I could tell that it couldn’t tell what had spooked it. As it looked around I knew I had to decide what to do, so I lowered the crosshairs on the shoulder again and squeezed the trigger.

When the smoke cleared, I could see the deer running through the hardwoods. It had a high rack but didn’t appear to be a big buck. When I went to look to see if I had hit the deer, I couldn’t find any evidence of a hit. The light drizzle had turned into a steady rain, and I knew there wasn’t much I could do without finding any sign of a hit. I searched the area until it got dark, then headed home. I knew I would have to return in the morning to see what I could find.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

Today was the last day of Northern Zone rifle season in New York. I decided to push off a bunch of knobs to my father to see if we could get lucky. Although, we didn’t get lucky, I did put some deer past him. He had a chance to shoot a good buck, the opportunity escaped him before he was able to let any lead fly.  He was really disappointed about it.

 When I hung my gear up tonight, I was sad that the end to the regular season had come to an end. As the years wear on, I gain more and more confidence and feel like there’s nothing I can’t accomplish. Where the season beats down most people, it motivates me to dig deeper. I had an awesome time this year. 

If you follow along, I’ll  try to get my 2019 Year in Review done in the coming weeks.  I still have next weekend to hunt with my muzzleloader. I’m not sure if I’ll be going out, but I do need to go to my local spots to pick up a few cameras I left there all year. It feels good to not spend much time in New York on cameras anymore. I got to the point where I was spending too much time chasing down camera cards instead of focusing on hunting. It has changed my game in New York and the success has increased. I still like to put a few out here and there, and I do have many of them spread across the Adirondacks, but I don’t bother checking them at all until after the season has passed. I just use them to gain knowledge.

Here’s a good buck my buddy Smitty killed this weekend. I’ve always had a great time hunting with Smitty. He’s a great guy, does great taxidermy work, and is a ball to hunt with. I’m grateful for all of the time we have spent together in the woods during hunting season.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

  I decided to go into the woods with my father this morning. I had a gut feeling about a place he should sit, so I told him to go there. I figured I would do some scouting and go back to get some of the stuff I had left behind to make my pack lighter for dragging the deer last night. We have also seen piles of bear tracks everywhere we’ve hunted this year.

  After getting to the blowdown I stored some of my gear in, I went over the next ridge and decided to hang out there for the morning. As it was getting light, I snapped my head up from a head-bob and saw a buck walking through the slash in front of me. This buck was clearly larger than the one I shot last night. I watched him for a few minutes before he disappeared off the bench I was sitting on and made his was down a ridge so steep that I didn’t think a deer would go there. It still surprises me as I’m writing this. Deer are amazing creatures. People have always said they could put me in a closet and I could shoot a deer. I never feel that way, but why that deer was in the place I was sitting, I will never know. I enjoyed watching it.

  After the morning faded into the afternoon, I did a few pushes to Dad, but nothing made its way past him. I guess I didn’t do a good job today on that end. I’d like to put one in front of him. Maybe I’ll try again tomorrow. 

  When we returned to camp, Josh and Brian told us about their day. Josh was lucky enough to put a nice buck on the ground. He shot it with a gun that was given to him a few weeks ago at his uncle’s camp in Otsego County. He made the owner of it proud today. It’s a Savage 7mm.08, and the deer didn’t run 40 yards after he shot it. Josh reminds me of myself. He has a way of following his gut to different places every day. Even if he has a plan the night before, he listens to his gut and follows its lead. I think this is essential to being successful.

Last night, Josh asked if he could have my Mead Lumber hat. I told him he could wear it and have it if he shot a big buck. Well, I no longer own my hat. He earned it, and I felt good about letting him have it. Hopefully, the Mead Lumber hat brings him a lot more luck in the future. He looks good in it.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

The forecast for the day called for snow from the get go, so I packed my rain gear to avoid getting sopping wet. Unsure of what to do for the day, I based my decision on what Dad decided to do. I wanted to wear snow camo, but opted to wear my rain gear instead.

  He wanted to hunt a valley between a couple of steep ridges, so I decided to go around the back of the mountain where he was going and set up there. I figured that he might push me some deer or we might intercept one if it had any intentions of going up one side of the mountain and down the other.  Although I hate hunting steep terrain, my gut told me to give it a whirl today, and very rarely does my gut let me down. 

  Amazingly, the snow held off until around 10:00, but then it came down in blinding fashion. Since it was 15 degrees out, the snow was really fine and fluffy. Unfortunately, it began accumulating quickly. Before long, I was covered in snow but remained dry due to my Goretex coat. I wanted to be wearing snow camo, but the falling snow led me in a different direction. 

  I sat in the same spot for the better part of the morning. Around 11:00, I heard my dad’s voice on the radio. He told me he was mucking around on top of the mountain and there were a lot of tracks up there. He told me to make sure I stayed alert because he had a feeling something might make its way past me. He wasn’t wrong. A doe and fawn trotted by me shortly after I got done talking to him. 

 For the afternoon, we decided to use our cut-off method. Dad sat on one side of a saddle and I sat on the other. This particular saddle offers the deer more choices than normal at each end of it. That’s why we decided to take this approach. You can read more about that method in my lates book, “Pursuing Public Land Bucks.”

  At 2:00, the snow was piling up, and I was battling to stay warm. At 2:15, I heard Dad’s voice on the radio, which was in my chest pocket. As his voice chirped, I left the radio alone. A buck had stopped a short distance from me and was alert. Looking at it, I debated shooting it and figured I would let it walk 

  When he got closer to me, I heard Brian’s voice in my head. He always chirps about having the 8-point rule in the Adirondacks. “If it has 8 points, I’m shooting it,” he always says.  Looking at it through the scope, my mind took over and Brian’s thoughts inside my mind won out. 

  I pulled the trigger and the deer fell in its tracks. I pulled the radio out of my pocket and said, “What did you say?”

  Dad responded with, “Did you hear that shot?”

“Yup, I did,” I said. 

“Where was it compared to where you are?”

I smirked and said, “It was me. The deer is dead.”

Well, at that point the fun was over. After dressing out the deer, we headed out of the woods. The going was tough at times, but the brutality of it made the journey more rewarding. Yes, we could have quartered it or deboned it, but there has always been something about a whole deer that burns into my soul, especially an Adirondack buck that gets shot on the back side of a mountain. When we reached the road, it was about 6:30.  Amazingly, I felt good. Brian and Josh didn’t see a deer today. Looks like they should’ve gone with us into the area we found a few years back. This year has been hard to figure out. 

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

  I headed north late last night so I could get a jump on the morning. Driving through the darkness on the desolate roads, I could feel myself inching closer to success. The season has been difficult, and things haven’t lined up like I figured they would on many occasions. I’ve spent time all over the woods in different areas trying to learn as much as possible for the future. Although my dad has spent a lot of time in one place this year, I’ve been like a mad nomad, wandering from one mountain to the next while crossing this swamp and that one.  I’m still not sure I’ve found what I’ve been looking for, but I will continue looking. 

  As I neared my destination, a doe darted across the road in front of me, and a buck was right on her tail. I slammed the breaks on and narrowly avoided missing the buck. Yes, the second rut is in full swing. I couldn’t wait for morning.  Right before I pulled my truck off the road and parked it, I saw another buck race across the road in front of me with its nose on the ground. I could feel something special in my bones, something that doesn’t come around too often.

  The alarm rang at 3:45, and my short night’s sleep made it hard to get going. Although I had no problem getting out of bed, I was worn out and tired. It was cold out and a little breezy. I wanted to get to an area that has always treated me well late in the season, and I knew getting there before daylight would be of utmost importance.  My dad was also going to sit in an area that has treated him well over the years. We felt good about our chances.

  As we marched through the woods, my mind told me I was doing the right thing.  Shortly after daylight, the wind began picking up and the snow began falling. Before long, I was blanketed in snow and chilled to the bone. Instead of giving in to the elements, I dug deep and stuck it out. When the day came to a close, we hadn’t seen a deer.  I ended up covering a lot of ground and got some intel for the next few days. I found a few places that appeared to look good to spend some hours in the vicinity of them. There looked to be a lot of deer traffic as well as some running tracks where bucks were chasing does.  Although today was unproductive, we will see what happens tomorrow. Brian saw quite a few deer today and passed a small buck. I think he said it was a 4-pointer. I should’ve probably paid more attention when he was telling his story, but my body is tired. I need to sleep. At least I’ve finally escaped from the dreadful cough that has plagued me the last few weeks. 

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

Over the years, I’ve killed a couple of dandies on this date. Unfortunately, today was uneventful. When I got out of the truck, it was 0 degrees, and it never warmed up. Although the temperature climbed to 15 degrees, where it leveled out, the deer activity was minimal. Donny saw a doe and fawn, but nobody else saw anything. Donny forgot his coat today, so it made his few hours of sitting a little miserable. In an attempt to stay warm, he sang the song “Maniac.” We all laughed at him and told him he didn’t have to prove he was a tough guy by sitting in 0 degree temperature with one sweatshirt on for four hours before calling it a day and heading home. 

  Snow rolled in around 1:30, so Dad and I decided to do a quick run through a piece of property to see if there was any sign in it. We found a fair amount of sign but nothing fresh. The area definitely has some possibilities for the future.

  With snow coming in the next few days, I’m not sure what next week will bring. I’m hoping some of the bucks get moving again in the areas I’m hunting. I’ve never seen things come to this much of a standstill this late in the season in the Adirondacks. I’ve seen it in other parts of the country but never here. I will be researching my memory banks to figure it out.