What the Log Tells Me

I have been compiling a deer log for a number of years.  It contains pertinent data on every deer the family has taken since I got my start in the early 80’s.  I didn’t start compiling it until about a decade ago, but I knew the dates and times of the kills.  From there, I was able to extract a lot of items. For instance, you can get the weather info from Accuweather.com and the Weather Underground.

My latest addition was the age of the moon at the time of the kill. I’d recorded the phase (Full, New, etc.); however, I wanted to be a bit more exact.  This site gives the age of the moon in days for a given month/year. What I found was that we have taken more deer on a waxing rather than a waning moon, and the average age of the moon when we’ve killed deer is 11 days.  Furthermore, morning hunts were dramatically more successful than evening hunts under a waning moon.

Our camp has had a lot better success in the morning than the evening.  I can think of a bunch of reasons for that that are not related to deer activity.  First off, a hunter in our camp usually takes at least a half-day rest after killing a deer.  Therefore, if you bag one in the morning, you are less likely to hunt in the afternoon.  Additionally, we have generally stopped hunting at noon on Sunday. The reason is the practicalities of getting home for work on Monday as well as the nigh-impossibility to find a processor open late on Sunday.  However, there is a 3-to-2 difference of AM vs PM kills. As I mentioned in the post yesterday, the big revelation in this log is in the time the deer were shot.  Far and away, the best time for us has been 0800 to 0900, followed by 0900 to 1000. The last hour of light comes in third.  Before 0800, there are only a handful, but they include two of our biggest bucks

Weather is a definte factor. I track temperature, pressure, wind and precipitation.

Temperature: A lot of the temperature data is going to be skewed due to where we are and how and when we hunt.  What I can say is that no deer have been shot with the temperature below 32 F or above 69 F.  In the afternoon, the temperatures have been evenly distributed.  In the morning, there were about the same number of deer taken above 42 F as below. Remember this is Mid-to-Late November in Greater Ohio Valley.  These are normal temperatures for the region.

Barometric Pressure:  There is a 3-to-2 relationship of a rising or steady barometer versus a falling one.  The way it was explained to me was that cows, deer, and their ilk experience bloating when the outside pressure falls. Their response is to bed down.  That makes sense. Somewhere along the way, I heard 29.80 to 30.28 was the comfort zone for deer.  The data indeed shows that our kills were 4-to-1 in the comfort zone versus out of the zone. However, I would caution that November in the Greater Ohio Valley usually sees the barometer in that zone. Only 1 deer in 10 were taken below 29.80.

Wind:  The average wind speed when the deer were taken was 5.6 MPH.  We have shot 5 deer in wind speeds over 10 MPH, and one at 24 MPH.  However, 4-to-1, the cutoff seems to be at 7 MPH. As far as direction, the data favors WSW and SW and very few deer were taken with winds blowing from NE to ESE. None were taken with winds blowing directly from N.

Clouds and Rain: The cloud cover is fairly evenly distributed. However, we have only one kill registered in the rain. I remember that one vividly. I was holed up in the luxury box at Midway overlooking the Garden of Stone. We had been getting squalls of horizontal rain since first light. When the rain let up around 0900 a herd of doe came out to feed. The lead doe stuck her head in the blind. She got away, but one of the doe trailing her got Whelenized. Is hunting in the rain bad? No. I personally do not enjoy it all that much, but that is because it is hard on gear. What I usually do is stay inside until I can see the rain ending, and then make sure I am in position for when the rain stops.

Why no snow?  Simple, it hardly ever snows during October and November. I have hunted exactly once in the past 15 years with snow on the ground in November.  I saw a nice buck, but I had already filled my tag.-


Should I Stay Out All Day?

I know a lot of writers encourage folks to stay out all day.  I don’t.  A good reason is that I can come in. Deer Camp is less than a mile from my furthest stand, and I can usually call for a pickup and have a truck out in 15 minutes.  My routine is about the same throughout season. I try to be up in the stand a half-hour before legal hunting and I stay until 1030-1100, and then I’m back out in the afternoon with about 3 hours of hunting before end of legal hunting.

For the Rifle Opener in KY, that equates to:
Morning: 0615 to 1100 Afternoon: 1500 to 1755

My reasons for a 4-hour hiatus at midday are:

1) As the patriarch of deer camp, I have responsibilities.
2) Although I seldom hunted all day, I’m 58 now. It’s good to get in and give myself a break.
3) I change clothing, rifles, and gear, because I usually change venues from morning to afternoon.

What I can tell you from analysis of our log is that:

The 0800-0900 block sees the most deer killed, followed by the 0900-1000 hour. Third is the last hour of daylight. We have recorded only 7 kills between 1100 and 1700 in 15 years. Surprisingly, we’ve only recorded 4 kills before 0800 in that same time frame, but 3 of the 4 were our biggest bucks.

Another thing I can tell you is that my neighbors, voting with their rifles concur. During the peak activity there may be 3 shot-strings per minute. From 1100 to 1700 there are maybe 3 per hour. There just are not that many deer being taken.

If you’re planning your strategy for this year, one thing I would suggest is that you try to be the first in and the last out of the woods in the morning.  My reason for saying this is I have been in the same Opening Day stand for 12 seasons.  The neighbors, the Orange Army like to fire up their ATV’s well after I get in my stand.  That is also about the time I begin hearing deer moving in a big way off the neighboring property and onto mine.  Similarly, in the 9 O’Clock hour, they usually crank up their ATV’s and head back in.  I hear the same crashing through the forest as the deer run to get out of the way.  Make sure you the deer are running towards you and not away.


KY Muzzleloader Season Come and Gone

I only write this to mark the passing of KY’s Early Muzzleloader Season. It’s over; that is about all you need to know. All in all, it was not as lousy as it could have been. It was not the hottest, although we had temperatures in the mid-80’s. It was windy, but it was not as bad as some years. We heard a few shots. Everyone got out safe. It was pretty.
The View from Campground

If you’re going to bitch about it Shaman, why even go out?

That’s a good question. I can tell you there are good reasons, especially now.

For starters, Early Muzzleloader Season has become a practice run for the real thing. It comes exactly a month before Rifle Season starts. If we use it as a dress rehearsal, all the big issues are fairly well addressed before The Opener. Besides my Hawken, I try to have all my deer rifles properly sighted-in. The skirts are on the treestands. Most of the clothes are prepped and ready. This year was perfect in that regard because the weather was so warm I did not touch The Big Orange Clown Suit, except it bring it out briefly for a final examination.

Getting out this past weekend was also a good time to get in touch with all that nostalgia for The Good Old Days. Back when I was still bowhunting, October weekends not November’s, were the high holidays. My biggest bow kills all came on this weekend that usually marks the False Rut. It is nice to be in the stand. It’s now going on 10 seasons since I pulled a bow. I really don’t miss it as a whole. Don’t get me started on bow hunting again.

Then there’s the Hawken itself. This is all supposed to be a celebration of Primitive Weapons. Deep down inside, my Thompson Center .54 Hawken is my favorite firearm. There is just something about it, the way it feels in my hand, the sound of the lock, the smell. THIS is a deer rifle. The problem is that I’ve only taken two deer with it, and had it misfire on three more. On the other hand, I can’t count the number of times I have counted coup on a deer. The Hawken has the option of leaving the hammer in the half-cock position and working the triggers normally. As a result, I can go through the whole process of shooting a deer without actually busting a cap. I find this immensely satisfying. That “Click” of the hair trigger with the sights on a nice fat doe is nearly as good as it gets.

If I could have managed one or two of those over the weekend, I’d probably be feeling better. However, I had only two opportunities and they both came to naught. Saturday was a complete shutout. All I heard were two snorts, both from deer too far away for them to be concerned with me. Sunday’s first opportunity was keenly sublime. I had just gotten settled in my stand at Campground. I was bathed in the light of the full moon, a half-hour before the beginning of legal hunting. I had not had a chance to load the rifle, and it was just a good time to relax and soak up the vibe and remember all the early mornings over all the years, bathed in moonlight. In the midst of all this reverie, a doe came out into the field to feed. It was probably the perfect broadside shot, 15 yards, standing just in the opening in the fence. However, she was in the shade, and I could not see head versus tail let alone where to put the shot. By the time legal hunting came, she had wandered off.

The second opportunity came just as I was contemplating leaving at 10. It was getting warm. I was beginning to sweat. It was time to get back and start shutting up Camp. With that thought, a doe came around the tree on the right side of that same opening in the fence and stared straight at me with not a moment’s hint of having fooled her. Three of her compatriots gamboled about the field, but our eyes remained locked on each other. This went on for only a couple of minutes before she blew the alarm and trotted off. I had been bested by a second-year doe.

When I got in, I found SuperCore’s new CVA muzzleloader had malfunctioned on a nice buck coming out of Skunk Hollow. All the rattling around on the ATV had caused the scope mount to come loose. The bullet had gone somewhere in the general direction of the buck, but it seemed to have done no harm.


Mooselette’s Training Begins

It was a big weekend for Mooselette, #1 Granddaughter.

First off, she got Grandpa’s “This is a gun” speech. All my kids got this speech somewhere between 3 and 5.

1) Let the kid handle an unloaded firearm. Let them see that it is about as interesting as a hammer.
2) Show the kid what ammunition looks like.
3) Introduce proper handling procedures.
4) Explain what to do if they ever encounter a firearm (leave the room and tell an adult)
5) Promise that from there on out, the kid can examine any firearm at any time, but they have to come through you.

I got this speech from my Dad at age 4 around 1962. He used his Winchester Model 12, and some trap loads. Once I realized firearms were fairly boring, I had no interest in them until I got old enough to shoot them myself. It was enough to know what they were. I took my Dad up on the promise to examine his shotgun maybe twice as I was growing up, before I was taken to the range and taught to shoot trap.

Mooselette’s training continued with the trip to the big tree. There is an old box elder about 150 yards from the house. At age 4, the child is given a compass, a whistle, and a walkie-talkie and sent on their first solo hike to the big tree and back. This is a major rite of passage. The need to keep a cool head, stay on task, and learn to work on their own. I won’t say Mooselette passed the test. She

still has some work to do, but she did get all the way out and all the way back. My guess is that girls and boys develop at different rates, and she just has some growing to do.

Grandpa and Mooselette then had their first hike with firearms. I brought an unloaded single-shot shotgun. Mooselette brought her unloaded BB gun. We had a 3/4 mile hike from the house back to the campground and Mooselette got to learn the proper way to carry. At this stage of the game, it is important to just teach concepts. As a for-instance, don’t point the barrel at anyone, any time. At 4, this is a daunting task. However, if you introduce it as a puzzle and a game, it is a lot easier for the little ones to figure out. At this point, she has just the cross-body carry down. However, she has it down flat. Most importantly, she is treating the firearm with proper respect and not dragging it or swinging it. She also stayed on task and carried it the whole distance with only two rests on the way. She is years away from carrying a loaded weapon afield, but by the time she gets there, it will be second nature to her.

In the evening Mooselette got a trip out to the deer blind with Grandpa for her first good view of deer in the wild. She whined and whinged for a bit. That was until the buck showed up. Oh Boy! Her tune soon changed. He eventually came up within 40 yards of the blind. It is funny, but all that cartoon animal, Bambi loving, crapola evaporated in a split second when that kid saw a buck presenting a broadside shot. The hunter spark flared up. She saw venison. She also got to hear a couple of flocks of turkeys flying up to roost on either side of Dead Skunk Hollow. Wow! that kid is a born turkey hunter.

On Saturday Morning, Mooselette and I went squirrel hunting for the first time. If we had actually seen squirrels it would have been better. However, like the trip to the big tree, she has some growing to do. I’m sure that if we had serious contact with the squirrels, it would have been different.

This is the time of year when we get our treestands in order for firearm hunting. That entails placing camo skirts on all the shooting rails. Mooselette came along and got to climb up into a buddy stand with Big Daddy Moose. She is probably not ready for a full 15-foot climb, but the stand out at Blackberry has two sections removed. It was the perfect venue for a first climb. It also meant we could cover safety harnesses at a later date. The important concepts of keeping 3 points of contact and obeying instructions are all that matters at this point. She did a very good job.

Before going home, Mooselette got her first try shooting the BB Gun. She caught on right away and started hitting the target. She loved shooting with Daddy. Moose is a good father and a gentle teacher.


Groundhog Day at Camp

We’ve been at our place since September 2011. The World Trade Center was still smouldering. I had not bagged a Groundhog in well over 5 years. Y’all have to remember that I was close to giving up in those days. I’d lost every one of my good hunting spots. There really wasn’t time to hunt. When I did get out, it was for something a bit more serious– deer and turkey. Groundhog just wasn’t high on my list if I was going to have to drive a couple hours.

We’ve had a load of deer and turkey come off our property. We’ve bagged coyote and squirrel. We’ve had elk and bear and bobcat, but the one game that has eluded us is groundhog. Part of it is the coyotes being around. Part of it the lack of good food for them. We have had one occasionally show up, but never for long, and usually, it has been close to one of the barns.

Sunday, everyone had left before Noon. I stayed behind to lock up and get one last deer rifle sighted in. It was O.T.’s 25-06 Mauser. I miss O.T. His deer rifle is all I have left. I was checking to make sure the 117 grain Hornady’s were still grouping well.

On the fourth round, a nice fat groundhog interrupted my shooting. He walked out in front of the 100-yard target stand and stood up on his hind legs.

As a varmint round, I can say the .257 117 grain Hornady Interlock SPBT is not explosive. I had a nice entry and exit, about what you’d expect of a deer round on a whistle pig. After that, I decided things were good enough and packed up.