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Archery deer season opens in two weeks - time to get ready

| Sunday, Sept. 19, 2004

The Oct. 2 opener of the early archery season for white-tailed deer is two weeks away, making time a factor in readiness for upcoming hunts.

Naturally, archery hunters should have already been honing their bow-shooting skills on back yard targets and on the range at sportsmen's clubs, but there's more to the hunt than shooting.

Knowing where the deer have been active through preseason scouting is imperative for success.

Watching fields in the evenings, and spotlighting areas after dark is a great idea. But sometimes the best move a deer hunter can make is to get out in the woods.

Good preseason scouting in the woodlands includes checking out trails, feeding and bedding areas, and other clues the deer leave behind, such as buck rubs on trees and early scrapes in the leaves made by bucks staking out their home territory.

Knowing the high-traffic deer areas and the travel routes between feeding and bedding areas is the key to deciding on where to place your treestand when the season opens.

Sure, you can hunt deer from the ground, but as most hunters know the best way to score on a large buck or doe is to be high in a treestand overlooking the deer trails.

According to reports received from a few local hunters and Pennsylvania Game Commission field personnel, the Alle-Kiski Valley and the surrounding area has ample deer to keep the attention of hunters when the six-week season opens.

Most of the area is under the four-point-per-one-side antler restriction, whereas other areas -- depending on the wildlife management unit you plan to hunt -- are governed under the lower three-point-per-one-side rule.

Regardless of the restriction on antlers in your hunting spot, according to sightings and reports throughout the area, there are a number of legal bucks with a good amount of those "wall-hanger" trophy deer as well.

Morning or evening

While the deer tracks can be found throughout the woods, it sometimes can be difficult to tell whether the activity and tracks were made by the deer in the morning or evening hours.

"If you find a heavily-used deer trail that enters a field, the deer are using it at night as a path to enter the fields to graze," local deer expert Bob Kirschner of Murrysville said.

"If you plan to hunt near a trail heading into a field, use it as an evening stand. Don't place your treestand right beside the trail but instead at a comfortable and effective range on the down-wind side," Kirschner said.

Kirschner said that the larger bucks in the area usually come out into the field last, behind the other bucks and does. Knowing what bucks are in the area can tell you which buck you might want to wait for.

"For morning archery hunts, you'll want to have your stand located deeper in the woods and along well-used trails," Kirschner said. "Preseason scouting should have shown you the most active feeding areas, as well as the bedding areas the deer are using. Place your stand on the best trail between the two areas, and you'll see deer as the late-morning bedding hours approach."

"In the early part of the archery season, I usually stay in the treestand until around 10:30 a.m.," said Kirschner. "But in late October and early November when the rut (mating season) comes into full swing, I might stay out in the stand all day. For the bucks, the rut is what I refer to as 'the crazy days,' and you might see them running chasing does any time of the day."

Kirschner recommends not using any deer attractant scents that imitate a doe in estrus or a buck in full rut because it won't be natural. Instead, he recommends using only a "curiosity" type scent such as regular doe urine or young buck formulas.

Cover scents too -- ones that mask the human odor -- also should be used, but the scent should generic in the area you hunt, such as acorn scent when hunting in an oak stand, or pine when hunting where pine trees are prevalent.

Treestand placement

The height and direction your treestand is placed can be a factor in your success while bowhunting.

"You always want to keep your treestand high enough to help move your scent away from the deer," Kirschner said. "Especially in the morning hours when the cooler air warms as the sun comes up, and moves upward in the heat vector. You should try your best to locate your stand high in a tree along the top of a ridge, so the scent drifts off. If your stand in deep in a hollow, any deer passing above you on the down-wind side will pick up on your scent as the air warms, and it will be gone."

Kirschner also explained that when deer approach an area cautiously, especially if a deer call is used, it always approaches from the down-wind side, trying to confirm with its nose what it heard, especially if it can't see another deer.

"When deciding on a treestand location before the season, be sure to use the direction of the wind as a determining factor for which side of the deer trail to place the stand, and also which direction to watch from when the deer start moving along the trails," Kirschner said. "It's a sick feeling when a nice buck comes past you, but you are on the wrong side of the tree to take a shot."

The time is at hand to decide where you'll be hunting, and you should have several spots chosen by now or at least within the next two weeks.

"Do your homework now so you have the deer in your hunting area figured out, and get ready to have a great season," Kirschner said.

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