The cold weather fronts this week had the deer moving about and starting to feed in earnest.
When the shift from summer days goes into autumn days, an automatic response of the deer herd is to seek out any and all feeding opportunities. I have long recognized the behavior of deer when the weather turns cooler and the start of early muzzleloaders’ timing couldn’t be any better.
After several hours on the shooting range, I was confident that any deer that crossed my path on the opening day would be in some serious jeopardy. I planned on meeting up with my cousin and we were very enthusiastic about our chances in this early hunt.
Saturday morning came and I was disappointed with the forecast of rain and more rain! I did have a plan B in place and that was to visit a couple of gun shows in Grove City and Rocky Grove until the rains lightened up or quit entirely.
We had to wait until after lunchtime before we would get our chance. I figured we would have about five or six hours of shooting time left in the day and the evening hunt has always been a good hunting time for us.
We chose to wait until the last moment to load our muzzleloaders due to moisture and the intermittent rain showers.
My neighbor had a blind with good cover about a quarter of a mile back along some fields of clover that deer had been visiting regularly. It seemed like a decent place to stay in case of rain and we headed out to the stand.
We had just started out and had taken the rifles out of their cases when a windy rain started to hit our faces. I covered up my rifle with my jacket and started to get pelted with cold rain drops.
This was no good for the black powder, but we were committed at this point. In about 15 minutes, we arrived at the blind and quickly got under cover and wiped down the rifles. Not too bad, I thought, and did my best to keep any moisture away from the muzzle lest it drip down the barrel.
We settled in and started to check out our surroundings carefully. There were three or four likely areas that a deer might approach us, so we split the areas to observe and made ourselves comfortable.
In a bit of time, I noticed movement several hundred yards away and after glassing the location we found several does being chased about by a nice buck. They certainly had our attention as they fed their way toward us.
Suddenly I saw some deer moving up a draw near us. They were cautious and seemed to sense that something was not quite right. Then I saw at a close proximity the shoulders and back of a pretty decent-sized deer. I put the binoculars on the deer and studied it before I would decide to shoot.
Good thing that I did, as the deer lifted its head and then looked away to reveal that he was a spike buck and not legal quarry.
We started to count deer and the number grew to the 18 mark. Many of the deer were young bucks and that held much promise for future hunts in the upcoming years.
Two mature does worked their way toward us and were joined by a half dozen more deer. They were on alert as they left the edges and headed into more open areas.
We knew that there was time clock running on the remaining daylight and we grew anxious. No matter what, we had no plans on taking a poor shot or a young deer.
Soon the darkness arrived and the deer came no closer.
The hunt had ended.
Jay Hewitt is an outdoors columnist for the Cranberry Eagle