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January 08, 2008

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Bill Heavey: Suburban Winter Blues

The season runs through January 31st around here, and right now the deer are up and moving about as often as David E. Petzal writes a check to Save the Children. This has always been the toughest time of the year to see whitetails, at least in my woods.  As Leonard Lee Rue III writes in The Deer of North America,  “...where the deer’s endocrine system has had a chance to adapt to the cold, the animals are geared to be sedentary. They key to their survival is their inactivity.”

And they can really afford to be sedentary these days, what with temperatures 20 degrees and more above normal. It was 67 degrees yesterday. It’s supposed to hit 70 today. This kind of winter hunting calls for special precautions. Such as sunblock.

What little movement I do see tends to come in the mornings rather than evenings. That “magical” last half hour of light at sunset has shown me exactly zero deer recently. Morning are better. Strangely, first light is not when I see the majority of morning activity. It tends to come later, 1 to 1 1/2 hours after sunrise.

The other morning, for example, a herd of seven does came tiptoeing down a ridge a little after 8. They didn’t scent me, they just took what seemed to be a predetermined and wide swing above and around my stand, then hopped a fence and kept drifting along. I’ve simply burned out my little honey hole. They seem to have figured out that I’m just another dog bound by invisible fencing, a threat within certain boundaries and otherwise harmless.

What’s killing me is that they’re right. I’m bound by the property lines of the single property owner who is tired of feeding his azaleas to Bambi. It seems that everybody else in this inside-the-Beltway Magic Kingdom can’t bear the thought of hurting the animals that are stripping the woods bare.

I may be headed back to my local WMA.


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John D

Before landing in Oklahoma and having a big chunk of private property, that was par for the course in January in PA. Me and my friends called it hunting "the barren F'ing wasteland."

Not only are the deer sedentary, they're spread out from pressure. I can remember some eerie days this time of year, sitting in some of my best spots. Not a breath of wind. Not a squirrel stirring. The silence can be deafening. I applaud you for keeping at it. It was January that I normally turned to steelhead fishing.


I was scouting on Sunday late afternoon - doing an informal buck census in the protected nature preserve adjoining the unprotected state forest (archery till Feb 3). Bumped 2 beds of does. They didn't run - they walked, looking over their shoulders as if they knew this guy was more likely to tag a tree trunk than a vital organ. Was an "eerie day" here as well. Kind of like a warm Holloween at dusk - thick clouds, breezy and mildly foreboding.

7 does
1 squirrel
2 bitchy jays
0 bucks

Should I lose a little more common sense and replace it with another uneeded measure of irresponsibility, I will jump in the truck, drive all night to Florida to a little-known campground on an island paradise and fish in the gulf. Anyone else?

(Say Bill, I could pick you up on the way. Bring a box of books to sell on the road - help pay for gas money.)


we are all trapped in the same prison. i take my career in my hands skip work and sit by myself for 4 hours in the cold.
well worth it.


0 deer
1 squirrel
1 crow
1 chipmunk
but at least it was warm this morning


Deer's all done here except for "antlerless archery" until 1-15. I spent 30 minutes at a local supply house, putting together a kit to install a wood stove without burning the house down!
Spent the next 3 hours deciding how I was gonna cut a hole in the ceiling and make it look "professional"!
Maybe tomorrow I'll crawl up into the attic and figure out where I want the hole!


Tommy S.

My season in NC ended Jan. 1st. I was done November 25th. Late season - gotta sit all day. Kill does early and often.

I take after that elusive 2-1/2 pound crappie myself when the deer season is done. But truthfully - I probably won't even get a chance at a biggun til about March when they start really beefin' up for the spring spawn.
Feral hogs are out there to be kilt though and really need to be.



Man, and we're just in pre-rut here in Alabama. The hunting has been terrible here also though. Much to warm. Well at least it is supposed to cool down this weekend.


well i had 5 days in ohio for general gun saw 2 does ,4 days in ohio for muzzle loader saw 2 does , 4 men in our party one killed two deer other three skunked first time in ten years no deer .i live in florida and have a small cabin in ohio gas is killing me but its duck season down here me and my 10 year old son limit out each sunday . we have 3 more weeks of teal mallards ring necks all kinds of ducks . after that its out to the gulf stream for some blue water or down the keys for back country flats.


Yesterday, with just a week left for archery season I said I would like to get at least two deer this year, I got a little buck in late October. So I went with barely an hour to hunt and sat in the cold rain because I knew the deer wouldn't be in my living room when I got home. Well lo and behold here comes a doe I drew and she stopped where I couldn't shoot so I held it for a while, but I wear glasses and my hood and face mask where fogging up my glasses and I didn't know how much longer I could hold so I let off moved stuff so I could see and she took a few steps out into the open and stopped still looking at me, I drew, sighted in, now a little shaky because my arm is tired, but not that shaky, I release and missed. The absolute best chance I've had since November and I missed. It was late so I haven't had a chance to recheck my bow, but unless something was in the way I don't know how I missed unless the bow was off. At least I was in the right spot and out there I guess.

robert v

i hunt chester co pa in suburbs seeing little bucks every nite but the shooters stay on the wrong side of the property. The landowners own so little woods only 6-8 are climbable little bro shot 2 doe here in oct no doe seen since dec

Jon R

I hunt in East Texas piney woods, where the season ended on Jan. 06. The last two days were in the 70's, and reminded me of early bow season. I have a question for the hunters out there.

I hunt in a public national forest, but on a wilderness designated section. If one is willing to walk a bit you rarely see another human. Our rut is early November, and yet all October and through mid-November I found very little buck sign, although I saw numerous bucks from spikes to eight-pointers, including two who were chasing doe on the first weekend of November. AFTER the main rut, beginning with the third weekend of November and continuing to the end of the season there appeared all manner of scrapes and rubs all over the place. Anyone have any idea why the bucks aren't into making such signs before the latter part of November, particularly during the pre-Rut?


Jon R

I'm not sure, but I understand that the rut is mostly triggered by the amount of "light" that reaches the retina of the deer's eye! It is also attuned to temperature, but not so much as the "light" thing!
So! Between the "light" and the "temperature", you just gotta be ready!



Im bumed,..and i shouldn't be
I'm tired and I shouldn't be
I'm on the verge of cranky
and i shouldn't be
Its cold ( here in midwest)
Deer other than archery is over only rabbit and squirrel ,..
Dont ice fish and dont wanna ,.. have too much trouble.
Stand back 20 yds false cast let it settle damn fly never gets in the hole,.. line ices up fingers feeze nevr cath any perch ,..
evrything goes wrong.
Too cold for steelies ( for me anyway) and it looks like were gonna get locked in until spring ,.. only good thing coming is Packers and NY,.. which auta be an ice bowl repeat.

Was thinkin about stowing shot gun and some camping equipment on a sled,.. dragging it back in the woods ,.. start camp fire,.. brew coffee eat sandwihes and wait for idiot squirrels to get curious ,.. but then again Im ceanky ,..

Hate it when the season close.


The season runs through January 31st around here, and right now the deer are up and moving about as often as David E. Petzal writes a check to Save the Children. that is too funny

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