Archery hunters love getting stuck in a rut -- when whitetails get caught up in rut (mating) rituals and become more visible.
Big-game archery season begins Oct. 15 in Western New York each year, but the real season kicks in when does' and bucks' mating hormones take over and deer become less cautious and more "social."
Area experts peg this rut start as a few days before or after Nov. 7 each year. This year might offer an early exception, says Robert Vacanti at Northern Whitetail Scents in Warsaw. "Does have been unusually active and young bucks especially have begun butting us as we walk though penned areas," Robert said.
He and wife Patti watch deer movement daily to check on fall mating phases for scent collection.
Dale John at White Tail Scents Deer Farm in Brant has seen what could be early scrape lines.
"It could be just the excess number of bucks out there this season, but I'm seeing more signs of an early rut (scrapes and scrape lines) where I scout," John said.
"I really haven't seen massive rubs in trees, but a few archers have already taken some nice bucks around here (Southtowns) so far this season."
Steve Dziak of Hamburg left his Southtowns home to hunt with his 7-year-old son Stephen in Wyoming Township. Stephen, eager to learn about deer and deer hunting, talked dad into letting him work an old Quaker Boy grunt call (Phantom Buck model) while they sat in a ground blind.
It worked -- too well. A small, six-point buck came within 25 yards of their blind and then began looking cautiously in one direction. Steve turned to see a mature 10-pointer pushing this smaller buck out of its territory. Steve, who had drawn on the smaller buck, had to turn and aim at that trophy-sized deer.
"I was shaking so much I don't know how I put that arrow through the 18-inch window I had for a kill," Steve said, "but I hit him with a killing shot and he only went 30 yards before falling."
Asked about his father's shooting, Stephen said, "He was shaking a lot and I was shaking about the same." This bruiser buck tipped a scale at 210 pounds dressed out. Its outside spread measures 20 1/2 inches. "I have four deer mounts around the house now, but this one will go in Stephen's room," dad said.
Early-rut hunting begins the freezing season when grunt, bleat and all kinds of mouth calls can freeze while in use. Quaker Boy's new Ridge Runner grunt call, with an adjustable call tube and ranges sounding like a dominant buck or a tentative challenger, is designed to work without freezing its reed to the inside of the tube. Check with QB's Ernie Calandrelli for more details on this new call at (800) 544-1600.
Busnell's new Yardage Pro range-finding monocular is another handy device for early-season and rut-period archery hunting. Most hunters think of these scanning optics only for use on long shots for rifle hunters, mostly out west, where shooters calculate 300- to 500-yard targets.
A Yardage Pro also works well at close range, marking distances as near as 11 yards. Archers often set out distance pins or some kind of marker to measure shots within their killing range. When set on SCAN, this Bushnell range-finder quickly marks all distances around your tree or ground stand, without having to set out markers.
Hunters need all kinds of specialized equipment when big-game archery and gun hunting, but their most important device is a skill at placing a good shot. When that skill fails, tracking skills become important. When tracking fails, Western New York hunters rely on Deer Search.
Mike Coppola, Deer Search of Western New York president, says archers have become more familiar with Deer Search services in recent years, but both bow and gun hunters depend on DS volunteers when they cannot find a deer they have shot. The service took more than 500 calls last season.
Before calling for Deer Search assistance, be sure to have permission from all land owners where a Deer Search dog and handler will be tracking. Deer Search now maintains a single phone number 24 hours each day all year, but most calls first enter an answering machine and are later assigned.
"Try to give all your information briefly and accurately during this call and avoid making more than one call, which helps reduce response time for volunteers," Coppola said.
Should you need help in finding that deer, call 648-4355.
All DEC Deer Management Permits should be to applicants by Thursday, in time for licensed archers to use them starting Saturday. If you do not receive a response by Thursday, call (888) 435-7367.