Deer dynamics and seasonal shifts and changes became top topics for five savvy whitetail experts during an informative and fast-paced panel discussion on Wednesday evening.
Outdoors writer Jim Monteleone served as moderator of a Western and Central New York Safari Club International meeting at its new location, Joseph's Country Manor and Grove.
The facility, at 275 Columbia Ave. in Depew, provided ample space for the hundred plus attendees who enjoyed this presentation. The discussion items prompted input from many audience members interested in the basic, general information Monteleone gave at the start of the program and in the specifics the experts shared during their discussions.
All five experts agreed that of all approved hunting devices, bow hunting is the most challenging and enjoyable. Each showed specific preferences for bow and gun gear, but the prospect of getting close enough for a bow kill ranked foremost in their enjoyment of the hunt.
As for scent control, Monteleone noted that a whitetail deer can detect an odor as slight as five parts per million. Clearly, scent reduction is a big factor in deer hunting.
"You can't eliminate all odor; everything smells," said Arnie Jonathan, a Quaker Boy Game Calls field rep. McCann, representing Realtree Outdoors, added, "Do all you can: Shower with scent-free soap, use lotions and sprays."
When traveling, even spray the seats and floor mats of your vehicle. "I don't let my wife ride in the [hunting] truck when the season starts," Emiola quipped.
Monteleone said most hunters don't realize how much and how far deer travel.
"So often, a hunter will hunt his own back property or a regular spot throughout the season and say 'I never saw this deer before' after taking a previously unseen buck," he noted.
The home range of a buck could be 2,000 to 4,000 acres, circling an area that might be 4-5 miles. A doe will generally confine movements to about 1,000 acres, depending on the extent of cover and amount of food in its habitat area. Most hunters, especially those hunting from stands and blinds, will not hunt this much of a range during the season.
Grieco, with Knight & Hale Game Calls, stressed the need to set up food plots wherever and whenever possible to draw -- and possibly hold -- these moving deer.
Grieco then began a discussion of high times to be in the woods and fields for the best hunting. "I prefer the afternoon for the biggest bucks," he said.
Jonathan hunts all day and has taken some monster bucks with his bow, adding, "My two best bucks were taken at 12:15 and 1 p.m."
McCann times his peak hunting periods depending on seasonal phases. "I work forage areas early in the season and then look for bedding areas later in the season."
He, too, has taken his best bucks at midday, citing 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. as good times to stay put while other hunters move to and from lunch.
"I used to like early mornings, but I see evening hunts as better now," said Todd Emiola of Quaker Boy. He has watched better buck movement later in the day and likes to get set up about 2:30-3 p.m.
Emiola sees good forage for deer this year, especially apples. "You just have to follow the mast crops," he suggested for scouting and early-season hunts.
Calling preferences came down to mainly grunts and rattles. Calling expert Grieco said, "Begin grunt calls softly, just like a turkey call." Nonetheless, loud grunts work at times, Jonathan noted. Calling sequences vary, but the more important aspect is when. "Never call when a deer is looking directly at you," Monteleone said and all agreed.
Antler rattling can be effective, but real antlers will lose their authentic, fight-like sounds after two or three years of use. All agreed that a soaking in water or vegetable oil for about two weeks before use retains antlers' hard-snap sounds that simulate rubbing and fighting. Among artificial rattle options, panelists preferred rattle bags over synthetic antlers.
The snort-wheeze call can be an authentic, attention-getter, but it works best on bigger, trophy bucks. "That sound might draw a big, tough buck, but it often scares off the younger bucks," McCann noted.
Most panelists agreed on key points, but the final item, peak rut time, offered some variables. Noted deer expert Charlie Alsheimer has pegged the peak this year at about Nov. 15, the end of archery and start of gun season.
Jonathan, McCann and Emiola all see signs of that peak arriving a week or two earlier in the deer season.
As a final tip, Monteleone offered this suggestion for improving deer-hunting successes: "Find a position in your tree stand or ground blind where you can be safe, comfortable and make the least movement."