Monday, February 6, 2012

UPDATED Close but not close enough on last day of archery deer season

Only one hour remained in a season that had spanned 3,240 hours.

And the end seemed nearly an eternity when Ohio’s lengthy archery deer-hunting season began 30 minutes before sunrise on September 24. But now only 60 minutes was left to the archery season; not much time to fill my remaining either-sex tag.

Still, I wanted to end the season the way I had when it began, anchoring a spot in one of my fabric ground blinds just the way I did way back at the end of September.

It almost paid off, too. Almost, but note quite.

With a choice to make between three blinds, each found in a different county, I selected the one in Ashtabula County’s Rome Township. It was not a bad choice, though certainly not a perfect one.

Then again, neither were the blinds/electronic feeder stations in Lake and Geauga counties. With the former my trail camera had captured about 600 digital images over a 3 1/2-week span. None had a recorded even a single deer, which was especially peculiar and terribly disappointing.

Earlier the camera was abuzz with images of all sorts of deer from big-antlered bucks to fawn does. Now, nothing, and for reasons I can’t explain, either.

No point wasting my time there, I figured when I removed the trail camera two days before the season ended.

Rejected as well was the apartment-like wooden blind and feeder in Geauga County. While this location has proven the most consistent of locations in providing both sightings of deer and producing animals, the previous two visits yielded no visuals.

“Whatever I decide it’s going to be the wrong choice,” I said, muttering to myself.

Well, maybe.

Settling in a little more than two hours before the end of legal shooting time at 6:19 p.m., I fastened my gear to the blind’s innards and made ready the Horton crossbow for the last time this season.

I also broke out a copy of one of outdoor humorist Pat McManus’ books. Might as well entertain myself, I figured, as I waited for the oft-hand chance a deer would actually pay a visit to the game feeder.

The evening was quiet though far from uncomfortable, the temperature starting out at 41 degrees, if the thermometer I keep at the blind was to be believed.

Song birds began to approach the kernels of corn that the feeder had dispensed, the beggars gleaning their fair share of the booty.

Finishing up one of the book’s many funny chapters I then took a poke out the narrow half-moon slit in the blind’s left “window.”

There, about 25 yards away stood a mature doe. It had come from behind and now remain transfixed looking in the general direction of the blind.

Hoping the doe would close the distance I made ready should she tramp to the feeder. That would place the deer in the better sight picture offered by a larger-opened window in front.

Instead, the doe simply began - very slowly, I’m quick to add - aimlessly wandering about and still to my left. Every now and then she’d peck at the ground, no doubt securing an acorn that no other deer, turkey or squirrel had yet to find.

Of course had it been deer firearms-hunting season I would have had a much more likely chance of shooting the animal. I would have waited for her to turn and offer me a quartering-away shot at less than 50 yards.

I won’t take that risk, not with a crossbow, anyway. I have long maintained a vow that I would not launch an arrow at any deer over 20 yards away, let alone one at an animal that is not positioned broadside.

After perhaps 15 minutes the doe sashayed north and toward a large ragweed field.

I exhaled a disappointed sigh, extinguishing a stored-up lengthy bit of inhaled air.

Though I still had 45 minutes remaining before the clock ran out I knew I had witnessed my last chance of shooting another deer this season.

“She’s a mature doe and I bet she’s carrying at least one fawn,” I thought. “That’ll mean at least two - maybe three -deer for next season.”

It was a solid rationalization of potential prospects in about another 7 1/2 months.

When the last remaining measured embers of the season died I exited the blind. A nearly full moon was now up and its light was decorating the forest floor while a decided chill had captured the daytime warmth, holding it hostage as I retreated to my car.

Stumbling out of the woodlot and crossing the property owner’s lawn, I made my way to the car, stashing the crossbow, arrow quiver and equipment-laden backpack for the last time for the season.

I suspect I’d archery hunted more than 60 times this past season, most sessions for no more than two hours either before or after work.

During that spell I had passed on a couple of antlered deer as well as a couple of fawn does and button bucks. No regrets, especially given the fact that by doing so I allowed my older brother, Rich, to eventually shoot one of the bucks and my wife one of the button bucks.

Besides, I still managed to arrow a deer, collecting an adult doe just before Thanksgiving. Between that animal and a truly large doe I killed on opening day of the firearms deer-hunting season, I figured I did pretty well for myself.

You won’t find me complaining any. I’ve already begun the task of preparing for the next archery season. I’ve organized the various shades of outerwear into their appropriate container bins and hung the crossbow.

Plans are also in the works to better situate the game feeders, add a trail camera or two and do some repair work to at least one of the blinds.

After all, the 2012-2013 archery deer-hunting season can’t get here soon enough.
Just look at how fast the 2011-2012 season came and went.

A video of my last two evening hunts during the archery deer-hunting season is available at The News-Herald’s video page, sports section.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

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