As a young boy I would spend hours laying on my back in my grandparents' hay fields watching the clouds drift by. Some would call those days the lazy days of summer. Today, I spend time doing pretty much the same thing, but on a boat fishing on Chautauqua Lake. I may not be laying on my back doing nothing, but I'm still watching the clouds as they move through the Western New York sky.
Those of you who have spent the spring and summer here in Chautauqua County have experienced some great weather. Except for a few days, the evenings have been cool and the days nice and warm.
The warm, summer days of lazily feeding in the meadows will quickly turn into gut-twisting days and nights of searching for a mate in the whitetail's world. Everything in the whitetail's world will begin to change and, before we know it, revolve around procreation.
I am not wishing the warm weather away, but I also know that we'll be chasing wild critters around before we know it.
Once the colorful landscape begins to look like a Norman Rockwell painting, the hunter also has changed. Chances are the year-round sportsmen has put up his fishing tackle and taken to the woods in pursuit of the majestic whitetail deer.
While some sportsmen just take off to the woods in search of their quarry, others take the sport a bit more seriously.
About this time each year the state offers up the proposed waterfowl season dates and traditionally the feds go with the proposed regulations.
The proposed Youth Weekend will be Oct. 12 and 13. With this opportunity, the state is giving youth the ability to take part in the upcoming waterfowl season.
The rules are pretty simple: Each youth 12 to15 years of age must have a current season New York State small junior game hunting license and he or she must be accompanied by an adult hunter that is licensed to hunt waterfowl, which includes a current year HIPP stamp. Check licensing issue agents for limits and finalized dates.
The regular duck season dates that have been proposed for the Western Zone are Oct. 26 through Dec. 8, with the late season being Dec. 28 until Jan12.
Goose hunters will enjoy another great season with plenty of days proposed for geese. The early season dates are Sept. 1 through 25, with an eight-bird-per-day limit. The regular-season dates are Oct. 26 through Dec. 18, late-season dates are Dec. 28 through Jan. 12 and the special spring season will be March 1 through 10, with each having a five-bird-per-day limit.
Every year I listen as sportsmen share their successes and failures. After a couple questions, I begin to learn what type of hunter I'm talking to. In my mind there are two different types of hunters - weekend warriors and successful hunters.
I am by no means saying that the weekend warrior can't shoot a deer. Just the contrary. Folks who only have enough time to hunt a few days a year are often times the most successful. These sportsmen are the backbone to all sportsmen. Weekend warriors are an important part of our hunting society, but for some reason, whether it be time, resources or commitment, they are only in the woods a few days a year. I'm not putting them down. I started as a weekend warrior, and most successful hunters today started as weekend warriors.
On the other side of the coin, there are the sportsmen who dedicate their life and much of their free time to learning as much about the whitetail deer as they possibly can. These sportsmen are just as important as the weekend warriors, but the main difference between the two groups is generally preparation.
Being prepared for anything that happens in the woods is the difference between a full freezer and an empty one. How do we move into the next class of hunters? We will try and explain some basics and more detailed techniques in the next few minutes.
My grandfather taught me more about the outdoors than any man I have ever been fortunate enough to hunt with. Grandpa never really stressed killing, but knowing the woods and how to get around it without being detected. My grandpa grew up in the woods and for most of his adult life made his living in the outdoors, so he was concerned not so much with what we could take today, but what would be left for tomorrow.
Lesson one is to know the areas you plan on hunting like the back of your hand.
When I learned to shoot, we didn't have a lot of money so each shot had to count. In fact, growing up I seldom remember missing a rabbit, squirrel or woodchuck. That mindset was instilled in me in such a way that today I still make the first shot count.
Today I prefer to take game with either a bow or muzzleloader. Hopefully this year will be one of many that I will attempt a hand gun deer, but archery is my main passion.
One of the main things sportsmen need to do before purchasing a bow is to figure out what they are going to use it for. Some guys like to shoot a little 3-D with their hunting bow and this will make your selection a bit more complicated.
The majority of contemporary hunting bows will handle both challenges with a few small adjustments, but you need to know that up front. Use a piece of equipment that fits you and your style. Don't pick something that just looks good.
Once you have your bow set up, make sure you practice. Work on sighting your bow in at 10 yards and then move back a couple yards at a time. Once you feel comfortable, start setting up hunting situations. Shoot from a treestand and wear your hunting clothes when you shoot. I strongly suggest picking up a 3-D life-sized deer target.
Lesson two is practicing under actual, or as close as you can get to actual, hunting conditions. It will make that moment of truth more successful.
If there is one thing that I see hunters overlook every year, it's scouting. After you have secured your area and continue to practice with your equipment, scouting is the next step.
Knowing that you have deer in an area and being proficient with your equipment will do you no good if you don't have a clue where to hang your stands. For me, scouting is a year-round job, and a job that I totally enjoy.
Scouting is just like the other two pieces of the puzzle - it has to be done year round. Just because opening day has come and gone, you shouldn't stop scouting. I scout even while I'm hunting. On the way in I look for signs and often times I will take a midday stroll and uncover new areas to hunt.
Lesson three is successful hunters scout year round.
By finding good quality areas to hunt, practicing with your equipment year round and scouting throughout the year, you will put more meat in your freezer.