Outdoor Journal: Southern Zone opens Saturday

Where will you be Saturday morning when the sun comes up? If you’re a deer hunter, chances are you’l

Where will you be Saturday morning when the sun comes up?

If you’re a deer hunter, chances are you’ll be one of tens of thous­ands of whitetail deer hunters who will be celebrating the long-awaited opening of the New York state Southern Zone big-game season. The Northern Zone’s regular deer season opened Oct. 22 and will remain open until Dec. 4.

But it’s the Southern Zone that attracts the most deer hunters, primarily because of its larger deer population. This is evidenced by looking at last year’s New York deer harvest totals. The total deer shot last year in the state was 230,100, 198,487 were taken in the Southern Zone. As for the buck take, 89,881 of the 106,960 were shot in the Southern Zone.

The Deer Management Permit numbers were also interesting. Last year, 475,534 of these antlerless deer-only tags were issued, and only 86,635 were filled. The largest number of DMPs issued for one Deer Management Unit last year was 40,806 for DMU 3M, which is primarily in Orange County; only 5,138 were filled.

I know many already have your deer woods picked out, but for any undecideds, here are a few of last year’s buck take statistics that might help with your decision. Let’s begin with those nearby towns and counties that were hot last year — and usually every year. The town of Easton in Washington County last year gave up 477; Stillwater, Sar­atoga County, 302; Rensselaerville, Albany County, 273; and Gilboa, Schoharie County, 220. Schenec­tady County’s total was 189.

If you’re willing to travel, here are the top three counties’ deer/buck totals: Steuben, 11,485/5,120; Cattaraugus, 9,324/4,335; and Allegany, 9,105/4,202. And the village or town with the highest buck take was Owego in Tioga County at 373. Go west, young man!


Right now should be the height of the rutting season, and the bucks should be on the move, looking for a mate or two. All you have to do is be in the right place at the right time. For many, this will be that old favorite stump overlooking a cedar swamp or perhaps a tree stand/blind along a deer travel route full of rubs and those all-important scrapes. And then there are those groups that will drive the big woods, etc., from sunup until sundown. These are all deer hunting techniques, and they all work.

My plan is the same one I’ve been using for quite a few years. I’ll be sitting about 16 feet above the forest floor, or perhaps in a ground blind in one of three or four places in Allegany County — I’m a “a sitter.” From just before sunup until sundown, I sit in the same chosen spot. Part of my philosophy is based on the premise that my odds of outsmarting a buck by sneaking and peeking around “his” woods are extremely low. On the other hand, if I do a little homework and examine the signs (deer trail, rubs, scrapes and scat) and establish a pattern, I can pick a spot that there’s a good chance he’ll return to. Does it always work? No, but it has worked enough times for me to continue to do it.

Also as an all-day sitter, I (at least in the area where I hunt) have other hunters helping me. Most human movement in the deer woods is usually the 9 a.m. coffee/breakfast break and their return an hour or so later, the 11:30 a.m. lunch break and their return about 1 or 2 p.m. to their afternoon watch, or anytime when they get tired and bored of sitting and begin to move about the woods. These movements produce unplanned deer drives that I can and have benefited from. But there is more to just sitting — the way you sit is extremely important to your success. Let’s take a look at what it takes, besides patience, to be a good sitter.

There are three things on a deer that you have to fool: its nose, ears and eyes. As soon as you step out of your vehicle, spray your clothing with Hunter’s Specialties (HS) Scent-A-Way, head to toe, and put the bottle in your backpack.

Then saturate a small piece of cloth tied to a string about 24 inches long with HS Estrus Plus and tie the other end to your ankle, and walk into the woods. Do not go right to the stand/blind, stop where you want the buck to stop for the shot. Untie the string and leave it there and add a drop or two more of scent. If possible, I like to put the scent cloth behind a small bush or tree, then when the buck gets to it and sniffs it, their line of sight to you will be blocked. And don’t forget, every hour or two, spray your clothing with the Scent-A-Way.

Their ears are equally sensitive. I’ve had a deer standing 100 yards or more from me pop its head up and look in my direction when I clicked off the safety of my rifle. Be careful and make very little noise. Calling and rattling has already been working so it’s worth a try, but I don’t do either for the first couple of hours when I’m in woods where I know there are a lot of hunters. When I call, I do 15- to 30-second sequences of rattling and grunting. Once the sequence ends, have your rifle/shotgun in your hands.

The eyesight of whitetail deer is not great, but they can spot movement very easily. More than once, I’ve been caught reaching for my bow or gun. I don’t know anyone who can sit perfectly still all day or for any length of time. In a blind, there’s a little more freedom, but in a tree stand, I hang a camouflage cloth or netting all around the railing, and that includes the shooting rail. This will help in hiding those dancing cold feet, also.

And speaking of cold feet, I believe the most important thing needed to become a good sitter is warmth. If you cannot stay warm, leave, because if you stay, you’re going to be miserable and you’ll move. If you plan on sitting all day, dress for it — better yet, overdress. It’s a lot better to be too warm than too cold, and don’t forget raingear and one of those camo umbrellas that attach to a tree and keep you dry.

When I go into the woods Saturday, I’ll look like an orange pumpkin-colored Michelin man. My orange clothing is broken up with a black bark pattern because I want to be seen by humans, especially when rattling and grunting.

I’ll be trying some new clothing this year, and it’s about time. This electric hunter will be wearing a Gerbing’s Core Heat fleece vest right over his hunting shirt. The vest has a Nanowire heating technology powered by a four-ounce, rechargeable, seven-volt lithium-ion battery pack. The battery is rechargeable for over 500 cycles. The heating panels are sealed and waterproof, and the heating system is placed within the vest for uniform heat coverage. It has a zipped front, vertical chest, two side pockets and, what I think is a very important feature, it is long enough in the back to cover your lower back, keeping you warm.

At 100 percent power, the heat is 135 degrees and will last for two hours; at 75 percent, 115 degrees for three hours; 50 percent, 105 degrees for five hours; and at 25 percent 85 degrees for 10 hours. Retail price for the Fleece Vest is $150, the camo, $160. Obviously, this vest will have other uses, such as sitting on the ice, watching a tip-up, or huddled up in a duck blind in mid-December. Check it out at www.coreheat.net.

Tree stand sitters will need a good safety belt which will not only eliminate a nasty accident, but when that mid-morning sun starts to make those eyelids a little heavy, you will be able to safely enjoy those great in-the-woods naps. Just remember to hang up your gun with the safety on first.

Food and drink is also important, and I’ve found that two or three pean­ut butter-and-jelly sandwiches and water will always be enough. And speaking of drinking water, unless your blind/tree stand is equipped with a porta-potty, I suggest you bring along a large plastic container with a screw-on top.

Statistically, since they started opening hunting season on a weekend, Saturday has produced the biggest harvest and Sunday the second biggest of the season. I encourage all hunters to get out there this weekend.

Good luck, be careful and don’t forget to send me your Buck Tales.


Tony McCutcheon’s 2011 Whitetail Classic Big Buck contest will be free. Registration can be at any time, but you must be entered at least 24 hours before taking your deer. The deadline for entering is Dec. 10. Certificates will be issued as prizes. The scoring session is scheduled for January 2012 at a location to be announced. For an entry application and further details, go to www.nywhitetailclas­­sic.com.

Categories: -Sports

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