Hunter’s corner: As deer feeding habits change, so does hunting strategy

For the Monitor
Published: 8/6/2016 11:28:30 PM

Welcome to August. For the deer hunter who hunts from a tree stand, now is the time to place your stand, groom the area and establish shooting lanes with pegged yardage. If you are placing your tree stand on private property, you will need prior written permission for any grooming.

The answer to the question as to why to do it now is a simple one: the deer are in their summer pattern, and you will be placing your stand on their fall and winter pattern and they will not notice the addition of a tree stand. Further yet, as the seasons change it will appear as if the stands are a natural part of the environment.

The crew I hunt with is a mix of still hunting and ground stand hunting. This gives us more flexibility in altering our hunting areas, as not all deer hunting seasons are the same. The summer drought has brought about a high stress factor for oak, beechnut and chestnut trees. I have observed oak trees shedding miniature acorns.

Normally, as we head into September, the acorns would start to drop and this would signal to the deer to shift to the fall feeding opportunities. What I haven’t observed is how the drought has impacted soft mast yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had. Soft mast consists of apples, crab apples, blueberries and raspberries, to name a few.

Right now, deer are still feeding on luscious plants, which provide them with nourishment and moisture. My prediction is that the acorn crop will be spotty. Those areas that have sufficient ground moisture should have plenty of acorns, and those areas that are lacking in soil moisture will probably not have a good crop. White-tailed deer are probably the most adaptive mammal we have, and when they don’t get an expected food source, they will opt for another.

The pheasant season has been altered so that during the anticipated four pheasant stocking weeks – the stocking days are normally Thursdays and Fridays – they will have the season opening at noon of each day. This protects the aides who are releasing the pheasants.

This was a good change. Although not native to New Hampshire, hunting pheasants has long been part of our hunting traditions. The fall turkey season has been extended two days to allow those who otherwise can only hunt on weekends to have a chance to hunt a turkey. Last year, the fall harvest was 1,042 turkeys. I would expect 2016 to be up over last year.

I received a copy of Ted Walski’s New Hampshire Wild Turkey Status Report, and it bolds well for the turkey population. For the past several years, the statewide population has been estimated at 40,000, and carrying capacity has been reached. From winter 2015 to winter 2016, the number of flock reports and number of turkeys tripled.

Two primary reasons for the significant increase were the above average hatching success during summer 2015, and the very easy winter of 2016. The warm March this year prompted early nesting and the dry spring has provided near perfect conditions for turkeys.

If you could magically count the entire turkey population, I wouldn’t be surprised if the number were well over 40,000.

There was more good news in the report in that there were only six sites from six towns with reports of turkeys with the avian pox lesions in the head area. The pox incidence appears to be quite low since there were 2,118 flock reports, and only six flocks reported with the symptoms. There will be an archery turkey season in all WMUs, and a shotgun season in 12 of the 18 WMUs.

Walski went on to observe that during the March 31, April 4 and April 5 public hearings held to formulate the various game species season and regulations for the next two years, there were practically no comments about wild turkeys. Most of the discussion centered on the pheasant stocking program.

The 2016 deer season dates for archery, muzzleloader and regular firearm season have been published. To fully appreciate the dynamics of the various “any deer” and “antlered deer only” setups, you need to download a copy of the season restrictions. Of interest to local hunters are the restrictions in WMU I 1, 1I 2 and J 1 limiting the any deer dates.

J 2 has muzzleloader any deer dates on Oct 29-31 and in the regular rifle season from Nov. 9-11. In WMU L and M, the any deer for muzzleloader period is Oct. 29-Nov. 8, and for regular firearms season it’s Nov. 9-18.

Clearly, the any deer days reflect where Fish and Game wants you to harvest does. It would be so much easier if they would adopt a permit system whereby Fish and Game could tailor a plan that would be structured for each WMU, but that would require a tad bit of effort they are not willing to expend.

Last time I had some advice for archers on zoning in their shots for the coming fall season. This advisory is for the many rifle shooters who have succumbed to the reasonable prices of the new and much-improved hunting rifles.

If you want to sight in your rifle in Honady’s two-shot sighting in method, which I picked up off of Honady’s web site before adding my modifications, now is the time to zero in.

First, set your variable scope at its highest power. Second, place your target at 25 yards. Carefully fire the first round. Then adjust the crosshairs to match where the first bullet hit the target.

This should put you spot-on at 100 yards. What you should be is three inches high at 100 yards. This should make you zero at 225 yards. The bottom line is no matter what the distance is to your deer, you will be making a drop dead shot.

(Bob Washburn can be reached at hunterscorner@aol.com.)


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