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Hunter’s Corner: Best to leave the bird feeders inside for now



For the Monitor
Monday, November 05, 2018

I can’t remember when the earliest bird feeder warning went out from Fish and Game, but this year’s Oct. 19 notice may be the record.

The reason is simple: A lack of hard mast crops such as beechnuts and acorns. This is the time of the year when bears bulk up to get them through the winter. With no natural foods available, bears will turn to cornfields, fruit orchards and backyard attractions. As a result, it is recommended that you hold off putting up bird feeders until Dec.1. With winter weather forecast calling for mild temperatures, you may want to wait longer.

Despite continued pleas asking homeowners not to feed birds during the non-winter months, bird feeders are typically the direct cause of 25 percent of annual bear-human conflicts. In addition to bird feeders, other attractions that contribute significantly to conflicts include unprotected chickens and other poultry (23 percent), as well as unsecured garbage cans/dumpsters (38 percent).

“If the public would be willing to address these three common attractants, we could quickly reduce annual bear-human conflicts by 70-80 percent, which would be tremendous,” said Fish and Game’s Bear Project Leader Andrew Timmins.

By all counts, owing to the shortage of hard mast, 2018 should be a record-setting bear kill year. This happens every so often when bears have to travel more to feed, creating greater hunter contact opportunity. We will have to wait and see.

Last year with the encouragement of my brother-in-law Jimmy, I purchased a crossbow for use during the archery season. Jimmy is a retired tool and die maker and owns three crossbows.

Well, last year was hardly a success attempting to use the crossbow, so a trip to Vermont to go through the basics and get it sighted in was in order. There are two methods to cock a crossbow – a cranking method or a pull method. Mine was the pulling type. The first tip I received was that you pull with your back and not your arms.

Next came the sighting in process.

The scope on my crossbow has four circles ascending in size from largest to smallest. We sighted in the largest circle dead on at 20 yards and next circle below at 30 yards. We estimated the bolts were traveling at 350 feet per second. I do not intend to take a shot beyond 30 yards. The warm temperatures and rain have dissuaded me from going out, but cooler and dryer weather is coming and I’m ready for it.

In anticipation of muzzle loading and regular firearms deer season, Robb and I will be making our annual pilgrimage to sight in our muzzle loaders and shotguns. I had complained to Jimmy about the difficulty I was experiencing seating .50-caliber sabots in my muzzle loaders. He offered an easy solution, use .45-caliber sabots and they will seat much easier. When the charge ignites, the sabot will seal with the rifling.

I upgraded my slug gun to an Ithaca Deer Slayer II. This is basically a Model 37 with a 24-inch rifled barrel. My first shotgun was a Model 37 and I still have it. Robb will be using my Mossberg rifled barreled slug gun. My sight distance is 25 yards. Zero at 25 yards means you will be slightly higher at 100 yards and zero at 225 yards, depending upon muzzle velocity. In the mixed wooded areas, I hunt the maximum distance will be 50 yards and on average it will be 25 yards.

After back-to-back mild winters and heavy hard mast years, the deer herd will be at its best, better than it has been in years. The bedding areas will be the same, the breeding areas will be the same, the only difference will be the feeding areas with the decline in hard mast. There is plenty of browse available, so there should be no problem having deer build up their fat reserves. The rains that started in August have taken the question of water off the table, as there is water everywhere.

The regular rifle deer season opens Nov. 14. Peak rut is estimated to be between Nov. 15-17. The factor that can move it up is determined by the number cloudy days experienced before that period. Given the rain and cloudy days we’ve had, opening day may well be peak rut.

This should be a near perfect opening as with peak rut, you have major deer movement. The same holds true for either-sex hunting days as with muzzle load hunting.

The use of lures or scents are most effective during this part of the rut. You are encouraged to use synthetic scents and not urine-based to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD). New Hampshire has been fortunate so far as there have been no reported cases of CWD.

You know those deer warning signs on various highways? They are there because the highways have intersected a deer travel way, and just because there is now a highway doesn’t mean that deer will change their routes.

The most deer contacts happen between exits 3 and 4 on I-89 and exits 2 and 3 on I-93. The difference between deer and moose is the moose will be solitary and deer will be in a group. So, if you see a deer there may be four or five more behind. If you see a buck, he is on a mission and may dart out regardless of consequence. The most dangerous period is dusk and dawn. Drive carefully.