Well, I spent more than a fair amount of time hunting this 2013 Deer Season in CT.
- Bow Season: 100 Hours (2 month season)
- Shotgun Season: 52 Hours (10 day season)
- Muzzle Loader Season: 42 Hours (13 day season)
Sadly, a harvest was not in the cards for me this year, yet, I enjoyed every last minute of being in the woods, doing something I absolutely love.
Now, for a bit of a backdrop here. I had not hunted in about 17 years. Life, marriage, kids being born, all that kind of stuff, took priority and before I knew it, it was damn near 2 decades without hunting. Combine this was the fact that my wife was not what I would call gun friendly when we first got married, and things changed at the time. Fast forward 15 years. I finally returned to my passion for firearms and shooting, and after a brief conversation, the better half was all good with it (not knowing that this would be another obsession of mine). Oddly enough, in my many years, I had never picked up a bow, of any sort. In hindsight, I have no idea why, but that is neither here nor there. Suffice it to say, I am now addicted to my bows as well. I purchased a Redhead Kronik XT in the late fall of 2012, more on a whim than anything else. When the weather finally broke above freezing on daily basis, I took it out to sight it in. I was absolutely hooked from the first arrow released. I spent the next many months shooting anywhere from 30-100 arrows a day. Bought a Martin Onza III along the way as well, so now I have 2 bows. I quickly realized that shooting the bow is as expensive as any other outdoor hobby of mine. Suffice it to say, that I built my proficiency with both bows well beyond the point needed to ethically and accurately harvest a deer at 30-40 yards.
Now, onto the actual 2013 deer hunting season here in CT. I scouted out some areas near my brother’s place, Zone 2 in CT, where the deer population is lower than most other areas, but there are deer around. We were getting them on the trail cams and seeing good sign, right up until September 16 …. then they literally disappeared. There was almost zero pressure, only me and my brother hunting a large area (5 square miles +). I hunted stands that had been up for years, as well as newly placed stands. All with similar results. It was if the deer simply vaporized in the area. Odd for sure.
At one of my stands, where I a trail cam up, there was literally nothing moving through there for a few weeks, until I saw this snap ….
…well, now I had an idea why there were no deer to be seen, but a single juvenile bull moose in late September should not have really had any true impact on deer in the area. This was the first and last pic of this fella for the season, so he was anything but resident.
I hunted every weekend (Saturdays, as there is no Sunday hunting in CT), and took alot of days off as well. During the the entire bow season, in Zone 2, I saw a total of 5 deer, none of which did I have any shot on. To make it more interesting, for those 5 deer, it was maybe for a total of 5 minutes. Do the math, seen deer for 5 minutes out of near exactly 100 hours in the tree stands. Ugh.
Now, it was still awesome to spend the time in the woods, and I saw a number of Coyotes, Bears, and a Bobcat, not to mention Roughed Grouse, Woodcock, and a myriad of other critters of the forest. One of my sits, in later October yielded a 2 year old Black Bear who was trying to be stealthy, and spent 45 minutes trying to sneak up behind me. At one point, he put his front paws on the bottom rungs of my ladder stand. It was awkward for a moment, but fortunately, for both of us, he relented. Managed to snag a pic of him on his initial approach.
The bow season came and went in what seemed like it being all to fast, but, I have to admit, I was ready to pick up the shotgun and see if I could change my results with a rifled slug. The following picture is what I like to call my 2013 archery season in one photo.
So, it was finally time to bring a firearm into the game here in Northwestern CT. Shotgun “A” season started on November 20. Now, here in CT, on state land, our shotgun seasons are broken down into two 10 day parcels. Shotgun “A” and “B’ seasons. You can only hunt one of them, unless of course one has access and permission to hunt private land (greater than 10 acres for any gun usage), then you can hunt with either rifle or shotgun for the entirety of both season. Anyhow, alas, I did not have access to any private land this year, so the state forests are where I was venturing as part of the orange army.
It was much more active once shotgun season began, many more hunters, and some guys pushing the same 1,000 yard x 1,000 yard piece, over and over, for days on end. Hmmm, wonder why they didn’t get anything during that. Fully legal, and all good, but that much pressure just beds the deer down to the point were they may not move until spring time.
I hunted 7 out of the 9 huntable days (can’t hunt Sundays in CT, heaven forbid). I was on a mission, stand hunting, still hunting, and moving. I was determined. Personally, being back in the woods with a firearm is a whole new feeling. I put many, many miles on the boots during the season, and spent some more time sitting in a couple of the preferred tree stands.
Now, on Saturday, November 23, something really strange happened. I actually saw 3 does, 75 yards in front of me. I nearly choked when I saw them, not spooked, just grazing along. Now, I had a large branch right in front of me, so I could not use the shooting rail of the tree stand. So, it was to be a standing offhand shot @ 75 yards. Lined up the scope, took aim on the largest doe of the group, steadied the shotgun, and …. KAPOW! I saw the doe leap straight up and the other 2 run like hell in differing directions. Then, I suddenly felt like I was going to pass out, heart pounding, adrenaline rushing, so I sat back down in the stand. After a couple of minutes, I realized that the doe I had shot at ran off way to quickly, or at least I thought so. It was then that I was pretty much sure I had missed. All this time put in, preparation, patience, and I missed. I felt sick I tell ya, sick. Climbed down from the stand about 15 minutes later and went out to check. Sure enough, no blood anywhere. Began doing circles, looking for blood, nothing. No fur on the leaves either. My brother and another friend showed up and we canvased the area for an hour, but there was no blood sign, and based on the what we could see, she bolted off into the Mountain Laurel, and then exited the other side, to live another day. At least it was a clean miss.
I can tell you, I relived this moment many times over the next few days, but the bottom line is that I got “deer fever” and got way too excited before the shot. Likely dropped the muzzle of the shotgun, right as I pulled the trigger. I will never truly know, but, I can work to ensure that never happens again. I am a very good shot with long guns or pistols, and a standing offhand shot is nothing new to me, yet, I choked it, and I missed.
Shotgun “A” season ended with only one of my hunting “camp” knocking one down. I sat out Shotgun “B” season, obviously, and purchased myself a nice new Muzzle Loader for the upcoming season on December 11. I bought a Traditions Vortek Ultra Light and fitted it with a Nikon Inline XR 300 BDC scope. Got it all sighted in and awaited the start of Muzzleloader season.
Something magical happened, right before Muzzle Loader season started, it snowed, finally. Where we had seen no deer sign in months, we now saw tracks, beds, poop galore. There were a ton of deer right where I was hunting. Woohoo.
On my first day out, it had just snowed about 5-6″ the day before, so tracks were easy to see. I found a very fresh set of tracks and pellets (still warm … don’t ask) and got on the stalk. Followed and tracked for about 400 yards. The next thing I saw were 2 white flag tails about 6 feet in the air, 100 yards out. Busted. Oh well, it was fun and I love seeing deer, even when they are running away, LOL. Spent the next number of days hunting as much as I could (7 days of the season), yet, the deer gods did not bless me with a harvest this year. During the ML season, the sign was everywhere, and the deer were there. They just avoided me, like the plague.
In the end, I would not have truly changed anything about this season. I have to work harder, scout better, figure out more than I did this year, and hope there is some food sources next year (almost no mast this year in the woods). It was an experience I would not want to give up or forgo. I love being in the woods, I love hunting. I will get to spend plenty of time in the woods this winter, hiking and exploring, not to mention, now I can begin to think about splashing the boat in 2014 and hitting the saltwater again as well.