The 2009 Ohio deer archery season opened on 26 September, a long awaited event for northcentral Ohio bow and crossbow hunters. It’s a wonderful time to hunt, with cool, pleasant days, leaves turning into a riot of red and gold, blue skies, and that hint of fox grapes on a gentle wind. But not a wonderful time to bag a nice buck or doe.

The problem is that whitetails are basically nocturnal animals. They’re primarily out at night, feeding and moving around, and with the weather so great, they’ll often not move until dusk or later, feed leisurely, and be back at their bedding grounds at first light. Which gives tree standers and ground blind hunters a very short time (or none) at dawn and dusk to see something come past.

Morning is the toughest time. You’ll be blundering through the darkness with a flashlight to reach your tree stand before dawn, walking noisily at a time when the deer are also moving, listening, and scenting. The afternoon is better, simply because you can ease in, climb high, and be waiting when they leave their beds, hopefully before it’s too dark to shoot.

I’ve taken deer more than once in October, but very rarely on those pleasant, comfortable, sunny days. In fact, I’ve seen animals so seldom on such days that I long since gave up hunting in nice weather. You might seen an animal then, one chased out by questing dogs or squirrel hunters, but it’s usually a waste of time.

The best October weather for deer hunting is bad weather, and for several reasons. An ideal day is one when the night before was stormy, rainy, and windy, because deer are nervous and spooky then, feeding only sporadically. They’ll often still be trying to fill their bellies when dawn arrives and you’re sitting up there waiting. I’ve had animals come by as late as 9 a.m. after such nights.

The same situation occurs when the day is nasty, hopefully with chill winds and a little sleet to rattle against your poncho. They’ll frequently start moving a couple of hours before dark, worried perhaps about getting a meal before the weather goes completely into turmoil. I arrowed the first big buck I ever killed on just such a day, one so bad I almost decided not to go.

This doesn’t mean you should hunt in heavy rain or driving snow, because they’ll usually hole up, often in thick pines, during such weather. But a little mist doesn’t hurt, nor does some wind and grey clouds scudding across the sky. Bad weather is good weather. If time is limited and you simply must hunt occasionally on nice days, there are still productive ways to go, and one is to drive the animals.

Gather up some friends, hopefully at least six or seven, head for thick woodlots or brushy areas where you have permission, and stage a drive. The drivers should always go in with the wind at their back, if possible, and move slowly and quietly. The deer will know you’re there, of course, and ghost out ahead toward waiting standers. Go through noisy with lots of shouting and they’ll leave at top speed making poor targets for standers. Here’s a final thought. When driving, don’t ignore weed fields. Whitetails seem to love patches of goldenrod, Queen Anne’s lace, and tall grasses, and will often spend their day sleeping there. Many a time I’ve crossed a hip high field and had a nice buck or several does bounce out. Always check them out.

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