A big doe ducked her head out from under the bright yellow and orange leaves of a swamp maple and looked both ways before skipping quickly across an East End fire road. Having returned to the brush, she stood frozen, her head turned nearly 180 degrees to look back over her tail. No doubt, a buck was in hot pursuit.
I had staked out the dirt road from the comfort of my car in the hope of learning if a trail I plan to hunt over the next few days might be active. Now, suspicions confirmed, I waited to see how things might play out.
It took a minute or two, but the doe pushed a little deeper into the woods. That proved to be too much separation for her 10-point suitor, who quickly emerged from the low-hanging branches to march across the road. Fully focused on her position, he glanced neither left nor right. No doubt the rut, as the white-tailed deer mating season is called, is now in full swing.
“The deer certainly seem to be getting more active” said Mike Larson, 47, a bowhunter from Montauk who hunts across Long Island’s East End. “With the early fall so warm this year, the season got off to a slow start but I saw several small bucks chasing does early this week and yesterday I spied a long-tined buck on patrol, so things are getting interesting.”
Although most hunters key on bucks at this point in the season, it’s knowing where the does are that will put you in the right place at the right time. Find the largest does in an area and a big buck should be nearby.
“There’s a real good crop of acorns this year,” notes Larson, “so if you know a spot with a lot of oak trees, that’s one possibility to explore. It’s an easy food source for the does.”
Another point Larson suggests for archers looking for bigger bucks is to be selective and not settle for the first deer with antlers that steps into view. “The big ones often hang back for a while, letting smaller bucks and does lead the way,” he states. “Wait for a quality buck, one with a rack extending outside its ears, before taking a shot. Those big ones are out there, but you only see them if you let the young ones pass.”
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