Deer Season 2016

(Trigger Warning: I hunt, this blog includes posts on hunting, as such this post contains pictures of harvested deer.  Please avoid if this is unsettling to you.) 

Sometimes things just work out.  I mean there are lots of times where life throws you curveballs and nothing works (cough, last years deer season), but then there are the times where things just click and all feels right with the world.

I had a feeling that the 2016 deer season was just such a time.  It was a new  year ripe with possibilities, and despite a poor success rate in 2015, I remained more optimistic than ever.  With a warm winter at our backs, a good recruitment of fawns expected, and an unheard-of three doe tags in our collective pockets, visions of many tagged deer danced in my mind.  This was a pretty great way to feel hiking out to a deer stand at the beginning of the season.

Some hunters talk about conjuring deer from an internal sense of desire, other people talk about positivity bearing fruit.  Heck maybe it all comes down to the great Ju-Ju, and how many times you rub the rack of antlers over the camps fireplace before you start the day.  Call it what you want, but what ever it was I had it on the first day.  About 10 minutes after sitting down, a good sized doe cantered out from the corner of a nearby field right into my field of vision and the sights of my Tikka .270.  I whistled to stop her as she ran, took my shot, and just like that, our group had our first deer down for the year.  Sometimes things just work out!


Having harvested a deer on the first day, left me with a strange feeling.  All my past experiences with deer season usually involved several days of little to no action right off the bat.  This inactivity equates to build up in anxiety, and anticipation.  One that is gradual and goes unnoticed but usually culminates with a rush of adrenaline once a deer is actually harvested late in the season.  This is not the case for the punctual deer shot right off the bat.  This deer comes with a strange lack of excitement, and a sense of relief.  Knowing that the first deer is down and that the group will have venison for the winter is as relieving as it gets.  Although not as exciting, harvesting the first deer so quickly sure makes it easier to sit in the stand for the rest of the week.  Maybe its not so complicated, maybe its just the ramblings of a successful hunter who has spent too much time in a back up stand.


But enough rambling, lets talk about the season.  Generally, as deer seasons go, this one sits firmly in my top 5.  Heck, my top 2 for that matter.  Its takes second place for the number of deer I personally harvested, and first place for the level of success we as a group had.  With an average of one deer per day, and six in total, the season was action packed an hard to beat.  Not to mention the quality of the deer just seemed to get better and better as the week carried on.

dsc_0794-iidsc_0789-iiThe first three deer were does, filling our coveted doe tags and forcing us to take amore buck centric mind set.  This was tough to do with the number of does that just kept presenting themselves to us.  Luckily Jordan managed a shot at a tricky buck who was trying to sneak by in a marshy area.  Buck one was down and day three was over.

Day four started off with a low key run on a property that was divided into two sections.  We ran the first area with no sightings of live deer but plenty of deer sign for the seeing.  Following the unsuccessful initial run, we moved to the second adjacent property, thinking that perhaps the buck whose sign we were seeing could be present.  As luck would have it, he was, and as I trucked on into the farthest stand I heard the sound off a rifle from one of our group.  Eric had been laying in wait at a pinch point within the property in anticipation that something may be pushed as we travelled to our stands.  This would be our second buck and the biggest I had yet to see in my relatively short time as a deer hunter.

(Eric hadn’t harvested a buck in a while, so it was nice to see him have success with such a beast of an animal) 


This deer was healthy, and Eric was beaming.  According to the group, It had been a few years since something this big had come out of the woods.  Big, but not the end of the story.

Day five arrived, and it was my turn to dog the bush.  My previous dogging experience had been limited to a small section of woods as a way to ease me into the game.  Having already harvested a deer, and having fresh young legs made me a prime candidate to run the dogs a couple times.  So the group set me up on a larger stretch of bush, followed by a smaller tighter bush.  At the time, I wasn’t too impressed with the prickly ash present on the first property.  Who would be.  But contemplating the whole experience I’ve realized this is a part of deer hunting and you have to put the work in to reap the rewards.  Apparently I put a whole lot of work in, because the reward on the second run was pretty epic.   I was quick to note that due to my success, I may actually be the best dogger to ever enter those woods.  That claim was short lived as the group started mulling over the concept of having me dog on a full time basis.  Back to being average!


A few minutes into the run I dogged a small section of swampy woods located next to the roadway.  Apparently the deer had been using this as a throughway to get across the street to the adjacent cornfields.  I must have some innate knack for dogging as I inadvertently managed to send a bruiser of a buck back towards the other hunters in their stands.  This big boy was the last and biggest of the week.  Bigger than Eric’s the day before, and bigger than anything I had ever seen in person.  A true southern Ontario giant.


(There was no way we were carrying this guy out of the bush.  As is, it took a few of the lads to lift this beast onto the four wheeler.)



The veterans in the group immediately started into a conversation about whether or not this was the biggest ever deer taken on the property.   The veterans measured the buck with there aged discerning eyes and mentally compared this trophy against the bucks of old.  To my surprise and amazement, this buck didn’t even break the top 5.  As unbelievable as it sounds, bigger bucks had been taken on the properties we hunted.  And in the groups opinion, bigger bucks would be had in the future.  Regardless of this, the one thing the whole group agreed upon was that the past years had been very tough and this year had been a return to past glories.  I was left confounded, feeling like as much as I had seen in my past 5-6 years of deer hunting, I had yet to even scratch the surface…


(The reality of the situation became very apparent when the three bucks were stacked up side by side.)


(the author with the larger than life buck harvested by the youngest of our group)

We did a last run Saturday morning, albeit half heartedly.  With the success we had it was unlikely that the group would actually shoot another deer.  I think deep down we all know when its time to call it a day.  Besides, with six deer hanging, we had a long day of work ahead of us.


This was a year for the history books, and a year to fill freezers with prized venison.  I’m left with a sense of satisfaction that comes with having a full freezer.  This can often be accompanied by a sense of loss, or depletion, a feeling that we had ransacked the woods and left things in shambles.  This was not the case this year.  My view remained positive as the number of predators seen was way down, the number of deer seen was way up, and better still, the number of deer seen that we didn’t harvest far outweighed the number we shot.  It seems we are in an upswing of the deer cycle in this part of 67.  The sentimental part of me feels like I’m living the soon to be good old days.  And when I’m old and grey, sitting on my porch telling stories of my life gone by to semi interested relatives, this week will likely be one of those stories.



Almost Ate a Tag Sandwich

After a long regular deer season and several days spent during the controlled hunt It was looking like id be eating a tag sandwich this year.  Things were so dire that my boss had to step in a set me up with this nice 10 pointer.

There might not be a lot of meat on it but I’m sure it will go well with any meal.


First Deer

I was recently invited to join a work friend (Jordan) and his family for the first week of this year’s  annual deer hunt.  They hunt a large group of properties in a small town north of Kingston using dogging methods.  This was my first experience dogging, so being a still hunter, I was naturally excited to experience it’s relative fast pace.

Starting out..

We headed out early Monday morning to meet the other members of the group at the family farm.   All the other members seemed to be well seasoned deer hunters.  Thankfully they didn’t give me too much of a hard time for being a green horn.  In fact, I think they were glad to have another gun on a another stand which gave the deer one less out and increased our odds.  With an arrival at 4:30 am, we had plenty of time to make the introductions and to discuss how things would play out over the course of the days to follow.   Once we had some direction from the more experienced hunters, we departed the farm towards our stands which were situated on a nearby property.  Finally the season was about to begin.


(I could argue that some of the best sights to be seen are from a tree stand just as the sun begins to rise)

The first run turned out to be unsuccessful, as did the following runs that day.  Even so, I was able to learn a lot about how the group functions and about dogging in general.  Typically the group completed 3 to 4 runs with the dogs in a day, all on different properties so as not to pressure an area too much and to maximize coverage.  Hunters are placed in strategic locations along deer runways or prime escape routes on each hunted property in an attempt to remove all exits from the property.  The method relies on the dogs pushing deer present in the area into their preferred escape routes, where the hunters have hopefully been placed.  This is where the group’s extensive experience with the land shone through, as time and time again they put me in stands that were obviously on throughways for deer.  Its one thing to hunt a property, its all together another thing to completely understand it and how animals interact with it.  Regardless of the lack of success, I could see it was just a matter of time.

The days progressed quickly, with silent periods broken by quick jokes on the radios or the howling of the hounds.  Ever time news of a sighting came across the radio, my heart seemed to jump out of my chest and I found my eyes would flit across the landscape with renewed focus in hopes of spotting our quarry.  I didn’t know half of the areas the radio conversations were discussing but I knew that deer are fickle things and they could just as easily wander in front of my stand as any other.

Although the methods seemed well practiced and time tested, It just seemed like there were very few deer around to even push.  Everyone seemed to agree the deer were not in the areas we were pushing, and that they were likely posted up in the large swamps nearby.  Not to mention, we had been experiencing some above average temperatures which some say will keep the deer from moving too much.   Thankfully, the stars aligned on the third day.

Day 3 Success

We hunted another previously un-hunted piece of land right off the bat on day 3.  Despite some pretty heated runs, and encountering a buck and multiple does, no deer were taken.  The deer seemed to find convenient cedar rows or thick bush to escape to.  There was no question though, more deer were being sighted.

On the last run of the day we shifted to another property that we had previously hunted.  According to the land owners, this was one of the gems amongst their huntable lands since so many deer used the area as a throughway.  Its deer population could vary so greatly over short periods of time which made it a good candidate for multiple runs.  The property was a mix of fields and planted pine rows next to a small lake but the interesting part about this property was a thin 60 yard sliver of dense cedar and mixed bush that separated the fields from the lake.  This sliver formed a natural funnel/runway for deer and they placed me and my Winchester Model 94 30-30 smack dab in the middle of it’s main arterial deer path. This would be the first time the little winnie would see any action.


It was a couple hours into the hunt when I a heard a twig snap just beyond my field of vision. Its funny how you realize the subtle difference between a deer moving and a squirrel playing once you actually hear a deer move!  Moments later a beautiful 8 point buck casually popped into view.  My chest pounded.  This was the best chance I had ever had at any deer, and the first time I had seen a buck through the sights of my rifle.  At the time I didn’t even realize that the animal was on the upper side of average and actually a fairly good size for the area.  I just saw a jumble of deer horns and bush.  Likely a bi-product of the adrenaline.

The buck was cautious and advanced at a snails pace.  He had yet to detect me but made it clear he was aware something was afoot.  Beating back the buck fever, I took a breath and slowly raise the 30-30 to put the bead sites on as much of the deer as I could see.

The brush was very dense and the deer had not stopped in an ideal location so clear shots were almost impossible.  I waited.  I sat patiently for what seemed like an eternity with bead fixed, and hand steady.  Then he took a couple small steps, advancing a foot or so and revealing his neck and broad chest in the process.

His eyes met mine in a moment of final realization.  He knew and I knew a fraction of a second was all I had.

It was at this instant I took the shot.  Moments later, the deer lay still in the same place as he was once stood.  A clean shot and a quick end.  A successful harvest.


I shot a second deer that week.  The second looses none of the excitement, but there is something about the first that remains seared into my memory.  I’ve had a lot of firsts in the outdoors during the course of my life.  First fish, first bass, first goose. etc.  All of them exceptional, life altering experiences.  But, I can honestly say, they pale in comparison to overwhelming excitement you get when you pursue a large animal like a deer for the first time.  These animals aren’t so easily tricked and their senses are much sharper than our own making a successful hunt all the better.

DSC_1639 (ii)



As profound an experience as it is to harvest a deer, harvesting is not the only valuable aspect of hunting.  For myself, tradition plays just as significant of a role.  I was lucky enough this year to hunt with an established group that gave me a chance to take part in an family tradition that has been developed over decades.  It was immediately clear that this tradition was built on the ideals of family, mutual respect, conservation, and enjoyment as well as preservation of the sport for the future.  I could see this when members of the party brought their young kids out to teach them about the experience.  Or when we discussed the reasons for selective harvesting as a means of conservation.  For this group, hunting is as much about the tradition and preservation as it was about the shooting.

But no need to look at hunting in such philosophical terms.  Hunting is really just a week or two every year where you get to relive the past experiences, share hunting stories, tell the same jokes and enjoy the company of other like minded folks.  A time to share a real connection with other human beings and time to pass down much needed lessons through the art of some “back in my day” story telling.  Its a time to pass time in the outdoors, reflect on things, and gain a bit of clarity. And in our busy lives, who couldn’t use a little bit of that?


Cheers from the Wild