In any event, in both the Northern and Southern zones the deer followed the same pattern they did the past few years; very near the rut they went nocturnal and that put them out of my reach. I had trail cams set up in all my regular hunting areas and early in the season got some great buck photos during daylight hours, but around the first week of November or so almost all of my photos came between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m.
Even the cams I had set up in more remote, less traveled areas that receive little hunting pressure showed the same. It should come as no great surprise really, since the approach of the rut sends the deer into different behavior and travel patterns.
All we can do now is wait for the Department of Environmental Conservation to compile the results of this year’s seasons and then we can begin second-guessing what we did wrong; or right. The agency should have preliminary results available perhaps next month and the final results a month or so after that.
Now that the Northern Zone Big Game Season is done - and assuming I can get rid of the horrendous cold that’s been hounding me for over a week - I’ll bring out my favorite scattergun and do some partridge, cottontail and varying hare hunting. I’ve never figured out which one is my favorite since I enjoy them all, but if I were to be forced into making a choice, I think it might be the grouse hunting.
Perfectly at home in a wide variety of habitats perhaps no small game species is as popular with hunters as the ruffed grouse, or partridge, whichever you prefer. Found in all the Canadian provinces and some 38 of our states, they’re the most widely distributed game bird in North America, according to the Ruffed Grouse Society.
Here in the East they range as far south as northern Georgia, though their major populations are found in areas where snow comes earliest and remains fairly deep throughout the winter. They’re truly a bird of the North Country and thrive and survive in snow conditions that would decimate turkeys, pheasants and other game birds.
The ideal winter for a ruffed grouse is one with an abundance of soft, deep snow that persists into March or beyond. This provides the bird with its unique winter survival mechanism. They burrow as much as 10 inches into this snow, helping keep them warm and safe from predators. Everyone - including the grouse - knows snow is an excellent thermal insulator.
Without this snow cover grouse are forced to seek shelter in dense conifers and similar habitat, where they can more easily fall prey to predators or even freeze to death. A cold, snowless winter may be great for you but can be bad for grouse. Hopefully, we won’t have another snowless winter like we had last year.
AIR GUNS OK
Incidentally, in the event it skipped your mind, you can now use an air gun to hunt squirrels, rabbits, hares and ruffed grouse as well as furbearers that may be hunted, such as coyotes and raccoons. An air gun is described by DEC as “A firearm that uses spring or compressed air (not gunpowder) to propel a single projectile that is .17 caliber or larger and produces a muzzle velocity of at least 600 feet per second. You may use a smooth or rifled bore.”
Personally, I feel that if you hit a 30-pound coyote with a .17 caliber air gun projectile all you’ll succeed in doing is annoying the critter. And don’t try to compare that with a .17 caliber rimfire. That ammo comes out of the muzzle at some 2,100 fps, compared to 600 fps for an air gun projectile.
Have you ever wondered what people buy a lot of during Black Friday sales? Obviously they buy cameras, TVs, toasters and the like, but consider this. According to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), a new single day record for point-of-sale background checks was established Black Friday, Nov. 23, when 154,873 checks were conducted.
That total exceeds by 20 percent the previous high of 129,166 that was set - guess when - on Black Friday last year.
You’re all aware that federal background checks are mandated for every firearm sale at retail stores and serves as a reliable indicator of retail gun sales. During this record period for background checks, NICS reported that many retailers calling in experienced extended wait times or received a message saying, “all circuits are busy.”
Fortunately, the NICS E-Check system remained operational and resulted in little delay for dealers able to take advantage of it.