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Rod, Gun and Game: Opening Day brings deer magic for some hunters

DOUBLE TROUBLE — Mark Potter (left) and his 16-year-old son, Nicholas (right) share a happy opening day moment with each other, as the two scored on two mature bucks while hunting in West Falls. Both deer were taken with 12-gage shotguns, using Lightfield Hybrid Express deer slugs at less than 30 yards.

WEST FALLS — The Thanksgiving holiday allows hunters some time away from work and a good opportunity to hunt for a few hours, before dinner time. That means a large number of hunters entering and exiting the woods, all across New York state. Deer movement is the result and about as many deer are taken on Thanksgiving morning as opening day morning.

For most people, one deer is all they hope to take home and for Mark Potter and his son Nicholas, that was the goal. Using Kevin Kishel deer scent products from East Aurora, the Potter hunting team set up about 100 yards from each other, at daybreak of opening day.

For Mark Potter, 54 years old, and Nicholas Potter, who turned 16 last year, the hunt is more about the camaraderie with other hunters, the thrill of the outdoors and an objective to put some food in the freezer. When the two-some are lucky enough to take more than two deer, they share their venison with family, friends and the local food bank. That was the case, this year, when each one of them scored on a giant buck in West Falls.

Both are members of the East Aurora Fish and Game Club, located on Luther Road in East Aurora. Mark Potter uses a 12-gauge Remington® 870 and his son prefers his Mossberg® 500 Slugster; both use Lightfield Hybrid Express 2-3/4 inch deer slugs. The guns were sighted in at 25, 50 and 100 yards.

As the sun began to rise, deer movements all across Western New York started to increase, with the rut prediction set to last until after Thanksgiving, this year. The elder Potter heard a single shot fired at about 9 a.m. and checked with his son to verify it was him taking the shot. It was, as Nicholas Potter watched the deer cross his shooting lane, about 25 yards away. He downed a nine-point buck. The deer was field dressed and everyone else in the hunting party eventually went back to hunting.

About 45 minutes later, a giant whitetail came in to his dad. About 30 yards away, Mark Potter used a single shot and his Tasco Red Dot scope for accuracy, to drop the deer in his tracks. This deer was quite a bit larger than the deer his son took.

“Your son was living in the glory of the moment with his big deer,” said one hunter. Another hunter chimed in, “You could only let Nicholas savor the moment for 45 minutes?”

“We try to harvest a minimum of one deer per year and have done that, most of the time, since I was 16, quite a few years ago now,” said Mark Potter.

“Most of the time we are lucky enough to harvest a doe, but this year sure was special. Last year, Nick harvested two doe and I, on the other hand, had nothing to show.

“Most of last year, I was with Nick, in his second year with guns, during big game season, [as a mentor under the New York rules] to teach him the skills we share about deer hunting,” he continued.

“His second doe, he took without my help and I realized that this year, he was ready to fly solo. I am proud of my son, as Nicholas is a very ethical hunter that has been taught to let it walk, if he is not 100 percent sure of his shot and beyond his shot. We always insure our guns and are shooting true, prior to the start of season, never leaving anything to chance.”

It is good to see that younger hunters are evolving, under the tutelage of their family and friends, and that when they enter the woods, they are aware of the necessary deer knowledge required to make a perfect shot and to make the choice on the safety of the intended shot.

Neither of the Potters have a lifetime license, but they buy their licenses each year that they hunt, paying the extra $10 for the doe permits. When asked about the Saturday opener, Potter said, “I really prefer the Monday opener and my son likes the Saturday, but he hasn’t experienced the Monday ‘skip school and work to go hunting,’ like we did when we were younger.”

In discussing the Saturday versus Monday opener with other hunters, eight out of 10 hunters say they would prefer to go back to the Monday opener, because it gives everyone some time to settle into deer camp, get their bearings in the woods, check their stands, their guns and ensure safety.

“With the Saturday opener, folks are hurried,” said Ray Orlowski from Cheektowaga.

“My friends at deer camp all say they would rather have the old Monday opener back, from many years ago.” This controversy has evolved, ever since the day of the opener was changed, about seven years ago.

Safari Club banquet

The annual late autumn big game hunter tradition game dinner from the Western and Central New York Safari Club International group is coming up, as the 19th annual event will be held at Michael’s Banquet Facility in Hamburg on Dec. 13 at 4 p.m.

The SCI helps to promote many youth in the outdoors events in WNY, with proceeds from this event, and has earned high marks from other area sportsmen groups. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 984-2773.

Outdoor calendar

Dec. 7-8: Niagara Frontier Gun Show, 11177 Main St., events building. For more information, visit

Dec. 8: Last Day of NYS Southern Zone Big Game firearm season.

Dec. 9-17: NYS late archery and muzzleloading season for deer and bear, sunrise to sunset.

Dec. 13: WNY Safari Club International 19th Annual Game Dinner, Michael’s Banquet Facility, Hamburg, 4 p.m. start. For more information, call 984-2773.

Jan. 4: Erie County Trappers Association Fur Handling Seminar, Collins Conservation Club, 2633 Conger Road, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., free. For more information, call 337-2556.

Jan.11: Fundraiser for Ray Markiewicz, who is fighting leukemia, Eden Legion Post 880, 1-6 p.m. For more information, call Jim Bailey at 649-9714.

Feb. 7-9: Coyote Hunt Contest, Seventh Annual, White Sulphur Springs Firehouse, Sullivan County, $2,000 grand prize for heaviest coyote, women’s and youth division, $40 entry. For more information, call 845-482-4987 or visit and click on news.

Send information for inclusion in the Forrest Fisher Column’s outdoor calendar, 10 days in advance, via email to


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