SPRINGVILLE — Despite the warm start to the 2013 early archery big game season in Western New York, not too many hunters were upset about hunting in tree stands with camouflage paint on their short-sleeved arms instead of warm clothes.
Deer movements have increased in the last week and bucks have started to leave evidence of “deer sign,” with ground scrapes and tree rubs showing up more frequently in many locales.
As whitetail deer begin to evolve to the romance period of their annual cycle, archery hunters take to the woods as the excitement evolves. Hunting deer this old-fashioned way is the most fun, especially if your 10-year-old son wants to join you.
That was the case for Greg Gajewski and his son, Jacob, last weekend, as the pair headed for the hills in Cattaraugus county, near Franklinville. “We hunt an area near the state land, where the property starts at the bottom of a hillside. There is a small stream and a few acres of flat fields, where we start our walk toward the top of the hill, where wild apple trees seem to attract and hold the deer,” said Gajewski.
The land owner allows Gajewski to put up a two-man stand, but the hunting location is about a 15-minute walk up to the edge of a 3-acre clover field near the wild apple orchard. Gajewski explained, “We were there to camp for the weekend, a family tradition for Ellicottville’s Oktoberfest weekend, and to just relax. I thought I would take my two kids hunting with me for the mornings, one each day, so they could say they went, but I didn’t expect it to be too productive, this early in the season. This was the first time I went out this year.
“Jake and I got up at 5:15, had breakfast, got dressed and walked our way up the hill,” he continued. “On the way up, we looked up and the sky was extremely clear, filled with a million stars. Jake made the comment to me that they looked like fireworks stuck in the sky. I pointed out the constellation Orion and told him that it was always there, over hunting camp, to help us find our way when we hunt. When we got to the top of the hill, we stopped to put on our heavier clothes. While getting dressed, we heard something get up near us and run away. I told him that may have been a deer that we woke and scared off. He was OK with that. We got settled in the tree stand about 6:15 a.m., about an hour before sunrise.”
Sunrise came about 7:30 and Gajewski added, “While Jake was playing some game on his iPod – that’s what kids do these days and I didn’t complain – I noticed a sapling shaking around, about 75 yards in front of us. It’s pretty thick up there, but I thought that was strange. It wasn’t windy, so what was moving that tree around like that? I couldn’t see anything standing in the goldenrod beneath it. Then I saw an ear flick. I nudged Jake’s arm and told him there was a buck in front of us.”
It wasn’t bright sunlight yet, so in the subdued lighting, Jake looked, but couldn’t see the deer.
“I gave Jake my binoculars to look through, as a little four-point buck came out into the open before Jake could find him through the glasses. He wanted me to try to get that deer right then, but I told him the deer was too far away and we should wait to see what he does. That was a fun part of the hunt.
“The deer made a semi-circle at about 60 yards around us to our left-hand side and then started coming right at us. I told Jacob to sit still and we’ll see what happens. He was disappointed when I let the deer walk away, because I didn’t have a good shot with the bow, but he understood. A half-hour later, at about 8, we had a doe come across the field toward us. Again, we let her walk and just took her picture, because she was just a baby,” he continued.
“That prompted a good talk about why we let her go, the future of the deer herd and all that, when Jake spotted a six-pointer that ran behind a pine tree, on the other side of the field. He didn’t wait now; he ordered me to get ready because it was a ‘big deer.’ It was 160 yards to the other side of the field, but I got my bow ready, still looking for the deer. The buck came out from behind the tree and started right toward us. About halfway through the field, he stopped. This is where Jake started with the deer call I gave him, a Quaker Boy ‘Thug-Jug’ bleat call.”
This call is a great way to allow kids to get into the hunt, when they are too young to use a bow with New York’s 12-year-old minimum age rule. You simply turn the call over and an internal mechanism and gravity creates a perfect doe bleat, attracting bucks and does alike. Tone and volume can be varied by cupping your hand around the end of the call, but that is not necessary to be effective.
Using his PSE® Beast at 70 pound draw with Beman ICS Hunter™ shafts and Blazer® vanes, tipped with Rocket® Sidewinder mechanical broadheads, Gajewski placed a perfect 32-yard shot on target as the deer stepped past some tall goldenrod stalks and into a shooting lane.
In the moments after the shot, the pair descended from their 15-foot perch and Gajewski explained, “I took Jake to see the spot where I hit the deer, showed him the hair that was cut off, and found my arrow right behind where the deer was. We looked for a blood trail for about 10 yards and then I told him, let’s go for breakfast and then we’ll come back to find the deer. Two and a half hours later we found the buck about 70 yards from where I hit him. Jake got a little queasy, watching his first field dressing, but was there for the whole thing.”
“Jacob surprised me, when he insisted he go with me instead of having dinner with everybody, because that is what we had to do. I tried to talk him out of the three-hour round trip, but he still went.
“We got there right at the closing bell; I actually called them and asked the butcher to wait for us when we were 10 minutes away. We dropped off the deer, ordered our summer sausage, pepper stick and Italian sausage and headed back to camp.”
Gajewski capped off his story with a giant smile, adding, “Now, I haven’t gotten to take my daughter out yet, but she’s waiting for the opportunity!”
Time in the outdoors is best when you spend it with your family and your kids. Congratulations to this family, who look forward to the hope of harvesting two healthy deer, each year. Many families do the same and the bonus is that it all helps with the food bill, too.
Good luck to everyone who enjoys the peace, patience, solitude, excitement and unforgettable memories that come with every early archery season, whether you bag a buck or not.
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