Herd Mentality

As I promised in last week’s post, I am reporting back with any good videos from the trail camera I set up about 75 yards from my house. I set up the camera at sunset on Sunday, January 21. I picked it up around sunset today, Friday, January 27.

Despite all the wind and rain that we had this week, including a nor’easter that lasted two of those days (Monday and Tuesday), there were only 23 videos on the camera. I thought for sure that there would be dozens of videos where the wind and rain set off the camera.

Well, as usual, Bushnell served us well. Only seven videos were caused by wind and rain. One was of me pruning the brush in front of the camera. One was of a gray squirrel. Three were of a cottontail rabbit. All the rest were caused by deer either walking in front of the camera or setting it off by sound by walking near it.

Not surprisingly, all of the videos are from right after the nor’easter cleared out. There are four videos from 3:06 PM to 3:10 PM on Tuesday. It takes more than the length of these four 30-second videos plus the between-video buffer time for the herd to walk eastward (that is, from my stand area toward my house). Therefore, it’s impossible to count how many deer are in this herd from those videos. It could be as many as eight animals.

At 3:00 AM on Wednesday, there’s a video of them walking westward (that is, from my house towards my stand site).

Take a look for yourself. Click the image below to watch all five videos in order.

After checking the camera, I took the dog for a walk around the neighborhood. Immediately, I noticed a turkey’s breast feather in my front yard. That surprised me because it’s been more than a month since I’d seen the flock of 14 turkeys that haunted our yard during last hunting season. It had been even longer since I saw the four birds that roosted next to our garage.

I had hoped that I’d get the turkeys on the trail camera, but I had no such luck. However, as I walked the dog along the opposite bank of the river just after sunset, something caught my eye. The whole flock, now down to twelve birds by my count, were roosted just across the river from my across-the-street neighbor. I snapped a quick photo with my phone.

Roosted Turkeys

Roosted Turkeys

It’s too bad Mass. bow season doesn’t start until October. Until then, I’ll be dreaming of ways to cull the herds.

~ Tony

My Introduction to Suburban Scouting

Matt, the most successful suburban hunter I know, offered to make the 40-minute drive to my house to track down the deer my wife and I spotted on Wednesday.

We started tracking the deer right across from my front door. It wasn’t hard to follow the trail. It was the deer equivalent of a highway.

The Deer Herd Highway

The Deer Herd Highway

It didn’t take us long to find rubs from a very large buck.

There's a Big Buck in Them Thar Woods

There’s a Big Buck in Them Thar Woods

I was content to see that the deer were constricted to a corridor between the river and my neighborhood. I thought, “They’re ripe for the picking right here along the river.” Matt wasn’t so easily satisfied. He was hell bent on finding their bedding area. Why? Because he knew I’d have to approach my tree stand, probably while the deer are bedded down.

As we came across some likely bedding areas, it didn’t take us long to find signs of other hunters.

The Competition Is Sloppy

The Competition Is Sloppy

The first stand we saw was a hang-on stand that was so old that it was pinching off the tree almost to the point of cutting it in half. The tree had grown over the screw-in steps so much that only about an inch of each was visible. This stand is in a very good location, but clearly no one is using it, as the screw-in steps are unusable and the stand is at a permanent 45-degree angle.

However, this area does get pressure. There is a fallen ladder stand nearby.

Mother Nature Took Down This Ladder Stand

Mother Nature Took Down This Ladder Stand

A newer ladder stand is still in place, but across the river from where I would hunt. Then I spotted an orange reflective tack. We followed it to its owner’s stand, where we found a bottle of scent spray. We then followed the tacks to their starting point, which is a house in a nearby neighborhood.

I felt a bit discouraged by all this sign of hunting pressure, but Matt was encouraged. With suburban hunting, “it’s all about where the other guys are,” Matt said. It’s true. None of these hunters are approaching the area from the direction that I would come from (namely, my house), and their stands are near bedding areas, while mine is in a transition zone to a food source (namely, all the acorns around my house). With any luck, the other hunters will push the deer out of their beds and in my direction, especially if I take Matt’s advice in how I approach my area.

You see, my neck of the woods is quite thick, thorny, and swampy, which is a perfect place for deer to hide, precisely because it’s impossible to sneak up on a bedded deer in that type of cover.

Rubber Boots Are a Must At All Times

Rubber Boots Are a Must At All Times

Matt’s advice is for me to take a canoe from my house to my hunting spot, which would make for a quiet, scent-free approach. Also, with a canoe I could scout areas that Matt and I simply couldn’t reach without chest waders and a machete. So I guess I’m in the market for a cheap canoe. Given that I’ll have to wear rubber boots at all time, and I’ll be taking the canoe 475 yards (less than a third of a mile), according to my GPS, the canoe could even be quite leaky.

We had to forge multiple streams and inlets and outlets to the main river. I even went over my boots in one spot. This type of cover will keep dogs away, as evidenced by my own dog, Bear, who could not cross beyond the area where I’m planning to hunt.

The End of the Line for Bear

The End of the Line for Bear

As we slogged our way back to my house, you’d never know that it was January, as the thermometer had hit 52 degrees! You’d also never know that it was only about a half mile as the crow flies. We took a very circuitous route in hopes of finding more sign, which we did. We found more scrapes and rubs, but most were within sight of houses. Despite the small parcel of woods, we covered a lot of ground, as evidenced by my Fitbit stats.

Five Miles of Slogging Through the Swamp

Five Miles of Slogging Through the Swamp

After Matt left, I went back in to set up a trail camera. I set it up about 75 yards from my house, right where the houses come closest to the river, forcing the deer to travel a very narrow corridor. I’ll check it in a week or so, and I’ll post any good videos I get.

Until then I’ll be hunting for my boot dryer.

Desperately Seeking My Boot Dryer

Desperately Seeking My Boot Dryer

~ Tony

Why Did the Deer Cross the Road?

Because I came home from work early.

I cut out of work at 4:00 on Wednesday, which put me home right at the end of legal shooting light (5:10 PM). As I walked from the train station down my dead-end road, I spotted at least three deer under the street light that is 15 yards from my front door. I took a photo of them, and the flash startled three more deer that were in my backyard.
Deer Across from My Front Door

Deer Across from My Front Door

All six or so deer ran into the conservation land across from my front door, which is exactly where Matt and I are going to scout Saturday morning. I guess we won’t have to go far to see any sign.
Tracks in My Front Yard

Tracks in My Front Yard

The quality the photos and videos I got stinks because they’re taken with my iPhone on a dark, drizzly night.
I’ll set up my trail cam on Saturday, which will give us much better quality videos.
At 9:00 that same night, my wife came home from class to see four deer on our road and four deer in our backyard.
Clearly this is worth investigating. Matt and I will check it out on Saturday and report back on our findings.

~ Tony