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Without a doubt this has been an odd hunting season in New York State. Popular blogs and forums are spilling over with the frustration of New York's Whitetail hunters who are holding far too many unfilled tags.

You don't have to talk to many hunters before you recognize a common thread running through the exasperated accounts of their hunting season. Hunters are simply not seeing many deer, causing some to conclude that the population has dropped. Others blame reduced hunting pressure due to the lack of hunter access. Each assertion is just an attempt to explain this weird, weird season. 

But what is the reason many of us are not seeing deer in numbers this season, particularly mature deer, no matter how long we sit? And, what can we do about it?

Over the last couple weeks, I've been noticing a pattern. I can sit for 6-7 hours and see little or nothing. Then, when the next day's sun rises, I see the tracks and scuffed leaves on the ground as if the woods were overrun with deer during the night. This has convinced me that the deer population has simply been able to go nearly completely nocturnal. Any daylight movement that is taking place must be in cover where I can't see them. I can only blame this on the strangely warm weather we've been experiencing.

I ran that idea by Cy Weichert of ScoutLook Weather. He backed up my conclusion, stating, "The weather has definitely impacted this season, especially during the peak of the rut when it was 60-70 degrees, by curtailing most of the activity to night time. Many hunters think the warm temperatures push the rut out further, but the reality is the rut is dictated by length of day, and starts at around the same time, year in and year out. So when it's hot outside and they have their winter coats on, they're still chasing and breeding, they're just doing it under the cool shroud of darkness."

Great, so now what? The deer are there, but we can't see them as they stay nice and cozy in cover, aided by a mild weather pattern. Plus, all long range forecasts have this weather pattern continuing through the end of the late bow season, which ends Dec 22 in the southern zone.


A view of a beautiful sunrise, but with absolutely no deer in sight.

I asked Cy if he could recommend a strategy for the few late season, mild weather hunts that remain. Cy replied, "We're starting to see chasing going on in the late rut here in NY when does that weren't bred in the first go round, come into estrus again. It's going to be warm now for the next few days, so the strategy should be to hunt as close to thick pines or other cool bedding areas in hopes of catching them as they start to move. If you're too far from thick cover, it will be dark before they get to you. Also, does are getting into the late season mode of hitting food plots and not traveling far to bed, so hunting between food and bed is best. Check your Scoutlook Weather Scentcone before you go to pick the ideal wind."

Based on my observations, I have to differ slightly with Cy on one minor point. The last mature buck I saw was on December 1 and he was very interested in a couple of mature does who were still playing hard to get. So, based solely on that observation, the chasing phase of the second rut began about a week ago where I hunt in CNY. Ether way, I think it’s safe to say that your last best chance to take advantage of the opportunities only the rut can bring, is now.

The ScoutLook Scentcone is a feature of the ScoutLook Hunting App, available for iOS and Android.
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Comments

metalmikee, 2 years ago

this is the worst deer season in my 31 years of deer hunting!!!

keith, 2 years ago

Im from the southern zone and our trail cameras, are getting pictures at 3 am.

Ultimate, 2 years ago

Weather is a contributing factor this season...but the deer numbers are down ...period...especially the mature buck...there is lack of big buck sign..and absense of trail cam activity....even at nite ....

C six, 2 years ago

is is a good theory, but in 7 j where we hunt on private land under QDM antler restrictions there are no, or very few deer. The runs that normally are tracked up don't exist and what we would see in the past coming into food plots is now non existent. The DEC really doesn't have a clue on the deer population when issuing DMP's. We had 6 permits we wouldn't fill because of the lack of deer here.

Ultimate, 2 years ago

Amen C six.....I'm too involved in the process and the community of hunters in my area..it's all the same feedback....Cayuga County..the population is down....the rifle season...winter kill...nuisance permits...over abundance of DMP's...predator...etc...this isn't a video game...something has to give...especially when you remove the better gene pools....

Catz, 2 years ago

Guys, I have to disagree with most of the comments. Deer population has not fallen off, hunters have. There is no pressure-why would a deer herd move in 60 degree weather with no pressure? here is what we did. A basic push. Kick those doe up and get them moving, hell we used pots and pans to make noise-one group runs then the next group and before you know it, our guys in the stands were shooting. for the big boys, they are nocturnal, not during the rut, that's when they get taken.

Catz, 2 years ago

Guys, I have to disagree with most of the comments. Deer population has not fallen off, hunters have. There is no pressure-why would a deer herd move in 60 degree weather with no pressure? here is what we did. A basic push. Kick those doe up and get them moving, hell we used pots and pans to make noise-one group runs then the next group and before you know it, our guys in the stands were shooting. for the big boys, they are nocturnal, not during the rut, that's when they get taken.

Catz, 2 years ago

Guys, I have to disagree with most of the comments. Deer population has not fallen off, hunters have. There is no pressure-why would a deer herd move in 60 degree weather with no pressure? here is what we did. A basic push. Kick those doe up and get them moving, hell we used pots and pans to make noise-one group runs then the next group and before you know it, our guys in the stands were shooting. for the big boys, they are nocturnal, not during the rut, that's when they get taken.

cockbirdarcher, 2 years ago

I disagree w catz. I live Columbia county and have watched deer number drop off for past three years. I attribute it to deep snow and harsh winter and large numbers of coyotes. I have trail cam pics of many coyotes in packs. after winter 2013 I found 8 carcasses within 500 yards of my house and deer sightings throughout summer and fall were probably half what I saw the year before. im not talking about after bullets fly scaring deer into being nocturnal im talking ALL year grazing in fields.

cockbirdarcher, 2 years ago

looks like cut me off for number characters:( we had 22" snow lasting few long cold months around here and that took a toll along with making it easy for the coyotes.

cockbirdarcher, 2 years ago

looks like cut me off for number characters:( we had 22" snow lasting few long cold months around here and that took a toll along with making it easy for the coyotes.

thanman08, 2 years ago

I am newer to the sport of deer hunting....as such I cannot comment on whether or not the population has been dropping...however my family hunts is less waiting in a stand and working to push the deer to each other. This has helped me harvest two does on my first season really trying to put food on my table.

QuiverMeTimbers, 2 years ago

Complicated issue. Too many coyotes = true - should be year round hunting, Herd smaller = very true in some areas while others not so bad (good food supply and not much snow last winter means less winter kill), poaching = growing problem, too few hunters = very true, too many nuisance tags and doe permits = really not sure, warm weather = weird

IceMad, 2 years ago

not sure about this warm weather stuff - just too many damn coyotes

cockbirdarcher, 2 years ago

CATZ I now agree with you, you are somewhat correct. This is complicated for sure. although I havnt seen many deer all summer in grass fields and soybean fields etc. out of the blue Sunday night appeared 36 doe on the property where I had not seen more than 12 all year. Assuming a couple bucks hiding in the woods til dark puts us near count of 45. 2 years ago we had been seeing upwards of 45 doe in this same area. So seems the numbers are down but not as bad as first thought.

fair herald, 2 years ago

A few days before the regular season opener while checking our little plot in Cortland Co. a young buck walked to within 15yds. of me and held. Hadn't gotten the memo on going nocturnal I reckon. That was the sum total of 'fresh' sign I saw the entire season. Opening day I had two sightings, nothing more than glimpses. If there are deer around, they will leave sign. Just about everyone I've spoken to complains of a lack of deer this season, though decline has been noticed the last couple seaso

fair herald, 2 years ago

The factors for this decline I hear repeated are coyotes and nuisance permits have gotten out of hand, and doe tags handed out like confetti. Perhaps the expanded use of rifles has taken a toll as well. The second week of the season an expierienced hunter called me saying he had been out all the first week and wasn't spending anymore time and gas looking for what isn't there. Today an old hand told me he and his son are planning to hunt Ohio next year.

fair herald, 2 years ago

I guess they were all hiding in the bushes this year. Hell, I haven't been seeing road kill for that matter. This was a good season for the insurance companies.

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