, Gloucester, MA

December 5, 2012

Outdoors: December Deer Hunting

Dave Sartwell

---- — It is unbelievably warm to be in the woods deer hunting. The words “tracking snow” seem to belong to a different generation. Given our recent history, I guess we need to get used to this new average. But the phases of the moon haven’t changed and the rut does happen regardless of temperature.

These higher temperatures mean that hunters have to change their mind set a bit if they are going to be successful. The deer are going to be more active than usual at night. Instead of curling up under a low spruce and waiting out the night cold, they are going to be eating later into the evening and be more active in the early morning hours. They may be more prone to be having a siesta in the late morning and early afternoon.

This means you want to be in your deer stand early in the morning, preferably at least an hour before daylight. You want to let the sounds in the woods drop back to normal after you walk on in to your tree. Given the noise from fallen leaves, if you set very quietly, you should be able to hear movement long before the animal gets within range.

Here is where discipline counts. The tendency, when first hearing a sound, is to whip your head in that direction. Remembering that movement is your enemy, always turn to the sound as slowly as you can. Unless the deer is running, which is quite unusual, you will have plenty of time. If you are up high, most deer will not even be looking in your direction. They will be concentrating on what is at eye level or lower ahead of them.

However, any quick movement will give you away. Although there is very little they have to fear from above in New England, deer do have large eyes that pick up changes from normal around them. So stay quiet and let them walk slowly up to you.

Wear a face mask of some sort. There is hardly anything more reflective in the woods than the white of your face. This is especially true after the sun is up. If you turn your face toward the game and it is not camouflage in some way, you are going to see a white tail in a hurry.

By 11:00 am. you might want to try getting own from your stand, leaving the area and do a little slow walking in another spot. It will give you a chance to maybe jump a snoozing deer or at least scout out another area for future hunting.

Although the shotgun season ends Friday, the black powder season will continue through to December 31. The new gun options now make this a much easier sport to enter. And, it extends by three weeks the time you can spend in the woods.

Duck and Goose Seasons

The duck and goose seasons continue. Both regular duck and sea duck seasons run through Jan. 21 with the late season goose season continuing until Feb. 15. You can take 2 geese a day through Jan. 21 where it then increases to 5 a day. The reason for the increase after the 21st is that the state wants to reduce the resident population.

Usually by now the freeze has closed up the fresh water ponds, sending the ducks out to the salt water. Unfortunately this has not happened so far, and, given the forecast, may not happen for a while. There is also no snow cover on the fields, so the geese remain on the farms and golf courses where the feed is better.

The good news is that if you can find a beaver dam, pot hole or a wide spot in a fresh water creek, you might be rewarded with some pretty good duck hunting. Remember that to insure good hunting you have to spend a time scouting. Try to build into your hunting day a period where you watch flighting ducks or take your canoe into streams you have not run for a while.

Ducks move to food and quiet spots. See if you can find them. The upper Parker River, the Ipswich, and spots inland around Rowley and Essex including Chebacco have little pockets and beaver dams that hold a great many ducks.

If you are into sea duck hunting, take a drive down to Revere Beach. Across from Kelly’s Roast beef there have to be at least 20,000 scoters working the clam beds.

Sea ducks follow the sea clams. A few years ago there were no ducks here. When I called H. Heusmann, the waterfowl biologist for the Massachusetts Division of the Fisheries and Wildlife, he told me there was no cause for alarm. The ducks had just moved to the South Shore where there was feed. He told me as soon as the clam beds rejuvenated, the ducks would be back. As usual, he was right.