Thanksgiving Deer Report

Neil and Craig Dougherty of North Country Whitetails compiled this report from field observations and strategically placed trail camera photos taken on their two properties (700 acres) in upstate New York. They have been documenting hunting season deer behavior for over 20 years and update their field reports weekly. Previous reports can be found at northcountrywhitetails.com Gun-season syndrome is upon us. The deer using our property and that of the neighbors are well aware of the presence of hunters in the woods. Road traffic has increased, ATVs are crawling along every mountain trail, chainsaws are running and humans are showing up where they haven't been in 11 months. Oh yeah, occasionally a rifle shot reminds those whitetails that have been lucky enough to reach maturity that things are not well in their world. Most readers of this report are also in this situation.Outdoor Life Online Editor
With this as a backdrop, most of the deer we observed were feeding. In fact, our sighting numbers are up dramatically with some serious feeding activity going on. Note too that winter hit hard last week with snow and overnight temps in the low teens and we have very good late season food plots and native vegetation.Outdoor Life Online Editor
We observed little in the way of bucks working does (at least on food plots) as in prior weeks. Doe family groups are being re-established with far fewer lone fawns and does sighted. Most of the bucks sighted were also feeding with little interest in does feeding nearby. Our cameras revealed no new unique new bucks this week. Our unique buck sightings remain at 47 identified on 500 acres since early fall. We only were able to check 50% of our cameras this week as we are in super stealth mode here at our Kindred Spirits property. During gun season we are reluctant to visit certain internal property locations unless we can do it undetected due to stormy weather or other factors. That opportunity did not present itself last week.Outdoor Life Online Editor
In 29 hours of stand hunting (we don't count deer encountered while going to and from stands), we've spotted 174 does and fawns and 27 bucks. Our deer per hour count is up dramatically but our buck sightings are down (especially mature buck sightings). Bottom line, the does and fawns are back together and using food plots heavily and bucks (especially older ones) appear to be laid up in areas not readily observed by us or our cameras.Outdoor Life Online Editor
From this point on, food will be king and deer will be slaves to their stomachs as they attempt to stockpile nutrition for the winter ahead. The plan now is to hunt fall-winter food sources almost exclusively and wait patiently for mature bucks to hit the food during daylight hours. We expect this to occur as breeding activity subsides and hunting pressure declines. From here on in we will be spending a good deal of our time hunting near our most preferred food source-- corn-- with its high heat, high energy, fat producing carbohydrates.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Our clover chicory plots are covered with a couple of inches of snow but are still being used. We only expect them to produce deer food for a few more weeks due to snow cover (8 inches generally shuts them down) or winter dormancy. Our brassica plantings have been long since eaten up but our corn is still going strong. Our woods have some scattered acorns and we have excellent winter browse and cover for the deer using our property to prosper. This is the time of year when property layout really matters. The right combinations and arrangements of food, cover and access pays huge hunting dividends. This is especially true when you are hunting "small" properties (under 1,000 acres) surrounded by deer hunting neighbors.Outdoor Life Online Editor
The weeks immediately following a high pressure opener is often a time of high frustration for hunters who aren't seeing any deer. If you have food and cover, hunt low impact and stick with it; hunt late fall and early winter food sources and allow pressure around you to move deer onto your property. Earlier reports (first 5 weeks) can be reviewed at northcountrywhitetails.com .Outdoor Life Online Editor

Here it comes-- the biggest deer hunting weekend of the season. Are you ready?