11/8/2017 9:19:00 AM In general, a pretty quiet deer opener Saturday
Ron Kuecker Outdoors Columnist
Even before this year's shotgun slug season for deer in our area, I had some concerns about how good it might be despite predictions of a good hunt. There were several reasons for that. Those deductions included plenty of unharvested corn, a weather front predicted to be moving through (close if not direct), flooded river bottoms for weeks had made them poor cover for deer to hide and last, but not least, a full moon phase. I also thought some of the predictions of plentiful deer were maybe a bit too optimistic. But out I went Saturday morning, much earlier than I usually do, finding my way in the dark with a head lamp. Maybe it was because of my failings to put venison in my freezer the last couple of years. Settling into some dense cedar trees planted about 20 years ago, they seemed a great spot to spend a morning. Especially, considering, that last year from a nearby tree stand I had seen numerous deer pass by them. It was totally different this year. No deer were moving here, less than 100 yards from the Des Moines River, a natural area of converging trails. No shots from my neighboring hunters were heard until 8:15 when only one was fired. Usually I hear 20 to 30 by then. I know of a standing corn field about a mile away but they all couldn't be hiding there. The weather though damp, nearly foggy, with an eight to 10 mph southeast wind shouldn't have been bad enough to shut down all deer movement. That left only one thing, must be the moon phase. The beaver moon The moon phase effect on wildlife movement has been discussed almost forever it seems. Some believe it, some don't, I do. There have been books written about it and lunar tables predicting fish bite and hunter success are printed regularly in outdoor magazines and newspapers. I thoroughly believe them and once again, during this year's opener, it was proven to be a factor. The November full moon is called the beaver moon. Some say it originated with the Algonquin Indians. Others think early fur trappers and traders started the term. What it refers to is that period of time in the fall when beaver pelts are prime, yet before lakes and rivers freeze over. During that era of our nation's early frontier period there were no ice augers or metal chisels. So mostly, it was trap your beaver pelts before freeze up or have a cold winter's sleep. The full moon of November was the time to do it. This year that beaver moon fell exactly on the night before the deer opener. We couldn't see it above the clouds but it still had its effect. Full moons are notoriously bad for natural movement of wildlife during daylight hours. It seems so especially with deer. As I have read reports or talked to other hunters, near and far, natural movement of deer has been pretty slow. Natural movement That can easily be defined as wildlife movement not forced by human behavior. It usually refers to deer heading to or from feeding areas from bedding sites. They usually occur in the early morning or evening. Some hunters have wanted to see the deer season closed during the mating season. They say bucks get "silly" during that time of increased male hormones that coincide with doe estrus. They believe too many bucks are killed during that time called the rut resulting in fewer trophy bucks a few years later. I view it as natural movement and a perfectly acceptable time to hunt. It is usually trophy-only hunters that want this. And, considering that recent public opinion polls favor meat hunting over trophy-only hunting, we should probably continue as we are. Jerome's big buck There was one big buck that was moving about during the early morning of the opener near Jeffers. Jerome Smith of Delft who works at the Cottonwood Veterinary Clinic had heard of the big buck for several years. Hunting alone he chose to snuggle into some corn rows near the end of a field. Shortly, he saw a nice doe coming towards him across a harvested bean field. Just above the knoll behind her, against the horizon, a beautiful set of antlers appeared. This is the moment we spend countless hours waiting for. We say to ourselves, this is it! Some get rattled and succumb to so-called buck fever, others feel a calm sense of making the shot. Even though it was a running shot at the huge 13-point buck Jerome made the hit. It wasn't a perfect heart or lung shot we all try for but he was able to follow the blood trail to where the buck collapsed. A photo of the big buck accompanies this column. Way to go, Jerome. More on wildlife movement I love to feed birds outside our kitchen window. Last night I saw our first cardinal of the year, a beautiful female. She shared the safflower seeds they love with a nice downy. Other recent sightings include a red-bellied woodpecker, blue jays, nuthatches and plenty of dark-eyed juncos. It always seems they all arrive at the same time in a feeding frenzy. Late Saturday morning a quick look at the feeding area indicated the same as my hunt, no birds, no feeding. Then about two hours later they all flocked in, feeding and flying wildly about. The timing of that feeding activity would have followed the moon phase prediction quite closely. Interesting, huh?