In this age of high-tech hunting accessories, something that should not be overlooked by the deer hunter is the need for carrying a quality pair of pruning shears. This is not to say the importance of having items such as a GPS, Walker's Game Ear, scopes, binoculars and scent products should be overlooked.
While keeping a positive approach is probably the biggest factor to achieve success during the final week of Pennsylvania's firearms deer season, which begins Monday, technology can help in filling a tag. In this case, that technology comes in the form of a standard pair of pruning shears.
Even before last Monday's opening of the firearms season, mature bucks – and many of those wise "lead" doe – had their hiding places selected. Now, after a week of being pressured, it would seem that dumb luck, or, even a dumber deer, is needed to fill a tag.
Well, not exactly.
While hunting in the open spaces of a hardwood forest can result in seeing deer, they are usually moving at a brisk pace that often present, at best, unethical shots, or, worse, unsafe shots. That is especially so when using a scope that requires extra time to find the target after shouldering a rifle.
More often than not, successful hunters in the final days of the season are those who go to the deer, rather than hope the deer come to them. So, like it or not, this means penetrating the heaviest, thickest and most unpleasant cover that can be found – which includes fields of evergreens, stands of laurel and patches of skin-tearing, clothes-tearing briars.
Hunting in evergreens and laurel can be productive, but these locations usually mean using drivers to move deer into the open in the direction of posted hunters. Stillhunting in evergreens usually results in seeing waving "white flags" of fleeing deer, and crawling through laurel seldom provides a shot unless hunting with a revolver.
Clearly, the best chance of filling a tag for the solitary hunter this week is by finding an active deer trail that is overgrown with the sharpest, nastiest briar patch. Obviously, cutting through such cover is a time-consuming process, but it is this slow pace that can tip the odds to a hunter's favor.
When hunting through a briar patch, progress should be measured in feet – not yards. And, every few feet, it is advisable to kneel down and look through the tangle ahead with a pair of compact binoculars for the legs of deer, or, best of all, the ear or nose of a deer that has found the safety of its bed.
Before tackling a briar-patch deer, there is some advance planning to do, not the least of which is wearing clothing that has already been torn, mended and patched. It is also advisable to wash the clothing or spray it with a scent-eliminating product, and consider pinning on an earth-scented wafer before beginning the hunt set italicinto the wind.
Hunts in briar patches are ideally suited for the use of open or peep sights rather than scopes. Most shots are relatively close, so sighting a deer can be done quicker with open and peep sights rather than scopes, even when set at low power.
Such hunts are also better suited for the use of lever-action rather than bolt-action rifles. While a well-placed, one-shot kill is most desired, if a follow shot is needed, less motion is required with a lever action than a bolt action, and it is surprising how firmly briars can hold an arm in their grip when attempting to work the action of a rifle.
Not that more of a challenge is needed for those trying to fill a tag during the second season, but hunting briar patches is well suited for those using a revolver. There are safety and legal considerations when using a revolver, however, such as carrying or holstering the firearm and having the proper permit.
At any rate, those willing to sacrifice a few drops of blood, accept a few rips and tears, hunting "briar-patch" deer can result in filling a tag the final week of the season.