It is the nature of hunters to allow their minds to wonder and think about what the next field, ravine, woods or mountain holds.

That is especially so for bowhunters, who find it easy to let their imaginations control their thoughts about big-rack bucks when their world is limited to what they can see from a treestand. More often than not, however, it is those who are able to suppress their curiosity in their wandering minds and remain in their stands that are more likely to fill their tag than those who go wandering.

Often, the rewards are especially rewarding for those who are confident enough and persistent enough to follow through on their decision to hunt small patches of woods, rather than the thick, lush mountain forests. In particular, it is the wood lots near residential areas – with their tasty flowers and shrubs – that are the most productive.

While the once-productive mountains of the Northern Tier have yet to fully rebound from a decline in the population of their deer herds, hunting success can still be had on many of the State Game Lands in the Pocono Mountains, small wood lots of Schuylkill County and rolling hills and field in the Lehigh Valley. Most of that success is enjoyed by those who scout the travel routes of deer, who return to their mountain sanctuaries after feeding in the fields and orchards below.

Even more productive is concentrating on small patches of woods adjacent to farm fields with crops and/or residential developments. While such locations of public land are less numerous than those in such popular out-of-state destinations found in the South and Midwest, it is well worth the extra time and effort to secure permission to hunt private land.

For years, those who hunt in the Special Regulation Areas of the Southeast Region have targeted these areas. In recent years, as the population of the deer herds and the financial havoc they inflict on home owners increases, so too has the number of those giving bowhunters permission to hunt their property.

This scenario is now taking place throughout the area, where land access is a bigger problem than a declining herd. True, overall deer populations have been reduced in many areas because of the increase in antlerless licenses that had been issued by the Pennsylvania Game Commission to facilitate its program of deer management.

In order to stabilize the deer population in Wildlife Management Areas 3D, the PGC allocated 35,000 antlerless licenses were issued for the 2009-10 seasons, which is the same amount that were issued last year. In WMU 5C, where the goal is to continue reducing the deer herd in Special Regulations Areas, 113,000 licenses were issued, compared to last year's allocation of 92,000.

With the combination of these allocations and antler restrictions designed to prevent the taking of younger bucks has come a better buck-to-doe ratio and an increase in the number of more mature bucks with larger racks. Many of these larger and smarter mature bucks have learned to seek safety in less-pressured areas, like the small wood lots in residential areas.

What makes small wood lots so productive for bowhunters is that the statewide safey zone is 50 yards. Conversely, even those hunting with muzzleloaders or shotguns must abide by the 150-yard safety zone for firearms.

So, before finalizing plans for the upcoming bow seasons, it would be wise for hunters to look at the big picture. They are very likely to find that by concentrating on small wood lots, their rewards could be bigger than ever.

2009-10 Bowhunting Seasons

Antlerless Only: Wildlife Management Units 2B, 5C and 5D, today through Friday, Oct. 2; Monday, Nov. 16-Saturday, 28; Monday, Dec. 14-Wednesday, 23.

Antlered and Antlerless Statewide, including WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D: Saturday, Oct. 3-Saturday, Nov. 14; Saturday, Dec. 26-Saturday, Jan. 9.