It is a fair assumption that most deer hunters went into this past Monday's opening day of Pennsylvania's two-week firearms season hoping to avoid other hunters moving into their hunting location.
Now, many of those hunters who are still trying to fill a tag will go into the final week of the season hoping for other hunters to also be in the woods and moving around to push deer in their direction.
And, for all of those hunters who lament having to hunt public land because "all" of the deer are on private land, now is the time to take advantage of hunting public land. What hunters are out during next week's final push, chances are the majority will be hunting State Game Lands or other public land open.
Too often the reason for not seeing deer on public land, especially during the final week of the season, is because of taking the path of least resistance. In other words, be honest enough before going afield to know that walking the same paths and trails as everyone else is probably not going to result in having the opportunity to take a shot.
Locating a place to hunt that has received little pressure can be as simple as studying the typography of the land. In the mountainous areas it is safe to assume most deer hunters have focused their efforts along bottoms or on ridges, as they are the areas that are easiest to hunt.
Bottoms and ridges are the usual targets for organized groups that participate in deer drives. Likewise, these are also favorite areas for those using a treestand, a blind or simply taking a stand.
Because deer have been pressured during the first week of the firearms season, they can – and often are – found in many locations as they go into hiding during the final week. Still, one of the best areas to target is the side of mountains that requires work to reach and then focus on hunting benches.
Very often fresh sign on these benches, which includes dropping, scrapes and rub lines, will help in pinpointing deer activity in the area. More often than not, however, be prepared for more work searching for travel routes between bedding and feeding areas.
It is also best to focus on areas of heavy cover, as it is very unlikely that a deer that has sought out sanctuary is going to come strolling through open woods. In these areas it is important to listen for any sound that may betray the movement of deer.
Yes, 9-of-10 times that sound in the leaves is a squirrel, but there is that 10th time. Also, deer do occasionally snap a twig by accident, but will paw the ground looking for food and buck will rub their antlers on trees.
It is amazing how far a sound will travel and can be heard on calm days in the woods, especially if hunting from an elevated position. When hearing a sound use binoculars to scan for movement, but rather than focus on the full body of a deer, look for the twitching of an ear or the horizontal silhouette of its back.
Another consideration is being a scent free as possible when hunting during the second week of the firearms deer season. Unlike opening day when volleys of shots send deer running pell-mell in and out of range of that next hunter in the woods, deer are more cautious and make the most of their sense of smell.
Taking a deer the final week of the season requires more work than what is required for opening day. Taking that deer, however, brings a reward and satisfaction that is unequalled.