It’s been a long time since I last posted. As per my usual practice of late, the post is my latest column in Ontario Out of Doors magazine.
The fall started off really warm. There were periods of heavy rain as well. There was a big snow and windstorm on Remembrance Day, Nov. 11. It was a big dump and lots of small trees and shrubs became laden with the sticky snow and bent right over, making travel a mess. Many larger trees also fell down in the storm, mostly trees that were standing but were usually dead, diseased, or injured. After that snowstorm, the snow has not melted away.
Grouse and woodcock hunting wasn’t what I had hoped for. Neva, our Wachtelhunde, injured herself on the 2nd or 3rd time we were in the field, so she was largely out of commission entirely, or on light duty until mid-October. But that’s when trapping season opens and I am not at all okay taking the dog out hunting in areas where traps might be set. With her nose and inquisitiveness, if there’s a baited trap somewhere, she’ll find it.
So I started calling her my “George Springer dog’, in reference to the injury and accident prone slugger on the Blue Jays baseball team lineup in 2021. Both are stars, but tend to often be found on the sidelines and missing most of the action.
Then if was on to deer hunting. Did no waterfowl, moose or bear hunting.
I wound up hunting from one spot. On the evening of Nov.14, the 13th day I had been on stand (and sometimes twice a day), a mature buck showed up and I took it.
Which, brings me to the post. Hope you enjoy it. It’s the original and I know it was thoroughly edited before it saw the light of day in my column.
One of the most popular deer hunting techniques used by Ontario’s 160,000+ deer hunters is sitting, watching and waiting. There are hunters that sit and watch from an elevated position – others sit and watch from the ground.
In fact, virtually all deer hunting techniques include some amount of sitting, watching and waiting.
It’s by far the most practiced method by which deer are hunted, so it’s obvious that finding a good spot for sitting – watching – waiting is always a top priority.
One of the pre-conditions I have when looking for a spot to sit, watch and wait is whether I can be more or less invisible and be reasonably comfortable for at least a couple of hours.
Being both invisible and comfortable are a couple of the reasons why blinds – not only temporary pop-up blinds, but small shooting shacks on the ground, perched high in trees or on stilts – are becoming increasingly popular.
There is another option.
Find an old, abandoned farm house, or other building, somewhere out in deer country.
With at least some preparation, you’ve likely got yourself a safe and comfortable spot to sit and watch and wait and be virtually invisible. Best of all, abandoned buildings in deer country are more than likely a deer hunting hotspot.
A Deer Hunting Hotspot
Abandoned buildings in deer country are often associated with farms and farming, so there’s a good chance it’s sitting right in a chunk of prime deer habitat, or it’s overlooking farmed land, pasture or old fields. All of these are prime places deer are likely to frequent. If the building(s) are the remains of an old homestead, there could also be remnants of apple orchards, hawthorns and other mast-bearing trees and shrubs, all of which can provide the food and cover deer seek.
Another huge plus factor for abandoned buildings is that deer are acclimated to the spot and unafraid of the building(s).
While farm country is the best place to find these deer hunt spot gems, they can also be found in forested habitats. Over the years, a lot of farmland, like the buildings themselves, have been abandoned, and trees quickly encroach; on Crown lands, where forestry, mining or other activities occur, trailers and shacks are regularly abandoned, despite Public Lands Act laws that forbid such practices. These old buildings can also be great places to hunt from, especially if they overlook a cutover or other forest opening.
Finding Old Buildings
The easiest way to find an abandoned building deer hunting hotspot is always keep an eye out whenever you’re driving, walking or riding roads and trails. If you have rural and/or farmer friends, tell them what you’re looking for and have them ask around.
If you do find a building that looks like it might be a good place to sit, watch and wait, there are a number of things you need to do before glomming on to it. The first order of business is to determine whether the building is on private, leased or public land.
If it’s on private or leased land, you’ll need permission from owner or leasee to at least have a first-hand look to see if it meets your needs.
Once you’ve got the A-Okay from the owner, the top consideration before even entering the property is personal safety. Abandoned buildings are commonly associated with abandoned machinery and other ‘junk’ – be aware of unmarked wells and other holes and pits that might be hidden from view. Insofar as the buildings themselves are concerned, they too can be a hazard. Be on the lookout for rotting walls, ceilings and floorboards, shards of glass and rusty nails.
Don’t be noseying around wearing inappropriate clothing, particularly footwear like flip-flops, Crocs or sandals.
Depending on the condition, you will probably need to do some maintenance. Floors and windows in particular might need attending to. As long as the place provides a good vantage, is comfortable and safe, it’s up to you – with owner permission – how much time, effort and money you want to spend on a fix-up.
But even before fixing the place up, a clean-up is likely in order. Chances are there were or are mice, squirrels or larger animals – like skunks and raccoons – that have used the building as a residence. You want to breathe clean air and not be amid animal feces to minimize the potential of contracting of diseases or parasites (hantavirus and raccoon roundworms come to mind).
At a minimum, sweep up and wipe down (wear a proper mask!) where you will be – sitting – watching – and waiting – as well as where you’ll be eating, stretching and pacing.
Don’t forget about what to do about relieving yourself. A port-a-pottie will make your vigil much more enjoyable.
Be aware of the direction you’ll be shooting (not towards a road!); be sure the sun’s not in your eyes at dusk or dawn and have an appropriate backstop.
A Final Alternative
If you can’t find, or have access to an abandoned building, there is one other option to consider.
A fish ice-shack.
Fish shacks that are built to last for years have to be stored somewhere during the off season. An ice shack looking to be a deer hunting shack can be just the ticket. Think of the possibilities.
Sitting in a spot for months will let the deer become well acclimated to its presence. Plus it should be clean, safe and comfortable with minimal effort.