Deer Season

By the time the sun rises this Saturday, November 17, the woods will be filled with blaze orange hats, breathe clouds, adrenaline shakes, and the feeling of a tradition carried on. It’s the second Saturday in November, and general firearms deer season will open, sending hordes of hunters into the woods after meat, a possible trophy, and the camaraderie that goes with it.

Central Virginians (at least those that hunt east of the Blue Ridge Mountains) are blessed with a long deer season, largely because of the abundance of venison bounding across the Piedmont. In Fluvanna, Buckingham, Albemarle, Greene, Orange, Louisa, Goochland, and eastern Nelson and Amherst Counties, the general firearms season will run through January 5—the first Saturday in January. In western Nelson and Amherst Counties, the season will close early on December 1.

During the general firearms season, modern firearms are legal weapons for taking deer, but hunters are also permitted to utilize archery and muzzleloading tackle. However, though not required during the archery season, blaze orange must be worn by all hunters during the general firearms season.

As is the case during the archery and muzzleloader seasons, the bag limit for deer east of the Blue Ridge shall be two per day and six per license year. Of those six deer, at least six must be antlerless and no more than three may be antlered. Antlerless deer may only be taken on “either-sex” days, which vary by county. Check the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website (www.dgif.virginia.gov/hunting/regulations/deer) for specific details.

A Successful Harvest

I’ve called many places “grocery store”—farm ponds dense with tasty bluegills, frequently-farm-stocked trout waters, woodlots filled with gullible bushytails, upland preserves loaded with pheasant, chukars, and quail—all for their willingness to give up game.  But in this year of poor to non-existent mast, no place fits the label more than a food plot on a friend’s Fluvanna County farm.

It was a doe day (either sex), and late enough in the year that the majority of leaves had long been rotting on the ground.  We had good rainfall; and the lush patchwork of greens popped from the ground—a beacon in a graying woods.

I sat, my back to a young pine, studying the contrast.  The sky was overcast; the temperature, seasonal; and the wind, non-existent.  On such pleasant days, deer move in whichever direction their moods take them.

The traditional grassy field browsers, rabbits, appeared from all angles, sitting silently at the wood’s edge, munching, while chipmunks and voles scurried about with less caution.  Turkeys—rather large ones—wobbled out of the neighboring pines, and milled about the soft earth in search of worms and grubs until spotting my orange cap and strutting anxiously but collectively back from whence they came.  Even squirrels, the rabbit’s cousin, long-lost to the towering hardwoods where nutty forage abounds, showed their faces in relative abundance both in the field, and in the crowns of surrounding pines.  It was only a matter of time before one of their larger acorn-loving associates made an appearance.

A resounding rifle shot interrupted my casual observation.  My dad, situated in a tripod stand just a few yards beside me, had picked out a browsing doe entering the field outside my field of view.  A round from his Ruger .243 stopped her on a dime; and we had our first bit of venison of the year on the ground.

He made a thumbs-up motion to me through one of the tripod windows.  The daily limit is two, and the evening has just begun.  Surely, there’ll be another deer to grace the field before dark.  The clover and grasses are their most-available food sources at the moment.  So we wait.

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