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Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 9:23 am

Father & son glean memories: a young man's first buck

The first hint of dawn was on the Eastern horizon when Jeff Bartz pulled off the highway and onto the dirt lane that wound its way through a farm field. In the passenger seat was my grandson, 14-year-old Sammy Bartz who has accompanied his father on numerous hunts in recent years, but only in the role of an observer. On this day the roles would be reversed.

It was the first day of New York State's Youth Firearms Deer Hunt. In only its second year, the program allows junior hunters aged 14 and 15, and accompanied by a mentor who possesses a valid big game hunting license, to hunt deer. Under the terms of the hunt, the mentor is not allowed to carry a firearm, he/she is there for guidance only.

Despite the low light, as the Bartz' vehicle moved slowly along the dirt lane they were able to see several does feeding in the field beside them. On a nearby knoll, silhouetted by the first light of day, was a buck that the father and son estimated to be a six-point. Moments later Jeff and Sammy began the slow walk to their tree stand a quarter mile away through a hardwoods.

"On the way to our stand I could hear deer running off, just kicking up the leaves in their haste," said Jeff. "I figured we botched our hunt."

Not to worry. Not only would the elder Bartz' original plan for the morning pay off, there would be plenty of action forthcoming. Theirs was a strategy that began during midsummer when Jeff and Sammy first scouted a variety of locations before the actual placement of their tree stands. One such location was a large woodlot with an abundance of shagbark hickory and a smattering of beech trees. Last Saturday morning found the pair in those same woods, situated 12 feet off the ground in a buddy stand, a pre-fab ladder stand built for two hunters. Cradled in Sammy's arms was an Ithaca Featherlite 20-gauge, the same shotgun used by his great-grandfather.

The father and son tandem weren't seated very long when the action began.

"Four does came in first," said Sammy. No doubt they were intent on feeding on the bumper crop of hickory nuts that now littered the forest floor.

"A six-point came in right after that," he continued, "and then another buck right behind him. That one was a six-point, too." That's when a skirmish ensued as the two combatants squared off and began shoving back and forth. When asked what the does did at this time, Sammy said, "they all stopped eating to watch." 

At this point Sammy turned to his father and asked, "What should I do?", to which Jeff replied that it was his son's own decision to make. Sammy didn't know it yet, but he was about to have his decision made for him.

The two bucks were still going at it when a newcomer arrived on the scene. Both bucks stopped battling as another buck, an eight-point, strutted onto the scene. Sammy raised the Ithaca 20, but with the big buck walking broadside behind leafy growth at 75 yards, he wasn't afforded a clear shot. Noting the direction the buck was headed, Sammy picked an opening between two tree trunks and waited. The opening was slight so once the deer moved into it Sammy had little time. With the buck still on the move, the young hunter took the shot and the buck went down, flailing on the forest floor only briefly before it was up and bounding away.

Both father and son got a good look at the directon in which the deer ran off and decided to wait 45 minutes before climbing down out of their stand. After what must have been an incredibly long wait for Sammy -- no doubt his adrenaline pumping to beat the band- - they began the tracking process. After 20 minutes and 150 yards, Sammy let out a loud whoop after spotting the antlers.

His cheeks flush, a broad smile on his face said it all. Certainly the events that unfolded on this morning will be forever embedded in his mind. And as for Jeff, who has put a great deal of venison in the family freezer over the years, how did this outing rank among all the others? Savoring the moment he said, "This was by far the best hunt I've ever experienced."

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 9:53 am

A walk through the Genesee County Park

Being it was the second week of December and no snow on the ground, I suggested to Claudia we should load up the dogs and head to the county park. And because we had Tate and Ernie along, we decided to stay off the side trails and stick to the main road.

This is one of many interconnecting trails found in the park. Despite staying on the "beaten path," there was no shortage of wildlife.

Not far from the interpretive center where we parked, this piebald doe hightailed it across the road...moments later she was followed by the fork horn pictured below.

Notice how, unlike the doe, his tail is tucked? But not all bucks think alike.....

This buck was right behind the forkhorn. Obviously older and wiser, his tail isn't tucked, but neither is it in full alarm mode. He seems somewhat tentative about our presence and he probably has other things on his mind...the action seen here suggests the second rut may be kicking into high gear.

Beech trees are prolific in this section of the park. Some of the younger beech have yet to shed their leaves.

Young spruce surviving among the hardwoods.

The headwaters of Black Creek flow through Genesee County Park. The creek will continue its northward flow through Bethany, Stafford and into Byron where it will make an eastward turn and continue into Bergen before entering Monroe County where it will eventually flow into the Genesee River.

Just downstream from the stone bridge we saw sign of beaver activity along the creek.

Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 9:01 am

November outdoor photos

Daybreak at Pcionek's woods

Claudia spotted this whitetail along the edge of an Oakfield woodlot...with the rut kicking into high gear the bucks have been on the move.

Reflective pool in an Elba woodland

Vestige of October's foliage

This ringneck pheasant was sauntering along the side of the road and stopped long enough for Claudia to take its picture before hightailing it into dense cover.

A hardwoods and spent milkweed pods separated by a foggy shroud

Clouds reflected on a small stream

Redtail hawk surveying its domain

We came across this historic marker on West Barre Road.

Sunset viewed from Mudrzynski's hill in Oakfield

Friday, October 5, 2012 at 9:07 am

October whitetails: Sometimes easy to spot and sometimes not

post by JIM NIGRO in nature, outdoors, whitetail deer

Out in the open, this pair of whitetail does little more than give me a passing glance before going about their business of feeding.

This female, hardly concerned with my presence, is about to continue her browsing.

She pays no attention whatsoever to a sizable flock of boisterous blackbirds. Early autumn can be a great time to spot deer feeding in open fields, but a change in terrain can result in limited sighting opportunites.

Whitetails are skulkers, and in woodlands and dense brush one needs to keep an eye peeled for a flicker of movement, like maybe a twitching tail. I waited a considerable time for this deer to raise its head, curious to see if it was sporting antlers.

Once positioned between a pair of hawthorn trunks I was able to make out an antlerless head. Its a doe, craning her neck for a backward glimpse.

Monday, May 7, 2012 at 9:13 am

Submitted photos: red fox, her pups and a doe

post by JIM NIGRO in kits, nature, outdoors, Red Fox, whitetail deer

Batavian Jeff Gillard paid me a visit a week ago, telling me about a red fox den nearby his home. Hoping to get photos of kits Jeff had been seeing, that same evening Claudia and I set up in said location during the last hour of daylight as Jeff had suggested but saw only one of the adults.

The next evening proved futile as nothing entered the meadow. Jeff then came to the rescue, providing the photos seen here. Above is one of the adults with a kit at her side while far to the right and somewhat difficult to see is another one of her young.

One of the adults appears to be investigating a kill.  

A quick scan of its surroundings prior to digging in.

Time to chow down.

Despite the undergrowth, Jeff caught one of the young near the den entrance.

It pauses to scratch an itch...

...before moving onward.

Whitetail doe still in her winter coat.

It won't be too long before they'll be sporting their "summer reds." Good job, Jeff, and thanks very much for sharing these photos with us!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Batavia Duo Bag Swamp Bucks

post by JIM NIGRO in bow hunting, outdoors, whitetail deer

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Troy Emke and John Lawrence have 32 years of archery hunting between them. Ironically, both arrowed the largest deer of their bow hunting careers little more than 12 hours apart.

Both deer were taken in swampy environs, John taking his big eight point Tuesday evening just before dark. He knew he hit his mark, but rather than track the deer through the swamp after nightfall, he decided to let it lie and wait until morning. Wednesday morning saw Troy in his stand well before shooting light. The 10 point showed up not long afterward, prior to legal shooting time. Troy watched the deer amble around his stand, actually sniffing the hunter's tracks. At sunrise Troy let him have it from a distance of 25 yards and the big buck took off, running maybe 50 yards before he went down with a big splash.

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Shortly after sunup this morning, while Troy was field dressing his deer, John located his buck. Like Troy's, John's whitetail was found lying in water. Both deer field dressed at approximately 175 lbs.

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