First place

Eric Weaver, Fulton: "Autumn Wetland," Sterling Nature Center


Most of us know Byron Ferguson as the phenomenal archery trick shooter who has performed archery trick shots throughout the United States and other countries. He is also an avid hunter. Ferguson hunts at least 150 days a year and has taken more than 100 whitetail deer, plus moose, bear, mule deer and countless small game and birds. He has recently published a book sharing his hunting experiences and knowledge, "Become the Arrow."

Ferguson offers 10 tips for archery hunters in his book that really apply to not only archery deer hunters, but also those hunting with firearms:

Using the wrong approach route: Stand approach is extremely important and if not done properly can destroy all chances of harvesting a deer before you ever make it to your tree stand or blind. Ferguson says that, “The most direct route is not always the best.” You have to choose the right route in and out of your blind. Have more than one route to enter and exit your blind or tree stand. Use that route based on what the prevailing winds are to avoid spooking deer going to and from your stand or blind.

Placing the stand too high: The higher the stand, the tougher the shot. There are more obstructions and tougher angles. Ferguson’s rule of thumb is “Climb in cover or climb high, but only as high as conditions dictate." Experienced deer hunters will tell you that the height of the tree stand from the ground is determined by the surrounding cover. If the surrounding cover is optimal at eight feet off the ground, then this is where you should hang the stand. If the stand is hung too high, you risk being sky lighted and the deer will spot you. Some hunters believe that putting their tree stands up high helps them prevent the deer smelling them. However, there is a report that tests have shown that no matter how high you climb deer will detect your scent. The higher your tree stand is off the ground, the farther the air currents will carry your scent. If you are 30 to 40 feet off the ground, air currents will carry your scent 100 to 150 feet before it descends to the ground. Deer will smell you before getting close enough to your blind. It is recommended that to avoid deer smelling you, rely on a good shower, fresh clean under and over garments before every hunt and make sure the wind is right for the stand you plan to hunt from.

Mis-reading the signs: To avoid hunting a “cold” stand, learn to age the sign deer leave behind. Many times I found areas loaded with old sign, but deer had either depleted the food or simply moved to a more favored food, Ferguson writes. “Make sure the sign you see is fresh”.

Shoot too soon: If you shoot the first deer you see, many times you won’t see the big one that was just behind it or had not yet stepped out of the woods, brush lot or corn field. If you are after that big buck hold off to make sure it is not too far behind the first deer.

Trying to force a shot: Because you may be able to place your arrow (or slug or bullet) accurately is no excuse to attempt a low-percentage shot. Archery hunters have to remember that a deer can and will get out of the way of an arrow. Wait for a high percentage angle, such as broadside or quartering away, if at all possible.

Scouting at the wrong time: Learn when the deer are the least active and scout then. “Since I don’t like to hunt in the rain, I will use this time to scout,” Ferguson writes. ”Most scouting should be done before the hunt.” Deer movement is governed by their belly most of the year. When you scout, start with the food source and work from there. Just be sure you’re aware of seasonal food and food sources, and how quickly the deer will move from one to another.

Scouting without a plan: Scouting is not walking around in the woods looking for deer tracks. Ferguson’s favorite tactic is to look for food sources, but being careful to stay clear of bedding areas. Once he locates a hot spot, he uses a compass to note different stand sites for various wind directions.

Routing hunting: “Deer will pattern you,” Ferguson writes, “so you should break up your routine.” Have many more than one or two stands ready, so none are over worked and contaminated with human odor. Stay on stand longer or sleep in, arrive at your stand when you would normally be leaving.

Over hunting: Don’t hunt the same stand over and over because it seems to be “hot.” Good stands can turn cold because of over hunting from them. There is too much scene and activity. Ferguson says that there is another form of over hunting. Hunters burn out and lose enthusiasm when hunting day after day. Ferguson has seen hunters burn out before the rut.

Broadheads not sharp (shotguns and rifles not sighted in): After hunting a couple of days, check the edges of your broadheads. Weathering and accidental contact with brush can wear them. Just because your arrows are in a quiver does not guarantee continued sharpness.

When it comes to your shotgun or rifle, they too come into contact with brush and limbs, may be stuffed in gun cases or even get bounced around in your car. Taking a practice shot once in a while to make sure they are still sighted in may prevent you from missing that buck of a life time.

For more information about Ferguson’s book and other outdoor books, go to:

Sportsman Channel television show host and one of the nation’s top white-tailed deer hunters Melissa Bachman offers three tips for deer hunters:

Limit number of trips to check your trail cameras. “This is one of the best scouting tools I know of, but don’t give into the temptation to check them too often," says Bachman. "I like to pull cards only when I’m in the area and I encourage hunters to really go out of their way to not go in and out of their hunting areas to much!”

A second tip is to exercise a little bit of patience, especially during the rut. “Sit all day if possible,” she says. “It is one of the best things I can recommend as it cuts down on the amount of times that you come in and out of a good spot, and let’s face it, hunting is all about the amount of time on stand. Simply put, the more you’re out there, the better your odds are.”

Bachman’s third tip is to use a deer decoy at the right time of the “whitetail autumn.” She uses a deer decoy during the rut, but her best tip is to make it as realistic as possible. Bachman puts her decoy out about 15-yards from her stand and sets it up so the bucks will come at her decoy head on. “I’ll also thoroughly spray it down with scent elimination spray and add some attractant lures at the base of the decoy,” she added. Then she tries to simulate a real fight between two bucks by using two different grunt calls along with a doe bleating; as well as rattling antlers, hitting trees and making other sounds that imitate two bucks fighting.

For those deer hunters hunting from a ground blind, Tom Keenan, a Gander Outdoors store manager and field expert, says that ground blinds have become more popular over the years. Many hunters don’t want to climb up trees anymore and in some areas, the landscape doesn’t always provide adequate foliage to require a tree stand. Keenan has three tips for those hunters using ground blinds:

The first tip is to get your blind out well before the season starts. After setting it up, gather nearby vegetation and use it to make your blind blend in with the natural surroundings.

The second tip is to set your blind downwind from where you expect the deer to travel. Even by taking all the steps to be scent free, Keenan says that it is hard to beat a deer’s keen sense of smell.

Finally, wearing dark clothing in your blind is your best bet. If you only have the window open to where you expect the deer to travel it will already be dark in the blind. Dark clothing will help conceal any movement you might make while inside your blind. One safety note, make sure you wear hunter orange clothing to and from your blind.


Hunters are required by law to report their deer, bear or turkey harvest. Reporting the take of these species is critical to the proper management of these species by the state Department of Environmental Conservation's wildlife staff. It is imperative after harvesting a deer, bear or turkey to tag it and report it! For more information on reporting your harvest, visit


The Sterling Nature Center has announced this years “Cayuga Naturally Photo Contest winners. The photographers captured their favorite flora, fauna and places for hiking, canoeing, fishing, hunting and wildlife watching in the photographs they submitted. The photographs submitted depicted the beauty of the streams, lakes, trees, wildflowers, birds, animals and other aspects of nature found in Cayuga County. Here are the winners:

First place: Eric Weaver, Fulton, Autumn Wetland, Sterling Nature Center

Second place: Joe Carey, Syracuse, Painted Lady Butterfly on Golden Rod, Sterling Nature Center, and Eric Weaver, Fulton, Wood Duck, Sterling Nature Center

Third place: Jan Graham, Auburn, Sunset Blushed, Auburn; Judy Chillson, Martville, Sterling Falls, Sterling; and Joe Carey, Syracuse, Black and Yellow Garden Spider, Sterling Nature Center

Honorable mention: Joe Carey, Syracuse Yellow Sulfur Butterfly on Clover, Sterling Nature Center; Ellen Gerberich, Sterling Winter Stream, Sterling; Katherine Burke, Port Byron, Waiting to Fly, Port Byron; Eric Weaver, Fulton, Great Blue Heron, Sterling Nature Center; Nate Crego, Martville, Dinosaur in the Leaves, Martville; Jennifer Crego, Martville, Sterling Falls in the Fall, Sterling; Linda Dugan, Alden, Guarding the Nest, Sterling Nature Center;

The photographs will be on exhibit at the Sterling Nature Center into 2018. The Sterling Nature Center is located on Jensvold Road in Sterling and can be contacted at or (315) 947-6143.