There's a broad-shouldered buck standing only 30 yards away. His rack is wide and high, with seven perfect tines and one twisted to the right. He's tugging on the lowest branches of an apple tree in my front yard, pulling off leaves a clump at a time.
As I step out the door for a better look, he shoots a nervous glance, then resumes his defoliage duties. He's intent on filling up, which is surprising considering he devoured the last of my hosta only minutes ago. Come Oct. 1 and the opening of big-game season, he'll be fair game but buried back deep in the nearby woods. Right now, however, he has more free time to harvest my garden than I do, and he's enthusiastically consuming the fruits of my labor.
Drive the fields and yards bordering the deer woods of eastern Long Island and you'll spy plenty of whitetails with little fear of human observation at this time of year. They may seem brazen now, but that will change as hunters step up preseason scouting. It's a yearly intrusion that shifts the focus of whitetails from gardens and shrubs to the protection of denser cover such as briar patches and swamplands.
Those who take scouting seriously make the effort to scrub up, don full hunting attire and leave no scent behind. Most hunters, however, step into the brush wearing nothing more than a long-sleeve shirt and jeans to protect from the briars and dreaded deer ticks. In the long run, the serious set will connect with more big bucks, who grow ever more cautious with each human encounter.
If you plan to scout for whitetails before the season, remember less is best. Set up your stand and get out of the woods while disturbing as little as possible. Cut only what is absolutely necessary when creating shooting lanes because excessive trimming will drive dominant bucks from the area. Many archers remove too much vegetation cover, and you need lots of it around your stand to blend in with the scenery.
On the fishing front
The South Shore bays are still flush with fluke, but bigger summer flatties are coming from 40-foot depths in ocean waters. Sea bass action on near-shore wrecks remains fair, while weakfish are abundant in Reynolds Channel.
On the North Shore, fluke have been elusive but cocktail blues are slamming jigs outside Port Jefferson and off Target Rock. Even better has been the scup fishing inside Port Jefferson Harbor, around Cranes Neck, and in 25-foot depths south of buoy 14. Heavy chum is the key to catching 2-pound "jumbos," said Mark McGowan at Cow Harbor Bait and Tackle in Northport.
On the East End, porgy and sea bass fishing is excellent at Greenport and Orient Point, with customers on the Peconic Star and Prime Time 3 easily filling 5-gallon pails.
Striper fishing has been picky at best, but the charter boat Grand Slam used a legal porgy to catch and release a 50-pounder Wednesday. Hats off to skipper Tom Mikoleski and crew for turning that one loose!