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Obsessed with bowhunting whitetails and running trail cams! Love fishing, 3D Archery, camping, and teaching hunter education. Been a member of the Mossy Oak ProStaff since 2008 and is excited to become a part of the team here at Victory Outdoors.

Late Season Hunting

20151226_141800After the shotgun seasons close in mid-December here in Iowa, the late archery and muzzleloader seasons open and continue through January 10th. Some years the conditions aren’t too bad, and others they are downright brutal. This year started very mild and we only recently received some snow cover and colder temperatures which tend to get the deer on their feet earlier in the afternoon. By this point in the year, the deer have been pressured pretty hard in most areas after two months of archery season and three weeks of shotgun seasons. Catching up with a big late season buck can be tough since most tend to stay bedded until dark, but if you play your cards right the late season can be some of the best hunting of the year. A lot of hunters concentrate on afternoon hunts over food plots, crop fields, or other known food sources. It can be tough hunting mornings, as a lot of deer don’t move far off the food to bed which can make getting in and out of the area hard to do without bumping deer.

20160101_143159The holidays can offer extra time to hunt, but it can also be tricky trying to balance work and family obligations while competing against the clock to fill tags before the end of the year. We eat a lot of venison in my family, and although we had a very successful shotgun season, we are still a little light on meat since I have yet to connect with any deer with my bow. I still had three archery tags plus my late muzzleloader tag when the season opened. The day after Christmas was my first hunt of the season. I elected to take the muzzleloader and sit on the ground in a corner of the timber near a picked cornfield where I knew there had been high traffic over the last few weeks.

20151226_142913It had been an unusually wet and mild month up until that point, so the trails were really worked up from being muddy. It made deciding exactly which place to sit tough since everything looked like it was being used heavily. I picked a spot that would offer me the most coverage of the area while leaving the least chance of having deer get downwind of me. After a couple hours, I began seeing movement on the hillside. Two yearlings made their way toward me, and one actually ran right up to about 15 yards away before she realized I was there. They both ended up spooking and when they ran off, the hillside looked like it was moving with all the tails running away. That was the end of that hunt. I wasn’t able to get back out until January 1st. I decided to take the bow and sit along the river bottom, hoping to connect with a nice doe. This ended up being quite a memorable hunt for me. There were about fifty geese on the river about 75 yards away, and two different coyotes tried to put a stalk on them to no avail. They were both across the river, so I wasn’t able to get them into range either. I also saw over twenty turkeys and about 25 deer.

20151226_143842Two does came into range about an hour before dark, and I was able to get a shot at one, which I proceeded to flat choke on. After those two decided they would take a different route, the other deer that came along followed them and they all passed by safely out of range. That’s pretty representative of my year. It has just been a tough go, and I definitely missed some opportunities. The next day I headed back out to the same general area, only I took my muzzleloader and sat in the corner of the timber where the deer traveled the night before. Once again I elected to sit on the ground. I had a couple yearlings come down the hill first and they meandered around the tall grass about 100 yards away. A young buck came out across the grassy area from me, which was around 75 yards away. He was walking toward the yearlings, browsing the grass along the way. A few more does appeared in the bottom, and my hopes were high to get a shot at one of them. One of the yearlings worked her way past me at around 35 yards and headed out into the picked corn behind me. She came as close as 20 yards directly downwind of me, but to my relief she didn’t seem to notice my presence. The does were taking their time coming out and I was nervous that yearling was going to bust me.

20160102_154111Suddenly, I saw movement directly in front of me inside twenty yards. The young buck had turned and come right toward me on the back side of a knoll so I couldn’t see him coming. Normally a two year old buck gets a pass from me every time, but this time I decided to take a shot. I put the crosshairs on his throat patch and squeezed the trigger. He dropped in his tracks and my muzzleloader season was over. I’m sure many of you will question why I would shoot such a young buck, and that’s ok. As I said, we don’t normally kill young bucks. At that moment I decided to take the shot, and I’m proud to have been able to put a clean kill on him. I do not regret killing him, and I won’t apologize for doing it. He will go a long way in feeding my family. I still have one weekend left to hunt, and I’m hoping I can find a mature buck, but I also wouldn’t mind having one more doe in the freezer. The arctic air is predicted to move in this weekend with highs in the single digits and wind chills well below zero. Hopefully the conditions will be perfect for good deer movement. Good luck to anyone still out chasing deer.


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