Muzzleloading Season, Late Archery And Late Firearm…

The snowflakes fluttered down from the sky and the crisp forest floor amplified every sound. The woods seemed barren and empty. But that quickly changed, I first saw one ear, then another. Quickly, close to a dozen deer became apparent as they moved over the top of the ridge. With so many eyes, I hunkered down into the tree to watch the scene unfold. It was late December in Southern Michigan. I had been sitting in single digit temperatures for the past couple hours but that didn’t matter.

Each year I find myself battling the bitter cold. It’s a tough time of year to hunt but I have been fortunate enough to learn a tremendous amount hunting the late seasons. So why sit out in the freezing cold?

I love the idea of extending my season. If you give me the opportunity to chase whitetails I’m going to take advantage of the season. Tackling a couple December hunts actually helps beat the winter blues. After spending countless hours in the office, I’m ready for some fresh air.

Michigan provides both bow and gun hunters more then enough opportunities. December brings on muzzleloading season, late archery and late firearm. All are great times of the year to kill a deer.

After the rut dwindles many hunters lock up their guns for the rest of the season. You’ll often find yourself hunting alone and dealing with much less pressure from other hunters. Even on the heavily hunted Southern Michigan public land, I rarely see another hunter.

After gun season the woods seem barren of wildlife. But in just a few weeks with little hunting pressure, deer begin to slip into predictable patterns. The woods come alive again. The colder and nastier the weather, the better the hunting gets. It only takes a couple inches of snow or a few bitterly cold days for the deer to begin to yard up and search for food. With cold temperatures, the search for high energy food is a necessity. This causes many deer to pack up and move into new areas. Look for the best available food and you’ll find plenty of sign. Some great rut hunting areas become void of deer sign during the late season. But those areas with primary food will have beaten down runways that look like interstates.

In past years I was able to locate the few late standing cornfields. These areas will be packed with whitetail from miles around. Corn is an excellent energy source and can be very important to help build winter fat stores. So when the weather turns sour deer don’t want to travel far. Bedding areas change and deer live in new habitat.

You might think I’m crazy but the worse the weather the more excited I get. Just like you, deer don’t like the bitter cold. This type of weather will cause daytime movement. Before any major frontal system hits an area the deer herd will feed to build up energy. During December there is a fragile balance between life and death for deer. The weak, worn down or hungry will die. It’s tough but very true. With tough weather on the onset, head for food.

A majority of southern Michigan has lopsided buck to doe ratios. We need to take more does for the overall health of the herd. Many years of filling doe tags has helped me become a better hunter. It gives me the opportunity to shoot more deer and have more successful outdoor experiences. The more I shoot, the more confident I get. It’s a challenge to make a bow shot accurately in 0 degrees. It’s also puts my muzzleloader to the test. Sub zero temperatures, rain and snow play havoc on a muzzleloader. It’s not until your gun misfires that you learn the importance of completely weatherproofing a muzzleloader.

We’d all love to see more and bigger bucks in Michigan. We must reduce the doe herd, which reduces the stress on the deer herd. When a deer is healthy and stress-free more energy is directed towards antler growth. Conservationists like us need to keep a balanced buck to doe ratio. This often means shooting more does, not button bucks. If you don’t have the need for extra meat, you can donate to Farmers & Hunters Feeding the Hungry, a fantastic organization. They will have the deer processed and donate the meat at no cost to you.

For me, December is a time for snow, bitterly cold wind and deer hunting. Michigan’s long season provides me many opportunities to experience the outdoors. Add a few December hunts into your agenda to help beat the winter blues. Weathering the cold for just a few hours might provide you new respect. And if you’re lucky you’ll have every deer within a mile cross your path. Good luck, and stay warm.