Perhaps few seasons make us feel as close to the natural world as our Muzzleloader Deer Season. The fact that we have an entire month to pursue deer with the smoke pole is a tribute to the excellence in wildlife management our Agency has provided.
Currently the weather is cold and looks to get colder throughout next week. This is an excellent time to take advantage of two strong elements in deer:
1. Any lingering signs of rutting activity – Bucks have spent the last several weeks learning what life is about. The most mature deer will aggressively seek any lingering estrous does for one last hurrah before winter. This being said, any does that were not mated in November as well as young does coming into estrous for the first time, will cause a second, more subdued rut to begin in December…roughly one month after the peak of the November rut which puts us into Dec 8 – 19 as key dates. Don’t be afraid to rattle in December and estrous lures can work well too.
2. The need to feed – once the primary rut is over, deer that have invested all energy and time into breeding are now realizing they have few coals left to stoke the furnace and are eating considerably. Hunters can take advantage of this by setting up in known feeding areas such as standing corn, harvested fields wtih waste grain, and hunting cover near those areas. Deer are most likely to bed down closer to these hot food sources and that can really help the hunter. Focus on these areas and keep in mind that when the temps drop midday, deer are very likely to move earely in the afternoon. I have seen mature whitetails feeding in corn fields where I hunt at 230pm!
This is an excellent time to harvest a few extra does as well. They will likely be moving early in the evening and soon we will be talking about my favorite custom jerky recipes! Did I mention I like jerky!!!!