Whitetail Weekly, The Off-season Starts In Season

First off, let me say that I hope everyone had a great Christmas and got the chance to enjoy some quality time with family and friends. With all the hustle and bustle that comes along with the holidays it can sometimes be hard to remember to slow down and enjoy it. Personally I seem to always let the stressful side of the holidays get to me and eat away at my ability to get into the holiday spirit. I think I did a bit better than normal this year and I hope that you were also able to enjoy the holiday.

Speaking of Christmas, it was actually one of my Christmas presents that sparked the topic of this article. I was lucky enough to get two books by the Eberharts that I have actually wanted to buy for quite a while now. John Eberhart is a Michigan hunter who has literally written the book on how to successfully hunt the highly pressured bucks that we deal with here in Michigan. If you check out his site (http://www.deer-john.net) you will see pictures of several of his bucks from over the years and can read a bit about his background. If you are ever in the Jay’s Sporting Goods in Clare take a walk over to the footwear section and check out the bucks on the wall there. You will see a bunch of great bucks that were taken here in Michigan and you will see the same name over and over on the plaques below them, John Eberhart. The man knows his stuff and has put some really impressive animals on the ground to back it up.

I am really excited to read his books and try to put some of his tips and tactics to use in my hunts next year. A big portion of his technique revolves around what you do in the winter and spring and that is what has me jumping the gun a bit on starting my off-season work. I have already plowed through some of the first book and am already starting to get a game plan together for what I want to do over the next few months. It’s hard to believe the 2011 season is only a few days away from being over but I’m already getting excited to start working towards the 2012 season.

One of the first things that I am going to do is join a 3D archery league so that I will keep shooting over the winter. Usually I won’t shoot much, if at all, until it starts to get nice outside again but this year I want to change that. I got a new bow last fall and although I am shooting good with it there is always room for improvement. Joining a 3D league will get me the additional practice time I need to improve. I really enjoy shooting my bow and am looking forward to becoming a better archer. Hopefully by shooting this winter in addition to my normal summer shooting I will be extremely confident in my abilities come next fall.

Another thing that I will be doing in about a week is going back over my hunting journal for the 2011 season and taking a look back at all my hunts from the year. As I have in the past I will tally up all my numbers and sightings from the year and compare them to prior years but this year I will also be making some side notes on trends, observations and sign found throughout the year. I will be referencing this little “cheat sheet” of reminders all through the off season as we scout and prep for next year. My thought is that by doing a better job of keeping the events of this year in mind I will be better able to set up for next year and take advantage of what we learned this season.

But before I get too far ahead of myself with all the off-season talk I am still hoping for one last trip north this weekend. This would be my latest hunting trip ever and I would really love to be able to sit out on January 1st. I was able to get out on October 1st this season and I think it would be cool to hunt the first day as well as the last day of the season.

Our property has only been hunted three days in December and there hasn’t been anybody hunting on our property since December 11th. One of the adjoining 80 acre pieces hasn’t had anyone on it since November 20th so I am hoping that the deer have settled back down after the firearms season and will be set up in their feeding routines as they try to pack on the pounds to get through winter. We don’t traditionally have much luck on our property in the late season but I’m not going to let that keep me from trying.

I have decided that I will focus my efforts in or around our sanctuary area with the train of thought being that after all the pressure the deer will be spending their time in area’s that they know are safe. We only go into our sanctuary once in the spring and there has been no human intrusion there since April. If there is anywhere on our property that these deer will feel safe right now that is the spot. The forecasted winds should allow me to hunt the edges pretty effectively but if I do bump a deer out of the sanctuary this weekend he/she will have 9 months to get settled back in before next season. There is nothing to lose now, may as well go in after them.

If the weather doesn’t cooperate and allow me to get near the sanctuary, or if deer just aren’t moving in the sanctuary, we also have 40 acres of canola and 20 acres of alfalfa that I can hunt. The wide open nature of these fields makes them tough to hunt, especially with a bow, but I will make it work. With the forecasted winds I should be able to sit the back fence line of the alfalfa field and hopefully have some encounters.

Since we don’t normally hunt these areas (in the sanctuary or along the back fence line of the alfalfa field) we don’t have tree stands hung in those areas. That means that if I do make it up to hunt this weekend many of my sits will be of the “run and gun” variety. By that I mean that I will be slipping in and tucking up in natural cover as a ground blind. Another possibility would be doing some slow still hunting through the cedars. These aren’t my normal, or preferred, hunting methods but they can sure be fun.

Last year I called this clump of small oaks home during a late season "run and gun" hunt.

Sitting in a new spot for the first time is always exciting and bow hunting encounters from the ground are all heart pounding experiences regardless of the size of the deer you see. In my mind if I was able to arrow a deer from the ground, in late season, and while using run and gun methods it would be quite an accomplishment. Regardless of whether it’s a buck or doe, a deer taken under those circumstances would certainly be one of my most cherished. Hopefully I can get a late Christmas present and make this a reality.

Good luck to any other hunters that are still out there chasing whitetails. It’s not easy hunting in late December in Michigan but it sure beats sitting on the couch!!

Take Care, and thanks for reading!!!

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