Whitetail Weekly, Michigan Late Season Hunt – The Final Sunset

Way back on October 1st I climbed a tree in the pre-dawn darkness and was all settled in well before the first sunrise of the season got underway.  There is always something really exciting about that first sit of the year.  All the waiting is over and it’s finally hunting season, all the anticipation of what the season may hold can now, hopefully, come true.  It’s a brand new day and a brand new season and anything is possible.

This past weekend I headed north for a Michigan late season hunt and was looking forward to watching the last sunset of the year, maybe not as excited as I was for the first sunrise of the year but excited none the less.  Our property traditionally hasn’t been all that great in the late season and, although we have done some things to try and improve late season hunting, my hunt back in early December was a bust with no deer being seen.  I headed into this weekend hopeful but realistic.

This small buck may have been the one we kicked up. Hopefully he stays in the area and we can see him again next season.

I arrived Saturday afternoon and we headed out to do some quick scouting as well as to pull the trail camera cards.  The area had received about two inches of snow the night before which would make any recent deer movement quite obvious and hopefully help us decide where to focus on for the weekend.  On our way out we walked through an area that deer occasionally bed on and a small buck and a doe jumped up and took off.  While we would have rather not jumped them we were glad to know they were still bedding on our place and we quickly surveyed the sign in the area and grabbed the two camera’s we were after before heading back out.

Some quick inspections of a few other areas showed us that there was more deer activity than we had expected and we were suddenly a bit more excited than we had been when we first arrived.  We headed back up to the cabin to get ready for the evening hunt.  I took a quick shower and, after some thinking and checking weather.com, decided that I would head over to the River Stand.  Chris decided that the tracks leading to and from the Plateau Plot were good enough sign for him and he headed to The Gasline stand to try and intercept the deer on their way though.  We wished each other luck and headed our separate ways both hoping for a little last minute luck.

The tracks through the Plateau Plot looked promising and Chris headed there for Saturday evening's hunt.

We hadn’t scouted down by the river so I went in there blind but actually crossed a few sets of tracks in the pasture on the way to the stand which made me that much more optimistic.  After climbing in I remembered why I like this stand so much.  The view is pretty cool with the river working its way around you and I always have the replay of my encounter with the buck we call Corners to keep me company.  I’m not sure if replaying that encounter and my missed opportunity over and over is all that fun but it does keep me entertained.

The River Stand always provides a great view and also tends to provide some good encounters as well.

The weather was very mild for this time of year and the sit was quite comfortable and enjoyable.  As the night wound down I thought I heard something off to the east but saw nothing.  A few minutes later I thought I heard something again but still saw nothing.  The third time I heard something I looked over and saw a deer working along the fence.  I quickly saw another one with it and realized they were traveling the same route that I had watched other deer use earlier in the year.  This route would bring them over the fence to graze and hopefully close enough to me for a shot.

The two deer I had originally seen quickly turned into three, then a few seconds later two more appeared off to the south of them.  In the end there were 7 total and they were all mingling and browsing about 60yds away.  Eventually light faded and I knew we were past legal shooting time but I didn’t want to get down and get busted so I hung tight.  The snow on the ground made them easy to see and one eventually worked towards me circling in front of me at about 12yds before looping off to my left and eventually trotting back towards the rest of the bunch.  As that deer trotted back others trotted off to the east and I slid down and headed out.

I had seen more deer in that sit than I had expected to see all weekend and suddenly a last minute miracle seemed more and more possible.  Chris hadn’t seen any deer but was nearly as excited as I was about my sit and I think he got a bit more hopeful as well.

After staying up to welcome in the New Year I can say that the alarm clock was not a welcome sound on Sunday morning.  Despite wanting to stay in bed for some more sleep Chris and I both got up and got ourselves ready for the hunt.  I headed to a stand near where we had jumped the buck and doe the day before and Chris went to another area with deer sign near it.

Mother Nature must have been a bit tired too because she didn’t do much for us that morning.  It was overcast and gloomy with periods of drizzle and then periods of flat out rain.  Eventually the rain began changing to a rain/snow mix but it still wasn’t all that appealing.  The morning went by pretty quickly but the only deer I would see is one that I bumped on my way back to the cabin.  That was one more deer than Chris would see on the morning and after the excitement of the previous nights hunt we were brought back to late season reality quickly.

In a few short hours the woods would be dark, the season gone and I would be back to waiting for next October 1st once again.  As a guy who loves to hunt you would think I would have been bummed out walking to my spot on the last afternoon of the season but, while there was a little disappointment in me, I was also pretty excited as well.

I have never hunted on January 1st before so that alone was enough to keep me entertained.  On top of that, I felt that by hunting on the first possible day as well as the last possible day would give me a nice feeling of closure to the season.  I had watched the season come to life back on October 1st and now I was heading out to put the season to rest on January 1st.  I had also decided to try and slip into our sanctuary area and try to catch a deer off guard.  I have never hunted in this area before so I was pretty excited about that as well.

I got set up in an area with some good tracks as well as some nice rubs.  A downed tree provided me with a good seat as well as some good cover and I was hopeful for some last minute luck.  As I watched the woods slowly darken I knew that the likelihood of a last minute encounter was shrinking.  I eventually looked at my phone to see that final shooting time had passed and the season was now over.  There would be no last minute miracle this year but that didn’t really diminish my enjoyment of the hunt at all.  It was a great evening in a good spot and deer or no deer it was a good time.

Despite not seeing anything, I was a happy hunter as I sat and enjoyed the season's final afternoon.

Over the course of the 93 days that comprise October, November, December and January 1st I had totaled roughly 35 days in the woods and by making the last possible sit of the year I could really feel as though I had hunted hard and stayed with it till the end.  I didn’t end up taking a deer with my bow this year but it wasn’t for a lack of trying.  I put in my stand time and passed up several opportunities in hopes of a better buck or bigger doe coming along.  The lack of a harvest didn’t deem my season a failure or a disappointment by any means.

As Chris and I walked back to the cabin in the dark we were already talking about what the off season plans are and what we’ll do different next year.  There was little, if any, sadness about the current season ending.  The excitement and anticipation for next year has already started.  I can already picture that October 1st, 2012 sunrise.

Take care, and thanks for reading!!!


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