As daylight filled the forest and the hunt officially began it was hard to believe it was day 93. The Michigan deer season starts October 1st and runs through January 1st, covering 93 days from start to finish and this particular day happened to be day 93; January 1st, 2013.
By this point of the season many, if not most, of the hunters in our state have packed it up for the year and have ended their deer seasons. Chris and I weren’t quite ready to quit just yet and were excited to give it one last chance. We had decided to make a day trip to hunt the final day of the season and left our houses early that morning to make the trek north. We arrived at the cabin two full hours before daylight and got our things ready to go for the days hunt.
The late season hasn’t been the best time to hunt our property in years past but we’ve made some improvements to both the food and bedding on the property and the last few late seasons have been getting slightly better. This year our food plot, which we planted to purple top turnips and winterwheat, was showing signs of heavy browsing so we at least knew the deer were in the area. It wasn’t much to get excited about but at least we had something to go on.
We decided that sitting the food for the morning hunt probably wasn’t the best strategy and it was pretty risky to try and get in there without bumping deer out. With that in mind we both decided to set up in travel area’s and hopefully intercept the deer as they left the food and headed back towards the bedding areas. With temps being forecasted in or around the single digits I was pretty confident that the deer would be on their feet, I was just hoping one of us would be in the right place at the right time.
I had gone to a stand known as The Intersection which sits on a run that connects one of our bedding areas to a bedding area on the neighbors property. The stand is also near a thick area of cover that we call The Finger and that we know the deer use quite a bit also. As daylight broke I could see that some of the thick cover had been beat down by the snow but the area was still a thick corridor that would provided cover and shelter for the deer.
Even before it was light I could hear deer crossing the river in the distance thanks the thin layer of ice that must have been on the river. Despite all the crashing and splashing I had yet to see any deer come my way. Then, about 30 mins after light I spotted a deer out in the pasture well to my west. It was standing looking back over its shoulder and soon six more deer joined it. The group of 7 cut through our woods and into our neighbors bedding area well out of bow range. It wasn’t a great encounter but seeing 7 deer is more than I expected for the entire day and we were only 30 mins into the morning hunt.
After that group was out of sight I busted out my handwarmers and got prepared to fight off the morning cold. Shortly after dropping a warmer in each of my boots I spotted movement off to the west once again and saw 4 deer working through the thick grasses north of The Finger. The closest they would get to my stand was about 50yds as they too managed to sneak through staying out of bow range. I had now seen 11 deer this morning and was on cloud 9. I hadn’t seen 11 deer total in my last 12 or 13 sits so seeing 11 in one day was obviously pretty exciting, and encouraging.
I had planned on heading in around 9:30 but decided to push that back to 9:45 with all the activity that I’d seen so far. I’m glad I made that decision because at about 9:40 another group of 4 deer came from the north and headed into The Finger. They stayed in there for a full hour just browsing and mingling about as I watched through the binoculars. One small doe had popped out of the thick cover on my side but she certainly wasn’t rushing towards me and was at least 80yds out still.
Chris had decided to head in and at 10:45am he was cutting across the pasture well out to my west. I’m not sure if the deer saw him or maybe they smelled him (he was upwind of them) but all of a sudden The Finger errupted and the deer were on the move. I had only seen 4 deer go in but when they came out there was 6 deer running so either I missed a few or there were a few others already in there. Either way they were all out now and heading my way.
As I grabbed my bow the deer went flying past my stand, running full speed and offering no shot at all. Thankfully the last doe in the group stopped to check her back trail just as she got to my stand. She was right at 30yds but was quartering hard towards me. I was already drawn hoping one of the first deer would stop so I held full draw as she looked around. I wasn’t having to much trouble holding my draw but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hold it forever and was hoping she would offer a better shot soon.
I saw her start to flick her tail a bit and I knew she was about to start moving again. I figured that since the other deer had kept on going she would take off running to catch up. I decided the quartering to shot was going to have to work and quickly got set for the shot. I didn’t want to risk trying to put the arrow through the brisket or the shoulder so I put it right behind the shoulder and squeezed the release. I watched with delight as my arrow flew true and burried right behind the shoulder. As she turned to run I could see my impact point and felt great about the shot.
The doe trotted about 55 yds and quickly bedded down. She got up again and went about 10yds before bedding back down again. That second bed would be her final resting place and as she expired I felt an awesome rush of excitement and sense of accomplishment come over me.
I’ve never taken a late season deer before and have really wanted to get it done the last few years. To now accomplish that goal and have it be on the very last day of the season was quite rewarding. The fact that Chris and I had stuck it out and had put in such effort all season long from the very first day to the very last day and were able to get it done on day 93 was awesome.
This hunt was a great way to cap what had been a slow season and was a great reminder that patience pays off and that the season isn’t over until that last minute of that last day ticks away. Unfortunately, later that afternoon we watched that last minute of that last day tick away and we put the 2012 deer season in the books.
As we headed in from the last hunt of the year, the brutal NW wind smacking us in the face, it was disappointing knowing it was all done but it was nice to know we ended on a good note. We payed our respects to the 2012 season by sticking it out to bitter end and the deer gods rewarded us with another great memory. Can’t wait to see what next year has in store……
Take care, and thanks for reading.