The Search For Survivors
It's no secret that here in Michigan by the time the calendar hits December the deer herd has taken quite a beating. They have been through a month and a half of archery season as well as a two week long onslaught from the firearms hunters. The herd is much smaller in size on December 1st than it was on October 1st and many of the bucks you had been chasing earlier in the year have now been tagged by other hunters. Hunting in December is as much about seeing what deer are still around as it is about taking a deer. It's a search for survivors and hopefully a chance to see who may be around come next October 1st.
This is our 6th year hunting our property and it has been our best yet in terms of sightings and excitement. As we headed into December bowhunting we were really hoping that momentum would carry over into the late season as well. Traditionally we have seen a very large drop in deer activity and deer sightings on our property during the late season but we were hopeful that this year would be better. Late season is all about food and we have some good food sources on, and around, our property as well as some good cover so when I left the cabin in the Friday morning darkness I was looking forward to some good hunts.
One of our hopes for late season was that the new Plateau Plot would be a good food source and would draw deer in for us. Throughout the summer the plot was on fire and the plan was to re-plant the plot to winter canola in late summer and hopefully create a late season food source. Unfortunately the second canola crop never got much more than a few inches tall and as the sun rose on Friday morning I could see that most of it had already succumb to the frost and cold weather that this time of year brings.
These deer were grazing in the Plateau Plot but most of the canola had already succomb to the winter weather.
After not seeing any deer on Friday's hunts I got the feeling that it was going to be a slow weekend and unfortunately I was right. On Saturday Chris and I both got skunked on the morning and afternoon hunts. Getting shutout on our property isn't unheard of but I had now gone on four sits without seeing even a glimpse of a deer. This wasn't the late season action we were hoping for to say the least and certainly disappointing. Our neighbor had stopped by and let us know that a few good bucks had been seen in the area since the end of firearms season so at least we had that to console us. Even if we couldn't find them this season at least we now had some hope they would be there for us next season.
With the way the calendar is looking for the rest of the month I knew there was a good chance that Sunday mornings hunt may well be my last for the season. After some thought I decided that I would end the season in the same place I started the season, The River Stand.
It looked a little different back in October but the River Stand would be the site of my first sit of the year as well as my last
This stand had produced my best sit of the year back on October 1st and I hoped it would come through for me again. As I sat in the stand watching the morning pass by I couldn't help but think back to that first sit of the year as my main target buck Corners came right into the setup. I could picture him standing at 10yds and see the branches that, back when they were full of leaves, blocked my shot. I could see the log he was standing by as my arrow sailed over his back and still remembered the spot he stopped at after the shot to look back my way before disappearing. As the morning sit came to an end I hadn't seen any new deer but had spent the morning surrounded by the biggest buck I have ever seen from the stand. He had come in time and time again and I still managed to miss him every single time. That last sit of the year is always bittersweet and this year was no exception. At least I had a good memory to keep me company.
Aside from the hunts we were also excited to check the trail cameras. The main hope was that we would catch a glimpse of one of our three hit list bucks that we are hoping survived gun season but in reality as long as we had a decent amount of movement on the cameras we would be pretty happy. This time of year most of the movement is nocturnal so sitting for a few days and not seeing anything doesn't necessarily mean nothing is in the area. We were hoping the trail cameras had seen a bit more action than we had over the weekend.
We didn't get any pictures of our target bucks but we did catch a few small bucks roaming around as well as some family groups of does and fawns.
This small spike was still using one of our main travel lanes
This buck was working the edge of the Plateau Plot
A group of deer about to jump the fence
While the trip may not have lived up to our highest hopes it was still a great trip and some great time spent out in the woods. I just started hunting the late season a few years ago but I have really enjoyed it so far. I have yet to have much action or luck during a December hunt but I love the challenge of bowhunting the late season. It's a bit of a battle of wills between nature and the hunter and I like that challenge. One of these years I may just get lucky and actually stumble my way into a late season harvest but until then I'll continue to enjoy every minute of my December hunting.
Take care, and thanks for reading!!!