-By Brandon Wikman
Do you want to test your whitetail hunting abilities to the extreme? Would you like to face-off with some of the most challenging variables and obstacles in the outdoors known to mankind? I urge you; take the late-season hunting challenge to test your woods-wits!
I’ve never been a fan of bone-chilling weather. Nonetheless, I live in the great state of Wisconsin that remains frozen one-third of the year, literally. Over the years you’d think a person would come to deal with the frigid forecasts or even adapt, but not me. It makes for problematic and definitely dangerous situations. Our bodies can only tolerate so much winter weather before things turn just plain icy! Yet, many dedicated hunters still find themselves layering up and yanking bootlaces tight to hop in a tree stand.
Late season brings much more than frosty weather, but also a heap of other issues that make it one of the most enduring hunts imaginable. Deer have been continually chased, harassed and sometimes shot at for the past three months! Many hunters and landowners don’t own a large enough tract of land to hold deer that haven’t experienced a little hunter harassment. A deer’s education has not only expanded to the means of human pressure, but more or less skyrocketed! Late-season deer are a totally different breed of animal. They are always on the tips of their hooves on high alert, but I can assure you one thing. They are still killable.
The best times to hunt during the late season are intense snaps of cold weather and an impoundment of snow. It’s times like these when deer will be in your food plot or a nearby agriculture field devouring everything in sight. Deer not only live by their keen senses, but also machine-like stomach. Food is a deer’s primal source of energy, which keeps them warm and alive to see another day. A deer must eat. It’s as simple as that. That is great news for hunters and keeps us in the stand throughout the month of December.
During extreme cold fronts, deer are more apt to move earlier. Typically, the best time to kill a deer that has experienced at least a little human pressure is minutes before dark. Otherwise, much of the herd has become nocturnal. There are different cases, situations and circumstances in each hunting condition, but I’m speaking generally.
Many people have the best luck hunting their food plot during this period of season more than ever. Much of the agriculture fields have been stripped-bare or tilled, which sends the herd to the nearest food source. I implement the Fall/Winter/Spring Food Plot Blend made by Antler King within my woods. It has proven to not only hold deer in the area, but also supplement vital nutrition to keep the herd health stable. Truly, a whitetail haven is comprised of a habitat that has cover for bedding, experiences low hunting pressure throughout the season and, most importantly, has food availability on a year-round basis.
I will be making an attempt to hunt at least a few days during December and January. When you can fill your whitetail tag during the late season, you’ve accomplished two great things. First-off, you’ve proved that you aren’t afraid to bundle up and face the elements when everyone else stays indoors. Secondly, you’ve outsmarted an already well-educated animal. It is definitely a combination of pride, heart and wisdom of the woods.
-By Rich Miller
The bucks are still laying low. The rut is over and there is not much deer movement right now. I am not the only one seeing very little right now. No one that I talk to is having any luck right now. The guys that are having some success are hunting on food plots that haven’t had too much pressure throughout the season.
My camera hasn’t been getting many pictures of bucks either. I do get some does every now and then at all different times of day. I have seen several deer on the side of the road that have been hit trying to cross the road. A couple of those have been close to home and are some bucks that I have on camera. It is a shame that these deer can make it through most of the hunting season and then they get taken out by a vehicle.
Over the past several months of hunting I haven’t seen any coyotes. I normally see a good many while I am hunting throughout the year. No matter where I am hunting, one of the rules is if you see a coyote you need to try and shoot it. Even though I haven’t seen them all year, I know they have been around because I have found signs of where they have been. Over the past two weeks I have had pictures of them on the same camera. I guess times are hard this time of year for the coyotes and they are moving more to try and find something to eat. I don’t know anything good that comes from having these dogs around other than having something to hunt during the off season. These well-tuned killing machines put a hurting on rabbit, quail, turkeys and, yes, deer. If you have never tried hunting coyotes, I encourage you to give it a try or at least try and take one or two during deer and turkey season. For every one coyote that you take out, you may save a trophy buck.
-By Rich Miller
Well the rut is pretty much over here in South Carolina and the deer movement has been really slow for the last week or so. The big bucks have disappeared again and the only thing I am seeing is a few does and a yearling buck or two.
This past Tuesday afternoon a friend of mine that owns River House Plantation gave me a call and invited me to hunt with them on opening morning of duck season. I couldn’t pass up a chance to hunt his place. At River House Plantation they have managed and built impoundments and it is paying huge dividends because the ducks are there.
I was going to be hunting with another good friend of mine and his fifteen-year-old son. We met up with everyone at 6 a.m. to get assigned the blind we would be hunting. Once we were in the blind we had about forty-five minutes before shooting light and that gave us time to talk about this year’s deer season and tell stories of our previous hunts. That is the thing I like best about duck hunting, the talking and cutting up with one another. After sitting in a deer stand for the last three months trying to be as quiet as possible and not move a muscle, it is a welcomed relief to sit in a blind and not worry about making too much noise. Plus, the shooting is always good too.
Once it had gotten legal shooting light, there were a few ducks that landed in the middle of the pond, but they were out of range. It wasn’t long after that, there was a big group that came in and tried to sit down about 18-yards in front of the blind. When the shooting stopped I think we had three big green heads on the water. We had barely gotten those three picked up and back in the blind when the next group started working in. It was fast and furious for about ten minutes until we each got our limit of mallards. That is when the hard part started. We had to sit there watching the birds pour in and we couldn’t shoot anymore.
When everyone was finished we met back up at the ATV’s and headed back to the truck. I think just about everyone limited out and the few that didn’t were pretty good sports to put up with the hard time that everyone gave them. Once we had gotten all the birds cleaned we divided them out equally and headed to the café to get some breakfast. You know it is a good hunt when you have a limit of mallards cleaned and in the truck before the coffee gets cold.
Check out these great photos that were featured on CNN. Photographer Brian Emfinger used a Moultrie M-60 digital game camera on the time lapse mode feature to capture the summer to winter transition along this little creek. A very cool use of one of our camera features. Thanks for sharing the links with us Brian!
-By Brandon Wikman
As I sit in this motel room feeling miserable attempting to find the answer to my streak of misfortune and bad luck, I can only continue to vent my unsuccessful adventures...
I recently wrapped up a five-day archery mule deer hunt in the eastern plains of Colorado. Eastern Colorado is a place where monster mule deer typically call home. The landscape is covered in sagebrush, contoured with gentle rolling hills with a mixture of corn, milo, and wheat fields covering the vast terrain. Not only do mule deer roam these parts of the country, but also countless antelope and whitetail deer call this place home.
From the very start, my hunt began on a sour note. My flight arrived in Denver, Colorado at eleven o’clock at night. I was picked up by one of the guides from Adventures Wild, LLC and we drove three hours east to Brush County, Colorado, where we’d be hunting. I had to purchase my archery deer hunting license at a local Wal-Mart at three in the morning. Needless to say, the place was barren. I finally found a manager on duty to help me with purchasing a license.
As the manager plugged my name and information into the registration system, he asked me if I had my hunter’s education card. I looked at him puzzled and said no. My card was on my desktop back in Wisconsin. Little did I realize, the state of Colorado requires every hunter to visually show a valid hunter’s education card. Even though I purchased a tag last year, they still requested the need for my card. Long story short, I didn’t receive my tag that morning.
The first morning of the hunt was cashed at the nearby Colorado Division of Wildlife building. I had to talk to the officers about my situation. They were able to contact the Wisconsin DNR and have them forward all of my needed information to them. Thankfully, it only took about an hour and I was able to sneak in an afternoon hunt!
The first few days of the hunt were extremely slow. The warm weather put an end to any rutting activity. The mule deer seemingly vanished, which is hard to believe considering trees are few and far between around this area. The majority of mule deer hide themselves in overgrown grass fields and unpicked agriculture fields. Using a spotting scope and a good set of binoculars is a must.
I didn’t get to put a stalk on any big buck until the evening of the very last day. It’s all so very typical for some crazy reason to have deer activity pick-up pace when hunters leave! Nonetheless, I did my best to cut distance and sneak within archery range to a giant mule deer. The conditions were ideal for a stalk. The wind was blowing hard and the buck faced the opposite direction. All I had to do was belly crawl my way through the cactus and prairie grass. As I approached eighty yards, I stopped to double check the wind direction and eye-up antlers.
Suddenly the buck stood up, stretched his legs and walked away. I looked back at the video camera speechless and in disarray. What were the odds of this happening? Stupid luck was my best answer. He never winded or spotted me.
This week I am in Southwestern Nebraska hunting whitetails until December 7th. I believe I’m due for another chance at a good buck soon; hopefully it comes within the next few days.
-By Rich Miller
Yesterday afternoon I had one of the best hunts of my life. I have only been home from Kansas for just a couple of days and I was trying to spend as much time with my son as possible. When I got home we checked my game camera to see if any new bucks had shown up while I was gone. I had several pictures of different bucks that I had never seen before, but there was one in particular with a weird looking rack that looked to be a shooter. I really wanted to get to the woods and maybe get a shot at this buck that we nicknamed “The Freak”.
Well after being gone for nine days my little boy didn’t want to get very far away from his dad so I decided to take him to the deer stand with me. We have a big box stand built we call the “press box” that we could get in and he could play in the floor. I figured we could make it about an hour or so without him getting too bored. Now, my son “Tye” isn’t but 18 months old and this was his first trip to the woods to hunt with me. The temperature wasn’t too bad and with us being in the box, I didn’t have to worry about him getting too cold. Once we got settle in the box everything was going pretty well. He wanted to look out the windows of the box like he knew what we were looking for. After a little while he started walking around and talking constantly. I was trying everything to get him to not talk so loud. I let him look through my binoculars on occasion, but that wouldn’t last long either.
So after trying everything to keep him quiet, I decided to give him a grunt call to play with figuring if he was going to be making noises it might as well be deer sounds. While he was sitting on the floor blowing on that grunt call, I was trying to look for deer. When I looked up, there was a deer feeding in the food plot. Through my binoculars I could see it was a doe. All of a sudden I saw a deer in the background jump into the field, and for the split second that I saw it he looked to have a really good rack. There was a rise in the field and I couldn’t see the deer until he raised his head, and when he did I could tell that it was the “Freak”!
Well needless to say I laid the binoculars down and went to pick up my rifle. The next thing I had to worry about was how Tye would react when I fired my rifle. I put his stocking hat on his head and sat him in the corner. When I got ready to shoot I had the rifle positioned outside the window so it wouldn’t be too loud in the box. After all this, the buck had fed out into the open and was positioned perfectly for a shot. When I fired, the buck hit the ground instantly.
The first thing I did was look down at Tye. He was standing there looking up at me with this look on his face that said, “Well pick me up already, I can’t see from down here!” I got him and our stuff packed up and we headed to see our 1st deer together. Once we got to the deer, Tye was completely excited. I guess he was feeding off my excitement. He wanted to get down to touch the buck and look at it.
You know, I have taken deer a lot bigger than this buck, but having my son with me when I got him is something I will never forget. I can’t imagine what it is going to be like when Tye is the one actually doing the shooting. As torn up as I got just having him with me, I am going to have to get paramedics to standing by when he takes his first deer. I highly recommend taking introducing your kids to the outdoors, it makes hunting that much more enjoyable.
Many of you have probably seen hunting shows where the hunter blows on a grunt call or rattles a few times resulting in a huge buck coming in ready to do battle with the buck he thinks is in his territory.
How many of you, after seeing these shows, have rushed out and purchased a grunt call or rattle bag then headed off into the woods with high hopes of harvesting a monster like they did on television? You rattle a few sequences or grunt a few times throughout the course of the hunt and never have anything respond. This is a frustrating feeling for many hunters leaving you thinking that grunting or rattling just doesn’t work where you hunt.
Don Bell, founder of Code Blue Scents, gives some insight on the reason why grunting and rattling by themselves often times doesn’t work. Bell tells us that deer rely on three main defenses: Their eyes, ears and nose. When a buck hears a grunt call or a series of rattles, more than likely that buck is going to circle around downwind to check out what is going on. This is where many hunters make their mistake by not using a buck scent. When that buck gets downwind it is important for him to be able to smell what he thinks he heard. Placing buck scent near your stand can give you the upper hand on tricking two of a buck’s senses – his ears and nose. There are many buck scent options available to hunters. When Bell is really looking for a mature buck he prefers using a tarsal gland like the ones sold by Code Blue.
If you have given up on using a grunt call or rattling try using Bell’s tip of using a buck scent along with rattling or grunting, you might be surprised at what you are able to call in.
-By Brandon Wikman
The 2008 Wisconsin firearm deer season proved to be one of the slowest and most unproductive years I’ve ever experienced. I sat perched in a tree in absolute disbelief for three tiring days awaiting my moment of truth, which unfortunately never came.
From sunup to sundown, my eyes were fixed scanning tree lines with binoculars. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the many giant bucks I had captured on camera. The stand was setup in an open marsh, where a line of trees from an adjoining property funneled into a vast bedding area. It’s typically a perfect place to intercept a cruising buck or bump into a mess of deer escaping neighboring properties.
As the sun accented orange upon the frost glazed cattails and swamps grass, crackling rifle shots echoed. It was a legitimate and surefire sign that deer were on their feet and moving. My rifle was in my hands and ready for the first whitetail of the morning.
The morning slowly transpired into afternoon. I was shocked that I had not seen a speck of brown fur. Not only was the hunt extremely slow, but also the number of neighboring shots fired soon severely ceased after sunrise. It was beginning to become a very sticky and unusual situation.
My field producer and I tallied a total of thirty-six hours in our three-day hunting adventure. The only deer we spotted was at noon during opening day. A small group of does running mach-3 across the marsh vanished before we could even turn the video camera on. I was hoping to see a massive pair of antlers trailing the group of six, but there was nothing except a cloud of dust. It seemed as if the deer hunting was shutting down by the minute.
The rest of Saturday was spent chomping on a handful of candy mints and a makeshift lunch comprised of fruit and crackers. The only sign of life nearby was a resident red squirrel and a few birds. It was definitely not what I expected for opening deer firearm season in the infamous area of Buffalo County, WI. As night shadowed across the horizon I took a deep breath and knew that the next two days would be much better.
Sunday I packed a much heavier lunch and layered my clothing for a long cold sit. A northwest wind coupled with a high-pressure system brought in a chilling mid-twenty degree weather forecast. We even had a slight mix of snow in the early morning, which only scaled my expectations. I was more than ready to endure another twelve-hour sit on stand. There’s nothing more exciting than having a great weather system move in to get deer back on their feet. If there’s one thing that a hunter can use to predict deer movement, it’s weather. That is what I thought, until this past weekend...
Long story short, there wasn’t a single deer that passed by my gun stand Sunday or Monday. At the end of Monday I was exhausted in each and every way. Long cold days and a lack of deer sightings is one definite way to get burnt out. As they say, that’s just hunting. Sometimes it’s exceptionally good, while others times it’s just plain bad. All we can do is keep trying and take on the challenge of fair chase hunting.
This week I am in the land of many colors, also known as Colorado! I’m in pursuit for monster mule deer with my bow. Next week’s blog will be an update on my spot-and-stalk mule deer buck hunt!