It’s December, and my freezer is empty. That’s a strange, frustrating feeling. As long as I’ve been deer hunting, I’ve never not had a deer down by December 1st.
How did this happen? Why haven’t I pulled the trigger?…Much less come to full-draw on an animal that I’ve wanted to kill? And why am I sharing all of this?
There’s plenty of reasons, really. Many of you have probably read about the difficult times that I faced on my Colorado elk hunt. On my Kentucky elk hunt I had a chance to kill a bull, but didn’t have a tag. I know we could have got an elk on both hunts if we had more time, but less than a week to hunt on new-to-me public land just wasn’t enough.
In terms of whitetail hunting, I’ve put my time in on the stand and in the blind, but I still haven’t hunted as much as normal. After going on two out-of-state elk hunts this fall, I don’t have any regrets about the times that I could have hunted, but chose to stay home with my wife and small kids instead. As the song says, it won’t be like this for long.
What stumps me though, are the times that I have hunted, and how few deer I’ve seen. I went through one stretch where I hunted well over 40 hours and saw only one deer – and that was in November, when the deer should be on their feet. One of those days was a prime, cold-front day with a perfect wind, and I still didn’t see a thing. Crazy.
I didn’t scout for deer this year as much as I have in years past, and also didn’t run trail cameras as much as I usually do. I thought I had my main property somewhat figured out. It isn’t a big property, and it’s over 90% timber, but in the few years I’ve hunted it, I’ve patterned some productive travel routes – or so I thought.
I’ve seen plenty of immature bucks, and have had chances to fill tags on them, but bucks older than 2.5 have been non-existent. And I haven’t even had a doe it bow-range. It’s crazy.
Apparently I’m not alone. I’ve been hearing murmurs from across the country that this year has been tough. Sure, there’s been plenty of deer killed, and of course there’s always be some hunters complaining every year – but overall I’m hearing of tougher hunting than normal. And in my home state of Missouri, the data backs this up.
The total harvest of this year’s Missouri firearms season was down 23% compared to last year, and the 2013 harvest was 24% lower than the 10-year average. It’ll be interesting to see how the data of the archery seasons stacks up, once those numbers are completed and released.
It’s easy to play the “should have” or “could have” game when you’re this far into the season and you haven’t killed yet, but I can honestly say that I wouldn’t do much differently. It’s not that I’ve blown opportunities; it’s just been one of those years when the time that I had to spend in the woods didn’t match up with prime deer movement.
The blueprint of a bad whitetail hunting season goes like this…
- Rely on what worked in previous years
- Don’t scout or run trail cameras like you should
- Pass on smaller deer, even though you aren’t seeing much else
- Stick to the few days that you have to hunt, even if the conditions are horrible
- Keep your commitments to work and family, even if the hunting conditions are perfect
- Have trespassers from a neighboring property setup stands and blinds on your property
- Have another hunter (who has permission to hunt), setup right next to your spot (even though he knows you are there), and shoot a nice buck that’s only 80 yards from the ground blind that you’re sitting in
- Hunt properties that are almost completely timber and have acorns everywhere, which means that deer hardly have to move to eat
- Hunt said properties, even though predidation and EHD have taken a tool on the number of deer in the area
But There’s Still Time
It’s only December 2nd, and our season runs into mid-January, so there’s still time to hunt. Sort of. December is notoriously busy with Christmas, both of my kids have their birthday’s, and it’s a crazy time at work (especially this year, since I’m covering two positions). But I’m still hoping to carve some time to hunt the little bit of light that each day provides. Can I get it done? Time will tell!