Reflecting on the 2015 deer season leaves me with mixed emotions, it’s been a roller coaster ride as usual. You might be thinking that there is still a month left why the wrap up now? Well indeed some of the best hunting is yet to come as you can read about in my January Heartland Outdoors magazine article. For me though the deer season is pretty much over. I have reached my doe harvest goals for each farm I hunt and have my families need’s met for meat in the freezer. I have also tagged two nice bucks so in essence my season is over.
I will likely hunt some in the late season just to see what comes in or to maybe thin the coyote population if opportunity presents itself. I am fairly certain I won’t shoot another doe and can’t shoot another buck but would still like to have a few more sits in the treestand. I wouldn’t have thought I’d be saying that just two weeks ago! A lot can change in 60 seconds.
I started off the season knowing time was limited; coaching my son’s football and working a lot of hours but there is always time for hunting if one makes it a priority. I had encounters with two shooters during the October lull (for me a shooter is a 3.5 year old or older buck and 125” rack or better, but I’m not hung up on score, more on age). These encounters were rare, the second of the two afforded me a shot at my best bow buck to date. I was literally inches high and through the no zone (what some consider a myth, but I assure you it’s not). The arrow stuck out both sides as I saw the buck run off breathing out the two arrow holes.
This was the highest of high! Followed by the lowest of low, losing a deer. We tracked it a mile and three quarter and praise God for cool landowners that allowed the tracking but the blood ended along with my hopes. Two weeks later an old school mate and neighboring hunter arrowed the buck as it was chasing a doe, back to the highest of high! Thrilled for him and that I hadn’t wasted a deer’s life and he got a great buck! I felt relieved.
I have put in over 300 hours in the stand and contrary to what I hear from others heckling I don’t have the golden egg of hunting spots, I have some decent to mediocre fringe areas that see some run off or satellite bucks with the occasional giant every four to five years. No shooter bucks showed in all these hours of rut hunting including six all day sits. The lowest of low, I was beyond discouraged but also knew as I grow older and gain experience (grey hair/no hair) that it can happen anywhere in any stand. Good fortune has a better chance of showing up in the worst stand location than it does in the warmest bed or comfiest couch.
One weather extreme to the next
Thank goodness for the ole bologna sandwich to get me through the long days
The first gun season came and went, I struggled to put a tag on a doe but did get one nice plump doe. Second season came and went without a single deer sighting in three days, not even a shot heard, was it really even gun season I thought to myself? Then in just a few seconds a buck, doe and button buck came rushing in. Two shots, rapid reloading, gear thrown about and the blink of an eye I had a buck and doe on the ground. With a hurried photo session, quickly but safely gutting the deer and hanging them up, I was still able to make it to church (walked in at 10:01, sorry Pastor) but exhausted and blessed giving thanks to the One that gave it all to me. Amazed, the highest of high, in just 60 seconds.
Muzzleloader season looked to be promising as I was going to travel to hunt and I hadn’t been on this farm since Halloween but had seen some shooters then. Going in on a high note, nothing had shown itself in the balmy hot weather as of Sunday morning. My buddy and I were leaving camp at 9:30 deer or no deer, I was losing hope, not even the flick of tail yet, and then as I look over my shoulder I see antler tips in the dense thicket a hundred yards away. Through a single six inch hole I had to poke a shot, the muzzleloader ignited as almost an extension of my arm or maybe through telepathy the bullet left, smoke hung, bullet struck. The buck with a thud, hit the mud as hard as the bullet had struck him, dead in his tracks and in another amazing 60 seconds! I was then as rattled as I’d ever been, not at the size or score of the buck but by how it all was orchestrated. Amazing!
Hunting South Central Illinois is vastly different than where I live, instead of 80/20 food to cover it’s 80/20 cover to food and with record warm temperatures, seeking food sources wasn’t the deer’s priority in the daylight. Tough hunting to say the least
Had I slept in either one of those mornings or had I opted to shave 120 second of hunting off the 300 plus hour season I’d still be hanging my head low and grumbling about Illinois deer. It can all change in 60 seconds, sometimes less. The point is you have to be out there, every season, every year, every chance you can. Those that consistently succeed consistently put themselves in that position, those that don’t might be short changing their chance of success; besides, you know the old saying, a bad day hunting is still better than a good day at work right??
Until Next time, have a Merry Christmas, great hunting and…
Matt Cheever ~ Flatlander