Late season deer hunting isn’t for everyone, yet it you are willing to deal with the elements in a proactive way, it can be fun and very productive time for huge bucks. Witness the 160-class giant taken in South Dakota during an extreme weather advisory that forecast winds of 30 mph and temperatures at 20 below. This weekend, it was more than 100 degrees warmer in Florida than in the Dakotas.
Craig Pfeifer, the Sales Operations Support Manager for Sig Sauer Optics (Yes, they make scopes, binoculars, and a great rangefinder) had to leave the Dakota camp a day early and passed on the large deer drive we had planned. Instead, Pfeifer hunted near camp for the first two hours where he had seen a trophy 8-point several times. Sneaking toward an ambush vantage point, he suddenly jumped this great buck and downed it with a single shot from his Traditions muzzleloader, no doubt crediting his Sig Sauer scope as well. With antlers 20 inches wide and tons of mass, this is a true buck of a lifetime and an indication of the trophies that are still out there. No doubt the big bruiser had moved into the area searching for does, as it had for several previous years, and had the misfortune to run into a hunter who wasn’t afraid to brave the cold and snow.
Other Hunting Options-
Late season can be a great time to bird hunt and sometimes big bucks and uplands can be found in the same location. In the mountains of the East ruffed grouse often concentrate in patches of cover where there’s protection from the wind and cold as well as abundant food. Often called, nook & cranny grouse, you may have to cover a lot of ground until you find a nook (Or is it a cranny?) where you’ll suddenly hear that ruffed roar that makes adrenalin pump.
Pheasants also stick to thick cover and one of our guys bought a small game license and brought his shotgun just for the ring-neck action. Ironically, he became a driver on the first day and took this big long-tailed rooster while pushing deer.
Save the Deer Herd
Predator hunting really picks up when the weather turns cold and those foxes and coyotes seek to catch their prey, like deer, in the deep snow. On my final day of the muzzleloading hunt, I was a stander and the drive was nearly complete when I noticed movement in a draw below me. Unsure of what this black and orange beast was at first, I quickly realized it was a coyote keeping track of the drivers who were making noise. It was a 75-yard off-hand shot, but the Traditions Vortex muzzleloader, and Federal Premium muzzleloading bullet was up to the challenge and dropped the big dog on the spot. As I picked up the beast to carry it through the drive, I couldn’t believe the size- nearly 50 pounds and about as long as my body. I can only guess how many deer lives I saved by taking this monster out of the predator pool and I hope you will consider doing the same.
Late season is a matter of enjoying the outdoors. Like skiers, embrace the cold and dress for it, a matter I’ll pick up in my next post.