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Hunting season isn’t over yet

December 12, 2010 at 07:10 AM

The State Journal-Register

There are still a lot of deer hunting opportunities left if you’re not tired of it, or if you still have a freezer to fill.

If you keep hunting, don’t worry. Your kids will come around and remember you in time to open Christmas presents. With a steady diet of plain yogurt, your deer-cabin digestive problems will clear up — eventually.

With the December either-sex shotgun deer season in the books, deer hunting gets progressively more difficult. The days are shorter and colder. In case you missed it last weekend, the southwest breezes of October are now bone-chilling winds out of the northwest. There is no shortage of deer, but there aren’t as many dumb ones, and the smart ones have gotten smarter.

Most of the bucks that scraped and snorted all the way through the November rut are worn out by now. They are thin, tired of chasing and fighting and need to store up some calories to help them through the winter.

Some experts say that in early to mid-December, there is a second rut because of the remaining available does, and that mature bucks are the only ones left with the stamina to pursue them. Even those bucks tend to be interested in only the ladies that are close to home.

Deer are settling into their winter routine. The crops are harvested and the easy food sources are gone. Deer tend to bed down closer to the remaining food sources, and they enter the feeding grounds earlier in the afternoon. They feed and are back to bed before the sun comes up.

Bow hunters who are still focused on a buck may have more success with late-afternoon hunts near the feeding areas. A late-afternoon strategy isn’t all bad. Even the most dedicated hunters aren’t springing out of bed at 3 a.m. like they did when the season was new.

Some experts believe that bucks resting up from the rut will remain bedded all day, not moving at all until they get hungry late in the afternoon. If you have identified a bedding area, setting up between there and a food source can improve your chances.

If you’re a bow hunter, late in the season is a good time to be very selective. One of the best ways to have big bucks in your hunting area is to stop shooting little ones. Unless he’s a monster, give that buck under your stand a pass.

Think about it like catch and release. Those smallish bucks will be in the neighborhood next year, and by then some of them will look good over the fireplace.

One of the paradoxes of Illinois deer hunting is that hunters seeing a dozen or more does for every buck don’t harvest does. The late deer seasons for Illinois gun hunters have been implemented to harvest does.

If you still have some “hunt” left in you, take advantage of the herd-management opportunity. In years to come, you may be glad you did.

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