Late season may be the great season for deer hunters

It’s been an interesting deer season thus far, no doubt. Although early reports showed the Northern Zone harvest up about 10 percent through early October, when the rut was “supposed” to kick in a bit later, hunters in the Northern and Southern zones were reporting a lull in buck activity.

Mid-November always delivers and it did again this season for many hunters. There were also some early season reports in the Northern Zone, while many bowhunters in the Southern Zone were still waiting for things to happen.

What I witnessed firsthand in my region was a spike in buck activity in late October. From the early muzzleloading season right on through to the first few days of November, our hunting party found numerous rubs and scrapes and killed a pair of bucks running with does. We then ventured off to Maine for a week of hunting up there where the rut had yet to kick in. When we returned, we practiced what we always preach – hunting the doe groups. We saw a lot of does, but there were no bucks to be found.

However, the rubs and scrapes started showing up again in mid-November, just as they had a month earlier. With that in mind, I’ve got a hunch that, weather pending, the late season for this hunting season could be action-packed. Maybe it’s the warm fall we’ve had, the moon phase, or even a second rut? Call it what you want, but it will be nothing new.

I can recall numerous deer seasons when our Adirondack hunting party was still looking for our first buck in late November. Then suddenly the woods opened up with deer. One year during the last week of the season, we were making drives with only four hunters when three of us killed bucks, all on one drive. That was quite a hunting day, and before the season was done, our group bagged two more bucks.

We’ve seen the action carry over to the late rifle season in the Southern Zone as well as the late muzzleloading seasons in both zones. One of my favorite hunts ever was taking an Adirondack six-pointer with my muzzleloader on a cold, single-digit December morning back in 2001. The buck was right on the tail of a doe when a fellow hunter pushed them past me. And a few years ago, on a late-season muzzleloading hunt, I put a gal who occasionally hunts with us on that same watch and she nailed a big eight-pointer trying to sneak past her.

The one wrench that can be thrown into late-season hunting is the weather. Deep snow gets whitetails thinking winter, especially in the North Country or in any desolate area where they’re inclined to yard-up. Toss in extreme cold and that makes them more willing to do so. Otherwise, some seasonal snow and a little cold doesn’t hurt much and, in fact, aids the hunter as the deer tend to keep moving.

If you’ve had a tough season and can’t seem to punch a tag, don’t give up – the best hunting of the season could be about to happen.

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