It was the morning of December 13th and I had settled before the light at one of my favorite archery sites in a funnel right next to a good sleeping area in Minnesota.
This place is in very thick brush on a narrow ridge system with a field in the conservation reserve program below me and agricultural fields above. The deer feed in this upper field, so the idea was that I could catch one coming back to bed through this funnel. This was a great spot in the past during times of low hunting pressure before gun season, but this morning was the third session in a row I didn’t see a deer.
This can certainly be the case at this time of year. Deer have been under pressure during archery season, regular firearms, and now muzzleloading season. In Minnesota there is a lot of activity in the woods with a deer hunting tradition so strong in the state.
There had been a fair amount of muzzle loader hunting around me throughout that last weekend of December 12th.
I decided to text a neighbor who I know is chasing the charger by mouth in the adjacent woods to the east. He and other members of his hunting party hadn’t been there for a week. Perfect.
I have been hunting late season archery every year for about 16 years now in Minnesota, and finding areas that have experienced limited pressure at this time of year is rule # 1 for me if I can. find.
I got out early that afternoon at the eastern edge of the property in a low area along the river so I had time to read signs in the snow and settle in. I’m not sure exactly where the deer nest here because I can’t spot the neighboring property. There must be fantastic thermal blanket as this area is always home to deer at the end of the season.
Where I can hunt is a transition zone between that litter and a cornfield picked up high where they feed. There is a good natural grazing here that the deer feed on before they touch the corn.
The sign in the snow was as good as it always seems to be in December. There were trail systems leading all over the flat bottom of the open wood. At one place in particular, a few trails intersected and then trails started off from those trails where deer spent time walking.
This seemed to be the focal point of meeting much of the movement. I settled in the middle of all this activity with my scent flying away from where I expected the deer to come.
A one-year-old male was the first deer to appear. He nibbled on a few twigs and slowly escaped from under my stand.
I have noticed more movement now coming from the thicker blanket which turns into a grassy opening near the property border about 150 yards away. A long line of hinds and yearlings were standing and heading towards the wood in which I was installed.
A party of eight took a trail further east of me into the woods and ended up too far behind me. They climbed the steep ridge to this upper field for food.
In this open grassy area right next to the woods, there were four more deer. They took a trail directly south of me in the woods and did exactly what the trail in the snow told them to by moving straight into my firing opening 15 yards.
The first big doe came over to me and gave me what I thought was a chance to draw my bow when she lowered her head. Two of the other deer I was not watching caught my movement and got scared, causing him to lift his head and run away with them.
At full draw now, I gathered around and saw that the other large doe in the group hadn’t moved. She was quartered towards me, giving me a shot at about 20 yards.
Pulling the combination of heavy arrows and wide spikes I’m doing, I put the pin right on that front shoulder to make sure I don’t hit too far back. The arrow penetrated and took out the lungs and the fundus of the heart for a quick kill.
Another group of five more does and yearlings entered the woods that night before dark. A night like this at the end of the season seeing 15-20 antlerless deer is not uncommon in most areas of Minnesota. I hunt where the doe / buck ratios strongly favor the does.
It can be difficult to spot a mature male at this time of year. Many have already been slaughtered, and those who haven’t don’t spend much time standing in the light of day.
What the end of December offers archers is a chance to see lots of antlerless deer in the last days of the season, with most of the hunting pressure now being out of the woods for a few weeks.
If you’re still looking for a doe late in the season, find food (whether it’s natural grazing or a more common staple food source like corn or soybeans), understand litter, read the panel in snow and sit back. This can make some of the most enjoyable hunts of the year with the antlers to yourself and the white deer grouped together in large groups.