We are in the midst of the big hunt, the one that dominates the landscape both in the woods and in the towns, like no other. Deer season. Or, more correctly, deer gun season. During nine days in November the entire state is caught up in the hunt by both hunters and non-hunters alike. No other recreational sporting season has the impact that the gun deer hunt does.
Historically, the opening weekend represents the best opportunity to kill a deer. Generally speaking, about half of the total deer killed in the nine-day season are taken in the first two days. So spending time in the woods on that weekend is a huge factor in hunting success. But that does not mean it’s a lost cause after that. Hunters can be successful at any time during the nine days.
Most hunters spend the majority of the time opening weekend standing (or, more accurately, sitting). Deer are on the move for the weekend, in many cases pushed from shelter as hunters walk to their stands in the morning, come back out during lunch and go back to the stand for the late afternoon. All those hunters in the woods will move deer, and the stand hunters often benefit.
After the weekend, tactics often change. Stand hunting can still be very effective and for many hunters, limited to smaller tracts of land, it’s the only option. But still hunting (which entails very, very slow walks with frequent stops) and drives, can be very effective. Still hunting is best done if there has been some rain or snow to dampen fallen leaves. Otherwise, the hunter simply makes too much noise to walk up close enough to deer. Drives are best done in small groups and communication between all involved is the key. A poorly planned drive can be both ineffective and a danger to hunters who do not know where their companions are situated. Any drives need be done very cautiously.
Weather, as always, will play a significant role. Deer will be winding down the rut and some bucks will still be on the move, making scents and calls effective. Deer numbers are up from last year and optimism is higher than we’ve seen it for a few seasons.
After the gun season, muzzleloading season runs from Nov. 25 through Dec. 5. By then, there is a good possibility we’ll have some snow cover. Muzzleloaders also are able to hunt with fewer hunters in the woods and the popularity of that season increases every year.
Small game hunters can hunt during gun season, but need to comply with blaze orange requirements. And anyone else in the woods during the season, while not required to wear blaze, should do so regardless.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander.