Mid-Season Doldrums

Feeling a bit put out by the slowdown in the deer hunting? Dan Donarski has some tips on how to get the most out of the latter half of the season on Pure Michigan Connect!

The general firearms deer season is half over. The deer are more secretive, there’s foul human scent all over the woods, and more than a fair share of bucks have been taken already. This is especially true on public land. Places like the Hiawatha and Pere Marquette national forests, and the Copper Country and Pigeon River state forests. Actually, any of our public lands in Michigan.

More than a few hunters give up after this first weekend. While they may still be technically hunting, they aren’t all that hyped for it. Sleeping in late seems to make sense. Leaving before the shooting day is over. Not taking care to make sure they don’t carry human scent into the woods with them. Heck, some will even bag the whole deal, spending time watching The Price is Right or some such nonsense.

Over the past few years I will admit to things getting pretty slim after the first weekend on my end. It has been hard to still stay in the game. Then again, it has also proved to be rather productive.

Yes, certainly the deer have been pressured and many have gone into hiding. This condition doesn’t last forever. Chances are good that if that buck is still in the world that he will start to return to more normal patterns in a day or so. Don’t ask me why, but over the past two seasons my best success, both in bucks being seen and bucks being taken, has happened beginning the Tuesday after the first weekend.

I could guess, I suppose. There are fewer hunters in the woods now. The bucks are still looking for love, at least some are. They are certainly looking for food. All this points to heightened activity. And all this points to you needing to be out in the woods, out on that scouted scrape line, in the bedding areas, in the movement corridors. You simply need to show up if you want to be a part of the game.

If things are really stirred up it might be time to hunt the seams. Most of these will be man-made right now, but you’ll find natural ones, too.

It’s a simple fact that most hunters won’t venture more than a quarter mile off the logging roads or trails. Heck, truth be known, most won’t go farther than a couple of hundred yards. Something about getting lost, or worrying about the long drag I suppose. Deer may not have inborn intelligence but they do know when things aren’t going right for them. When we invade their country they simply go deeper. So should you.

Other seams happen where there is a swamp edge, again here, a lot of folks are not willing to bust through that cover or put up with visibility less than that of a football field. Just inside these swamps, on some inner hillock, you may just be surprised at what you see.

If your neck of the woods still has a fair number of hunters, use them and the seams they create to hunt deer that aren’t as pressured or spooked.

Knowing that folks aren’t traveling far from their trail, and knowing most folks do not take care to remain as scent free as possible, use that to your advantage. Get in the thickest stuff between two other hunters. Just make sure there is a reasonable distance between you and them.

Or, use the wind to move their foul odor into a pocket of cover sending the deer your way. Last season I did that with a group whose hygiene was more than questionable. I set up on a ridge downwind from one of their party by a good half mile. A heavily used trail was between us, closer to the odorous one. Around three in the afternoon I heard a couple of loud snorts and not long after a dandy buck came walking quickly up the draw. He didn’t walk away.

Again, if folks are still hunting around you, chances are they will not be sitting on their stand as long as the first few days. You should stay longer than you have been. There’s a better than good chance that those guys moving through the woods won’t be doing it with any sort of stealth. Meaning that they will be sending deer every which way and you just may get lucky and be able to intercept one of the deer they spooked.

When push comes to shove though it does all come down to attitude. You have to stay in the game.

If you don’t think you’ll see a buck each and every time you go out, you probably won’t. If you don’t take care to be as quiet as possible, each and every time you move through the woods you’ll certainly spook more than you’ll see. If you don’t take care of making sure your scent is wafting over prime cover you are going to miss out.

Using the Boy Scout slogan, you must be prepared. Always.

Dan Donarski is an award-winning journalist/photographer and author. He specializes in the outdoors and adventure travel. When he’s not out and about he lays his head in Sault Ste. Marie.