The final weekend of the Missouri and Illinois deer seasons came to an end yesterday and I must say even though I didn’t harvest a deer this year I spent many days afield chasing them tasty animals.
With the final weekend approaching I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it out or not. If I am honest I have never hunted deer in January. I know many people who do and have success, but I am usually gearing up for ice fishing and deer season is just a recent memory.
This year we have no ice on the lakes here in central Illinois, so I have been sitting in my house the last few weekends going crazy trying to find things to do. I am not one that can just sit around for days with nothing to do. My anxiety will get the best of me if I do.
As I was pondering what to do, I talked with my sister’s boyfriend Marc, and he was thinking about taking a few days off and heading back to Missouri for one last weekend hunt. As soon as he said that I told him to take the days off and I would head there on Friday afternoon to join him.
As the week continued on, I was getting more excited to go sit in the woods. At first, I was worried it would be too cold but as we got closer it was showing 20 – 40 degrees for the weekend and that is about perfect if you ask me.
On Friday morning, I gathered my stuff and started packing my truck for the final weekend. I had high hopes for the weekend as a couple of corn fields that were in all hunting season were finally taken out. I knew this would give us a better chance of seeing deer, because during our first week there in early November we saw many of the deer entering and exiting these small cornfields in the early morning and late evening. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any stands close to these cornfields, so it made it hard to hunt. I did try to sit on the ground but it’s not easy hunting deer with bow from the ground with no cover, but I tried it anyway. I did see a couple of small deer but nothing worth shooting.
My plan for this weekend was not to be picky. We had one deer in the freezer and most of the chops and steaks were gone. I wanted to find a nice doe to put in the freezer or even at this point a small buck would do. I wasn’t concentrating on getting a big buck. One reason is I would rather eat the doe than a buck any day. Many times, if we get a buck we just have it all made into salami and we split it with friends.
On my first sit of the weekend, I just had to go back to my spot in the very back of the 700 acres. There is a little tear drop that is surrounded by woods on two sides and a steep riverbank on another. Since my first-time hunting there back in 2021, it has been one of my favorite spots to sit. There are many stands on this property to go and sit, but I always seem to be drawn back to this particular spot. The main reason is that on one of my first sits in this stand, I saw several nice bucks. On my second sit there, I saw thirteen different bucks in one morning. I had a group of three does that were hanging in the woods behind me, and every 15 minutes to a half an hour, here would come a new buck chasing the does around. It was the most exciting sit I have ever had so I am sure that is what draws me to this location.
As the sun started to peak over the trees, I could feel the warmth of the sun hitting my face. It was the first time in a few weeks I felt calm. Over the last several weeks I haven’t been out hunting. I have been working hard on the magazine trying to get every ad space sold that I can. If it wasn’t for the hard work I put in to keep this magazine at capacity, then I could not do what I love to do as regularly as I would like. So, I keep plugging away trying to keep the dream alive. This gets my anxiety up and there comes a time that I have to spend some time outdoors. It is where I get relief from the everyday world, and it allows me to spend time thinking about the future and what it may hold.
The morning started off pretty slow. Only a few squirrels and a coon that didn’t have a tail. It made it look like a koala with a mask. As I was sitting there, I looked across the field and I saw three does hop out into the field. The bigger of them was looking back into the woods like something was following them. I started my video on my camera and watched them come all the way across the field. They would put their tail up and run a little ways then stop. They didn’t seem to know what was going on, but they were very alert and startled for some reason. As they made their way across the field, I could tell they were going to come right to me. Unfortunately, none of them were very big. As a matter of fact, I would have to say the biggest doe was only a year and half old and the other two must have been born really late because they weren’t much bigger than a dog. There was no way I was going to shoot the bigger doe just for the simple fact she still had little ones and just wasn’t big enough to harvest. I figured if I did shoot her than I was probably basically killing five deer for next year. I wasn’t sure it was mom until I saw them still trying to nurse.
They came within ten yards of the stand and then started to go in beside me when momma caught my wind, and she couldn’t figure out where I was. She never looked up at me but when she would try to cross my wind she would stop and back up a few feet. This went on four or five times until she decided to head to the end of the field. As they reached the end of the field, I noticed she was going down the steep embankment down to the river. This was literally a 20-foot drop straight down. I watched as she headed down and the two little ones followed.
As soon as the deer went down the hill, I looked around to see if there were anymore deer around. As I turned back to where the deer were, there stood a mangy looking coyote. I thought to myself I am lucky I didn’t shoot her, or the coyotes would have probably gotten the two little ones. The coyote walked right to where the deer went down and then came out a much bigger coyote to join the mangy one. They were standing on the top looking down when they must of spotted the deer. They took off in a hurry running down the bank and the river bottom towards the deer. I am hoping they didn’t get a hold of any of the deer.
Unfortunately, that was all I saw that first morning, so I headed in for some breakfast. After a couple of hours break we were ready to head back out. Since we only had a few sits left in the season I decided to try a new stand. I could see this stand from my first location, but it was some 800 yards across the field. During November we had a nice ten point that was living in the area, but we tried everything, and he escaped us for the two weeks that we were bow hunting. I was hoping Marc would get it with the rifle, but he never showed his face during rifle season.
The reason I wanted to sit there is the number of deer in November we saw come out to the corn field and eat. The stand was a much better rifle stand than a bow, but I wanted to give it a shot.
Marc and I had decided I would go to the stand on the point, and he would go the one in the timber. We were hoping he would go one way or the other if he was in there so we wanted to surround the area and see if one of us could get lucky. Marc had a camera in there and when we checked it, he was still living there. As we arrived to our parking spot, we got out and look over and the woods just lit up with tails. I know there was at least ten deer that got up and headed back towards where Marc would be sitting. I snuck by the area they were laying in and headed to the stand. We were both excited seeing that many deer in this stretch of woods so we were confident we would at least see some deer.
I quietly climbed into the buddy stand and as soon as I was situated, I looked to my left and out came a nice doe. She headed across the field, and I watched her for about twenty minutes. As she finally made her way into another set of woods, I looked back to my left and there were two more heading my way. Unfortunately, a couple of yearlings again so I just watched as they made their way in the woods about 80 yards away. They walked behind me and when they weren’t moving you couldn’t see them. I am amazed at how well deer can blend in with their surroundings. I watched them lie down and that is where they were when I left.
I only saw those three while I was in the stand but when I got back to the truck, Marc said a group of 31 deer walked by him about 100 yards away. As you can see in one of my pictures, just to the right of where I was sitting there is this large mound and it was completely flat, and you can see in the picture how the deer would sit on the hill and then they would head into the cornfield to eat. Even with the corn being taken out a few months ago you can see the trail they had into the field.
On the last day of the season, I once again wanted to try a new area. Up by the house we were staying in, there is a large hill that faces south and goes down to the river bottoms. This hill is made up of mainly switch grass with a few ravines that have trees in them. I know these deer when its cold sit on this south facing hill in order to warm up early in the morning when the sun comes out. No one really hunts this hill, and it has a couple of little ponds that are on the side of the hill that were made for cattle years ago, along with ravines, cornfields at the bottom and grass bedding area all on the side of the hill. This hill goes for at least half a mile, so I figured let’s see what this area has to offer.
As I found a place to sit, I did see a couple of deer in the distance but nothing close enough to shoot. So, after this sit I decided the wind was picking up and it was time to call it a season. For the second year in a row, I had tag soup for supper. I had a great season and learned a lot. I had many opportunities, but it seems these days I would rather my daughter fill the freezer and I will go salami hunting. I hope everyone’s year is off to a great start.
Until next month. May your sunrises and sunsets be magical!