The firearms deer season has come and gone and the muzzleloader season just wrapped up. But if you're still carrying an unpunched archery tag, there's still time.
Brent Beimert is the owner of Beimert Outdoors, an archery pro shop in Brainerd. He's been an avid bowhunter for 30 years, and has hunted his way across the Midwest. He hunts in multiple states from September through December, but believes the last few weeks of the season provide an overlooked opportunity for hardy bowhunters.
Beimert said many hunters tend to give up when the weather turns cold. "The best piece of advice that I can offer is to get out there and do it," he said. "It's cold in December, but you'll never have a successful hunt sitting on your couch."
He also believes that colder weather actually helps hunters. "Deer tend to be more predictable when the days get shorter and colder," Beimert said, "moving to food sources at dusk then returning to bedding areas sometime after dawn."
Once he's identified active bedding and feeding areas, Beimert sets a treestand in a funnel or necked-down area between the two. "Remember that food sources change during the season," he added. "The food plots that attracted deer in October and November are gone, eaten. In some places I hunt the deer have moved to picked corn fields, in others they're feeding on this year's massive acorn crop."
Hunters will need to bundle up to endure late-season treestand sits, but Beimert says that when you get dressed is almost as important as what you wear. "Some of my hunting locations require a half-mile walk," he said. "I carry my outer layers in a backpack then suit up once I get to my tree. If you sweat when you're hiking in, you'll freeze when you're sitting still."
Chemical hand-warmer packets are useful, too, especially when tucked inside a muff clipped around your waist. Keep your hands warm and dry until you need to pick up your bow.
Beimert said he's spent time in his stand early and late in the day, but prefers morning sits toward the end of the season. "Deer are like clockwork in the morning," he said, "but especially during warmer afternoons, they tend to linger in bed before getting up to feed. And that cuts into the short afternoon hunting window."
December might not be regarded as the best month to tag a trophy buck in the upper Midwest, but it does happen. "I shot a 142-inch 9-point buck a few years ago on December 28 during a blizzard," Beimert said. "I was just starting to wonder why I was enduring such brutal conditions when the deer seemed to materialize out of thin air."
Mostly, though, the waning weeks of the archery deer season are about enjoying a bit more time in the woods and putting some venison in the freezer. The same doe you let walk under your stand in early November is going to look much more tempting in late December.