Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014 | OUTDOORS
December loaded with opportunity
December has always been a special time of year for me to spend in the outdoors, no matter what type of activity the month might bring. December offers so much to do outside it’s difficult to point a finger at a single activity that brings more joy.
Even though the end of December signals the end of many outdoor activities pertaining to hunting, it’s an open door to a variety of other activities to choose from that only someone who lives in a northern setting with changing seasons can appreciate.
Closing in early January will be the late archery season, and while I haven’t typically spent a lot of time chasing whitetails in the late season, there are a handful of hunts etched in my memory that I won’t likely forget. It’s too bad the snow has nearly disappeared, but if we get more before the end of the month, there’s no bigger thrill than dressing in all-white clothing and trying to sneak up on a bedded whitetail. I spent many hours in my youth sneaking slowly through the woods in search of a deer to put a move on, and in many cases it would take several hours to get within bow range if I did spot one, only to wind up empty-handed as the wind shifted, or the slightest of sounds would send the deer running for cover.
My dad often accompanied me on these hunts and we’d make small deer drives to each other. It often worked and we’d get deer within bow range, but shots were rarely easy and hunts were almost always unsuccessful. We often tried our luck sneaking in on deer bedded in cornfields still standing or deer we’d be able to pick out on the ridge tops.
Preparing for these hunts was always easy too. We couldn’t afford the latest and greatest camo but an XXL white sweatshirt and cheap pair of all-white sweatpants stretched nicely over our traditional fall camo. And to complete our winter hunting ensemble, we simply covered the limbs and other parts of our bows with sheets of a white paper towel, held on by a little freezer tape.
While there’s still a little snow cover out there, these hunts are typically more fun in a foot or more of soft, fresh snow. Here’s to hoping we get that for Christmas or before the archery season ends.
After filling only one tag this year during the archery season, coming up empty during the rifle season and completely missing out on the muzzleloader season, there’s still a little hope in trying to get one more deer to hold my family over with venison until next fall. But if history is any indication of the success I have hunting late-season deer, we may need to ration it out until next season, or fill the freezer with coyotes, as they seemed more plentiful than deer in the areas I hunted this winter.
I was lucky to shoot one of the several coyote I’d seen during the rifle season and coyote tracks often outnumbered the deer tracks. I would have preferred to see more deer tracks, but it will bring opportunity later this winter as predator hunting will rank high on this winter’s to-do list. Of all the years I’ve spent outdoors I can safely say this was the year of the coyote, as I can’t remember a year where I’d seen so many.
But with the newfound coyote-hunting opportunities to be offered this winter, there’s still plenty of time to put that on the back burner, as December has always been a special time for me to hunt grouse. There are fewer grouse this season than in previous years, from what I’ve personally observed, but some pockets of brush on the properties I hunt still yield a few birds, as well as plenty of squirrels. So if the freezer can’t be filled with deer there’s other wild protein out there to fill it with. I’ve even got a fall-turkey tag burning a hole in my pocket and the turkey season doesn’t end until Dec. 31.
With the many hunting, hiking and bird-watching activities to do in December and throughout the winter, it still wouldn’t be complete without several hours of quality ice-fishing time, which to no surprise, has eluded me up to this point. Many limits have been caught by friends and the photos of their catches are regularly emailed and texted over as a teaser of sorts. But with so much hunting left to do, the ice fishing may need to wait until January. If I can make it that long.