So, your hunt for PA white-tails has been less than successful. Archery season was a bust with plenty of trophies on your trail cam but nothing came within range. Rifle season was not any better and your tags are unfilled. What do you do now? Do you hang up your bow, oil your gun and wait for next fall? No, you dig out your thermals & a warm pair of gloves and head out for one last chance during the late archery or flintlock muzzle loader seasons.
There’s ANOTHER season??
While many hunters focus their attention on the regular archery or rifle seasons PA does offer hunters a late Christmas present in the way of the late archery/flintlock muzzle loader season, which open 26 December and run through 11 January. (http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=576240&mode=2)
Hunting during this late season can be difficult due to deer having been pressured for the past several months, cold temperatures and sparse food sources, but with a little bit of education and a tweak to your normal practices it can also be a very successful time of year.
By late December the deer are educated and you need to be as well. Months of pressure during the early archery, muzzle loader and rifle seasons has driven many deer into hiding. Likewise, the hunters who have stomped through many of the local fields and forests have left these deer wary of any intrusion. To combat this you need to educate yourself on late season activities.
1. Look for thick cover near the remaining food sources – the deer may be spooked but they still need to eat, more often than earlier in the year if temperatures plummet. So, locate these hiding spots close to food, set up on likely travel corridors and wait.
2. Dress accordingly – with temperatures hovering in the 20’s and 30’s a long day on stand will be difficult without heavy duty protection. Knit caps and heavy gloves are a must, as well as a good pair of boots, but remember to dress in layers to avoid get sweat soaked on the hike in. Out layers should be wind and waterproof in case you encounter an unexpected snow storm.
3. When all else fails get down and stalk – although staying on stand is always your best bet of encountering a trophy if there was ever a time to get down and hunt from the ground this is it. Due to earlier pressure many deer will hold tight to cover between feeding and may even remain there until the last minute when disturbed. Add a fresh snow cover and you have the perfect recipe for track & stalk hunting. Just be ready for a quick shot!
Good luck & good hunting!