Late-gun season gives hunters final chance

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D.S. Pledger
Sunday, December 22, 2013

Hunters who weren't able to fill their tags during last month's deer-gun season will have another shot at it (excuse the pun) this week.

There will be a special late-gun season beginning Tuesday and running until January 5, which includes all CWD units (most of southern Wisconsin). Unfilled buck tags or CWD bonus antlerless carcass tags can still be used (check your regs for details).

This hunt won't be like the November “opener,” with its traditional deer camp and all the hype. There will be fewer hunters and probably colder weather.

Deer may have altered their traffic patterns from a month ago as availability of food changed, and they may still be a bit skittish after being pushed by both rifle hunters and then muzzle loader shooters for a couple of weeks.

Still, there are some opportunities in the late going that may not have existed in the earlier season.

One is the aforementioned lack of competition. Although there may be some group hunting and driving, it will be nothing like it was a month ago. The December hunt is more a matter of slipping into the woods for a few hours and sitting on a stand trying to get a shot at an undisturbed animal.

Snow can be a big help, too. With every new dusting there is an up-to-date record of whitetail meanderings, and one can easily tell which trails are being used and which have been abandoned. And if one is good at reading the sign, they can even tell if it's a buck or doe that has been traveling through.

A white background is also a huge help in spotting animals. Now that brown-on-brown business that allows a deer to slip past utilizing dead leaves and vegetation for camouflage is no longer a problem.

Animals stand out starkly against a white background, and even a slight movement 100 yards away is easily caught by the hunter.

Another advantage to December hunting is that the deer are more active during the day. Since they burn far more calories in cold temperatures, they need to browse a lot more than they did during the balmy days of bow season in October.

Deer may also be out during daylight hours to take advantage of the sun's warmth.

Of course there are some challenges to the late hunt, too. The biggest is dealing with the cold. Heavy coats, pac boots, handwarmers, and unwieldy gloves are required to last even an hour on stand.

One cold-weather hunting fact I've learned over the years is that nearly all blaze orange deer hunting jackets are designed for November temperatures and are too light for some of the bone-numbing cold the time around the New Year can throw at us.

A decade ago I bought a blaze cape that is big enough to fit over a winter jacket. The cape fulfills the DNR's blaze orange requirements, and can turn any coat, up to and including my ice fishing parka, into a “deer hunting” jacket.

Although those little chemical hand warmers are nice during less severe weather, they simply don't throw off enough heat to keep my fingers from getting numb. This time of year I switch over to my old charcoal handwarmer or the even a couple of old ones that work on white gas.

They produce a lot more heat than the wussy disposable kind, although they do smell a bit (“stink” as my hunting partner puts it). Don't worry about the deer smelling them though. If they can smell the warmer, they can also smell you, in which case they will disappear in a hurry anyway.

How badly do you need a deer? Enough to put up with the rigors of a Wisconsin winter? Or you might even enjoy sitting in an ice box for an hour or two as the wind whistles around your tree.

In either case, this coming week presents a new opportunity to go out and do some deer hunting.

D.S. Pledger is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at maus16@centurytel.net

Last updated: 10:35 am Monday, December 23, 2013

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