As you read this we'll be closing the curtains on another northern zone hunting season. This time of year is always a tad deflating. Cleaning out the fridge at camp. Making ice fishing plans with lifetime hunting chums that rarely materialize. If only hunting season lasted all year ... the world would be a happier place.
Except for the deer, of course. Oh, and the hunting camp widows. At least the newly wed ones who still miss you when you're gone.
For my crew this season will be marked by a number of great memories - culminating in one of the largest deer we've taken in years. Nevertheless, like most camps, we saw a lot less deer this season, especially does. I've heard the same almost universally across the board. Crews that traditionally put a baker's dozen on the meat pole hung maybe half that this year.
Interestingly, though, state wildlife officials are predicting that the overall take will be up slightly higher than last year. Senior Wildlife Biologist Ed Reed told me that, in spite of the anecdotal evidence, the "reported take to date is actually a little ahead of last year."
"We won't know how this translates into a calculated take until after the season when we can determine the reporting take," he said.
Reed did say hunters also told him they believe the deer herd seemed smaller this year, and said his personal experience in the woods also followed that trend.
But, he made a good point in that the weather definitely didn't make life easy on us.
"The weather was horrible for deer hunting most of the season with no snow cover and warm temperatures. The deer just weren't moving much, especially during the daylight hours, although I did see quite a bit of buck sign in the woods. Our deer check efforts at meat cutters seemed to be low early in the season, but the past couple of weeks have picked up considerably," Reed said.
A look at local buck contests shows a similar trend, with a majority of the bucks weighed in the past couple weeks, though most are reporting less deer overall. The weather gods did smile on us the final weekend, and most had at least a day with tracking snow - even in the valleys.
I know a handful of local camps took advantage. The Euba Mills Outlaws in New Russia, for example, more than doubled their season-long take in one weekend, and, word is some guy from E-town named Rabbit broke a long buckless lull with a big-tined eight.
John Gereau is managing editor of Denton Publications and an avid outdoorsmen. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.