Well, here we are. We made it to the beginning of another fall season. Like a young single version of myself (and many of you.) slogging through the work week just to get to Friday night. We have endured another long cold winter, a soggy spring and a brutal run of 90 degree days in the Midwest, just to end up here. Finally.

Enjoy it, but don’t get over anxious. When the time is right, be ready.

Thinking about it makes me laugh. As I mentioned above, my objective as a much younger man (I use that term loosely) was simply to make it to another weekend. By hook or by crook, I would be in that bar or club living it up like I had time and money to burn ( I had neither). Only to crash back to reality on Monday morning and start the whole process over again. The more I sit and laugh about those days and the lessons I learned (over a long time), the more I see a funny connection to how young hunters and old hunters differ wildly in their approach to chasing whitetails.

Think about it. Honestly, isn’t deer season a metaphor for one long night in a night club?

Ok. Ok. Let me lay it out for you.

The first couple of weeks of deer season are largely uneventful. They can be hot and deer are still on their summer feeding patterns. The odds of “scoring” on a good deer are pretty slim and the fact is you can run through a considerable chunk of time and money and come up empty. This “phase” if you will, is like 7 to 9 pm in our imaginary bar. (Come to think of it, we could use a name for our club. Let’s call it The Rutt. “Where most of the action happens late!”)  The only customers in a night club at 7 pm are the immature eager guys thinking they can get a good corner booth and be ready when the girls start to show up.  Inexperienced, weak and broke are not the qualities that most women are looking for. But they press on, just like young hunters that burn vacation time and swat mosquitos for the first few weeks of the season just because they can.

Now things start to heat up in that second half of October. Not a lot, but it is possible to lay your eyes on a good buck, especially the later into October you get. You start to see more does on their feet and things seem to be loosening up a bit. Movement seems to be lasting longer into the morning and starting earlier in the evening. Let’s make this phase 9 pm to 11 pm. Now The Rutt is starting to get busy too. Not exactly a line out the door, but the bouncer is in place and the ladies are starting to show up in numbers. More guys are showing up too…and they seem to be a little bigger and are getting more than their fair share of attention.  This is a significant problem for those young guys that got here 2 hours ago. Although it’s getting good, it’s not quite a party yet. In fact, the cool crowd is still sitting at home waiting for things to get rolling.

The first week of November can be magical. Bucks are on their feet marking their territory and sorting out who’s the boss of the woods. This is the time to rattle and challenge a big deer to show himself. Hunting over scrapes or a decoy are prime strategies to score on a wall hanger. You may also notice the does act nervous and stressed, they do their best to avoid the bucks as they strut around flexing their considerable muscle. A couple of them even get into a pretty good shoving match. Sound familiar? Somewhere between 11pm and 1 am things at The Rutt move into full swing. It’s a packed house of dancing, partying and flirting. The muscle heads are pushing their way around while the rich guys are buying drinks for any attractive girl that even glances in their direction. Our little guys from earlier? They are still in that corner booth, sadly they can’t even see the dance floor because the bigger guys have made it clear they aren’t welcome.

Well, it’s getting late in the deer woodsand at The Rutt. Mid-November can be a very frustrating time in the deer woods. Everything seems to be right, but the deer movement is way down. Even non-existent. I sat from dark to dark three times in my life. All three in this phase and it wasn’t because I was seeing deer all day. It was because I wasn’t seeing anything! I knew they had to move sooner or later and I was going to be there when they did. The word we use in the Midwest is “lockdown” and it’s no fun. Back at the Rutt, things are winding down a little. Oddly, what was nearly a riot a short time ago has turned into a thinning crowd of mostly tired and dejected patrons. The bigger, well dressed guys have left, but it seems so have most of the ladies that were just here. Things just don’t seem to be as fun as they were a little while ago.

Then the lights come on. Last call.

We have all been here before. Late season.

Bucks and does are starting to feed more, but there are a few does still ready for love and a few bucks still ready to provide it. Late season can be a fun time to hunt for many reasons, but my personal favorite is the lack of competition. The overwhelming majority of hunters simply won’t hunt through a brutal cold snap in the Midwest or after the first few weeks in the south. Late season is when the odds can start to swing back in your favor.  Especially if you have been sitting in a corner booth all night!

You have seen that old broken up 8 several times this fall, you even drew down on him once, but he just wasn’t what you had in mind. But here he comes again and time is running out. Does he live for another year or do you lower your standards and take the shot?

Good Luck to everyone this fall. Shoot whatever makes you happy, make long lasting memories and of course… practice “safe hunting”.  ;)