Ebb and Flow: A Late Deer Season TalePosted on: January 2, 2019 By: FHMD
Maryland has long been a favorite to many sportsmen across the nation. The woods, waterways and heavens bring a smorgasbord of game to the table, year in and year out. Maryland’s deer season runs the first week of September to the last week of January. It is hard to resist by any savvy woodsman. The January late gun season in Maryland is a second to last chance to put some meat in the freezer. It typically runs the first week in January. You can hunt Friday-Sunday on private lands and Friday-Saturday on public lands. Check the Department of Natural Resources Hunting Guide for details of regulations.
Let me take you on one of my late season adventures in Maryland, so you can see what I am talking about. My longtime hunting partner, John, and I gear up in Worcester County. The weather forecast is grim, rain until late Saturday night. It is suggested, perhaps we take to the trees before noon. If no action, we take to the ground for some still-hunt action in the thickets near camp.
As the morning light arrives, I am greeted with the sight of a wonderful rainbow in the field. An odd sight pre-rain. The hours creep by slowly. The rain has now arrived and is sporadic at best. No activity. Time for Plan-B.
A light drizzle affords us the silent stalking of two narrow cuts amongst the loblollies. In bad weather, these cuts are great cover and sanctuary for deer. We each take up in a cut. One hour in, I hear the telltale blowing of deer who have detected our presence. They are now into overdrive, taking off deeper into the woods. We never had a chance.
John and I examine the area where the deer where bedded. Several large beds and a good number of fresh droppings give the clue we need to size up our quarry. We are now on the edge of an area leading to hardwoods and mature oaks.
This is an area we had abandoned a few years back. As we moved inward, I notice a growing amount of sign. Scrapes, rubs, more rubs, scrapes and a scattering of fresh deer droppings. We are elated at this discovery. As the rain increases, John splits off to the left to circle around in hopes of pushing deer out to me. I decide to head to the field’s edge where I will be waiting in hopes of a shot. With recent knee surgery, I am having some discomfort and limitation. Knowing I’m overdoing it, I am hunting and loving it!
Hitting the edge of the field, I set up at a large oak. Sitting to rest my knee is paramount. Not settled for five minutes, I hear a loud commotion from the direction of John. I quickly lean forward to see deer – lots of them – running all over the place, funneling themselves in my direction, and fast.
Having no time to think, only to react, I drop into the ditch, now head and shoulder level with the ground. As I drop in on my good leg, I roll to my right, clicking off the safety and bringing the gun up into position. Several does run past me at full speed. Bringing up the rear is a large buck.
Acquiring the buck’s chest area at nearly 15 yards from me, I yell “hey!” He stops for a nanosecond. With cross hairs lined up on his last rib, I squeeze the trigger. BAM! He kicks like a mule and tears off into the woods like a bottle rocket. I collapse into the ditch like gelatin.
Rushing to where the buck stood, there is brownish/grey hair on the ground, but… NO blood. I am in a panic. Recalling the buck’s route after the shot, he intersected several other running deer in his path. Following the disrupted leaves for perhaps 20 yards, there is still no blood. I decide to wait for John. Four eyes are better than two.
Twenty minutes later, John makes his way to me. We take up the trail. Step by step, scanning the forest floor for even a pin drop of blood. Circling back and forth, but nothing. The dejection consumed me. After hours of this, we chalked it up to a grazing flesh wound.Soaking wet with perspiration and rainwater, we followed an old logging road towards camp. We are back 100 yards in from where I shot the buck, when John stops to ask me a question. My back is to the woods, his back to the field. I am about to respond when he grabs my shirt and pulls me over and points. 80 yards away, I see a large white object. Forgetting I had recent knee surgery, I sprint to the object in the distance.
As if I was hit with a bolt of lightning, I let out the most maniacal laugh. I was possessed with emotion. There laying on his back was my disappearing buck. It appears the shot was perfect, but too close for the bullet to expand fully at impact leaving poor sign to track with an entire herd of deer running all over it.
Thanking the good lord, John and I were jumping up and down like a gang of deranged mental patients. The drag to the truck would be agonizing. However, I felt herculean and savored every agonizing jolt. The following morning came with a torrential downpour. We opted to head home.
Reflecting, positive attitude is key to success whether you harvest or not. However, it won’t happen unless YOU make it happen. This was late season, food and cover are key. Taking it to them paid off as a team. Make the best of adversity coming your way. The range of emotion on a hunt can be a roller-coaster ride at times. This hunt was an example of ebb and flow, but painfully magnificent. The great state of Maryland has yet again produced a magnificent game opportunity.
Start planning for your January hunt in Maryland by visiting Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ website for licenses and regulations. Also, be sure to visit the Plan Your Trip section of our website for lodging options, hunting guides and outfitters, outdoor retailers, and shooting ranges.
This post was written by Rich Lopez
Images courtesy of Department of Natural Resources via Flickr