hanback cold WI

Last season was one of my toughest ever. I was in the woods for some 70 days across the country, and nothing came easy. I saw fewer deer—and fewer mature bucks—than in years past. In some places we saw way fewer deer. The camera guys and I hunted hard as hell and we shot some good bucks. But we had to scratch and claw for every one we got.  

It was tough hunting for many of you too, especially if you live in the Midwest. Some preliminary figures show the deer kill was down 7 percent in Wisconsin and Minnesota; down a whopping 25 percent in Illinois; down 10-20 percent in Michigan (depending on region, from south to north); down 18 percent in Iowa; down 23 percent in Missouri, as this blog explains.

Why so tough? Why were the deer sightings and kills down? I believe the nasty disease, EHD, over the last two summers killed more deer than we previously thought in many regions. Coyote predation, especially on fawns in the spring, was surely a factor.

Some hunters and wildlife officials point to the weather, but every fall in some areas it’s too warm for optimal deer movement in November. In a twist, people in Wisconsin say the brutally cold and windy weather on opening weekend of gun season kept the kill down. I can relate. I was up there in Buffalo County that weekend; I have never been so cold in a tree stand in all my years. I didn’t see a single deer the first day.

I also believe that in some areas (not all) bag limits have been too liberal, and hunters have killed too many deer, especially does, in recent years.

A couple of bright spots. Kentucky hunters killed 7 percent more deer this year than in 2012. I haven’t seen the kill figures from my home state yet, but my fellow Virginia hunters shot a lot of great bucks statewide. Best big-buck season here I’ve seen in years.

Was the hunting tough to lousy in your area? Why do you think that was? Or did you have a good season and see a lot of deer?

BTW, it’s okay to have a tough season every once in a while. It makes you hunt and work harder, and then when you finally shoot a buck, it’s all the sweeter. But what worries me: Is this a trend? We’ll blog about the long-term whitetail outlook next week, but for now tell me how your 2013 season played out.