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From the stand: Tag filled late season

Those who don't spend a lot of time in a stand late season are missing out on some great deer activity. That's been my experience from hunting in December on properties that hold a lot of deer. It's cold, no doubt. That's what drives so many hunt...

Those who don’t spend a lot of time in a stand late season are missing out on some great deer activity.
That’s been my experience from hunting in December on properties that hold a lot of deer. It’s cold, no doubt. That’s what drives so many hunters out of the woods, but it’s also what helps get deer on their feet at all hours of the day.
I was working my way through a bean field a couple weeks ago when I came over a small hill to find three does bedded down on the dirt. It was a warm, sunny day in December and the deer were going to soak in the heat as much as they could.
I jumped about a dozen deer before I even got settled into the stand at around 2 p.m. that afternoon. They kept coming. Does and fawns through the afternoon. Bucks on the chase for does during that last hour of light.
An eight pointer slipped 30 yards from my stand through the brush and never gave me a shot. It was one of three bucks I saw that night, all of them chasing does in mid-December.
I was back in the same stand the very next afternoon hoping for another chance. By 3:30, a doe was moving behind me with a buck keeping a close eye on her. They snuck out of the woods and into that bean field where the does had been bedded the day before.
It wasn’t a big buck, but it wasn’t a fork either. With not much time left in the season, I kept asking myself if I would shoot it had I been given the chance.
There was a time when I wouldn’t have hesitated. I was all about filling the freezer when I started bow hunting seven years ago. Today, I’m much more conflicted on the subject of what constitutes a shooter and what doesn’t, especially with the clock winding down on the season.
It’s easy to say we don’t need the meat now when it comes to hunting. It’s true. I could buy beef, but I like the process of harvesting the animal in fair chase and processing my own meat.
That drive to fill the freezer is still there, but it’s bashing heads with the thrill of matching wits with a mature buck and winning. I would prefer to take a big doe late season if it comes to that, but the mature does have proven to be as tough to trick as a big buck for me this year.  
That left me with a choice to make that sunny afternoon in the stand when three does scattered about 60 yards away from me up top in a grassy meadow. I knew what had to be causing the commotion.
Sure enough, a fawn came running into the woods down a trail in front of me. Not far behind was that same buck. The fawn scurried through quickly, but the buck stopped 20 yards in front of me to smell some scent left behind on the trail.
I drew my bow when his nose hit the ground and steadied my pin on his vitals. He gave me a great shot opportunity, so I took it. My arrow connected perfectly as the buck ran 30 yards and folded. It was all over in a span of about five seconds.
It wasn’t one of the big bucks I have on camera over the last six months, but it was a quick, clean kill and a deer for the freezer. After a season of close calls and an education gained from hunting a new property, I’ll take it.

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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