Muzzleloader season offers second chance for hunters

The 2015 Indiana firearms deer season has come and gone.

If your tag is still folded neatly in the front pocket of your favorite jacket, don’t give up. You can still tag a buck this year if you break out the old smoke pole.

Muzzleloader season runs Dec. 5 through Dec. 20. Hunters may harvest one antlered deer, if they have yet to do so, or one antler-less deer.

The rut has subsided, and bucks are busy replenishing precious calories they burned up chasing does. Focusing your efforts on food sources is a best bet during the muzzleloader season. The hot spot you picked out for firearms season might not be so hot now.

Consider looking for out-of-the-way places where you or anyone else hasn’t pressured deer on the property you’re hunting.

Out-of-the-way places like fence rows, creek banks and brushy patches of scrub timber along the edge of harvested |agricultural fields could all potentially serve as a buck’s oasis from hunting pressure.

During the firearms season, a lot of hunters simply rely on the fact that bucks are rutting and could potentially show up anywhere at any time. Remember, bucks are now, for the most part, through with searching for does, even though there could be a second phase of the rut. So the theory of find the does and you find the bucks is no longer relevant. Mature bucks that have made it through firearms season are in recovery mode. You’ll find them near food sources.

In southern Indiana, many hunters spend their time in the vast forests chasing woodland whitetails. If you are hunting an area that has any fence rows connecting two standing tracts of timber, I suggest you give sitting along the fence row a try.

There are two main reasons why I suggest this.

First, when traveling between tracts of timber, bucks will normally want to stay as close to cover as possible. If a fence row is the only cover available, bucks would rather hug that than cross open ground.

Second, other hunters who are still out there are likely beginning to get a little anxious. This means their level of patience could be dwindling, causing them to want to move around more and leave their stands earlier.

If you are hunting a fence row or creek bank connecting two tracts of timber containing other hunters, then there’s a good chance those hunters could push a fleeing deer past you.

Don’t overlook brushy areas or small tracts of timber standing alone in or along a harvested agricultural area.

If you want to stack the odds in your favor of connecting on a buck during the muzzleloader season, start thinking a little outside the box. When you’re walking back to your vehicle in the morning, make a slow pass through the small woods you originally thought wouldn’t hold any deer. Take some time to explore any fence rows or creek banks with optics from a distance. You never know what sort of surprise you may come across.

See you down the trail.

Brandon Butler’s outdoors column appears Saturdays in the Daily Reporter. Send comments to