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December is the “Big Game Month"

posted Friday, December 9, 2011 at 9:34 AM by Frank Jezioro



By Frank Jezioro – Director, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources

With the traditional deer gun seasons ended, the muzzleloader deer season opened on the following Monday. As it has many times in the past, Monday morning dawned cold with lightly falling and blowing snow. While not the most comfortable conditions, it did present excellent hunting conditions. The cold and snow would keep the deer moving more during the day as they searched for food.

I had hunted the morning hours and seen several does and one really good buck. The buck had seen me first and, when I saw him, he was tearing through the thicket, tipping his head with his wide antlers smacking small trees as he broke from the cover and crossed a small pasture field. With a .270 or .30-06 I might have tried the running shot at about 150 yards. But with the slower muzzleloader I watched and tried to figure out where he was going. Try as I did, I could never intercept him again.

It was getting late in the afternoon now and the snow had picked up a little. I could sit at my vantage point and see a few deer starting to move about feeding. Dropping under the ridge line, I began to still hunt out along through the big woods that skirted the old grown up pasture. I had gone about 300 yards when movement below caught my eye. I dropped into a sitting position and searched the thicket with my binoculars. In a minute or two, a deer stepped out from behind a large clump of briers. With the glasses I could plainly see it was a nice mature buck with high, fairly heavy antlers. I couldn’t tell if it was an eight or ten point but it made no matter as it was certainly a nice buck, especially during the muzzleloader season.

The deer was obviously unaware of my presence. I was above him with the wind blowing across and not to him. The range finder told me the shot from here would be 190 yards. I was December is the Big Game Monthconfident that I could hit him from that distance but there was enough cover between him and me that would allow me to close the distance. Scooting along on my knees and backside, I was able to keep a clump of briers between us and close the distance to 140 yards. I was using a Thompson Center Omega with 250 grain Hornady SST bullets and 150 grains of Hodgdon Tripple Seven powder. With that load I was dead on at 150 yards.

From a good, solid sitting position I rested the gun on the shooting sticks and watched the buck for a few seconds. Once he turned broadside, the crosswire of the Nikon scope settled just behind his front leg. I was concentrating on the hold and increasing pressure on the trigger. The hold looked good when the gun went off. In a second or two the smoke was whisked away with the wind. I had a good, clear view of the pasture and could see no deer running or moving. While I continued to watch I loaded the gun in case a second shot was necessary. When I finally got to the bottom of the hill I spotted the buck behind the clump of briers. He apparently had taken one or steps and collapsed with a bullet high through both lungs. The buck was just as nice as I had first thought and brought the deer season to a successful conclusion for me.

Next would be a trip or two into the mountains for a chance at what most West Virginians consider the greatest of our big game trophies, the black bear.

* * *

In West Virginia this year, deer season will be winding down with the conclusion of the muzzleloader season, which runs December 12 – 17.

Bear season is in full swing and runs December 5 – 31. With snow and good tracking conditions, the hunters with bear hounds will be combing the higher elevations in search of a track to turn lose on.

December is truly the month for the big game hunter. But for the small game hunter – the rabbit and grouse hunter – December can also bring some of the best hunting of the season. So all in all, December actually ushers in our “second hunting season” of the year. Be careful, be safe, dress for the cold conditions and get out to enjoy several more weeks of great hunting.

Frank Jezioro
 
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