Published December 2004 

The Ohio statewide primitive weapons season will runs for four days in December  (2004), and as always it’s going to be a tough one.  Archers have already made a record kill and the opening day of gun season alone accounted for a further 40,000 plus animals.  The dumb and the unlucky are all dead, and those that remain are smart, wary, and knowledgeable about the ways of hunters.  They won’t come easy, and anyone who bags a buck or doe will need to be wiser than the animals they’re seeking.

The first morning of the season will be prime time.  The animals will have had a few weeks to calm down after the gun season, and many will have returned to normal habits and movements.  But the moment those muzzleloaders start their deep throated bellows they’re going to be racing for the havens that sustained them through the last big hunt, and that means heavy thicketed areas, dense swamps, standing corn, and fields of multiflora rose. Gunners hunting solo would be wise to set up on trails leading into such places before dawn and wait patiently.  If they picked the right spot, they’ll have a chance.

Driving will still be the popular way of hunting, and all too many black powder folk will try the same methods used during gun season, lining up men to drive through to standers at the far end.  It’s a poor tactic now.  Deer KNOW that standers will be waiting, and while a few might race through on opening day, most are going to slip out the sides.  And that’s where most of your standers should be, along the sides.

I’ve seen whitetails race out of a driven section and head across bare harvested soybean fields toward a distant woodlot.  Not once, but repeatedly.  So, having a stander at woods edge between the timber and any nearby woodlot is always a good idea.  They’ll circle too, especially if there are only a few drivers, and ghost right back to where the drive started.

A group I hunted with for several years solved this problem by leaving two old timers past their hard walking years at drives beginning.  Both those men took deer eventually.  And drivers should be diligent about checking out every bit of brush along their route, because whitetails now will hold tight as any rabbit in available cover.

During one muzzleloader season I jumped an eight point from a patch of briers and brush that was scarcely eight feet across.  Most drivers wouldn’t have taken the trouble, assuming that if they walked close by that cover, any deer would flush.  But this one had burrowed under a small fallen tree in the brush and had nerves of steel.  He didn’t come out until I was actually in the cover.

Hunters who like to work in pairs during this season will have luck, too, by making mini-drives.  Such drives should always be made very quietly, skipping the yelling and brush crashing, and always with the wind quartering or at the drivers back.  A typical drive would be through a half or quarter acre patch of old farm machinery and brush, with your partner standing in a good location. Driving such spots with lots of noise will send them racing out, while walking through quietly should see deer ghosting away with equal silence to provide a good shot.  Try tiny woodlots, little patches of brush, creek bottoms, and wooded ravines using the same tactics.  All are perfect for two man operations.

Lone hunters who tire of sitting and decide to walk a little should look for animals in strange places, especially after opening day.  I’ve found them in tiny cattail swamps out in the middle of a picked soybean field, against a telephone pole in tall grass just yards from a road, in tiny folds of ground in a short grass field, and even in nearly bare fencerows that seemingly wouldn’t hide a rabbit.  “Seek and ye shall find.” said the old sage, and you’ll do the finding in unusual places.

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