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Success rate during different weapon seasons.


PMA Member
So I've always noticed some guys, myself included, kill almost all of their deer in one specific season. I've never killed a mature buck with a firearm; I do great during the rut with archery tackle, but struggle during late or gun season.
On the reverse side I see some guys who consistently have success during late or gun season, but struggle during bow, or some kill consistently during both.
I've wondered if habitat type played into this or what underlying factors cause this trend among hunters.

I know in my situation the places I hunt have poor food sources during the latter part of the season. My trail cam sightings of mature bucks drop drastically after Thanksgiving and thus my success rate drops too. I also have less time to devote to hunting the latter seasons. Travel around x-mas time leaves me with about a week to get it done most late seasons, whereas during the rut I generally have 2 weeks.

Anyway, I feel like most years my gun tag/late season tag is wasted as I never felt like I was in the game like during the rut.

So I'm curious what other hunter's success rates look like and what they think contributes most to that success?


Staff member
Great post!!! Was just talking about this!!! 20+ years and I’ve NEVER killed a giant buck with gun or ML. For last 10 years I’ve had late season food. Still- no go. All big deer - all with bow.
i know the reverse- guys that always get it done late ML or shotgun.
In last 5 years - I’m probably more getting more focused on October hunts. It’s super hard & needs to be done carefully but it’s very challenging, fun & rewarding.


PMA Member
You hit the nail on the head as far as habitat and annual range. Where I hunt I am lucky. I usually have a few opportunities a year with a bow at big local deer but late season it becomes a wintering range. Go from seeing a handful of deer in a field to 50 or more. We have a lot of new deer show up after shotgun season just because of pressure and annual wintering area.
Also shotgun season is a completely different animal as one can be pushed from miles away and end up in front of you.


Land of the Whitetail
I've never hunted muzzleloader. But have seen plenty of times where there's a field that come late afternoon the deer just pour into and feed, day after day. I've always thought if you could hunt a place like that where the deer tend to winter and feed heavily that late muzzleloader season would pretty much be a slam dunk to shoot a good buck annually.


I have horrible luck late muzzy, but lack of food on my locations is the main key to that. I still get a late muzz tag based solely on the fact that a small group of us get together for some slow pushes last weekend. That is just fun and seeing my buddies trumps average success.

Skip, I'd be happy to come watch over your food plots late season next year.


Active Member
...if you could hunt a place like that...

Exactly. You’re right. But, when they get herded up, they get much harder to find elsewhere. And they tend to do that herd feeding in open areas- like hay fields and picked corn- where they can see you coming a mile away. Those cagey old bucks make sure the does and buttons are between themselves and any danger.

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk


PMA Member
I'm in the same boat. I only have 20 acres, which is a doe hangout. Bucks love running through my place during the rut looking for "my" does, but then leave for food in late Nov. I haven't even seen a big buck with a gun in my hands yet. But, I am ok with this situation, as I LOVE bowhunting, and enjoy getting out with a gun. It's starting to get to the point where gun season is to fill the freezer and archery is for nice bucks. My clover plot does draw a few bucks now and then, but nothing real big, especially during daylight.


PMA Member
I think pressure is the biggest factor, at least where i hunt. Big bucks vanish right about the first few volleys from shotguns. I still have not consistently figured out where they go but there are always lots of does feeding (as long as EHD doesn't wipe out the herd). I think most bucks go nocturnal unless its super cold, which its been a few years since we have had single diget temps in late season for any extended period of time. They can hunker down for a day or two before needing to feed. How i think late season will go rarely matches up with reality. Seems like it doesnt get cold enough and each year there is more and more pressure spread out through all of the deer seasons. Hunting pressure is the biggest factor in my opinion.


PMA Member
By far my success rate is much higher in archery season, probably 85% but I haven't hunted with a firearm for over 20 years. That's by choice since I hate gun season. I had success with firearms years ago and mostly during the last few days of the season when the pressure dropped off, maybe 35% back then. I too only hunt small private parcels, they're great during the last 2 weeks of October and through November during bow season but after the does are bred bucks generally move on to larger tracks and better food sources. Very little cover and residual crops. I used to love the late flintlock season, very few hunters and seen more deer than any other season when they herded up. Never killed a deer with the smoke pole but came close with some great buck a couple times. I always had a great time trying. Hang fire and having to use round balls made it challenging.


PMA Member
My success is by far the best in bow season. I've been hunting late muzzy for the last 20 years. I've eaten far more tags from that season than I filled. Does come pretty easy during late season but mature bucks are tough to find. Every year I'm hoping for a bunch of snow followed by a wicked cold front. It usually doesn't happen but when it does it can be pretty awesome.


Well-Known Member
Everywhere I hunt the food is gone by late season. With so many landowners around me trying to hold deer by leaving corn and beans standing I really struggle. My farmer loves to till right after he is done combining.


New Member
Public land is tough late season to say the least. I have best opportunity during bow season. I hunt shotgun for does and late season for any-sex. If I am after a trophy, bow season is my best bet. I like to keep the freezer full, so hunt as many seasons, plus out of state, as I can.

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