January Whitetails - Iowa Wildlife Federation

January Whitetails

Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.

I love bow hunting – especially during the November rut when big Iowa bucks are on the move.  In spite of some close calls, I don’t necessarily bag a buck, of course.  In fact, on most years I don’t, which is why I find myself returning to the woods in January. 

Subzero white-tail – Although most of the late season deer I bag are does; I occasionally cross trails with a buck. I shot this fat, year-and-a-half-old buck at twelve paces on a subzero January afternoon. From my perspective, every late season deer is a trophy. Photo by: Carol Washburn

Although a lot of bow hunters don’t enjoy sitting in a tree during frigid winter weather, late season deer hunts have a lot to offer.  By now, all of the gun seasons have passed, and the timbers are quiet.  Solitude envelopes the landscape.  And for me at least, there is just something about sitting in a snow-covered woodland that is unsurpassed.  The quiet beauty is unparalleled, as are the sights and sounds of the creatures that inhabit this winter wonderland.

Anticipation – A mature doe navigates a winter woodland

Winter hunts are much different from those I enjoyed in the fall.  Instead of hoping for the Big One to come my way, my late season outings are mainly about the venison.  At our house, we love venison.  A lean, clean, delicious, and purely organic form of protein, I cringe at the thought of a winter without it. 

Steak & Eggs – Although I prefer to age hanging venison, we also can’t resist tasting a sample following the day of a successful hunt. The attached photo depicts one of my favorites, pan seared medium rare venison tender and lightly peppered eggs – Breakfast of Champions

This year, I’ve had the good fortune of harvesting two hog-fat does during Iowa’s end-of-the-line, late season.  In addition to the anticipation that comes with observing approaching white-tails, the hunts also included close encounters with wintering songbirds, courting owls, wild turkeys, and a lone coyote that at least paused to listen as I attempted to squeak him in.

January blue jay – In addition to white-tailed deer, late season hunts also provide an opportunity to view a wide variety of winter wildlife.

Cut into thick steaks, stew meat, and prime backstrap medallions, the second doe is going into the freezer this afternoon.  As the weeks pass, every savory meal will provide a vivid reminder of the thrill and beauty of Iowa’s winter woodlands.

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