This is about the time of year when I look back and review the previous outdoor year. I may still do that, but right now the late season bow hunt is still going on. Even though my chances of bagging a buck are slimmer now than during the early season and certainly during the rut, I’m still out there trying. To be honest, even if I only had a doe tag in my pocket, I know that I would be out there trying.

On Jan. 1, 2021, I was out in a tree stand. What a better way to usher in the new year? If I was to bag a big buck, it would be an epic start. Heck, I was even willing to entertain the prospect of taking a big doe if things lined up that way. With a new year, anything is possible, right?

The late afternoon hunt seemed to have more clouds than sun, and I hoped that meant the deer would move earlier and my wait wouldn’t be as long. That’s the catch when hunting the late season — if it’s too warm the deer will wait and move during the night but if it’s too cold, it’s hard to sit out there and wait for them. My wait on this hunt was relatively short because two does showed up to distract me from the weather. They were well out of bow range but close enough to hold my interest.

I watched those does for about 40 minutes and they never moved in any closer to me. Still, it was better than sitting out there alone, that was, until I saw HIM. The instant I saw the buck, he was heading right towards me. I got a good look at his rack and recognized him immediately. He was the Big 8 that I had had several encounters with over the last few months. I also had some trail camera pictures of him. He was far from the biggest buck in the county but he was respectable. I’d be pretty pleased to get the best of him.

My hopes to lay my hands on his rack were short lived. Before the buck stepped out into my field, he took a hard left and chose the trail back into the woods. At one point he tilted his head just so in order to slide his rack between two narrow trees and that was the last that I saw of him that night.

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Being that it was a new hunt in a new year I think it’s important to focus on the good things. I got to see a few deer and a quality buck that I would have been glad to put my tag on. I have a few more hunts before the season closes so I have another shot or two at HIM. If I really want to be optimistic, every day I go without bagging a buck means the better my shed antler hunting season is going to be. How’s that for some 2021 optimism?