IT WAS almost a month into the archery deer season before the weather turned cold enough for me, and off to central Wisconsin farm country I trekked looking for a fat, corn-fed doe to start putting some venison in the freezer for the coming winter.

The alarm was set for 5:30 a.m. but it never sounded, for the anticipation of seeing deer had me awake before then. Besides, getting in a tree stand early was important, due to recent logging activity on the land, which created a new learning curve on where and when deer would return to bedding areas.

The moon had already set, so the half-mile walk was in total darkness. I was climbing a ladder into a stand by 6:10, almost a full hour before sunrise. It was a good call, because 15 minutes later there were deer walking around beneath me that I could hear, but not see.

It was almost laughable to hear them crunching on acorns at a time of day when not even a silhouette of their frames was visible against the dark backdrop of tire tracks left by loggers. Most of the leaves were still hanging in the trees last Saturday morning.

Cows were mooing, farm doors were slamming and roosters were crowing in the still of the morning as dawn finally arrived. The deer that were around me earlier had moved on, but the anticipation was building that more would show to feed on acorns, fresh browse and leaves from those oak and maple tops.

It was right at sunrise, about 7:12 a.m., when the cracking of a single stick in the hardwoods below me signaled that deer were on the move. There were three deer of distinctively different size meandering through the logging debris, feeding as they went.

The largest of the does gave me a still, broadside opportunity at 30 yards and I took it, the bolt from the crossbow finding its mark to perfection. The deer was down in less than six seconds and I was celebrating my annual return to farm country, where old high school friends give me a chance to chase some deer and turkeys each year.

Plentiful deer numbers, multiple free antlerless tags and the ability to pattern deer movement with all the agricultural food supplies is the big draw for farm country hunters these days. 

It’s truly the land of opportunity for an entertaining hunting experience, even if you don’t harvest a deer.

Unlike the northern forests, you don’t have to compete much with wolves, bears, coyotes and bobcats. And the winters in central counties are generally much milder, so that doesn’t play an annual factor in determining herd size.

Of course, you won’t find the same scenery or the vast public forests that the North Woods has to offer, so the quality of the overall hunting experience isn’t the same. But they sure have the deer numbers. And because of the quality of the food they eat, mostly alfalfa and corn, even my wife likes the taste of that venison.

My buddy told me to shoot more than one if I got the chance, so I sat an extra 90 minutes to see what else might show before retrieving that first deer. But no luck. It was about 7:45 that a forked buck emerged from an area of thickets and young growth, and it was soon chasing one of the other two deer still milling around in the distant hardwoods.

About 8 o’clock, a single deer was moving through the oak and maple tops at 80 yards. It sported tall cow-horn spikes that extended above the ears, but it never stopped to eat anything. It was too early for the rut, yet like the fork-horn, this deer appeared to be on a doe-seeking mission.

Some of the oaks being selectively harvested on my friend’s 80 acres are nearly 200 years old, but plenty of acorn- and nut-producing trees are left standing and the vegetation management will result in more sunlight on a forest floor that will produce thousands of new saplings and hardwood thickets in the years to come — incredible habitat for deer and turkeys.

The scribbler grew up hunting in the Marion area, but it was shotgun only back then, which I never liked compared to the rifles I could use in the North Woods. The rules have changed in recent years and now they can use high-powered rifles down there, which is a real bonus for harvest efficiency.

All the unseasonably warm weather we had up until last weekend has hampered early-season hunting opportunity and suddenly there is less than two weeks left in the glorious month of October. With the fall colors and the hunting seasons, it’s one of those months that needs to last more than 31 days.

We are less than a week away from the start of the pre-rut period and shortly after that, in November, the breeding season will kick into full swing and big bucks will be more vulnerable.

That’s when most hunters get serious about chasing deer in the northern forest region, sitting over ground scrapes made by doe-seeking bucks.

Deer movement will pick up in a big way as the annual rutting period begins, which is good for hunters and not so good for motorists.

Good luck with your hunt!