By Mark Kenyon
“Sweet November” is almost history and now the month of Old Saint Nick is staring us smack dab in the face. December can be a month of feast or famine for whitetail hunters, but I know we’d all prefer the latter. So with that in mind, today I wanted to highlight a few mistakes that you must avoid this coming month if you want a chance of tagging a big buck. Play your cards right, and you could close out your season with an awesome “Deercember”!
1. Avoid Bumping Deer Bedded Near Food Sources: Once we get into the heart of December and the cold weather/snow hits hard, local deer will begin bedding closer and closer to food. If satisfactory food and cover are available nearby, a deer will move as little as necessary between the two. This results in deer bedding very close to food sources. I’ve made the mistake numerous times where I’ve walked across an open area to hunt a field edge treestand in the afternoon, just to see white tails flagging away from right under my treestand. Try to determine early on where these new “close to food” bedding zones are, and avoid them while accessing your hunting locations in the afternoon.
2. Beware Of The Weather Effect: Weather in December is obviously a major factor when it comes to your hunts. You need to make sure you take advantage of weather conditions that improve deer movement, but you can’t let those same conditions ruin your chances of success. Rain, snow, ice and cold temperatures all will effect how long you can stay on stand, how well you can shoot, the sounds you make in the tree, and much more. Think through how these conditions can effect you and then prepare properly. Earlier this week, Wired To Hunt contributor Mark Huelsing wrote a great piece on cold weather bowhunting in which he details a few important tips that fit perfectly into this bucket – so if you haven’t checked it out yet, read that article here … Cold Weather Bowhunting Tips
3. Don’t Let The Pressure Get The Best Of You: In this case, I’m actually speaking about the pressure you put on your local deer herd. After several months of hunting, whitetails in your area are well aware that hunters have been around and they will be extremely weary to any human presence. That said, if you’re hoping to catch a big buck on his feet in December you need to minimize pressure in every way possible. Ensure that you’re not blowing deer off food sources after an evening hunt, plan a stealthy entrance/exit from your stands, avoid hunting your best locations until wind/weather are ideal, etc, etc. These are basic principles of “low pressure hunting”, but they are even more important now when deer are super sensitive.
4. Don’t Waste Your Time Where The Deer Aren’t: Deer hunting in December is almost always a play on food. The life of a whitetail revolves around beefing back up after the strains of the rut and in preparation for the long winter – so don’t ever forget this. Find the food and you’ll find the deer. That said, if you’re hunting an area that doesn’t have an active food source – you’re most likely wasting your time. Sitting four weekends in a row in an area with no food is probably not a good use of your time, so make an effort to think this through. Determine whether or not you have access to a location with a currently used food source, and if you don’t, do a little leg work to get on one! Property access can still be found in the last days of the season, so it never can hurt to ask. And even public ground can house good late season food in the form of hard or soft mass and the like.
If you stay at it, hunt smart and minimize your mistakes a big buck in December is definitely something you can look forward to. So bundle up, toss a couple hand warmers in your pockets and hit the woods. Red nosed reindeer shouldn’t be the only big bucks you see this coming month!