By Mark Kenyon
With hunting seasons quickly winding down across the country, I know that many of you are feeling the pressure ramping up. We’re down to the final days of hunting, and if it’s gonna happen, it better happen soon. That said, today I paged through a number of my favorite hunting books and magazines to uncover a handful of unique late season hunting tips and tricks that I thought might help you out. One of these quick pointers may provide just the edge you need to get the job done during these last few hunts.
Most importantly though, remember, it can happen. You’re never going to kill one on the couch, so when the conditions are right, hit the woods and hunt hard. Good luck and go get that late season buck!
Observation and Access – Adapt or Fail (Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine), Steve Bartylla: With the food source found, it can be extremely beneficial to invest time into observing. By setting up at a distance and glassing the source, a big buck’s trail can be pinpointed and clues are often provided on where the deer are coming from…. That buck also illustrated the need for having a good route to the stand. For one, unless hunting evergreens, the woods is now wide open, allowing deer to see much further. Furthermore, sound seems to travel forever on cold and calm days. Now, toss in that the deer have been hunted all fall, are educated and touchy. All of that makes keeping disturbances low and carefully planning the attack critical to success. This is the time to err on the safe side. During late season, I’ll go for the low impact stand 100 yards off the best trail every time over the highly disruptive stand that covers it all.
Look For Daylight Activity – Late Season Game Changers (North American Whitetail Magazine), Bill Winke: The occurrence of daylight trail camera photos is your first indicator. I run the trail cameras that monitor food plots on “time lapse” or “field scan” mode (where the camera takes a photo every minute during the last 90 minutes of each day). I then try to check them at mid-day as often as possible. I want to know when a shooter buck starts showing up in daylight. As soon as I see him, I’ll jump in the blind the next evening that the wind is right.
Mornings Can Be Tough – Understanding Late Season Feeding Patterns (Deer & Deer Hunting), Charles Alsheimer: In the North, where snow and cold conditions are the norm, deer sightings from dawn til 10:00 AM can be tough to come by. Through the years, I’ve found that the best times for deer activity during the late season are 10:00 AM to 1 PM and 3 PM to dusk, with the latter being the prime time to kill a deer.
The Importance of Tree Cover – Precision Bowhunting, John & Chris Eberhart: Tree selection is another area of concern while winter hunting. With the lack of foliage at this time of year, many of your early or midseason trees are now less than optimal, for the simple reason that the cover in the woods is gone. When looking for trees to clear out for winter hunting, it is very important to find ones with background cover. This kind of cover can take the form of other trees behind you or branches on the tree you’re in, just as long as you don’t have open sky behind you, which will leave your silhouette easy to pick out. Good sources of background cover included large crotches, conifers, and oaks that have held on to their leaves.
Find The Forbs – The End Game (Field & Stream), Neigh Dougherty: The trick is to find quality forage where deer feel secure. One of the most overlooked late-season food sources is forbs, which make up 60% or more of what deer eat throughout the year. “The key to finding them now is sun-drenched southern slopes, where weeds and wild flowers – maybe 100 edible species – are still green and growing, providing deer with the nutrition they need now.” Any south facing slope can be good, but those facing straight south or southwest are best. “These can be 6-8 percent warmer than any others.”
It’s Really Pretty Simple – Hunting Mature Whitetails The Lakosky Way, Lee Lakosky: If you haven’t been overly aggressive during the previous 90 days, and if you’ve hunted your property with extreme care and caution, it’s really pretty simple. If you hunt over good food sources in late season, you’re going to see some big bucks, especially if it’s cold and snowy. The worse the weather, the more likely you are to see that big buck.
Track ‘Em Down – The Last Shot (Outdoor Life), Hal Blood: To get started you need some fresh snow and a big track – anything over 3 inches long that features visible dewclaws splaying wider than the hoof. Once he’s found a track, Blood moves along fairly quickly to catch up to the deer. If the tracks were made the previous night, the odds are good that the buck has bedded for the morning. “I really don’t care if I jump that buck or not. If I do, it’s no big deal. That just means that I’ve caught up to him,” Blood says.”Once I’ve jumped the buck, I’m going to sit down and have a sandwich and wait about 30 minutes. Everyone thinks that the best crack you’ve got at the buck is the first time you see it. Not true. The best time is the second time.”
Keep On Grinding – Wired To Hunt, Mark Kenyon: This one comes from yours truly! And it’s just simply this … Keep on grinding. Even when the going gets tough, you’ve got to keep at it. As I’ve quoted many times from Winston Churchill, “Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.” So to get that late season buck, you’ve just gotta keep working. If you need a more thorough motivational kick in the butt, read this article.