By Mark Kenyon
Are we ever going to get “late season hunting weather”? Or not? The answer to that question might determine the fate of my late deer season, and yours too.
I’m a firm believer that timing is one of the most important concepts to understand if you want to successfully hunt mature deer. One well timed hunt, in my opinion, is much better than three or four poorly timed hunts during the wrong conditions.
This concept is especially true during the late season, when deer are already on edge from being hunted all fall, and are unlikely to forgive “mistakes” committed by hunters pushing in at the wrong times. With this being the case, I base nearly my entire late season hunting plan around the weather forecast – as it is these weather conditions, in my opinion, that most impact the timing of when you should hunt.
During the late season months of December and January deer are focused primarily on bulking up at whatever the highest quality food source is in the area. At a high level, to successfully kill a late season deer you simply need to identify this food source and then choose the right time to hunt near it or in an area leading to it.
That right time, in my opinion, is either just after a significant cold front, or, after a precipitation event (ie snow). Nothing else is as likely to get deer (especially a mature buck) on his feet during daylight, at least for a short amount of time as these conditions. A mature buck is going to spend most of his day bedded, but if you get a serious cold snap or six inches of new snow, you just might be able to catch that big boy on his feet a little earlier than usual. And this small window of opportunity is what you need to wait for.
If you find the ideal food and then start hunting it every day, regardless of weather, you’re going to head into that area on a lot of days where that buck simply won’t be moving until after dark. So you’ll head in, hunt, never see your buck and then head home. Then thirty minutes later the big boy is going to head out into the food, cross your track and all of a sudden realize there’s someone hunting him here. Or maybe you’ll head in to hunt, not see the big boy, but see six does in the corn field, who then spook out of there when you climb out of your stand to head back to the truck. Again, the big boy still bedded a hundred yards into the timber sees the does spook and run back towards him, and he becomes educated that there is danger. Go ahead and recreate your own scenario however you like, the point is that if you head in to hunt on one of the 95% of days that the big boy isn’t going to move before dark anyways, you’re simply risking educating him without ever having had a chance at encountering him.
If on the other hand, you’d waited til those right conditions – the 20 degree drop in temperatures or the foot of new snow – and then headed in to hunt. Now all of a sudden it is one of 5% of days he’s likely to move during daylight, and to this point he’s had no idea the areas getting hunted, so he’s feeling comfortable, feeling safe and feeling like heading out to feed. When he does, you’ll be there.
For me, that’s what it all comes down to. Having a plan in place and a location identified, and then waiting for those perfect late season weather conditions. When they come around, I strike hard and fast.
So the question now, as I mentioned earlier, is whether or not we’ll ever get that weather! The last week or so has been abnormally warm here in Michigan and many other states in the area. The 10 day forecast isn’t indicating much better on the horizon either.
So here I am, biding my time and wondering … Will we ever get that late season hunting weather? Or not?