By Mark Kenyon
When the late season rolls around, it’s safe to say that most deer know what’s up.
By this time, local deer herds have been hunted for several months, and they’ve certainly seen a few camo or orange-clad hunters sitting in tree stands, checking trailcams, or zipping around on ATVs. And because of that, they’ve likely picked up on a few of our tricks.
The stands you’ve been hunting all season? Most of the deer probably know you’re likely to be there. The usual routes you take back and forth? Most of the deer are probably keeping an eye out for you. And the result of this “education,” is that these deer are increasingly difficult to hunt when you use the same-old same-old tactics, simply because they’re expecting you to do just that. In many cases, when the late season arrives, the deer are better at patterning us than we are at patterning them.
That said, if you’re still looking to fill a tag, now’s the time to change things up. And that’s exactly what I’m planning on doing tonight, when I head in for my own late season hunt for the buck I call Holyfield.
So to help flesh this whole idea out, here’s a look at my current situation and how I’m trying to change things up.
I’ve kept the pressure very low on the property I’m planning on hunting this evening, having only hunted it three times over the last month, but still – I know some deer have been catching on to me. In particular there are two scenarios I’m hoping to avoid tonight by switching up the status-quo.
Change-up #1 – A new access route: First, on the usual safest route for me to access the core of this property, I pass by a brushy section of fence-row that often times has a single deer or two bedded in it. If there’s a deer in there, I’m going to spook it – but I typically still go that way because it seems a better option than going far south or far north, which would bring me closer to larger bedding areas. But, tonight, I’m switching things up. I’ve got to thinking, what if that single deer bedded in there has been the buck I’ve been trying to kill? What if every time I’m walking to my stand, he knows it, because I’m walking right past him? Well that’s not going to happen tonight. I’m going to take a brand new route, traversing the far southern edge of this property to avoid my usual route – because obviously, that route hasn’t been working.
Change-up #2 – A new blind: One of my best locations to hunt during the late season is a half acre food plot planted in the core of this area, half of which is planted in Whitetail Institute’s Winter Greens. The plot is getting slammed right now, but the issue with this spot is that the tree stand I have hung there is lacking late season cover. The stand is terrifically positioned for shots and offers a tremendous view of anything approaching – but when the leaves come down, I stand out like a sore-thumb. And while I’ve had my share of successful late season hunts from this stand for does, I’ve also had my fair share of big slick-heads catch me up in the tree and take off. Just such a thing happened three nights ago when I hunted there last. The issue is, if I can’t keep does in the food plot without spooking, I think it’s pretty unlikely a mature buck will feel comfortable enough to come in to feed there.
So, again, I need to switch things up. Luckily, I do have another option. On the far western edge of the plot, I have a Redneck Hay Bale blind that’s been set up for several years. While this blind has been dynamite for turkeys the past few years, I’ve been considering moving it, so that I could cover a new area for deer, versus having both a blind and a treestand set up over the same plot. But now, I realize this blind is a perfect solution to my dilemma. The deer pay no attention to the blind whatsoever, and I haven’t hunted from it since the spring. I’ll now be able to hunt with no concern of being seen at all and actually even be better set-up for a west wind than I would from the tree stand too.
The Recipe for Late Season Success
With all that said, tonight seems to be shaping up as a picture perfect example of what you want for a late season hunt. I’ve got a low hunting pressure property, confirmed recent daylight activity of the buck I’m after, very cold temperatures, 10 inches of fresh snow, an early rising moon, a highly attractive late season food source AND finally, a change-up in strategy that will hopefully throw these deer for a loop.
If you’re looking for a late season buck of your own, give this recipe a try yourself.