There’s Still Time for Late Season Deer Hunting
As the deer hunting season winds down, it can get a little frustrating or disappointing on a few fronts. You might be discouraged about the deer you did (or did not) see this year. Maybe you’re still regretting a decision to hunt a particular stand in the wrong conditions, which spooked a giant deer off. Or maybe you’re just a little depressed that closing day is fast approaching and you still have an unused tag in your pocket. Those are all reasonable, and we all feel them at some point. But late season deer hunting can be very productive with the right hunting strategies. Further, the last day of the season can quickly turn your luck around. So if you still have time and are eager to connect with a mature buck, here are some tips for late season whitetail hunting.
Challenges for Late Season Deer Hunting
If you haven’t hunted in the late season before, there are a few things you should know. It’s not always an easy thing.
- For one, the deer have likely been chased, shot at, and otherwise harassed for up to a couple months already, so the remaining bucks and does will be very educated. This is not a time to slip up by hunting on a wrong wind or being noisy on your access trail. Be smart and stealthy about everything you do, and use a Scent Crusher® system to keep your human odor down.
- One of the biggest things with hunting the late winter deer season is to wait for the right conditions, such as the right wind, a very cold front, or lots of snow. These conditions will usually get the deer moving and give you the best chance at shooting one. If you do spook some deer (on your way in or in your tree stand), you might want to hunt a different area because the survivors you bumped will be very cautious (if they come back at all). On the other hand, if it’s the last possible day you can hunt, it’s time to throw caution to the wind and put it all on the line. What do you have to lose?
- Also, late season deer hunting weather can be dramatically different depending on where you hunt. In many northern parts of the country, the late season can mean significant snow on the ground and freezing temperatures, which aren’t very pleasant to sit through. You’ll need to be prepared for the cold weather hunting by dressing in additional layers or hunting in enclosed blinds. In more southerly areas, it will generally be milder out. In that case, wait for those rare cold fronts to push through to get the deer moving.
One way to increase your odds during late season deer hunting is to swap out your bow for a muzzleloader. You’ll have a much longer range if deer are too skittish to come closer. Try setting up a stand well off the edge of a field or food plot so there will be a smaller chance of spooking deer while they come out feeding in the afternoon. Muzzleloader hunting is a great way to extend your season – just make sure you take time to try some different loads out to know how your specific smoke pole fires. Thompson Center® has a variety of great muzzleloader options to fit your needs and budget, but the Triumph® Bone Collector® model is a sturdy and accurate one that will keep you happy for years and years.
Late Season Bow Hunting
While a little more challenging, late season archery is a lot of fun, especially if other gun hunters are not allowed anymore. In some areas, it seems the deer pick up on this pretty fast and start feeling more comfortable in daylight again, which can increase your chance of tagging a nice buck. The drawback with late season bow hunting is that it can be tough to draw a bow with all your bulky winter clothing on. Bow hunting late season whitetails is all about choosing your tree stand location very carefully. You’ll want to make sure you are very well-hidden and have a great entry and exit trail to avoid being winded, but you also need to set up somewhere with a clear shot. If trail camera pictures reveal a buck is using a certain trail each afternoon to get to a corn field, try to set up about 20-30 yards downwind from the trail. With any luck, you’ll be able to put your Hoyt® to work.
Late Season Hunting Strategies
To help you with what limited time you have left this season, here are a few late season deer hunting tactics you can use.
The nice thing about late season deer hunting is that you can depend on a deer’s stomach to get the best of them, much like hunting early season bucks. Dominant bucks especially need to hit food sources as much as possible to re-build their body mass and fat supply that was spent during the rut. In some cases, you can even see mature bucks feeding in crop fields or food plots during daylight hours. Standing corn and soybeans are both extremely attractive to deer. While corn offers mostly carbs (useful to add fat on a deer), soybeans have fat and protein to help rebuild muscle tissue as well. They are two of the best late season food sources and you should try to include some on your property if you like the idea of late season whitetail hunting. That being said, any food plot or field that isn’t buried in snow this time of year will also attract deer. Where legal to use, applying a few bags of Big & J® Deadly Dust™ is a great way to get the scent out and attract deer fast. Limit yourself to only hunting food sources in the afternoons, since deer will likely make their way back to beds before daylight and stay there for the day.
If the idea of sitting still and freezing your tail off for late season deer hunting doesn’t appeal to you, you have some other options. Have you ever tried still hunting? Basically, you walk through the woods until you find a pair of buck tracks that you would like to pursue. If they are very fresh, proceed slowly – and we mean slowly. Take a step, scan ahead of you in every direction, wait and listen for activity, and then take another careful step. You obviously don’t want to make much noise doing this, or you will spook a deer away before you can stalk close enough for a shot. But this approach can be great when the conditions are right and bucks are spending their days resting up.
If you find yourself still looking to put some meat in the freezer or connect with that mature buck that’s escaped you all season, try using some of these late season deer hunting tips.