Muzzleloader Hunting | Tactics for Smoke Pole Whitetail Hunting

Late-Season Muzzleloader Hunting I Stand Locations and Hunting Tips

It seems like only yesterday that we were discussing tips and tactics for early season whitetails, and now we find ourselves staring at December! It is a crossroads for many hunters. The rut has passed and many feel “good hunting” is officially over, yet others are looking forward to this month. If you find yourself at this road scratching your head as to what to do, we feel confident we can suggest the right path! December, also known as the beginning of late season whitetail hunting, is a prime opportunity to exploit. Late-season deer hunting can be some of the best hunting of the year.  With cold weather often concentrating the deer on high energy food sources, one of your hit-list bucks can easily make a big mistake! This time period also hosts one of the most favored and revered tactics for whitetails….muzzleloader hunting! Hitting the woods with the smoke pole in hand, and fresh snow on the ground can be one of the most rewarding hunts you will ever partake in, not to mention it can often end with a mature buck on the ground.

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Late-season deer hunting, especially muzzleloader hunting can provide you with an excellent opportunity to spend a little more time in the deer stand. Whether you are still looking to put a tag on a hit-list buck or you are just looking to put a little more meat in the freezer, breaking out the Thompson Center to hunt whitetails during the late season is an opportunity that every deer hunter should try to take advantage of.

Tools for Late Season Muzzleloader Hunting

The first piece of advice to offer before we dive into late season hunting tips and tactics is to make sure you are adequately equipped for the job! Here are a few suggestions as to what gear you might want to consider!


The Thompson Center Triumph Bone Collector is simply the best of the best-concerning muzzleloaders. From the accuracy and innovation to the touch and feel, the American-made Bone Collector meets and exceeds the standards of the most discerning black powder hunters!



Cold fumbling hands are not ideal when trying to reload, especially with a miss. Avoid the frustration of both with the Lock-n-Load® Speed Sabot ®. For those who shoot pellets exclusively, Hornady offers the innovative Lock-N-Load® Speed Sabot® that allows hunters to pre-load pellets onto the “tail” of the sabot, providing an efficient and convenient setup that eliminates any fumbling when trying to load or reload in the field.

Understanding the Differences

muzzleloader-hunting-pic1Most whitetail hunters understand that there are defined periods during the annual cycle of a white-tailed deer and that these periods often explain the deer’s behavior during a specific time of year.  For example, during the peak of the chase phase of the rut, we know that bucks will be on their feet moving at all hours of the day in search of a hot doe.  We know that during the early season that bucks will often still be in bachelor groups until early October when they will begin to disperse and set up their own fall home ranges.

The same can be said for the late season as well.  Hot off the rut, deer will begin to transition to the post rut period and then on into the official “late season” period right about mid-December in most states.  As this transition occurs, deer and more specifically bucks will begin to focus on food and cover more than they have in the previous weeks.  Successful late season deer hunting begins with understanding what this transition means for the deer in your area and changing up your hunting strategy accordingly.  This often mean moving your deer stands to key in on areas such as food and thermal cover. It also means paying close attention to the weather and making sure that you find yourself in the stand on those cold, high-pressure days.

Late Season Hunting Tips

Take the time to read these late season hunting tips. They just might spark a thought as to where you could catch a buck before the season ends!

Food, Food & More Food

It goes without saying that as the weather gets cold and resources become scarce or snow covered, that hunting a high-energy food source can be very important to your late season success.  Most deer hunters understand that hunting a food source during the late season can be an excellent opportunity to harvest not only a deer but also one of your hit list bucks as well.


Employing the use of a Redneck box blind or bale blind in an area with high visibility plus an attractive late season food source can provide a deer hunter with an opportunity to scan an inventory deer from a distance.  While hunting a food source like standing soybeans or a turnip plot is effective, it is certainly not the “end all/be all” when it comes to late season deer hunting. Hunting out of a blind gives you several openings in the late season that could not be reached from the height of a tree stand. Besides the warmth and shelter from the weather, a blind allows you to get away with more movement. We will touch on this aspect later.

If you live in states where baiting is legal, providing the attraction could be an extremely successful tactic! Big & J’s Deadly Dust is perfect for mixing with other bags of feed and corn to get more attraction out. However, as the late season progresses into the hard winter months be cautious when it comes to feeding deer! Check out the blog below to find out why!

Feeding Deer in the Winter: The Do’s and Don’ts

Scouting Doesn’t End When the Rut is over

Scouting during the late season is just an important as any other time of the year.  Making sure that you fully use every tool out there, providing you with critical information pertaining to the movement and behavior of the deer on your property is a vital part of successful muzzleloader hunting.

Although trail cameras are the first tool that comes to mind…late season scouting doesn’t stop there.  Taking advantage of snow cover can really help you key in on highly used travel lanes, especially those leading from bedding areas to food.  Often, these major trails will be different than those used during the rut, so it is important that you stay active in your scouting efforts during the late season, to ensure that you have your cameras in the right location.

Glassing these travel corridors or food sources from afar, not only reveals key opportunities but keeps the human pressure low. Deer are at the peak of being wary at this point in the season.


Don’t Be Afraid to get Aggressive

The late season is often referred to as the fourth quarter.  The game isn’t over yet, but it’s certainly winding down.  Late-season deer hunting can sometimes require the hunter to be a little more aggressive than they would be normally.  Late season whitetails and especially mature bucks will stick to their thick bedding areas for most of the day, only leaving to feed.  This is especially true of there is snow on the ground or you are hunting a high pressured area.  Being able to close the deal on a mature buck that fits this profile can often involve getting in extremely close to the bedding areas, and catching them on their way out to feed.

One downside to being aggressive is, of course, running the risk of blowing the deer out of the area.  Again, late season deer are coming directly off the heels of the regular deer season, which means they tend to have a low tolerance for pressure. If you do bump deer there is a chance that it could be game over until next season.  Nevertheless, sometimes when the game is on the line you have to be a little aggressive in order to win the game, and the late season can be a perfect time to pull those aggressive play calls out and give them a try.

Muzzleloader hunting presents a hunter with a different set of challenges and opportunities than at any other time during the whitetail season. There is nothing better than trailing a mature buck in the snow, and if you take advantage of a few of these tips… you might just have a little red to follow on a snowy afternoon. Late season deer hunting success is possible, and can often turn into a better opportunity than the rut could ever hope to be!

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