It is already December, and for most of us, it has been a long and disgruntled season! The weather has been unseasonably warm this year, EHD has played a toll on our populations in the Midwest, and deer patterns have been less than predictable compared to “normal” years.
When your season isn’t unfolding as planned, it is easy to become agitated, your mind loses focus, and your dreams of bagging a big buck vanish. I am already hearing hunters throwing in the towel and hanging up their bows! It is way to early for that! There are a lot of reasons to stay in the stand during the post rut and late seasons!
The greatest tactic to increase success is to spend more time scouting than hunting. A lot of deer are physically drained and shifting their patterns toward food to replenish their worn bodies from the rut. Bucks know they have to increase their levels of fat and nutrients to survive the upcoming winter, so they become vulnerable to food sources again. I spend numerous hours and miles driving and scouting for deer with my Nikon optics. Deer are as easy to pattern in the winter months as they are in early season. You don’t have to spend hours in the cold, just find the right food source and limit your time there. The greatest thing about late season is that the potential to see vast numbers of deer is substantial. The flop side is that there will be times you won’t see deer at all. That is part of hunting!
Second, don’t forget the late-season rut. I had an encounter late December in 2011 where I had a doe run past my stand with 5 bucks hot on her tail! A lot of younger does are still susceptible for breeding when the second rut rolls around. I will on occasion throw out a bleat call to see if I can get a response from a buck.
Limit your calling. I have seen hunters that will still rattle, throw out aggressive calls, and try to spur a mature buck’s attention. If you are going to call, minimize it to soft vocalizations. Deer will still give out social grunts, but their aggression has weakened.
When it all boils down to late season success, hit the right food source. Spend more time scouting than hunting. Regain focus and drive on. If you can’t survive the cold and maintain a positive attitude then you can’t be successful!