By Alex Comstock
If you've been hunting hard all year, it could be easy to be mentally drained and "hunted out". For some, it could even be to the extent where you hardly hunt at the end of the year, even if you haven't filled your tag. So much effort goes into hunting the rut, by the time late season arrives, you might just want to call it quits for the year. But if you've still got a tag to fill, I urge you to keep at it. Late season hunting can be tough, I agree with that, but it can also produce some fantastic hunting. Here's why you should be staying after it.
1. Less Hunter Pressure
For reasons I just highlighted above and others, there aren't as many hunters in the field this time of the year. From filling tags to not wanting to deal with cold weather to becoming mentally fried, there simply is less hunter pressure in the whitetail woods. You can use this to your advantage in a number of ways. In some areas, if there's a reduction in pressure, deer may be more apt to move in daylight. Another added benefit of less competition in the woods is more areas you can hunt. I've got a few areas I keep on my short list that I don't hunt early in the year, but once December hits, I know there probably won't be many hunters around these areas, and that's when I'll strike.
2. You Can Pattern Mature Bucks - Again
For as much as we all love November and the rut, it can be frustrating when mature bucks don't follow any type of pattern. After the rut, deer become more predictable once again. During the late season, there's two things that influence deer movement as much as anything - food and cover. If you can find a preferred food source or bedding area, odds are you'll be able to pattern a mature buck if there's one living in the area.
I've found this time of year can actually be the best time of the year to pattern a mature buck, and consequently it could be the best time of the season to send an arrow through one. A mature buck is most likely to be on a consistent bed to food pattern, and then it's a matter of the other intangibles such as how you hunt him without being identified, weather, entrance and exit routes, etc. If you can get a pattern on a buck, you'll have a great shot at harvesting him.
3. Opportunity To Experience Unique Hunting
I keep referencing this, but everyone always talks about how crazy the rut can be right? At times, this can be true, but I've actually experienced my craziest and most unique hunts during my late season hunting. If you can identify an area deer congregate to such as a food source, or a transition area between bedding and food, there's the ability to see a lot of deer.
For example, last season I was able to stumble across a standing corn field in December where I could hunt, and as you would imagine, it was overrun with deer sign. I immediately set up a blind and hunted it, thinking I would for sure see some deer. What ended up happening was nothing short of astounding. Deer began filing in to the cornfield and I ended up seeing over 70 deer, including a number of mature bucks, and ended up connecting on a beautiful mature nine pointer. A hunt like that would have never been possible for me had I not found the best food source during a brutally cold stretch late in the year.
4. You Can Hunt a Multitude of Different Ways
What I really like about late season hunting is the number of ways you can hunt during this time frame. Have a great food source you can hunt? You can set up a blind or stand over that and hunt it. Don't like sitting in the cold? Throw on your white camo, go try and cut a track, and see if you can't track a buck down. Know of a good bedding area, but struggling to get deer to move during daylight? You and a buddy can go and try mini deer drives.
What I'm getting at is I really feel late season hunting provides you with a number of hunting strategies that you otherwise may not use throughout the season. There's multiple ways you can attack your hunting efforts, and each one of them is a little different.
5. You Won't Kill a Mature Buck From the Couch
At the end of the day, I can assure you that no buck will be harvested if you're chilling on the couch watching your favorite deer hunting show complaining about how hard you hunted this season. There's still time to get it done, and some of the years best hunting could be waiting for you.
It's no secret, late season hunting is one of my favorite times of the years to hunt. The colder and nastier the weather, the better too. If you haven't filled your tag yet, time is a wasting. Time to make a plan, get out there, and try to get it done!