By Alex Comstock
December. As a bowhunter, what goes through your mind when you think of December? I know for me personally, I get quite excited. There is still so much hunting in front of us, yet I feel as though many people look over late season bowhunting in December and January for many reasons. What you have to remember though, is that even though yes it can be cold, snowy, and miserable, the late season can provide not only great, but really fun hunting too. Here’s three tips that I wanted to share today that I believe can help bring you success.
1. Re-Evaluate Everything (Scouting, scouting, scouting)
The first thing that comes to mind, and it’s an important one, is that everything changes come December/January, ESPECIALLY if you hunt any type of pressured property or public land. It still holds true if you hunt lightly pressured managed property with the fact that bucks may be shifting food sources, but when it comes to any kind of pressured property, bucks and deer will greatly shift how they move.
This can require a fair amount of in-season scouting, and possible observation. If you have snow, that obviously helps a ton as you can identify fresh tracks and sign and established travel areas. Being that I’m tagged out in my home state of Minnesota, I’ll be hunting some new property I’ve never set foot on near me across the boarder in Wisconsin over the course of the next month. The first thing I’m going to do is spend time scouting it out, seeking not only any type of food that may be on the 20 acres, but looking for fresh sign and it may require a few hang and hunts in addition to the scouting. Long story short, no matter if you are hunting a property you have all season, or a brand new one, things will be different in the whitetail woods this time of year compared to earlier in the fall. Get out there, find the fresh sign, and develop your own late season plan.
2. Practice Shooting Your Bow in Late Season Clothing
When thinking about the three tips I wanted to write about in this blog post, I first thought about going with all tactical things to be doing out in the field. But then I realized that after the first one I shared above, the next most important thing to me was practicing shooting your bow while wearing your late season clothing. Why you may ask? Because odds are you’ll be wearing more/different clothing than you have all year. I find it extremely important to practice in your late season gear to ensure that there isn’t anything that your string could get caught on, your string doesn’t slap your jacket, you can shoot with your face mask on, etc. I mean how disheartening would it be if you worked your tail off all year, and finally put yourself in position to arrow a mature buck in the end of December and have everything fall through with an arrow sailing high from your string brushing against something because you didn’t practice shooting your bow? Or another common scenario and that’s due to the extreme cold, you might be wearing a neck gaiter pulled up high, go to draw back, but can’t anchor correctly because you didn’t realize it was in the way. Had you practiced in all of your late season gear, you would have known to lower the neck gaiter before drawing back. Ten minutes of shooting your bow in the backyard dressed like you were hunting could potentially be the difference in whether or not you send an arrow through a late season buck.
3. Throw Expectations Out The Window
The reason I included this as a tip for success is for those of you that put insurmountable pressure on yourself when it comes to hunting whitetails. By the late season, I like to to go into it with a fresh mindset. Part of what I like about hunting the late season is you never know what could happen or what buck could turn up. This season for example, with my Wisconsin hunting, I don’t know what a shooter is. I’ll make that call when I cross that bridge. After months of hunting, I like to use the late season to hunt with “no pressure.” It not only will help you have fun, but could lead you to having success in the fact that you might try new things you otherwise wouldn’t.
Late season hunting is some of my favorite of the year. There’s simply just nothing like hunting in the cold and snow, and it’s something I really enjoy. If you want to experience success, evaluate these three things, and create your plan of attack. Good luck!