Late Season Hunting I A Great Opportunity with Friends and Family
Snow is beginning to fall across the Country, and as the white starts to come down, a great time develops to slap on the Under Armour, break out the Bear bow, muzzleloader, or slug gun, and tuck in close to a food source in the preparation for some cold weather, late season hunting.
The months of December and January can be two of the best months to find yourself in the deer stand or box blind in search of your hit-list buck. White-tailed deer during the latter part of the season are no longer focused on breeding and have changed their attention to survival. This is especially true for mature bucks that are worn down from the heavy rutting activity. Success with late season hunting is all about cold weather, and keying in on food and cover. Although the conditions may be somewhat harsh, the late season can also be a great time to share the blind or deer stand with your friends and family.
Food = Late Season Hunting Success
No doubt, if you read any article that discusses tips and tactics for late season hunting success it will make some reference to the importance of focusing on a food source. The reason you see the topic of hunting food sources continue to be repeated is simple, it is because it really is an important part of most late season hunting strategies. Now hunting food sources is not the end all be all, but keying in on these areas and building your overall hunting strategies around them can be a great move and can lead to putting a cold weather whitetail on the ground.
When the weather turns cold and the snow begins to cover the ground, deer will begin to keying on food sources that are high in protein and carbohydrates. At this point in the year, whitetails and more specifically bucks are focused on replenishing their fat reserves and their body condition. They have been physical appearance and health has greatly deteriorated from heavy rutting activity. In order to make sure that they make it through a hard winter, food will constantly be on the mind.
Not all food sources are created the same, however, so as a result there are some food sources that are sure to be more productive during the late season than others. For example, clover plots are excellent locations to ambush an early season whitetail, but during the late season, they have lost their luster. In contrast, forages like turnip and radish plots as well as grain fields like corn and soybeans can certainly be key areas to focus on during cold weather whitetail hunting. When you read about hunting grain fields during the late season, you often hear the term “standing grain”. Standing soybeans or standing corn is simply areas that have either been planted as a food source for wildlife or are areas that have been unharvested by the farmer. In both cases, these areas are exceptional areas for late season hunting.
Standing grains do provide a little bit of a benefit verse hunting a completely cut corn or soybean field. The main reason is the ease in which whitetail deer can get to the food. Standing grains make it easy for the deer to access, whereas a completely cut field or even cereal grain fields like winter rye or winter wheat may be a little more difficult. This is exceptionally true when the cold weather hits and the ground begin to freeze or be covered with snow. That being said, both areas are exceptional locations to put a late season deer on the ground.
There is another added benefit to hunting areas such as standing grain fields during the late-season, and that is simply visibility. Hunting a corn or bean field, especially from an elevated position can help you put your Nikon to work and allow you survey a large area from a distance. Hunting from an elevated box blind or tripod stand can be an excellent way to put a late season whitetail on the ground, but they can also help you in your overall scouting efforts as well. Often, hunting from these types of sets and treating them as more of an “observational stand” can help you further hone in on major areas of entry and exit into the food source, allowing you to move in close and hang a stand. Food sources are a great hub in which you can build your late season hunting strategy around, and should be high on your list of areas to key in on when the cold weather moves in.
The Importance of Cover
When the weather turns cold, we like to wrap up under a blanket next to a warm fire and just hang out. Occasionally, we will get up to stretch our legs and get something to eat. The same can be said for white-tailed deer during the cold weather of the late season. The cold weather and short days have the deer desperately clinging to the cover, conserving energy and only making an appearance when it is time to grab a quick bite to eat before the frigid temperatures of the night kick in.
When you looking at the types of areas that whitetail deer tend to seek out during the cold weather of the late season, there are a few types of areas that tend to stand out over the others. The first is areas that have a southwesterly aspect. These areas tend to receive more direct sunlight during the winter months, and as a result are typically warmer with less snow cover than the north facing slope. Whitetail deer will key in on these areas and utilize these areas as bedding locations as well as mid-day loafing areas. Thick areas such as cedar thickets or woodlots that have had Timber Stand Improvement or other types of thinning practices completed will often provide the dense thermal cover that whitetails and other wildlife need during the cold temperatures of the late season.
During other times of the year, it would be in your best interest to avoid putting much pressure on the bedding areas, choosing to hunt the perimeters verse getting in close. That philosophy changes during the late season. With time winding down, the late season is often the time to put on the ScentCrusher and tuck in close to the bedding areas. Hunting these areas can be challenging, but if you are patient and ensure that you have an easy way of entry and exit of the location, and ensure the wind is right for your set and you can find yourself sending around or a GoldTip down range.
It is a Family Affair
The late season is cold and usually wet and snowy. For some, it doesn’t necessarily sound like fun, but believe it or not, the late season can be an excellent time to get out on the field with your family and friends. There is something about cold weather that brings people together, and from the comfort of a blind or deer stand many memories can be made.
One of the aspects of late season hunting that makes it so memorable is often the conditions. The cold conditions tend to stick in your memory banks, but it also makes the hot chocolate or coffee taste that much better. Another aspect of the late season that makes it so memorable and a great time to get your family and friends outdoors is the activity. The woods tend to come alive when the weather turns cold and the snow is on. Whitetails are not the only critters that tend to show themselves during this time as birds, small game, and other wildlife species are alive and well and make for some enjoyable hours in the stand. Whitetail hunting during the late season is many whitetail hunters favorite time to hit the woods, and if you find yourself in the position of still having a tag left to burn, some of the best hunting may still be ahead of you. If you get a chance to get out and brave the elements for late season whitetails you might just be happy that you did. Good luck!