I have been fortunate to hunt and talk with lots of whitetail enthusiasts over the years. As the end of November approaches, there is a universal sense of urgency that hits almost everyone. The thought that the season is plowing into its last weeks is on the minds of many, especially if you have not filled your tags.
To be successful in the latter part of the season means that there is a good chance that you will have to change your tactics and approach. We, as humans, act differently throughout the different parts of the year. Deer are no different. They have predictable cycles that they move through and the better we know their habits, the more likely we are to put ourselves in a position to be successful.
We are taught by others as we learn. I know when I was learning how to pursue whitetails I heard time-and-time-again not to set up too close to a known bedding or loafing area. The idea is to ambush and setup on a deer’s travel routes. Magazines, television shows and numerous other authorities on deer hunting will tell you the same thing: find where they are sleeping, find where they are eating and setup somewhere in between.
Late season, though, is the time to try and get closer to that mystical bedding area. Deer, especially bucks, are not as active as they were just a few weeks ago. Most of them are going to be back on that pattern of just traveling to and from bedding and feeding areas. As a result, deer may not move off of their beds until just before dark. That problem is compounded when unseasonably warm weather hits-like this upcoming weekend.
If your stand is several hundred yards away from where deer rest, they may never walk by you during legal shooting hours. With the wind to your advantage, carefully stalk as close as you can to their known resting place. If you are patient and enter the woods carefully, you will be rewarded with seeing more deer and probably some better quality deer as well.
Take a couple of steps; stop and wait, and then take a couple of more steps. It is amazing how close you can walk up to deer using this approach. Worst-case scenario, you spook some deer.
That leads me to my next late season tactic that I personally have used and had great success with. One wily old hunter from Alabama first mentioned this tactic to me and I have never forgotten it. He used it when turkey hunting in the fall and one time applied it to deer hunting. He told me to carefully, or softly, spook them. Then quietly use your climbing stand to ascend up a tree and be ready. Soon, those late-season deer will come right back to where they were and you will be ready for them.
What this guy was saying is that if an area is so appealing to a group of deer, they will come back to it when they are startled and run off. This is especially true if there is a good food source, like acorns, in the area. The key is to just startle them, not wildly run into their herd and scare the daylights out of them.
The first time I tried this in late December, I was shocked at how quickly the deer came back. I hardly had time to get situated in my stand when the first group of does meandered their way towards me. Amazing, to say the least.
This soft startle tactic only works if you are confident that you know where they are loafing during the day. ou also need to have a large enough piece of property that you can be sure you enter the woods with the wind in your favor. There also needs to be a tree that is easily traversed by a climbing stand. Put all of these variables together though, and this little trick may be just the recipe for a late season bruiser.
The last few weeks of the deer season will scream by. Try not to be too anxious about tagging a whitetail. If you don’t mind braving late season temperatures, then try one of these tactics. They both have helped me in the past and I’m confident they can work for you as well.