I can’t believe that January is well underway. There are many hunting seasons that are rapidly approaching their close. It seems like the openers we were all excited about were just yesterday.
As the late season progresses, there are many tactics and techniques that change. The way we hunt and plan our hunts need to have slight adjustments. The game we pursue has altered their routines and we need to do the same.
For those of you that are avid goose hunters, you are well aware that late season birds are much different than those first ones we set up on in September. The first thing to understand is the birds that are hanging around now are much wiser to us; the hunters. They are more wary, might circle around a few more times or might completely avoid fields they frequented early in the season.
If you are new to goose hunting, there are couple of things you can do to help your late-season success. First, make sure that you are diligent about keeping your layout blinds well camouflaged. Take that extra time to blend the blind into the surroundings. That might mean you have to use some sort of snow covering.
Also, take close note of how the birds are using the fields. They are extremely spread out. The geese are in small family groups of four to seven. There also will be about 10 yards between them and the next group. Be conscious of this late season characteristic as you set up your decoys. The tight, bunched up spreads that you may have used in November are not how they are taking to the fields now.
If you like to deer hunt this time of year you may think the whitetails have just up-and-vanished. It is not uncommon for entire areas of timber to see nary a whitetail track. If you are walking to your stand and not seeing activity like you did before, don’t be surprised.
Once the rut is over and the deep freeze of winter sets in, deer substantially cut down the size of territory they use. They also will start to group up in some pretty large herds. One property I used to hunt regularly would see 80 percent of the woods almost barren of deer, but that last small 20 percent had them stacked up thick-as-fleas on a stray dog.
Their resting area and feeding area would be as close together as possible. As long as they are not disturbed they will continue on this late season pattern. To be a successful late season deer hunter you need to position yourself in that path between the two. I also love to still-hunt this time of year. I wrote an article a few weeks ago on this tactic. It is very effective in the late season.
What about the upland game hunter? If you like to bust through the brush in pursuit of ringnecks you too might be wondering where all the game has gone. Like the deer hunter who has seen the woods go cold, you might have noticed the fields seem completely vacant.
Late season birds are wary and extremely keen on finding places to escape the elements when needed. Now remember, I’m referring to wild birds, not necessarily birds at game preserves. These wild birds are excellent at burying themselves deep into the tangled underbrush and grasses that they frequent. Make sure that you have a dog with you and head to the thickest cover you can find.
I also have had really good luck hunting late season pheasants around man-made shelterbelts. These wind-stopping evergreens and shrubs are perfect places for birds to hangout because the ground under the trees is relatively free of snow. One particular shelterbelt I hunted several years ago, during a heavy snowstorm, had so many pheasants around it they looked like chickens in a coop. It was quite a site.
No matter what game you pursue, late season tactics are usually much different than when warmer weather approaches. Be patient, be confident in what you are doing, and always keep a sharp eye out for any clues that might give you a hint to what part of the world those creatures are using this time of year.
Good luck as the seasons wind down.