by Kasey Werner
The Late Season Hunter
Autumn will soon be over and the challenges of late season deer hunting will begin anew. At this time of year when many hunters feel there is a lull in the number of deer roaming their routes, it is up to the late season hunter to find his niche. Although late-fall, early-winter can offer many disadvantages to deer hunting, there are also a few advantages for the savvy, late season hunter.
If a hunter has planned for the upcoming changes in season, taking into consideration the waning daylight hours and dropping temperature, he will know that his routine must change also. To adapt to what will surely be a cold season, the deer will change their normal patterns and behaviors to accommodate the current climate shifts.
Temperature is a big factor for any hunter to take into consideration, especially during windy days. If the day is warm, and the temperature mild, the deer may seek out more open spaces to be cooled by the wind. However, when the temperature gets cold, like it does in the late season, deer will tend to stay put and soak up as much of the sun’s heat as possible to warm up. As evening approaches, they will often become more active and keep themselves warm with movement. If wind speeds become more severe, deer will generally move into deeper thickets or bush for shelter.
High winds also make deer more apprehensive. As leafage and vegetation flutter, this confuses the deer’s sight and its ability to distinguish scent, making it anxious. A hunter needs to judge the weather and wind accordingly, making decisions thereafter of where and when to hunt.
The best thing for a hunter to do if this situation arises would be to find a gully or ditch, or the lowest side of a hill or summit. Deer tend to move to these areas where they feel safe and secure. It is good practice for the hunter to make note of these areas for future hunts.
The same can be true for deer bedding areas and travel routes. These change in the coldest season, making scouting previous in the year very important. Trails made by deer the past Spring will be covered over by leaves and snow, making pre-planning and scouting vital if a hunter wants to track deer into the winter season.
Keep in mind the location of water sources as well, checking for tracks to indicate they have been recently used. Bucks especially need to find high-quality food sources to put weight back on after the rut. Areas with berries, acorns or abundant foraging space are the ideal locations to look for and hunt bucks. Because they will again be focusing on food, these areas will be prime locations for yielding late season deer. Look for scrape or signs of rubbing. Oftentimes deer will bed down in dense cover, not far from a good food source. It is wise to look for remaining farm crops or food plots. The deer will primarily stay in thick cover, moving only on occasion. Finding routes to commonly used water and food resources (as well as ideal spots to set up your blind) is crucial if a hunter wants to be successful.
Camouflage for a hunter at any time of year is also extremely important. Deer have a remarkable sense of smell, and use their sharp sight as another tool to help them evade predators. Masking the human scent is vital. Scent blocking suits are available, as well as many scent elimination products.
Hunters should always take care to disguise any human trace – that includes masking your blind and all equipment. An alternative to lugging around the sometimes awkward blind, is making a natural blind from surrounding materials. (It is always best to check your local regulations to make sure that building a natural deer blind is legal in your region). Vegetation such as broken or dead tree limbs, dry grass, corn stalks or bushes can assist the hunter in breaking up his outline and concealing him from his quarry. It will most likely be necessary to make a few holes to shoot from or add material as you make your blind. Keep in mind the goal is to make your structure look like a part of nature, not a man-made construction.
Whether you prefer guided hunts or hunting solo, the late season deer hunter can still find success by following the aforementioned tips. At the end of the day, the most important thing for any hunter is to stay safe and have fun. But bagging a nice 8 point buck late in the season will definitely give you bragging rights until next year’s season opener.