It’s not over till it’s actually over, and your best whitetail hunting may still be ahead. We’ve all had deer seasons that unravel in different ways. You may still have a tag in hand because of just bad luck, another hunter may have tagged the buck you patterned or maybe the deer stood just out of range during archery season.
I’m sure at one time or another you’ve been in the position of not putting your tag on the kind of deer you were hoping for, one that you would be happy to take to the taxidermist, then on to the deer processor. If so, don’t throw your hands up in despair as the late archery and muzzleloader season can be very rewarding.
Which type of hunter are you when it comes to the late season? Are you the one who simply didn’t fill the deer tag and needs to continue hunting, or do you prefer to hunt the late season because you know the benefits of taking a monster buck at this time of year? Yes, monster bucks are out there if you’re willing to hunt in the cold and change tactics somewhat.
Forget about those places that were hunted during rifle season. Locate those areas that provide a good food source as well as bedding areas nearby. During this time of year, deer prefer to bed close to their food so they expend very little energy. The number one factor that can mean success is to find those heavy trails in the snow leading to a food source. It’s without a doubt a surefire giveaway to your opportunity of tagging a late season whitetail.
Just remember you need the utilize the terrain and the wind so you avoid spooking them. Avoid going into their bedding areas. Instead, set up somewhere a short distance away along their trail where your presence won’t alert them. Hang out on the outskirts and let them rise from their bed and start to head to the food source as it offers you the best chance of a shot. Waiting at the food source isn’t always a good idea during the winter as deer become more nocturnal and may not be there before dark.
Having confidence in yourself and continuing the hunt even after others have given up quite often leads to late season success. I’m a firm believer in hunting until it is completely over. During the 2014 late season, I managed to tag the biggest buck of my hunting career, an 11-point whitetail buck that scored 152 Boone and Crockett with a flintlock muzzleloader. If you are a dedicated deer hunter don’t quit until the last second of the season.
Get out there and find the food and find where they prefer to bed, typically on southern exposures, out of the wind. Then make sure you go every chance you get, find the deer and spend as much time as possible in their travel path waiting for something good to happen. Also remember the most important factor to late season whitetail success is being warm and comfortable so you can make the shot when it presents itself.