As we’ve now slipped into the last month of the year, quite a few deer hunters in our area have already started to shut down their efforts for this 2012 season that will close out on New Year’s Day.
Many feel that waking up in the wee hours of the morning to go out into the cold air and climb a tree is somewhat of a wasted effort, now that the rut is considered to be well behind us.
“You won’t see anything if you go,” they’ll say. The reality is that, as long as you know the proper way to go about it, a late season deer hunt can often be just as rewarding as any.
First off, our part of the country is quite a bit different than most in that we don’t really have a well defined rut. Sure, all of the hunting magazines and deer hunting shows on TV talk of concentrating their efforts earlier in November but that doesn’t necessarily apply to us.
Here, some does enter the estrous period in the middle of October while others won’t until sometime closer to Thanksgiving. What this means is that, although it is late, there are still a number of does out there that have yet to breed.
You see, around 28 days after the primary rut, older, mature does that weren’t successfully bred the first time around will re-enter the estrous period and the younger yearlings will actually just begin to enter it for the first time. There’s no doubt that the number of hot does running around the woods is far fewer than what was out there a month ago but there’s still enough of them around to make things interesting for those bucks.
The best way to try and take advantage of this is to curtail some of the more bold tactics, like aggressive grunt calling, and utilize more subdued attraction methods such as scents and simple doe bleats.
Are you one of those hunters that has been hunting the same stand locations year after year through every month of the season? If so, It’s probably time to start thinking outside of the box a bit if you truly want to have any chance at success.
By this time, every deer in the forest has become acclimated to having hunters around. They’ve heard enough truck doors slam, smelled and seen enough humans, had their ears blasted by rifle shots and witnessed enough deer go down to know that it’s in their best interest to avoid these locations until the action has cooled back down.
Your best bet is to put forth the extra effort to hunt deeper than you’d normally go. Search out those remote spots that have seen the least amount of hunting pressure and start thinking about approaching this game in the same manner that you did back when the season first came in. Once again, it’s all about the food.
With the majority of breeding now done, those old bucks are worn down quite a bit and have lost a considerable amount of weight. To get through the winter they’ll need to try and bulk back up so eating is quickly becoming their number one priority. In wooded areas, look for any oaks that may still have a few remaining acorns. They’re sure to hit these spots first and that will almost guarantee you a shot opportunity as long as you’re willing to put in the time and effort to wait them out.
Back during September and October there were plenty of items on the menu for the deer. Acorns were in abundance on every oak, the fields were quite green and persimmons and other types of soft mast were weighing down the branches of many a tree. In December, however, the situation has changed dramatically and the choices are few.
Be mindful of everything that you see out there that might serve as a meal for these critters. For as unappetizing and unpalatable as it may look, green briar is actually a staple of their diet and can be found in abundance around here. It’s frequently seen in some of our many thickets thus serving double duty to the tired, late season buck since he can both eat and bed right there without exerting too much energy.
A strategically placed stand somewhere along the edge of such a thicket is about as good a “honey hole” as one of those aforementioned early season oaks.
The last tip I’ll throw at you is really a simple one but often overlooked. Every hunter knows that the further along we get into a hunting season and the more pressure that the deer have faced, the more they begin to limit their movements to the hours of the night. This is why we all hate to see a full moon coming up on the calendar since this makes their nocturnal activities that much easier for them. December weather, on the other hand, can offer up a few advantages for us here.
With winter weather patterns beginning to come into play, it’s rather common for us to see quite a few more overcast days and nights. No matter what phase the moon is in, this frequent cloud cover can go a long way towards blocking out that moonlight and making the woods a mighty dark and creepy place to be. This, in turn, helps to curb all of that late hour deer movement and force them to spend more time moving around during the day.
Because of this, it’s now time to pay more attention to the weather forecast than to whatever the moon might be up to. On those evenings that you hear the weatherman say it’s going to be quite cloudy, you can sure bet that the next morning will be a great time to be out there.
Give these few things some thought of your own and consider getting back out there before we reach season’s end. I’ll guarantee you that if you’ll just change a few things up and try a different approach you’ll see more deer than what you’ve become accustomed to seeing in those Decembers of the past.
Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his web site at www.bradharveyoutdoors.com or follow on Twitter @BHarveyOutdoors