Brad Harvey: Hitting one out in the bottom of the ninth

December 10, 2013 

During a phone conversation with a friend earlier this week, he mentioned that most of the hunting on their place had slowed to the point that it’s almost as if the season is already out.

“Once the rut is over, nobody wants to go out anymore,” he said.

This attitude is somewhat true everywhere this time of deer season; but I’ve never really understood why, considering that, each year, some of the biggest bucks are taken during the post-rut.

The reality is that, as long as you know the proper way to go about it, a late-season hunt often is just as rewarding as any time during the fall.

Are you one of those who has been hunting the same stand locations year after year, through every month of the season?

If so, December is when it’s time to start thinking outside the box a bit if you want to have any success.

As Christmas nears, every deer in the forest has become acclimated to having hunters around.

They’ve heard truck doors slam, 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 darkness of night grants them a safer opportunity to enter that particular area.

Your best bet is to cast laziness aside and 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.

You see, once again, it’s all about the food.

With the extreme majority of breeding now done, those old bucks are worn down quite a bit and have lost a considerable amount of body weight.

To get through the winter, they’ll need to try to bulk back up, so eating is quickly becoming a priority.

In wooded areas, look for any oaks that may still have a few remaining acorns scattered under them.

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.

During September and October, there were plenty of items on the menu for the deer.

Acorns were in abundance on every oak, the fields and food plots were full of new growth, 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 in this part of the country.

It’s frequently seen in 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 a thicket can be about as good a “honey hole” during the late season as a persimmon tree is in September or October.

The last tip I’ll throw at you is really a simple one but often overlooked.

As I mentioned earlier, every hunter knows that the further 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 a few advantages for us.

With these winter weather patterns beginning to come into play, it’s rather common for us to see quite a few more overcast or rainy days and nights.

No matter what phase the moon is in, this frequent cloud cover can block out that moonlight, making the woods a mighty dark and creepy place to be for a deer. This, in turn, helps to curb all of that middle-of-the-night movement and force them to spend more time on their feet 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 cloudy or rainy, you can sure bet that the next morning will be a great time to be out there even if it’s going to be a wet one.

In fact, just this past weekend I had a nice eight-pointer come under my stand around 9:30 in the morning as a constant rain fell around me.

Give these few things some thought of your own, and consider getting back in the tree.

I’ll guarantee you that if you’ll just change a few things up and try a different approach you’ll surprise yourself with how many deer you’ll see.

Besides, a few weeks from now the season will be behind us and you’ll be wishing you could climb in the stand just one more time.

Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his website at www.bradharveyoutdoors.com or follow on Twitter @BHarveyOutdoors.

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