At this point in the season your wife has probably left you, and you only get to see your kids on the weekends. But, there is good news, you can still tag that buck you have been after since early October. Here is how to tag that 130” buck that you have been telling your friends is 200 in the final weeks of the season.
In December I try to scout two days and hunt one. Your best chance of shooting a buck in the late season is to search for the big herds on food sources. In the next few weeks try to locate fields that have spilled grain on them, or are just poorly harvested. At this point the deer are more skittish, so don’t stop driving when you see a big herd. I also focus on pressure and temperature changes even more these final few weeks. You will likely have fewer viable options now, so scout hard and hunt when the conditions are perfect.
Walking timbers with a muzzleloader at midday
If you don’t have permission to hunt the field that the deer are feeding in, it’s a better idea to stalk timbers with your muzzleloader or bow. I have shot a number of deer, including my biggest buck, by stalking creek beds. This strategy is best when there is snow because you can spot the deer more easily. Make sure to have the wind in your face and sneak along the back sides of slopes warmed by the sun. Take shooting sticks and hunt alone. I find when I walk timbers alone deer almost always stop to make sure it was in fact a human walking the creek. When we walk in pairs the deer often never stop. I will walk at a fairly quick pace if it is quiet, which usually means when the snow is freshest and hasn’t developed a layer of ice. This strategy tends to be best when the weather is the worst. Wind offers some background noise and deer are less likely to be on their feet when you come sneaking through if the snow is falling hard in the middle of the day.
Gearing up for the cold
Even with effective scouting the late season often becomes about sitting in the stand for long hours in the cold. At this point gear can make or break you. Plan strategies to stay out of the wind. A hay bale blind or any enclosed blind works great in the late season. Bibs offer more protection from the wind. It is surprising how much warmer you are when the wind doesn’t cut through your waistline. Also, don’t’ wear your boots too tightly. If you have too many pairs of socks on or have your laces cinched down your feet will lose circulation and your feet will be colder than if you had worn only one pair of socks.
Deer are going to be more finicky after shotgun season. This means your shot will likely be longer than it would have been during the rut. So practice a few long shots with your bow in the cold every day. And be sure to practice with the face mask you will wear in the late-season. If you use a muzzleloader don’t count on it remaining accurate since the summer, muzzleloaders are more finicky than rifles when it comes to staying sighted in. Lastly, consider dialing your bow back now if you struggle to shoot it in warmer weather. Good luck, Harrison.