Deer Hunting Tips: Cool Weather Techniques
December 09, 2013
It's the time of the season when deer hunters across the southeast have their best chance of taking that trophy buck they know lurks in the woods they hunt. That's because most areas in the southeast are in some stage of the rut.
While the peak of the deer-breeding season is certainly a time to be eagerly anticipated, it is not a time to get reckless in hunting approach or style. Especially if you hope to harvest one of the big bucks that will have their guard down ever so slightly. It is, however, the time to become aware of what's going to occur once the rut ends and the deer get into post-rut and late season patterns. This is where cool weather deer hunting tips come into play.
But instead of thinking you can take it easy because the rut is on, many highly successful hunters actually ratchet their hunting game up a notch or two to take advantage of this better-than-ordinary opportunity.
They strive to do things right in terms of considering factors such as wind, scent, scouting and general woodsmanship tactics.
Although a buck's tendency to move more during the day (and let his guard down a bit while doing so) is what makes the rut so productive, it's more important than ever to use the wind to best advantage, be quiet, be scent smart, move sparingly, and watch closely for movement. The reason is that during the rut, the payback for such effort can be huge, as in bagging the biggest buck of you season or even your lifetime.
The rut means the deer, especially bucks, are chasing does and moving around more. They use their senses more to trail the other deer, and thus don't put full effort into avoiding humans and staying out of sight, which is a common way for mature bucks to survive. Nevertheless, an older buck in rut is still an older buck: he won't lose all caution even at the height of the chase period. If I stink up the woods by sitting in the wrong place and the buck approaches from downwind, he'll likely spook. If a hunter fidgets in the stand, the buck will likely see him first and we all know what that means: the hunter will be seeing the south end of a north-bound deer as he evaporates into a thicket.
If you walk around too much, you'll literally walk up on a deer and, unless you get very lucky, a big buck will elude you. I do suggest you scout mid-day in moderation for very fresh deer sign. Using a climbing stand if you can and setting up near these areas will improve your odds of seeing a trophy buck.
One of best things about hunting the rut is that there are lots of ways to be successful. Depending on the specific terrain where you hunt, you can hunt from climbing tree stands, ground blinds or permanent stands. The rut allows great flexibility in the style you choose.
Plus, it is prime time for vocalization and rattling. The key is to plan your strategy based on the terrain you hunt and adapt it to take advantage of a buck's preoccupation with mating.
There are some obvious signs that some simple scouting will reveal as the place to set up during the rut.
The use of scents in the rut is marketed by many companies and there is certainly merit to using scents, but use good sense when doing so.
One of the most important good-sense things a hunter can do is to avoid over-using scents. Scents can be used to mask human odor, especially when walking in the woods to and from the stand, or in the course of mid-day scouting. And buck lure scents can be very effective in bringing deer into shooting range or positioning deer for a shot.
However, it's easy to lay down too much artificial scent. With a buck's great sense of smell, it doesn't take much to allow him to get the scent and home in on the source. I think the biggest factor in successfully using scents during the rut is to use the scent sparingly and to place that scent where the buck will approach the source of the scent, but you'll not be in his line of sight. Even big bucks that are in rut are still very alert and can be easily spooked. The bigger the buck, the more important stealth and moderation of scent are.
Another good game plan is to hunt where the does are congregated.
Scrapes are a good example of what to look for, and they don't always have to be extremely fresh, either. The peak scrape-making period may be prior to the peak of the rut, but they still indicate bucks are in an area.
If I'm not seeing enough bucks, then I'll shift my focus to the areas where the does are staying. You can bet the bucks will be checking in and around those areas consistently during the rut.
Because bucks tend to stay on the move day and night during the rut, this is a great time to be in the woods all day long. Get set up, stay comfortable, and hunt a long time. Many times during mid-day when other hunters take a break or walk the woods to scout, the hunter who stays put will take that trophy buck.
The post rut and late season can make for more difficult hunting. As bucks transition from the rut they become less active and seem to get more nocturnal; whereas during the rut they might move through openings and sparse cover, after the rut their more usual preference for heavy cover returns.
Just as it can be tough admit that a great early-morning, shallow-water bass bite has come to an end when the sun gets high, changing hunting tactics that were so successful in the pre-rut and rut stages can be hard for many hunters.
But if the deer change, you'll have to change the way you hunt them. When you notice a dramatic drop in deer activity and movement in breeding areas, move to heavy cover and hunt more in low-light conditions for best results. You don't necessarily have to go deep into the thickets; often the edges will be fine. But get off the beaten path and into areas where the deer feel less pressured and you will still enjoy some excellent late-season hunting.
Successful late-season hunters all report basically the same message: get away from other hunters. During the early season and through the rut, there are hunters pounding the woods daily. It makes all deer more skittish, even during the rut. Bucks especially will sometimes get into unusual habits that make it very difficult to pattern them. So again, the mobile stands can a key to success
The key will be determining exactly where in your neck of the woods you can find these deer. Finding deer that are not as pressured means finding deer that have returned to more normal patterns. This means a higher chance to see deer, especially big bucks.
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