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Use the Ground Game to Outwit Post-Rut Bucks

Ambush pressured late-season whitetails by employing a ground blind.

Use the Ground Game to Outwit Post-Rut Bucks

Set out a ground blind well before you intend to hunt so deer can acclimate to it. Brush it in with surrounding vegetation, whether that means corn stalks, branches or grass. (Photo courtesy of American Outdoor Brands)

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Some of the season’s best deer hunting can occur during the late season. Deer herd up and feed heavily, often moving well before last light. The right food source might even draw multiple large bucks into one area.

However, hunting the winter months can also be tough. Deer have been heavily pressured since early fall, so the wrong move can send them fleeing to a neighboring property in a hurry. Beyond that, plummeting temps and strong winds are enough to send even the hardiest hunters to the couch instead of the timber. To mitigate the chances of bumping deer into the next county or turning into an icicle on stand, a great late-season approach is using a ground blind. But even this requires some care.

CHOOSING THE BLIND

During the late season, select a blind with heavy fabric or a hay-bale-style blind. Either will do a better job of blocking wind and retaining heat than a lightweight blind. See-through mesh blinds or those made of lighter fabric work when mobility is more important than warmth since they can be taken down and set up fast.

Either way, you want a blind with silent zippers and windows; ensure there are ways to keep windows shut. This is key for retaining heat and concealing movement. A larger blind will offer more room to move and be comfortable, especially when wearing heavy clothes.

PICKING THE LOCATION

When choosing the spot for your ground blind, keep a few things in mind. First, where do deer want to be now? Scout the best food sources and bedding areas from a distance before placing a blind. The colder it gets, the closer deer will bed to preferred food sources.

Note travel routes and how deer enter the food source, too. A mature buck is typically one of the last deer in a herd to enter an area. Ensure you’re set up within shooting distance of where the deer access the field.

Midday and evenings are prime times to hunt food, especially on milder days. If the weather looks decent for an extended period, another good ambush point is between bedding and feeding areas. A morning setup here puts you in position to catch a buck heading back to his bed.

ENTRY AND EXIT MATTERS

When selecting your blind location, pay attention to your ingress and egress routes. The last thing you want is to spook deer on your way into or out of your blind. When plotting your routes, consider details like wind direction, the locations of bedding areas and your scent trail. If possible, use an ATV or electric bike to access your blind to avoid putting any added pressure on the deer.

BE INVISIBLE

Make your blind disappear into the surroundings by brushing it in with natural vegetation. That could be corn stalks, tree branches or even tall grasses like miscanthus. Just make sure it appears as natural as possible in its location.




Setting up the blind a few days prior to hunting from it to let deer acclimate to it is also wise. For maximum concealment, open only the windows that are needed for an adequate view, and open them only enough to get a shot. To help you disappear in the blind, wear a dark-colored outer layer.

MUST-HAVE ITEMS

When hunting from a ground blind in the late season, I pack a few key items with me. The first is an extra layer of clothes. Even if they aren’t ultimately needed, it’s best to have them just in case. If it’s exceptionally cold, I’ll bring a portable propane heater with me. The vent-free style works best, and I’ve never had a deer spook while using one.

When hunting with a muzzleloader or crossbow, a tripod is essential. This is especially true when wearing bulky clothes. My favorites are BOG tripods, which are rock solid and lightweight—perfect for ground-blind hunting.

Recommended


TRAIL-CAM INTEL

In the late season, use trail cameras to learn the valuable information required to make your move. Again, deer have been pressured all season. Trail cameras—especially cellular cams—let you scout from a distance with relatively minimal disturbance.

Trail cameras can tell you almost everything you want to know about an area, including when deer enter and exit the area to feed, which wind directions affect deer movement the least and which travel routes they prefer using from bedding to feeding. All this information, along with the intel obtained through in-person scouting, helps you pattern deer. Then, you can head into the blind when the conditions are perfect.

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