More On Mid-Atlantic Deer Hunting

More On Mid-Atlantic Deer Hunting


December is the heart of deer season in the Mid-Atlantic States, and for good reason.

During most years, the first serious spells of cold weather put whitetails on the move — and sure make hunting them a lot more comfortable. In most states, this is also the time when firearms hunting comes into its own.

One of the negative aspects of December is that in most areas, hunters have been in the woods since September, and the deer can be really spooky. This means that if you want to score that trophy buck before the end of the year, you need to be at the top of your game.

Here are some things you can do to increase your chances of bagging that big buck in the 11th hour of the season — as well as some of the different hunting opportunities that New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware have to offer.


One of the most overlooked aspects of hunting is the relationship between bowhunting and firearms hunting.

Most states — Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey included — open their fall deer season with archery hunting in September and allow hunting into the February of the following year. Each year, more deer hunters are participating in both archery and firearms hunts.

Recently completed studies show that in Delaware and New Jersey, more hunters use both archery and firearms for deer hunting with each passing season.

Crossbows are also becoming more widely used. Only three states in the country don't allow the use of crossbows in one form or another.

Likewise, a good many hunters ply the same areas with either bow or firearm.

This means spending plenty of time in your tree stand and observing deer behavior.

The cooler weather of December pushes the deer to be a lot more active as they fatten up for the coming winter. However, most of them will follow the same migration routes that they did during the early part of the season, as long as their food supply is still there.

This means what you observed during the early seasons can help put you on the deer in December.

As long as food sources don't change, the deer will move into the same feeding areas around the same time in the evening, as it gets dark.

Likewise, deer will usually move out of their bedding places around the same time after sunup in the morning.

If you've located the deer's feeding areas and bedding areas during the archery season, it's a good bet those will still be good places to look during the later firearms seasons.


When shooting from a tree stand, most hunters have a problem with judging distance.

Shooting from the ground is a straight-line distance. But when shooting from a tree stand, you must take into consideration the angle of your shot.

When it comes to hunting with a bow, most hunters prefer to shoot from 10 to 30 yards away. However, hunting with a shotgun, rifle, muzzleloader or pistol increases your effective kill zone. In this case, the limitations you have will depend on the terrain you're hunting.

Whether you're hunting with a bow or with firearms, one trick that works well is to mark distances in the area you've planned to hunt. Pace out distances from your tree stand in different directions and place markers at different distances in all directions in a 180-degree arc from your stand.

I know several hunters who mark the different distances by pounding sticks into the ground and placing deer scent on the sticks.

You can also locate different natural markers and measure their distance from your stand. Doing this will give you an exact idea of the distances you'll be shooting when a deer comes into to your hunting zone.

Take your range finder and locate the different markers, then make a map of the area you're hunting, pinpointing the markers and their distances. Make the map small enough so you can tape it to your tree stand and glance at it, as a deer is moving through your kill zone.

You can use your range finder to zero in on a deer, but a range finder will not work well under some conditions. Or a deer may be changing distances quickly as it moves through your kill zones.

The map will give you the exact distances with just a quick glance.

The cooler weather of December pushes the deer to be a lot more active as they fatten up for the coming winter. However, most of them will follow the same migration routes that they did during the early part of the season, as long as their food supply is still there.


December and January can be really fickle when it comes to weather. The old saying, "If you don't like the weather, wait a minute and it will change," really holds true in the Mid-Atlantic States.

Some years can find a hunter in his T-shirt, while most times call for long johns and foot warmers.

Weather is one thing that can really change hunting around. Many hunters have stayed home when the weather forecast has looked nasty, only to regret it later in the day. On a daily basis, invest in a good set of Gore-Tex, since a light rain or drizzle can often make the deer a lot more active and provide you with some of the best hunting of the season.

The seasonal weather can also have a big effect on your hunting efforts. Most hunters I know would rather hunt during a year that has cold weather in December and January — for several reasons. Tracking deer on a snow-covered terrain is a lot easier. Finding their migrations routes, bedding areas and feeding areas also takes less effort.

Deer will also seek out a comfort zone, and finding it can give you a shot at some of the bigger bucks. If you hunt mountain terrain, one tip is to look for areas where the deer will fee

d or bed. Along a mountain's south or west side, the sun is at its strongest for the last several hours of the afternoon and early evening. On a cold day, this is where deer often gather to take in the heat of the sun.

Also look in open areas or breaks in the forest that have the sun on them for long periods. They will also offer some warmth on cold days.

Should December and or January be on the warmer side, with fields and browsing areas free of snow, look for the deer to keep returning to these areas to feed. Warm winters usually mean the deer will be slow to change their feeding habits.

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