For most parts of the country, white-tailed deer season lasts three to four months. Through the long season, many dedicated whitetail hunters continue to hammer the woods until their tag is filled or the sun sets on the last day of the season.
As the season progresses, there are many factors working against hunters to fill tags. First, deer are being taken out by other hunters, so there are less to harvest. Though that statement is true, regardless if hunting on public or private land, this should be the least of hunters’ concerns.
The real challenge stems from all the hunters – successful and unsuccessful – putting an extreme amount of pressure on deer herds. This creates a seemingly uphill battle for any deer hunter trying to outwit a seasoned buck that has been educated from a few close calls.
Late in the season, the region plays a huge factor in strategy to harvest a buck. For instance, in the Deep South, the month of December yields the best hunting days. With the rut starting to ramp up, states like Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas will have some great hunting opportunities during the last month of the year.
In regions to the north, even though pressure has been high from past months, it will benefit hunters to hang close to food sources.
Travis “T-Bone” Turner, of Michael Waddell’s Bone Collector on Outdoor Channel, has a lot of experience hunting the late season in both northern and southern regions. For hunters in post-rut areas, Turner shared a helpful tip.
Travis “T-Bone” Turner bagged awesome bucks on consecutive days in Oklahoma. First with his Tikka rifle, then this brute with his Hoyt bow. (Photo courtesy of Travis Turner)
“As we get into (the) late season, it’s time to change tactics because the deer go back to thinking with their bellies and need food,” Turner said. “To maximize your odds, mainly hunt afternoons and just food sources, as hunting the mornings usually means you’ll do more harm than good.”
Turner is right. For those hunting in areas where early archery and gun seasons have blown through, like the Midwest or Northeast, finding big-buck success might be a little tougher with the rut in the rearview mirror. For these areas, food is definitely the ticket. But because of heavy hunting pressure, hunters need to adjust their strategy a little.
Nick Mundt, also of Michael Waddell’s Bone Collector TV show, agrees with T-Bone about focusing on food sources in the late season as an option. As a second option, Mundt offered up a proven strategy hunters sometimes overlook.
“Get back off the big food sources and pick off the deer coming to and from those sources,” Mundt said. “You may also consider retargeting doe groups for (doe) fawns that may be coming into estrous later in the season.”
And for hunters that love to hunt the rut-crazed days of November, Mundt’s statement is great news. Though not nearly as intense, what some call the “second rut” is active breeding of mature does that were missed in the first round, and young does coming into estrous for the first time.
Tagging a buck in the late season may not be easy, but it can be done with some changes to strategy. Give these simple tips a try to help locate and harvest pressured-bucks before the sun sets on another great season of deer hunting.