We’ve all been guilty of it. We’ve all told ourselves next year we will do it differently. Yet, your season grinds on, holidays get closer, hunting time becomes limited, and you are sitting there with tags burning a hole in your pocket. This deer season for me was no different and I swore to myself I was going to get it done early as long as they cooperated. I’ll talk a little about my season to date and then some late season strategies I’ll be trying and hopefully they will increase my odds.
After a limited number of shooters appeared on camera in the offseason and urban archery yielded limited number of shooters still in their summer patter, I had low expectations this season. Fortunately, I was able to get a doe down during urban season in Indiana which would allow me the opportunity to harvest two bucks if the opportunities presented themselves. I’ve passed on many bucks this year some as I’m sitting here writing this, I’m thinking that maybe I should have pulled the trigger. I hunted hard during the rut, played the wind, moved in closer to core areas but came up empty. My family was able to harvest a very nice 8 pointer and a dandy 10 (photoed below) this year off of our lease so this season hasn’t been for nothing. However, I’m sitting here after firearm season has come and gone wondering if muzzleloader season will present me with an opportunity to get that trophy I’ve been looking for.
One thing I’ve learned from my father is these post rut deer can be skiddish, focus on the “Ts”, and the WFC. A lot of times deer in our area have been shot at and pressured for 3 straight months even on private property (can’t control the neighbors). So, this time of year I’ll go mobile with my climber and focus on the “Ts”. What are the “Ts”? It’s simple. I’ll sleep in and hunt from 10-2, looking for that mid day cruiser that stays laid up late and goes to bed early. I’ll play the wind and hunt the W (water), F (food), C(cover) areas of our woods.
I’ll start with water first and it’s pretty self explanatory. Bucks are run down and need to stay hydrated. We have a few water sources on our lease and the neighboring property has a few acre pond. With many well traveled trails leading to and from these areas, I’ll play the wind to my advantage, sit all day and hope to get lucky.
Next is food. We do a really good job on our lease of planting a few acre food plot. Some with early season clover that can stand the summer pressure and heavily seeded with late season turnips and beans. I typically will use whitetail institute products and I’ve had year over year success with high yields and healthy plants. Like I previously stated, bucks are worn down and need to feast on some calories. Not to mention if they have a chance at a second rut they’ll be where the ladies are, and these does this time of year will pile into our food plots on a regular basis. If you play the winds, don’t over pressure these food plots throughout the year. You could pick off a big buck looking for a meal or late season girlfriend.
Lastly is cover, and that can mean a lot of things to different people. Throughout the season we notice things, maybe it’s a new trail your herd is taking or maybe a overgrowth has finally matured and deer are staging there for the first time. Either way, throughout the season pay attention to these areas and to those areas you’ve always told yourself, “I wish I would have hung a stand there at the 3rd maple on the left overlooking that grassy bottom”. This is the time to do it!!! Big bucks like you, the hunter, are tired this time of year. They’ve been chasing does as well as dodging bullets and arrows for months now! They’ll re-establish that core area near food with water close by and won’t move very far. This time of year in early December I’ve often glassed both shooter bucks and future studs bedded up in some of the thickest nastiest stuff and wonder how the heck they got in there. One thing seeing them in those thick briars and tree falls has taught me is they are going to lay up all day where they feel comfortable and safe. They’ll only move if they feel pressured by someone/something or it’s time to fill their bellies. This is a time of year where having a climber can really be of value. I personally use a Summit Viper XL climber and I love it. It’s not the lightest, but not the heaviest. It is nimble enough for me to get in and out of hard to reach areas, and it’s so comfortable that I can sit all day with no problem.
Deer season, elk season, whatever season is your passion can truly be frustrating. It can also be super rewarding spending time in the outdoors with your friends and family. Regardless, if you are like me and tend to be a “size queen” and are holding out for your trophy or you’ve just had a rough season not seeing anything worth filling a tag on, just remind yourself to stay patient this time of year and don’t let the pressure of the holidays, tags weighing down your pocket, or lack of hunting time overwhelm you. Stick to your guns and maybe take a tip from me and change up your tactics this time of year. There is no guarantee that these tricks will work but if you made it this long in the season holding tags...maybe it’s time to roll the dice and try something new.