We’ve all been there – the days are short, the temps are freezing cold, there are pictures of deer all over social media, but you have yet to punch your tag. Without a doubt, late season deer hunting can be tough. It can even be disheartening, especially after all the work you have put into pre-season activities, scouting, and time spent in the woods.
Luckily, if you play your cards right, there is still a chance for you to take that late season buck.
Above all else, late season deer hunting comes down to pressure. If you’re going to get that big buck to present himself during daylight he needs to feel safe. If you’re hunting private land, or small parcels next to property that gets hunted hard, this is going to be tough.
Regardless of where you’re hunting though, at this point in the season almost all of the bucks have felt some sort of pressure and are feeling a bit weary. That means that to have a chance, you need to manage the pressure as best you can.
The easiest way to manage that pressure is going to be by managing how often you, and others, hunt that area. If you’re trying to do it in the smartest way possible, I would recommend that you only hunt the day before and the day after a big front pushes through. There are other things that you can look for as well like moon phases and barometric pressure, but a big front is probably your best bet.
I would also consider only hunting the morning or the evening, but not both. If you’re hunting a field edge, it makes sense to stick with your evening hunt. If you’re hunting bedding, I would try to stick with the morning hunts. The key is to find what works for your property and stick to that.
Plan your Entries and Exits
It goes without saying that part of managing pressure is planning your entries and exits to your hunting spot. This is always an important aspect to a successful hunt, but even more so during the late season when deer have seen some pressure.
The biggest thing to think about when planning and entry and exit strategy is the wind. You want to take every possible step to ensure that your scent into areas where you are targeting deer. That means that if you are planning to hunt around a food source or a bedding area, you need to ensure that you have a route to get there without blowing your scent across the entire area.
Another aspect to think about is how you can get to and from your stand without causing too much ruckus. What a lot of people recommend is that you get someone to pick you up by ATV or some other type of vehicle. Vehicles are sure to spook the deer, but it is in an intentional manner that the deer won’t correlate to a hunter in the woods.
Another strategy would be to bring a predator call in the woods with you. Before you get down out of your stand blow a few calls. You are sure to clear any deer in the area and not have to worry about spooking them on your way out.
Limit Activities in the Area
Scouting is critically important to get an idea of deer movements, signs, and patterns, but should be kept to a minimum at this time of the year. Again, it all goes back to pressure. Late in the season, all deer in the area have felt some pressure, so it is best to stay out of the woods if at all possible.
That means don’t go walking around checking for sign. Instead use a camera. preferably one that can send pictures directly to your phone so you don’t ever have to access the SD cards. If that is not an option you should plan to check your SD cards every few weeks and try to enter and exit the woods in a way that doesnt blow your scent all around.
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