3 Keys to Late Season Success

Late season can be tough hunting. Cold temps and nocturnal bucks to name a few. These 3 keys will help you be successful in the deer woods.

These 3 keys to late season success will give you a great chance at harvesting a mature buck. 

By Nathan Unger

For many hunters the rut is what they plan their annual vacation around. There is nothing wrong with that. The deer are moving, chasing, seeking and rutting and can make for an eventful hunt in the tree stand. However, one of my favorite times to hunt is from the last week in November  until the end of the season.

Mature bucks revert back to their feeding patterns that provide hunters a great opportunity for a harvest. Here are some keys to successfully bagging a bruiser buck during frigid temps and food shortages.

Food

Whitetails need food just as much as humans and other animals require sustenance in order to survive. Depending on where you are hunting deer may need more food. For example deer in Kansas may require more food during the snowy, winter months than, say, deer in Florida.Snow and cold temperatures are going to get deer moving and searching for high caloric food in order to maintain body heat and energy. It is true that mature bucks become nocturnal more so than they are in the rut. This could be from hunting pressure, less energy or just preservation of body heat. However, they have to feed periodically in order to survive.

Trail Cameras

Caleb's Wide-guy
Caleb Unger with his 4 1/2 year old he encountered and harvested on December 19, 2015.

If you are going to pattern a late season buck you need trail cameras. If you can pinpoint his movements in and out of his bedding area your chances increase drastically. The deer may only move 10 minutes before shooting light ends, so the use of trail cameras will help you locate his movements with minimum pressure on his home range. We pinpointed this deer with trail cameras throughout the unseasonably hot temperatures of the 2015 season. But on the first day of a cold snap, Unger capitalized on a food source as this buck was on his way back to bed.

Warm Clothes

I cannot stress enough how important the right clothing for late season hunting can be. It could be the difference between staying out for several hours or calling it quits at dusk because of the lack of feeling in your toes. Trust me, been there, done that. I make sure I have ample clothing, but not too much where it prohibits circulation. I also take along hand and feet warmers which have changed the length of time I’m able to stay in the woods during winter.

One last note I wanted to make. If you define success differently these tactics can still be useful. If you are simply trying to fill the freezer food sources and trail cameras remain important tools for the job. However you define success be sure to get out and hunt. The season is almost over!

Like what you see here? You can read more awesome hunting articles by Nathan Unger at the Bulldawg Outdoors blog. Follow him on Twitter @Bulldawgoutdoor and on Instagram @Bulldawgoutdoors.

NEXT:Using Trail Camera Surveys to Your Advantage

What to Do When Your Deer Disappear

Have you ever been so excited and overly prepared for opening day of deer season only to be disappointed later by the lack of deer you see in a sit?

photo (10)
Nathan Unger with his 3 1/2 – 4 1/2 year old seven point in 2013 over a food plot in the late season

I know I have – so the question then becomes where did they all go? What happened to all the bucks I had on trail cameras before the season? Or what happened to the quantity of deer that I scouted?

There are several possible reasons for these disappearances  and it would take a while to list them all here, however I want to highlight some of the main reasons for deer disappearing from your stand location.

1.) With Season Change Comes Change in Patterns

If you think about it, this idea makes perfect sense. As leaves begin to fall and vegetation begins to die off in the winter months, deer seek out the best cover possible which, unfortunately, means that the buck you’ve been watching is no longer showing up on your trail cam.

This type of cover can vary from swamp habitat to young pines 5-6 feet tall to tall grass to dips in a hillside. Finding these environments where deer like to bed and setting up within range, yet not bumping them with your scent is sure to increase your chance of killing that big buck.

2.) Pressure

This is tough because not always are you the one supplying the pressure. It could come from other hunters, farmers, gun clubs (I know this from experience), weather conditions or other predators.

While you may not be able to control some of these, you want to control yours variables as much as possible.

a.) Eliminating your scent as best you can, and trying to stay upwind of bedding areas will be a huge step in decreasing hunting pressure. I can’t tell you how many times I took the easier route to my stand because of lack of time or just plain laziness and ended up bumping deer – and not just any deer- big bucks!

b.) Getting in your stand early enough and staying long enough. One of the last things you want to do is try to get 5 or ten extra minutes of sleep which may be all it takes for you to bump a deer while you’re walking to your stand. Then, especially in the late season, you might as well hunt a different location. The same is true for when you get out. If deer are around you after shooting light – wait them out. It’s better that you not bump them and ruin your next hunt in that location. Because it will educate those deer and they will associate that pressure with your stand or that area.

3.) Food Sources

Even though you may have food on your property, guess what? The hunter next door to you probably does as well. So the key here is, provide the better option for deer. I mean think about it, would you rather have a filet mignon or an overcooked sirloin? Yes, I’m being facetious, but you would obviously want the juiciest, best-tasting option out there, and it’s the same for deer. If you live in a state where baiting isn’t allowed take steps to plant food plots before the season. Foods such as sugar beets or brassica are great late season options because after the first frost these taste like candy to deer.