Utilizing Early Season Tactics for Late Season Bucks
An empty freezer, depression, and an itchy trigger finger? All signs from a bow hunter’s worse fear…unfilled tags. You are not alone, this year was slow for everyone. Unseasonably warm temperatures have taken a toll on all stages of the rut this year. Worse yet, it is spilling over into the late season. This year the odds are stacked against you, compressing your hunting into the last week or two of the season. This is your last ditch effort…make it count!
The late season is usually an anticipated time of the year as opportunities for harvesting a mature buck start to surface. Again this year has proved difficult, even so the cold temperatures will arrive and with it your only chance at filling your tag and freezer. Luckily late season bucks express similar characteristics and patterns of their former early season, velvet totting self. The bed-feed-bed cycle has once again taken over. This enables a bow hunter to apply the same principle hunting tactics of the early season to the late season. However, there are some major differences to take note of.
Food in the late season is scarce. Unlike the early season succulent crops and natural growth are unavailable, now combined off or quite possibly buried under snow. Standing beans, corn, and reasonably sized brassica bulbs have the ability to draw deer in the last month of deer season. The need to feed gives a high preference food source the ability to pull deer, and more importantly mature bucks in from all directions. If these food sources are unpressured a buck can become easily patterned by scouting from afar or placing trail cameras out.
During the early season bedding areas were noted, but hardly ever hunted. These bedding areas in the early season consisted of any thick unpressured cover, but October and November have changed everything. Some thickets have been over hunted and others have melted away as the leaves fell. The best cover for the late season (that’s still standing) is early successional habitat or native warm season grasses, preferably on a southern slope with more sunlight available. And the closer to food the better. Cover that allows a buck to retain warmth and lay all day without disturbance is extremely important in the late season. This is something to exploit. Hunting on the edge of the bedding area with all necessities considered (wind, entry, and exit) is a proven bow hunting tactic for the late season.
The one completely different aspect an early season bow hunter does not have to account for is the tail. When bucks have and get (they will get) the opportunity to chase tail one last time before the season ends, it will be deadly. Bucks are thought to be nearly blind and deaf during the rut but the tail they chase during the rut is attached to one keen sighted, wind sniffing, leg stomping doe. During the late season a doe fawn reaching a critical weight (around 65lbs.) can and will be bred. This can provide you an opportunity given a fawn will be the most active during daylight hours, usually the first out of bedding, and first into a food source. They are also the least educated deer in the woods, making her and the pursuer an easy target.
Don’t let a slow season get the best of you. Capitalize on the last couple of weeks with these late season bow hunting tactics.