Late Season Deer Hunting Preparation
The trees have shed their leaves, and now a cold, gray, and bleak look has overtaken the once beautiful, burnt orange woods. The arrival of grim, dull, and cold days may seem like an awful end to your already painful deer season, however, you shouldn’t throw the towel just yet. While the rest of the season may look pretty bleak, late-season deer hunting can actually be laden with opportunities.
What is the Late Season?
When the intense action of the rut subsides we are left with a long-drawn-out period of desperation. A buck’s reserves are depleted, they are slim after the energy loss of the rut giving them a strong need and urge to find a reliable resource. After November, when the cold temperatures of December and January hit this late-season period begins. The number one thing on everyone’s mind (both hunters and deer) is food.
There’s Still Time for Late Season Deer Hunting
As the deer hunting season winds down, it can get a little frustrating or disappointing on a few fronts. You might be discouraged about the deer you did (or did not) see this year. Maybe you’re still regretting a decision to hunt a particular stand in the wrong conditions, which spooked a giant deer off. Or maybe you’re just a little depressed that closing day is fast approaching and you still have an unused tag in your pocket. Those are all reasonable, and we all feel them at some point. But late-season deer hunting can be very productive with the right hunting strategies. Further, the last day of the season can quickly turn your luck around. So if you still have time and are eager to connect with a mature buck, here are some tips for late-season whitetail hunting.
Challenges for Late Season Deer Hunting
If you haven’t hunted in the late season before, there are a few things you should know. It’s not always an easy thing.
- For one, the deer have likely been chased, shot at, and otherwise harassed for up to a couple months already, so the remaining bucks and does will be very educated. This is not a time to slip up by hunting on a wrong wind or being noisy on your access trail. Be smart and stealthy about everything you do, and use a Scent Crusher® system to keep your human odor down.
- One of the biggest things with hunting the late-winter deer season is to wait for the right conditions, such as the right wind, a very cold front, or lots of snow. These conditions will usually get the deer moving and give you the best chance at shooting one. If you do spook some deer (on your way in or in your tree stand), you might want to hunt a different area because the survivors you bumped will be very cautious (if they come back at all). On the other hand, if it’s the last possible day you can hunt, it’s time to throw caution to the wind and put it all on the line. What do you have to lose?
- Also, late-season deer hunting weather can be dramatically different depending on where you hunt. In many northern parts of the country, the late season can mean significant snow on the ground and freezing temperatures, which aren’t very pleasant to sit through. You’ll need to be prepared for the cold weather hunting by dressing in additional layers or hunting in enclosed blinds. In more southerly areas, it will generally be milder out. In that case, wait for those rare cold fronts to push through to get the deer moving.
Late Season Food Sources
So what are the late-season food sources that you should look out for?
- Standing Beans and Corn – Soybean food plots, Corn plots, or corn/beans on leased cropland that has simply yet to be cut and are still standing can become a critical attraction and food sources in the late season and in winter.
- Brassicas– Brassicas is another name for plant species such as turnips, radishes, and rape, common late-season food sources that can be major attractants if enough acreage is planted.
- Cereal Grains – Winter rye, wheat, and oats can be in the form of cover crops and are common late-season food plots that can offer deer a green buffet as the cold temperatures arrive.
- Acorns– On good mast years there can be a bounty of acorns still left in the woods come the late season.
- Browse– Early successional species such as blackberries, black raspberries, greenbrier, and various saplings are critical food in the winter months. Areas of disturbance or overgrown pastures offering cover and food should not be overlooked.
Once you identify and find a late-season food source on your property, then it is time for the next step in preparation…setting up your trail cameras.
Late Season Hunting Strategies
To help you with what limited time you have left this season, here are a few late-season deer hunting tactics you can use.
The nice thing about late-season deer hunting is that you can depend on a deer’s stomach to get the best of them, much like hunting early season bucks. Dominant bucks especially need to hit food sources as much as possible to re-build their body mass and fat supply that was spent during the rut. In some cases, you can even see mature bucks feeding in crop fields or food plots during daylight hours. Standing corn and soybeans are both extremely attractive to deer. While corn offers mostly carbs (useful to add fat on a deer), soybeans have fat and protein to help rebuild muscle tissue as well. They are two of the best late-season food sources and you should try to include some on your property if you like the idea of late-season whitetail hunting. That being said, any food plot or field that isn’t buried in snow this time of year will also attract deer. Where legal to use, applying a few bags of Brassica Fall Food Plots is a great way to get the scent out and attract deer fast. Limit yourself to only hunting food sources in the afternoons, since deer will likely make their way back to beds before daylight and stay there for the day.
WildGuarder 4G Trail Camera Tips For Late Season
Your biggest concern before the best days of the late-season arrive should be your trail cameras. Cold temps force deer to hit food early in the afternoons, which can bring mature bucks out in daylight. This daily pattern once the cold temperatures arrive and stay can become one of the best opportunities of the year at a mature buck. But not without the help of trail cameras. This is the week to change up your trail camera strategy, setup new camera spots, and adjust the settings from rut focused to late-season focused. With food being the focus our trail camera tips take the form of what they were during the early season… check out the trail camera tips below to dial in on a mature buck’s pattern.
The first and most dependable is the time-lapse function on a trail camera. For this function you want to have a camera with great quality, the WildGuarder 4G trail camera Watcher1-4G has 20-megapixel images so they work great for the late season.
Setup: To hang the camera you simply hang the camera where it can clearly see the whole field. You want a good vantage and one very important tip is not facing the setting sun
Settings: For the settings on the camera you want to have the function set to the last 1-2 hours of daylight and a photo every 30 seconds to a minute. Make sure you have a big memory card, a 16gb will do fine.
Notes: By doing this, it allows you to survey how many, and which deer are using the food source during legal hunting times, and it also can help you pinpoint mature bucks patterns…and where to hang the second camera for late-season Intel!
Late Season Funnels
By identifying the bedding area and looking at the topography, in consideration of the food source you will be able to clearly see where the most traffic is coming into and out of the field. By setting a game camera on these late-season funnels, and using the same setup and settings as we did during the rut, we can more easily track a buck’s movement.
Setup: Set the trail camera up at a 45-degree angle from the run or funnel.
Settings: A long video mode, or 6-8 photo burst with a short 10-second delay
Notes: This setup gives you intel during the night, which the time-lapse function does not, potentially revealing just after dark movements telling you that you should move towards the bedding area to catch a buck during daylight.
By finding the main late-season food source on your property, following these WildGuarder 4G trail camera tips for the late season, and put together what you already know about a buck you can start gathering intel on a buck’s pattern before the temps get cold. Stay out of the food sources until those cold temps hit, and you have enough intel to make a move on a buck. As we progress through the late-season remember these WildGuarder 4G trail camera tips, and be careful not to overpressure your food source.
This is just the beginning of the late season, be sure to check back in each week for new relevant content! If you find yourself still looking to put some meat in the freezer or connect with that mature buck that’s escaped you all season, try using some of these late-season deer hunting tips.
WildGuarder‘s latest 4G trail camera Watcher1-4G is one of the most popular cameras in the market. It has excellent performance that supports sending 30s HD video and 20MP original image, which is not available in the other cellular camera. If you have any interest, feel free to contact us.