Whether you hunt with a rifle or a bow, the late season is picked over. Deer are cold, scared, hungry, and warier than at any other time of year.
Worst of all, the rut is over and the temperatures have plummeted by early winter in most areas of the country, making it more challenging not only for deer but for you.
Long, silent hours in a near-dark treestand can take a toll on anyone’s nerves and patience, especially if there’s a steaming Thermos of broth in the truck, and something else to do, somewhere warm.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t punch a tag once all the leaves are down and the rut is over. You just need to be patient, learn from experience, and take it to heart.
These are some basic but helpful tips – remember them.
You can’t just keep on hoofing it out to your stand that’s been in the same place since August and expect to clean up come December or January.
Well, you might, if the stand is properly placed and there’s a food source nearby. But winning in the late season often equates to mobility.
Leave the stand where it is and get a climbing tree stand or hang a new one in a better location along an edge or near a food source. In this situation, Hawk Helium climbing sticks are preferable to ladders since they are light and easy to install and take down.
…But Be Patient
On the flip side, if you are confident in your stand’s location and know, either from tracks or trail cam footage, that deer are still moving underneath it, then don’t throw in the towel too early.
Late-season deer that are heavily pressured become crepuscular or outright nocturnal. They may not move until shooting light is nearly out – which means you could be in it for a long day.
But what’s that they say about the spoils going to the victor? If you want to win, you need to be able to sit tight for a long time.
Find the Food
One thing deer need to do, even if they’re more nervous in the late season, is eat. One aspect of deer behavior that will remain predictable is feeding.
By early to midwinter, most fields are bare. But if you can find some standing corn or soybeans, you can almost bet that at some point or other deer will pay you a visit, right there.
This is another bonus of using a climbing tree stand, or if not, hanging several hang-on stands and using Hawk Helium climbing sticks that prevent noise when packing, and have weight-saving cutouts. They are light and easy to deploy – these portable climbing sticks keep you more mobile.
Be Still and Silent
This cannot be stressed enough. The slightest movement or noise can bust you just as easily as your scent. Plenty of hunters go the extra mile to cover their scent trail; we can’t help but feel that not enough are quiet.
Be still and don’t move unless absolutely necessary, especially if you are glassing a target. If you can see them, they can see you, whether or not they actually do.
Avoid the Crowds
One more little tip that has the potential to pay dividends. If you are at all able, hunt during the week. Saturdays are when everyone gets out, and for better or worse, that tightens the noose on game animals that are already tired of being chased.
Not that deer let their hair down during the week, but you won’t be pushing past as many hunters if you do go out during the week instead of on the weekends – and that can make the difference between reporting a harvest and going home cold and empty-handed.
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