Tips for Bowhunting the Late Season
- Find Late Season Food Sources
- Find Late Season Cover
- Hunt The Does To Take Advantage Of Potential Late Season Rut Activity
- Locate A LAte Season Bedding Area Or Better Yet Locate A Lone Bed Away From Activity And Often This Is A Buck Bed
- Stay Warm
Here in Kentucky we have a one buck rule. I moved here from Indiana, where it was also a one buck limit. A one buck limit sometimes has you hunting the late season if you weren’t able to fill your tag. Many bowhunters believe that bowhunting the late season is a difficult proposition. Others feel that it’s a great time to pattern a weary old buck that might have his guard down after the demanding days of the rut. there are yet others that prefer bowhunting the late season altogether. Here are a few tips on bowhunting the late season for whitetail deer.
FIND THE FOOD FOR LATE SEASON BOW HUNT
It might go without saying, but I will say it anyway for those that usually tag out before bowhunting the late season. Find the food and you find the deer. A buck will lose up to 30% of its body weight during the rut and they need nourishment to recover and survive the winter. It is also possible that there are a few fawns coming into estrus for the first time. This will trigger a flurry of activity around the available food. More than likely the best food source is going to attract most of the deer in the area so whether the buck is hunting food or late estrus does the best food source is where you should look to find your late season buck.
Unless you put eyes on a shooter buck using a particular food source you are pretty much hunting blind. If you only have a few days to put things together an observation day could be a smart strategy. I know, taking one of your few hunting days to glass might sound crazy, but if you have located several possible stand sites you can survey them all in one day. This allows you to see if there’s a shooter using any of them, narrowing down your choices. There’s another option and the one I like the most when I have limited days to hunt. You can place trail cameras at your stand sites where you’ve seen sign. This allows you to hunt one location while the trail cameras are keeping an eye on your other possible sites, giving you a chance to get a shot at the site your hunting.
When hunting food sources you might want to consider staying away in the mornings. The risk is great for bumping deer going in. Sleeping in might be your best choice. Going to stand at noon and sitting until dark will have you hunting undisturbed deer. That’s always a good thing when hunting the late season when deer have been harassed for several weeks already. Sit by the fire a little longer and enjoy sleeping in when hunting near food sources.
FIND THE COVER
The next best place to look for your late season bowhunt is cover. Not all cover is created equal. Look for really thick cover for your late season hunt. Thick cover offers three things to a deer. It offers windbreak, browse and sunlight.
Thick cover like honeysuckle patches or old cutovers will block the cold wind during the late season. This gives deer a place to recover in comfort. This thick cover also provides for excellent browse for the whitetail. As the snow begins to cove many of the ag fields and mast thickets can provide accessible browse for the deer. Finally something people don’t often think about is the warmth from the sunlight. While these thickets may seem impenetrable the sun shines down into the thick stuff providing radiant heat. This coupled with minimal wind intrusion and edible browse makes this thick cover an excellent place to bow hunt the late season.
Look for thick cover on south-facing slopes. Deer seek south-facing slopes for the extended period of sunlight that it provides. This is just another bit of woodsmanship that can increase your odds when bowhunting the late season. Woodsmanship is fast becoming a thing of the past. Learning the woods and why animals do what they do will help you immensely in your efforts to harvest game. With trail cameras and food plots ruling the hunt, woodsmanship quickly takes a backseat. Combine today’s technology with good old fashion woodsmanship and your success rate is sure to increase. Besides it makes the hunt that much more rewarding. Even with those trail cameras and food plots, knowing where, when and why a deer is going to do something might be the piece to your puzzle that fills your late season tag.
HUNT THE LATE RUT
The second rut may not be as intense as the first, but for late season it can provide some arrow slinging action. The best way to take advantage of the late rut is to find the does. The first two tips above should put you in the right spots. The more does you can locate the better. It increases the chance that one of the previous years fawns or unbred doe will come into estrus. Most of the does are bred in November leaving fewer does that can come into season. So when you find an area with lots of does and one of them come into estrus you could see every buck in the area nosing around.
Personally I refrain from using doe in estrus scent products during the November rut. While it will bring in a buck that wanders within nose shot I have found that a doe that isn’t in estrus will spook when she smells the scent. The only thing I can think of that might cause them to spook is the fact that they have been constantly harassed by bucks and they know that an estrus doe is just going to bring them around. I do like to use dominant buck lures during the November rut, but no doe in heat.
The late season is a different story. The rut has wound down and a lot of the crazy chasing, sparring, fighting and all around harassing has subsided leaving deer’s main focus on food. Bucks aren’t too focused on late season breeding. However, have a doe come into estrus and they go into propagation mode. They will instinctively pursue the one doe in the area. This can have several bucks concentrated. This is a great time to use doe in estrus lures to bring in a buck.
LATE SEASON BED
A great way to bow hunt the late season is to locate a buck’s bed. This is not an easy task, but if you’re fortunate enough to locate a late season bed it can be the perfect stand site. There are many ways to locate a buck’s bed. Late season scouting is my favorite way to find them. Once you tag out or the season is over can be a great time to walk your woods to scout for the next season. Go easy and be sure to approach old deadfalls or brush piles cautiously. Big bucks love to bed in the middle of them. You want to get a good look at the deer when it gets up, especially if you are looking for bucks.
Brush piles and old deadfalls provide all the necessities for a buck recovering from the rut. They provide thermal shelter by blocking the wind and they provide the perfect cover to hide. Early season might find the same buck bedded on a ridge line or in some tall grass to stay cool from the early season heat. During the late season deer will seek these bedding locations for the warmth and to get away from hunting pressure. When you locate a late season bed be sure to mark it on your map. There is a good chance the deer will use the same bed next season.
This tip for bowhunting the late season might seem a bit elementary. But, you won’t think that when a giant buck finally gives you a shot and you can’t draw your bow. This sounds crazy but it has happened. I’ve never had it happen when drawing on a deer but I have tested it after hours on stand. It was super cold and I didn’t want to wear too many clothes because it interferes with drawing my bow. I was cold but as a friend used to say “you gotta be tough if your going to be stupid.” Needless to say I’m pretty tough. So I was “toughing out the cold” and decided I would just try to draw my bow. I couldn’t get it back. I mean not hard to draw I couldn’t draw my bow. My hunt was over and I left for warmer clothes.
There is all kinds of ways to stay warm from hot pouches to high dollar thermal underwear. You can also shorten your hunts so you don’t get chilled to the bone and then go back later. I have heard of guys who dropped the draw weight on their bow or had a backup bow setup for late season. Whichever way you choose just keep it in mind because it is real. Use layers that work and are not too bulky and you’ll be fine. Don’t find out too late when old Sticker Rack presents a broadside shot at 15 yards on your last late season bow hunt of the year.
Check Out Bowhunting Sanctuary on Public Land