Late-season bowhunting means battling cold weather and targeting pressured deer that have outwitted hunters all season. Although filling the freezer in the season’s waning days seems daunting, persistent hunters can be rewarded with an opportunity to punch their unfilled tag.
Late season refers to the post-rut period and the time after gun seasons have concluded. Nearly all states in the whitetail’s range have late-season bowhunting opportunities, most of which extend past the New Year. Weather conditions during this timeframe bring the coldest temperatures of the season, which makes it difficult to stay on stand. In order to find success, you must be able to endure the harsh elements while waiting for opportunity to present itself.
Understanding how to layer your clothing effectively is crucial for tolerating cold weather. Merino base layers do an exceptional job of keeping you warm with minimal bulk. They also naturally resist odor – an important consideration for a next-to-skin garment. A synthetic fleece beyond your base layer adds extra insulation, while a down jacket or vest with a parka-and-bibs combination locks in warmth.
You can also stay warm by hunting in enclosed blinds. In addition to concealing your movement better than a treestand tucked into a bare-leafed tree, blinds protect you from the wind. They can also be kept warm with a portable propane heater.
Bring a warm beverage along, and you’re sure to stay mentally sharp. Coffee or hot chocolate can do wonders for your mental comfort when it’s cold, so don’t forget your thermos when you head to the woods.
Deer are on high alert during the late season, because they’ve been exposed to several months of hunting pressure. But their movement patterns become relatively predictable as they transition from bedding areas to food sources. Grains, like corn and soybeans, are your best bet as the stalks keep the food above the snow. Turnips or brassica food plots are also effective, because the bulbs sweeten after a hard frost freezes the plant. Focusing your efforts on these areas will put you in a location where deer congregate throughout winter.
Since most late-season hunting strategies revolve around food sources, hunters usually prefer afternoon hunts. Enter your location during mid-day when deer are tucked away in nearby bedding areas. Then, set up an ambush within bow range of the trails that lead to the destination food source. This conservative approach reduces the risk of spooking deer. Late-season deer have been pressured throughout the hunting season, so they don’t tolerate excessive human activity. Watch the forecast and time your hunts with drastic drops in temperature and days when the barometric pressure rises above 30.00. Conditions like this encourage deer to feed earlier than normal and offer the best opportunity to find your target during shooting hours.
Even though the highly anticipated days of the rut have passed, the late season can be an exciting and effective time to bowhunt. By tweaking your approach to deer hunting and taking extra measures to stay warm, you just might fill your tag as the bottom drops out of the thermometer.