Call it an Arctic clipper, Polar Vortex, or other trendy name, yet whitetail deer have dealt with the challenges of winter for 1000’s of years and are doing fine. The colder the weather the more you can bet that your hunting competition is in the warm, one of the reasons that the deer woods settles down in late season and you’ll have the whole place to yourself.
Hunting in late season gives you that Jeremiah Johnson feeling and once you learn to laugh at the cold, the worse the weather the more enjoyable it becomes. Here are six tips to make the most of this year’s deer season.
- Tune your Bow and Body for the cold
As the season progresses, archers tend to practice less, despite the more demanding conditions of late season hunting. Shorter days, inclement weather, and work schedules often compete for critical practice time. To overcome these obstacles, move your range indoors. Bag and foam targets from McKenzie, Block, and other allow you to keep your muscles and form in top shape. Turning your bow’s draw weight down a crank or two is often advisable. After sitting in cold weather, your muscles may stiffen and heavier layers of cloths may impede your draw. Every hour or so, you should come to full draw or conduct some discrete stretching exercises. Make sure that you practice shooting in your full hunting dress, including gloves.
- Deer will Herd Up – Late season deer will concentrate near food sources. Find an afternoon travel path to a corn or alfalfa field and you have a hot-spot. In cold weather, you may want to consider using a ladder stand or a stick-type climbing device. Heavy clothing may cause you to perspire as you work up the tree with a climber. Ladder and stick-type stands allow easier access with less exertion.
As you settle in, make sure you can stand and move without creaks or squeaks. Platforms can be slippery and your safety harness will be especially important. Snug it to be sure.
- Plan to Stay Warm
Sitting in the stand involves less movement than standing and allows you to exercise your feet occasionally, increasing circulation. For warmth, sit on a foam cushion. Inflatable seats provide incredible warming power when used in the Lombard back area. The dead-air insulation feels like a heating pad.
If your feet often get cold, spray them with antiperspirant before putting on socks. This helps prevent foot sweat. Consider using a “Tosti Toes” inside your boot. These pads are designed to operate in the low oxygen levels inside your boot.
Scent-reducing rain suits can be an excellent choice in cold weather because they contain scent and block the wind. Outfit that are waterproof, windproof, and contains human scent are excellent. Since last minute whitetails can be any-weather events, having this 3-way protection comes in mighty handy, especially in the South where the rut occurs during the rainy season.
- Don’t Forget your Rut Tricks
Late season is often a second rut period. Don’t forget your grunt tube and rattling horns. Hunter’s Specialties TrueTalker is very versatile, offering excellent volume and the versatility of a grunt and bleat sound. Instead of carrying rattling antlers, consider a rattle-bag. It generates the antler sound and stores easily in a pack or large pocket.
Scouting is still important in last-minute deer hunting and trail timers can put you onto that buck of a lifetime, a process made easier with the advent of snow. Cold weather may prevent you from spending as much time in the woods as you’d like and this device can pinpoint the best times to sit the stand as well as capture the quality of deer on film. Even if the big one gets away, you can show the beast to your friends and begin making plans for next year.
- Plan Your Approach Getting to a stand in cold weather takes some planning. If you have to climb or walk through deep snow, consider dressing in your shirt and trousers and carry insulating outer layers. Daypacks are invaluable and can hold and organize your gloves, calls, knife, survival gear, etc. Be sure to carry matches, a lighter, and an extra candy bar or two. Staying dry is the key to staying warm.
- Keep Coyotes in Mind You can never kill too many coyotes and they may be more responsive to a caller in late season. If you are in a stand and things seem slow, cast a few squeaks or rabbit squawks and see what happens. The iHunt app for smart phones has a dozen or more calls that can entice a coyote or other predator.
A side benefit of late season hunting is seeing how deer react naturally to food sources and travel corridors. As you watch and monitor animal movements, you’ll be more prepared for next fall. Even if you spot Mr. Big and can’t get a shot, you’ll know his whereabouts come opening day.