When temperatures plummet, the way to a deer's heart is through its stomach. Their peak drive to feed happens during the last days of the hunting season, and for bowhunters, that also means fewer hunters in the woods, but hunting when the season has worn you out is a mental hurdle. Add hunting in freezing weather into the mix, and most people would rather stay home.
During the late season, deer are at one of their more predictable stages. If you still have tags in your pocket and a freezer to fill, brush the snow off your truck and get moving!
As a force of habit, most of us like to be at the parking lot first. In the late season, an early start is only sometimes needed. A deep freeze will find deer feeding later in the mid-morning hours to conserve as much energy as they can. That means you shouldn't feel bad about staying in bed for an extra hour.
A late start is a slick trick for scouting your way to a setup. Find sign on a food source, and follow it toward the suspected bedding area. When a powdery layer of snow lays on your stomping grounds, it will make the late season the easiest time for reading deer sign. That snow will also make an entry close to bedding much more stealthy than crispy leaves.
Of course, early morning hunts are a good use of time if you know the best feeding and travel routes. Also, if the weatherman calls for mild temperatures, you'll want to return to your normal early morning routine. Deer will be on their feet earlier and tend to bed longer during the day in mild weather.
Layers, layers, layers! The weather during the late season will change often and fast. Clouds might cover the sun one minute, and a light breeze will make you feel like you're in the arctic. Later, those clouds move on, and the sun glaring off the snow will feel more like a tanning bed.
The same ideas apply to the late season as to any other hunting season time. Avoid bundling up on your way to your stand. Stay dry by wearing layers that continue to wick moisture from your body. Before putting on all your layers, allow time to cool off. Remember, tight layers mean less heat trapping.
Heavy late-season clothing is a puzzle for bowhunters. Body warmers, and hand warmers, might help to cut down on some of the bulky clothing.
Practicing in all your layers can greatly affect how well you shoot your bow. Sleeves that get in the way of a bowstring or gloves that affect an archer's grip might impede a shot. With that practice, you'll know where to make the clothing changes and what you can do to stay warm.
When someone goes to the gym, they usually start a workout with a warm-up or stretches. For the late-season hunter, calisthenics isn't an option. Cold muscles can mean injury, trouble drawing, failure to draw, or being able to stay at full draw for enough time. Throw in a bit of buck fever, and the perfect storm could ensue.
For the most accuracy, shooting your bow before your morning cup of coffee can help. Stiff muscles that have been lying in bed all night compare equally to sitting on stand all day. Another trick might be to wait for your kids at the bus stop in the cold for 30 minutes earlier than normal. After the pickup, go back and focus on making a single perfect shot.
If you're not pleased with your shooting, it might help to lower your draw weight. Even a few pounds can be enough to bring your skills to par. Capping the range of your shot is also a way to boost confidence. Compensate for the shorter range by carefully reading deer sign and getting closer to where they bed or feed. Close shots like this will build faith in your woodsmanship skills and are very rewarding.
Hunt Velvet Bucks and Sheds
You've bow hunted all year, and it probably feels like you've been through Dante's Inferno. All stages are different. Lingering summer patterns in the early bow season, through intense rut action. Then finally, hunting through the high pressure of gun seasons.
The routine of chasing does is winding down, and bucks want to group up with their homies. An ideal place to find late season bucks is in the same area where summer velvet bucks hang out. Proof that points to the right location is not only velvet pictures; it might be where you've found a few shed antlers in one area.
Narrowing property to places where you found sheds and took velvet pictures will put you on the fast track. Tighten those spots by tying one to another, maybe by a creek crossing or a brushy fence line between fields. Those pinches will put you in bow range for the perfect shot.
Author: Aaron Hepler, Team Afflictor