How To

One Last Shot: Hunting Last-minute Whitetails

Hunting late-season deer can be challenging, but it also offers many opportunities.

Hunting late-season deer can be challenging, but it also offers many opportunities.

Deer season always seems to start out with mild temperatures and long days, and ends with the brutal cold of winter (maybe not this season, given how warm the weather’s been). While some hunters hang up the bow or rifle and kick back for a winter spent sitting in front of the fireplace, there are those hardy souls who gear up and venture out into the elements to fill those unused tags. The good news for them is, there are some really nice bucks to be had as the season winds to a close. You just need to get that one last shot at filling your tag.

Finding them

Deer get back to being more predictable in late season. Food becomes the highest priority once again, making deer travel and actions easier to target. Those travel corridors they were using before the rut will once again be in use. If there is snow on the ground, then life gets a little easier for you. A track in snow is pretty easy to read.

Trail cameras are also very useful in late season. I will add, however, that you really need to use good batteries. Cold saps battery life, so cheap batteries die quickly and can even freeze up or leak. I had a camera ruined once by cheap batteries late in the season. Not going to happen again!

You have to be out there

The key to tagging out a last-minute buck is being able to stay on your stand for the long hours it may take. In my neck of the woods here in Michigan, December is a great time to deer hunt, but oh man can it get cold! Even the deer get cold, often bedding on the southern sides of hills to get out of the wind.

The most important thing I do to stay warm when I’m going to be hunting is use heavy duty base layers. You can handle some pretty severe cold if you’re properly equipped. For extreme conditions, Cabela’s Men’s Thermal Zone Standhunter 1/2-Zip Top with Polartec and the matching Thermal Zone Stand Hunter Bottoms with Polartec Thermal Pro offer extreme cold resistance. They are 30 percent warmer than anything comparable on the market and that’s why I use them. The designers of these garments thermally mapped a body to see where heat loss areas are, and made the layers match those areas. It’s pretty cool stuff and it works, too.

Still, if you’re sitting 17 feet up a tree in winter, with a breeze blowing straight down on you from the Canadian freezer, you might want to boost your base with a little extra fleece. Cabela’s Microfleece 1/4-Zip Jacket adds the extra bit of insulation you might need to make it through an afternoon hunt.

Don’t forget your extremities. I’ve come to appreciate Cabela’s Men’s MT050 Extreme II Glomitts as outstanding hand protection for the harsher elements. At the same time, they allow me to use my fingers for things like picking up small stuff, or reading through OutdoorHub on my phone to pass the time.

Just as important as base layers are the socks. Cabela’s Men’s Wool Ultimax Lifetime Guarantee Heavyweight Socks help keep my toes warm. Once your feet get cold, the rest of you will get cold, too.

Quiet outside

Once you have the base bases covered, it’s time to take care of the outside. For women hunters, the Cabela’s Women’s OutfitHER Insulated Jacket with ScentLok and the matching OutfitHER Bibs have you covered.

On the guy’s side, take a close look at the Cabela’s Men’s Silent Suede Parka with 4MOST DRY-PLUS, or if you’re not hunting in extreme cold, try the legendary Cabela’s Men’s Rain Suede Packable Parka with 4MOST DRY-PLUS. Silent clothing truly falls in line with late-season hunting in two ways. First, have you ever noticed how cold and snow amplifies sound? Sound waves travel faster in colder air, so any little noise becomes a bigger noise. Second, late-season bruiser bucks live to be bruisers by finding those areas that they are hidden in. It makes for a perfect opportunity to still hunt. But you have to be quiet!

The late rut

While not the utter craziness of the regular rut, the late rut offers some fantastic options. Those does that weren’t bred during the regular rut will come in to cycle again roughly 28 to 30 days after they first cycle. Targeting bucks looking for late-rutting does can be very productive. Again, set up near food sources and cover areas you know are holding deer. Use does-in-heat scent, just like you would in the first rut. One trick that has worked well for me is using a small plastic container for the scent and then having the container set on top of a disposable hand warmer. Warming the doe urine makes it more authentic, in my opinion, and can be a key thing in late season.

Another trick is to use a deer decoy, although I take the antlers off my buck decoy and turn him into a her. I use those large white scent wicks on the tail and coat them with scent. For late season deer, I like to position the decoy off to the side and somewhat behind me, if I’m in a treestand. It works to draw attention away from me and draws the bucks toward me. If I’m on the ground, I place the decoy to the upwind side of me and at the middle of my effective shooting range. Again, draws attention away from me and lets me get that one last shot that just might let me bring home a late season trophy.

This article was produced in cooperation with Cabela’s.

Image by ForestWander on the Wikimedia Commons

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