The late season is upon us and while many are home with freezers stocked full of fresh venison, scores of hunters still hit the trail in search of some backwoods justice on that elusive buck they’ve watched all year. With changes in the season come changes in the woods that every hunter should learn to navigate if they want to end the misery of late season failures. Here are some basic tips to help you bag your buck before the buzzer sounds.
Changing Your Venue
By now, your deer population has been scattered from primary hunting setups by you, your buddies or other hunters; your neighboring hunters have also seen to it to continually pressure deer from your high traffic hunting spots. Consistently hunting an area is never a good idea, pressuring deer only leads to frustration. As much as we think we have deer patterned, by the late season they have likely patterned us; they know the paths we take to our stands and know where those stands are located. Now is a good time to abandon your traditional hunting stand for something less… expected. Scout a few of those quiet areas during a mid-day excursion and watch for signs of deer activity and formulate your new plan of attack. After scouting, set up your stand or blind, and then stay out of the area for several days, if possible, before returning to hunt.
Changing Your Game
Tying into a change of venue, consider placing stands or blinds near your traditional setups. Deer know where they expect to see you or your stand, a stand 50 yards down the tree line would be a surprise. If you hunt on the ground, get up in the air. A buck that has learned to watch for you on the ground likely is not tuned into the dangers above him; again, it’s the element of surprise for wise bucks already seasoned by the fall chase.
Consider what it is exactly you are hunting over in the late season. How has the change from fall to winter altered that activity resource in a way that influences a deer’s pattern or behavior? Are they rutting? Is the trail still used? Is water still close by? Is the food source still viable? Consider the change in seasons your message to reevaluate what exactly you are hunting over and make adjustments that make sense. Hunting a funnel demonstrating fresh sign in the late season makes infinitely more sense than sticking to the same old tree stand because you saw a buck working a scrape in early October. If there is an ageless lesson here it is, “The only thing constant is change.”
Changing Your Attitude
A lack of success spanning into the late season can be more than frustrating, it can be downright mentally and physically draining. Our human nature, if not kept in check, is to see our cup half empty. Pessimism is a deadly hunter, a silent killer, sneaking in to control our thoughts and skew our decisions; this type of counter-productive influence over our thoughts affects our ability to make good decisions. Edison worked tirelessly to produce the first light bulb before finally getting it right. When asked about his failures throughout the process his only explanation was, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Attitude is everything. Attitude either keeps you indoors or pushes you in the woods for another day of celebrating our outdoor heritage no matter the odds or the outcome.
Hunt hard, hunt often.