As the season for hunting whitetails is quickly approaching its end, many hunters have either already tagged a buck that satisfies their addiction or have headed for greener pastures. Cool temperatures and motionless sits can wear a hunter down. Some have taken to the swamps to hunt waterfowl or maybe even small game. For a select few though, the hunt continues on until the bitter end. Late season deer hunting is tough, especially when trying to tag a buck. Here is another go-to tactic that is only to be used during the last couple weeks of the season.
Hunting a bedding area is a finicky situation with little room for error. This is why a brazen move such as this is a last-ditch effort. During this time of the year, deer are typically bedded down before sunrise. Hunting pressure, recuperation from rutting activity and cold weather are to blame for this. This leaves us with an afternoon hunt as our best chance at knocking out the monarch. Of course, early morning hunts can yield results, but not typically near bedding areas. When a bedding area is located, you can slip in close to the perimeter and set up. When I say set up, I mean to quickly and quietly orient a stand or ground blind. Commotion and excessive noise will kill this plan before it even begins. I know a hunter who insisted on hanging a late season stand near a bedding area, at night. Knowing the buck would be close by before sunrise, he snuck into the bedding area when he knew the buck wasn’t…during the middle of the night. I recommend to have a buddy with you and to use extreme caution if this tactic is used.
A buck bed is going to be somewhere secluded, preferably in an area that allows sunlight, blocks wind, and hasn’t been disturbed by hunters. Bucks have multiple beds that they use sporadically, but once one is located, setting up close by is easy. A food source may be nearby, but don’t expect the bed to be just inside the timber like it was during the early season. Cutovers, pine stands, and ridges running along the edge of swamps are common places to find a bed. When a buck bed is located, you’ll see that a buck could’ve seen you coming from a mile away and scented you long before you showed up. It is best to get in the stand early in the afternoon, maybe even around noon. Take your time slipping in. He will probably be close by so use caution.
A ground blind can be erected much quicker than treestands and are ideal when hunting thick, nasty brush that late season bucks commonly reside in. Many hunters use natural brush to break up the outline of a pop-up blind, but a blind can also be made solely from brush. A few pine saplings and holly branches will conceal any movement that could be detected from deer on the ground.
Now is the time a buck has to be on his A-game. Coincidentally, it is also the time when hunters are the most careless. Take your time and be prepared for when he shows up, he won’t be around long. The only way to guarantee that you won’t kill a deer is to stay at home. It’s not too late to hit the woods and tag a buck.
For a more in-depth look at hunting post-rut bucks, check out my article Late Season Success in the latest issue of Wildlife in North Carolina.