By Bob Humphrey
Back in September we offered some tips on deer hunting the early-season, when the weather is nice, temperatures mild and deer relatively relaxed. Things have changed dramatically since then. Deer have gone into and out of the rut. And there are some distinct differences, and similarities between how you hunt the early and late seasons. Here’s a few tips for those of you still out there trying to stock up on venison.
Food was less important during the rut, especially if your goal is a good buck. But with the rut over and winter’s scarcity bearing down it becomes important again, even more important than in the early season. And a deer’s diet will change late in the season. You can forget about soft mast, which is all but gone, and high-protein foods like clover. Deer are after foods high in fat and carbs, especially bucks worn down from the rigors of the rut.
Hard Mast - Acorns may be in short supply now, but if you can find any quantity, you can bet the deer have found them too.
Crops - Crops like corn and beans have likely been harvested too. But depending on the style of harvesting, there may be some waste grain left on the ground. Deer will flock to these fields like seniors at the early-bird special.
Food Plots - If you planted the right type of plot, like winter wheat, turnips or soybeans, they’ll be more effective now than at any other time during the hunting season.
The best time to be in the woods during the rut is when the season is open. With the flurry over, that protracted window of opportunity shrinks. Now, as in the early season, you can maximize your time by again focusing on peak activity periods. Deer will be most active at dawn and dusk, particularly the latter. Afternoons are often much better to hunt this time of year, and they tend to be a tad more comfortable than early morning.
Comfort is key any time of year, but being comfortable matters more now than ever. As in the early season, a moisture-wicking base layer is a good idea. You may build perspiration walking to your stand and a wet body loses heat faster than a dry one. You can also save some effort riding at least part of the way on your ATV.
Over that you‘ll want an insulating layer of fleece. The air spaces help trap body heat. And on top of that, an outer layer will further trap heat and repel cold and environmental moisture.
Lastly, you’ll want something to keep the extremities warm. That means a wool or fleece cap and gloves and insulated boots. Don’t forget to bring along some hand and foot warmers as well as a few snacks. A foam or insulated seat cushion can also be a real asset this time of year.