If you haven’t filled your archery tag yet don’t worry, some of the best hunting of the year is still to come! My favorite time of the season to shoot a mature deer is definitely October, but my second favorite is late season. I know the rut is a great time to kill a big one, but it seems like it’s more luck than anything else. It’s almost impossible to predict or pattern anything in November. That’s a different story during the early and late seasons when deer are on a strict feeding pattern. You have the element of surprise on your side early on in September and October, but during the latter part of the season when the snow starts to fly and the temperatures begin to plummet, deer have to feed to survive making them vulnerable and patternable once again.
During late season, deer have usually been pressured by bow hunters for at least 2-3 months. Also, a week or two of gun season has normally passed, meaning the local deer herd may be a little on the wary side. Add to that, the majority if not all of the cover in the trees is completely gone, making it next to impossible to hide. This can make it tough for the late season hunter, but not impossible, just remember your dealing with a different animal now and chances are your not going to get away with making any mistakes! There are three factors we need to consider when chasing late season bucks, and each of them will give us clues on how and where to hunt. First and foremost is hunting pressure and security cover, secondly food sources, and finally the 2nd rut. I will discuss each separately in the next few weeks.
Normally, I’m done hunting here at home before the rut, so I rarely get a chance to hunt late season here in Ohio. About five years ago though, I missed my opportunity early then spent all of November on the road hunting other states. When I returned, the Ohio gun season was opening up which is always the week after Thanksgiving and goes through the first week in December. As usual, I spent gun season hunting with my nephews, with the oldest one taking a great non typical buck the last day of the firearm season. After the gun season closed, I visited one of the farms I had hunted earlier in the year and hung a couple stands bordering a freshly picked corn field. With this particular farm being inside the city limits where there was no gun hunting allowed, I was hopeful the deer were piled up in my spot, and boy were they! On the first night I watched 6 different bucks enter the field, all of them feeding heavily except the biggest one, and he made a point of letting everybody know who the boss was! After watching him bully every buck in that field for a half hour, he finally ended up within 120 yards of me, close enough to hear me snort wheeze! It was like he was on a string, and as he made his way to my position, it seemed like his rack got bigger and bigger! I was positioned in a thin strip of woods along a creek that ran across the back half of the field I was watching, with a small section of corn behind me. As the giant buck closed the distance, he began scanning the area for the intruder who dared enter his domain. His approach brought him almost head on, but as he reached the thin strip of cover I was in, he turned and paralleled the creek, stopping to work a scrape directly in front of me at 15 yards, his last mistake!