“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” That’s what George S. Patton said. I tend to agree with him on that.
The late season is a time to regroup and get ready for one last round. The clock is ticking. Think you can just waltz onto pressured ground, hunt like everyone else does, and consistently kill mature deer? Guess again. You have to mix things up to beat the odds.
1. FIND AN ISLAND
It can be a figurative island or a literal one. Those who hunt around lakes and big rivers might take advantage of the latter. The point: late-season bucks move to places where they receive the least pressure. That might be a small patch of cover in the middle of a giant cornfield. That might be a small island in the middle of a lake. Regardless, find those island sanctuaries.
2. WAIT FOR RAIN
It’s the late season, so it’s coming down to the wire. If there’s time, wait until the best opportunity to capitalize on movement. Hunting low-odds days generally hinders more than it helps. Deer move a lot more freely when there’s a light mist or snowfall. Sometimes that is all it takes to get a mature deer on its feet during daylight.
3. BELLY-CRAWL THROUGH COVER
Some of the places where I hunt are very thick. So thick, in fact, that I have to crawl on hands and knees when I shed hunt them. If it’s coming down to the wire, and there is only a day or two left to hunt, slowly still-hunt through the thick cover. Look for an antler tine, twitching ear, or some other form of movement.
4. PATTERN THE PARADE
Deep into the late season—and other times of the year for that matter—mature bucks wait until young bucks, adult does, and fawns have entered the field to get out of their beds. Many times, older bucks don’t even make it to food sources before dark. Take advantage of this by watching where all of the deer are pouring into the field. Mark the route and look at an aerial map. Determine where you think those deer are bedding and setup accordingly. Post cameras for long-term scouting.
5. BLITZ A BUCK
A great way to find a buck fast is to put numerous trail cameras in the same general location. Check them after a few days. Leave any cameras the buck passed by. Move those it didn’t walk in front of closer to where you think its core area is. Repeat the process a few times until you have the information you need...or can’t wait to hunt the deer any longer. The idea is to paint the most complete picture you can with the trail camera photos you receive.
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Whitetails make the hunting world go round. Josh Honeycutt, deer hunting editor and "Brow Tines and Backstrap" blogger, knows a fair bit about killing mature deer. He was raised up hunting the river bottoms of Kentucky. And he still hunts there—among other places—to this day.
Follow along as he shares his adventures, experiences and knowledge of the white-tailed deer.