The Mid-Gun-Season Blues: When Times Get Tough

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Do the doldrums of a long gun deer season have you down? Try these tactics to fill that buck tag

Each day into midseason, you'll hear fewer gunshots and see fewer hunters, so keep hunting hard. Photo by Realtree

After the barrage of cannon fire you heard opening week, do any big bucks still roam the timber? You start to wonder. But remember, an old hip-swaying, big-racked whitetail is the ultimate survivor. Hunting one is never easy, especially during the middle of gun season. But hang in there, and try these tactics.

Morning Hunts

I believe your chances are best during this period when you hunt a morning stand back in the timber. When the pressure is on, an old deer feels most comfortable cruising around or pushing a doe on a hardwood ridge or in a cedar draw or creek bottom. By that time, he should have gone completely nocturnal, but deep woods give him a false sense of security. A buck believes he’s hidden in the trees, but he’s not if you’re posted there. Set up early, and look for a good deer ghosting around at dawn.

Then keep hanging tough. Each day into midseason, you’ll hear fewer gunshots and see fewer hunters stomping around the woods. Most of the die-hards who, like you, haven’t tagged out will hunt a couple of hours in morning and afternoon. At midday, things will settle down, and some deer will get up and move. You might still nail a good buck between 9 a.m. and noon.

Buck Holes

Search for what I call buck holes, which are tangles of honeysuckle or wild rose on ridges, cedar or pine thickets, brushy beaver swamps … you get the idea. A buck hole doesn’t have to be large or even remote — just a thick spot other hunters overlook. A grassy ditch near a back road, an overgrown hog lot behind an old barn or a similar neglected spot can hide a big buck.

Scour an aerial map for such pockets or strips of cover. Check the edges of a thicket or swamp for trails pocked with big tracks. Look for rubs and late scrapes, which are signs that a buck has moved back in there to evade hunters and breed a last willing doe.

When you find a mother lode of fresh sign, stop right there. You don’t want to bust into a small security area, put more heat on already wired deer and bust them out of there. It’s better to back off 100 yards or so and set up on a ridge or point where you can cover buck entry and exit routes into and out of cover.

Keep Grinding

If your firearms season extends a month or longer through December, your best shot to is keep scouting and hunting the buck holes. If you hunt public land, take off work, and hunt Tuesday through Thursday, when there will be fewer hunters in the woods, and when deer will move more. Good luck, and keep grinding.

(Don't miss: The Mentality of Big-Buck Killers)