It’s the late season. It’s cold. Friggin’ cold. But you’ve still got a tag in your pocket. And I do, too.
I’ve had a pretty darn good season. I killed a very nice Kentucky buck early on during archery season. Since then, I’ve been a part of some great hunts and watched several other people take deer, too. But I still have an Ohio buck tag in my pocket.
If you still have an un-punched tag as well, look for big deer in these five places.
1. Small, Unpressured Pockets of Security Cover
As a deer hunting writer and editor, I’ve probably written the word “pressure” more than any other. Pressure is the destroyer of good deer seasons. It’s hard to recover from once it affects deer. Because of that, small, unpressured pockets of security cover are magnets for late-season deer — especially big bucks. Find deer during the late season by hunting the fringes of small patches of cover that have been ignored throughout the season.
I had to write “I will not talk during class” a whole lot when I was a kid. But I guarantee I’ve written “food is king” twice as much. And it’s true. These words are embedded in the deer hunting gospel. Focus on food to save your deer season. Start by scouting larger, more attractive food sources. Don’t overlook smaller, secluded options, though. Oftentimes, mature deer will hit these areas and stage up there before dark.
3. Close to Open Water Sources
We’ve experienced record-low temperatures within the last 10 days. It’s been stupid cold. And that’s exactly why you should be focusing on the few remaining water sources that aren’t locked up. Sure, you might have to punch a duck hunter in the mouth to get a spot. (Just kidding . . . I like all of you feather lovers out there. And I sincerely advise against physical altercations over a whitetail, or any animal.) But hey, we sacrifice a lot during deer season. What’s a little blood, eh?
Bucks seem to frequently bed on ridges and points during the late season. Up there, they can take advantage of their eyes, ears and nose, too. Before morning hunts, climb the hill long before daylight and get to the buck’s bedroom for it does. For afternoon sits, climb halfway up and wait for the buck to descend as it goes to feed. Just make sure you stay concealed and far enough down that deer don’t see or hear you. Also, watch for does, fawns and younger bucks. They’ll likely be bedded closer to the bottom.
5. In Low-Lying, Hard-to-Reach Swamps
Bucks love to use water to their advantage. Focusing on areas that are protected by H2O is a surefire way to find late-season whitetails. Ease in there with a pair of waders on and find some good, recent sign. Then hang a stand and be ready for that swamp donkey to wade into your life.
Regardless of where you begin your search for that late-season monarch, put out some trail cameras to help you locate and pattern your target deer. The Moultrie S-50i is a solid option.