7 Reasons You Didn’t Kill a Late-Season Buck

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Were You Guilty of Any of These Things?

It’s cold outside — very cold. Bone-chilling temperatures. Skin-slicing winds. Eye-blinding snow. It’s a winter not-so-wonderful wonderland out there right now. But hey, it’s still deer season, right?

Actually, for most, deer season is over now. A handful of states still have a few days (or weeks) to go just yet, though. Regardless of which category you might fall into, if you still hold a tag in your pocket, there might be a reason (or two) you didn't score. Here are seven possible ones that may or may not have affected you this season.

You Were Too AggressiveYou Were Too AggressiveYou Were Too AggressiveYou Were Too AggressiveYou Were Too Aggressive

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1 | You Were Too Aggressive

Being too aggressive during the late season can lead to bad things. First, it presents the possibility of pressuring deer. While that might not cause a deer to uproot and leave the property, it can cause it to slightly alter its core area and move much less during daylight. The best way to prevent this from happening is to keep yourself honest and ask a hunting buddy for his/her opinion when you think you might be pushing things a little too hard.

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Photo credit: Shutterstock / Critterbiz

You Weren’t Aggressive EnoughYou Weren’t Aggressive EnoughYou Weren’t Aggressive EnoughYou Weren’t Aggressive EnoughYou Weren’t Aggressive Enough

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2 | You Weren’t Aggressive Enough

We’ve flipped the script here. Too much aggression can be a bad thing. But not enough can be just as detrimental to the outcome you seek. Being too passive, opting to hunt too little, or choosing to not push close enough to bedding areas can result in unfilled tags. The major issue here — you must find that happy medium. And that’s dang hard to do sometimes.

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Photo credit: Shutterstock / Jim

You Held Too Tight to Your Rut-Hunting TacticsYou Held Too Tight to Your Rut-Hunting TacticsYou Held Too Tight to Your Rut-Hunting TacticsYou Held Too Tight to Your Rut-Hunting TacticsYou Held Too Tight to Your Rut-Hunting Tactics

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3 | You Held Too Tight to Your Rut-Hunting Tactics

The rut is a monster. But the late-season is a different animal entirely. That’s why successful hunters recognize that shift and transition from rut-hunting tactics to a late-season game plan once the time comes. If you carried over your rut mentality into the late season, hunted the same stand locations and targeted deer the same way, there’s a good chance you still have that tag in your pocket instead of on a deer.

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Photo credit: Shutterstock / Jim

You Didn’t Connect the Dots Between Bedding and Feeding DestinationsYou Didn’t Connect the Dots Between Bedding and Feeding DestinationsYou Didn’t Connect the Dots Between Bedding and Feeding DestinationsYou Didn’t Connect the Dots Between Bedding and Feeding DestinationsYou Didn’t Connect the Dots Between Bedding and Feeding Destinations

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4 | You Didn’t Connect the Dots Between Bedding and Feeding Destinations

The entire deer season revolves around food sources. But during the rut, you can get away with not knowing where your target deer is/are bedding. Once the late season arrives, all of that changes and you have to know (within 100 yards or so) where deer are bedding or odds of success plummet. Putting yourself in position is the name of the game. And a few yards this way or that way can mean all the difference. Know where the deer are bedding, feeding and watering to get a better feel for where to intercept them.

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Photo credit: Shutterstock / Steve Oehlenschlager

You Chose to Target One Specific BuckYou Chose to Target One Specific BuckYou Chose to Target One Specific BuckYou Chose to Target One Specific BuckYou Chose to Target One Specific Buck

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5 | You Chose to Target One Specific Buck

I can’t really speak here. This season, I finally did what I said I’d never do — target one specific deer and pass on all the rest. I’m not going to give too much away because the deer is still alive. However, I killed a very nice Kentucky velvet droptine buck early in the season. After that, I spent the bulk of the season in Ohio.

While there, I decided I wasn’t going to shoot any other deer but one buck I had on camera. And it was a mega-giant. Long story short, that choice resulted in me not pursuing other bucks that were significantly more killable (moving more during daylight). But I get it. Sometimes, you just have to chase that one particular deer. And I definitely understand that decision and mentality. But before you make that call for yourself, just know that higher odds of an unfilled tag often follow it.

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Photo credit: Shutterstock / Critterbiz

You Weren’t Careful Enough During the HuntYou Weren’t Careful Enough During the HuntYou Weren’t Careful Enough During the HuntYou Weren’t Careful Enough During the HuntYou Weren’t Careful Enough During the Hunt

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6 | You Weren’t Careful Enough During the Hunt

It’s easy to get sloppy at the end of the season. I get it. You're tired. It’s cold. There’s piles of snow everywhere. You’re seeing less deer now. It’s hard to stay mentally tough. But that’s exactly what you must do while deer hunting during the late season. Find a way to keep your mind intact on those long, cold, grueling hunts. Mentally focus on what you’re doing. One task at a time. Make an effort not to clink that metal buckle on your treestand. Double check to make sure that arrow is nocked securely. Have a mental checklist you run through before, during and after each hunt.

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Photo credit: Shutterstock / Jim

You Weren’t Willing to Adapt to Your SituationYou Weren’t Willing to Adapt to Your SituationYou Weren’t Willing to Adapt to Your SituationYou Weren’t Willing to Adapt to Your SituationYou Weren’t Willing to Adapt to Your Situation

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7 | You Weren’t Willing to Adapt to Your Situation

It’s hard to accept change. It’s even harder to implement it. But that’s what it takes to continually find success in the deer woods. Read the deer sign and terrain. Monitor the deer behavior and how they move about the landscape. Adjust your stand locations and game plan accordingly. Don’t get pigeon-holed into hunting the same spot day after day (or season after season for that matter). Adapt and survive. Or in this case, adapt and kill that deer.

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