It’s never too late to teach an old dog a few new tricks
Opening Day 2022 is in the books and we discussed a little bit last week a few of the major challenges many of us experienced first hand, including how weather played a major issue in hunting throughout our part of Whitetail Country.
With all that went on opening weekend, the reports of hunters who are still hunting, personal motivations and checking in on a local butcher shop, it looks like hunters are still tagging deer and many big bucks as of this writing.
It also looks like a few monster bucks will again be making the record books this season. As we begin to slow down — it’s tough getting up early for days and weeks — the question that needs answering is, what is a hunter to do if they still have tags to fill?
From past experience and talking with other more experienced hunters, not only from the northeast but also from other parts of the country, we have come up with a few ideas.
This year’s rut in our part of whitetail country definitely was hot and heavy on opening day all the way through bucks chasing does right up to and through Thanksgiving. Understanding how the rut has affected the tree we are hunting right now, is important and will help you finish filling those final tags.
The first thing we need to remember is the whitetails we are hunting from now until late season are not the same whitetails we hunted in mid-to-late October. The rut tends to really change deer movements. This is bad if you are hunting them the same way you did weeks ago. While we went over a few ideas last week, here is another major piece of the whitetail mid-to-late season puzzle that needs to be solved.
The one thing that has not changed is the deer’s desire and need to feed. Food sources are the first piece of the puzzle for later-season success. Remember, food source is always the key to any deer hunt, but more now as the season rolls on and the hunting pressure drops off a bit.
Your preseason scouting should have shown you which food sources will be available now. We should have a plan in place for these late-season spots. Human and rutting pressure doesn’t mean deer are not going to feed. We just need to know where they are feeding and be there when they are.
Most hunters will hunt the first few days or weekends of the season and then bag their deer, simply give up, or run out of time. The places they hunted have been undisturbed for a while and the local deer know this. Look for areas that have received little disturbance since mid-season and secluded feeding areas such as isolated food plots or fields that have little grass coming through the snow melt. Areas that have had little to no hunting pressure are prime late-season hunting hot spots.
This may not be as hard as one thinks. Find those core areas inside your hunting area. One of the best ways to find these areas is by tracking a deer you have shot. Think what direction the deer ran the last time you shot one. Chances are this is where they feel safe and hang out when the pressure is on. This is where you need to spend your hunting time during the late season.
Another thing then we found out that really helps, is changing up your hunting hours. This one is huge; deer will move throughout the day. We just need to be there when they are.
Timewise, I prefer instead of getting up at o’dark 30, try to sleep in and spend your time on stand around mid-morning and hunt until legal shooting time is over. If one realizes that getting in the woods when most folks are coming out for their lunch break and catching the deer they are bumping as they walk to the road is a good thing. Then again, when most folks head to a stand after lunch, the same thing will happen.
Notwithstanding, being on a stand when the woods are quiet, often means deer will be up and moving during mid-day for a snack. Changing your hunting hours will bring a bunch of other factors in play, but more importantly will give you the woods to yourself and let you be ready when everybody else is moving.
This time of year is a perfect time to utilize pop-up blinds. There are a lot of blinds on the market today, but the style of hunting I prefer is one that is easy to set up and lightweight, which in turn makes you mobile. We need to be mobile this time of year.
As this past week has shown us first hand, having some type of cover, which a pop-up offers, will keep you more comfortable which in turns means you will be staying in the woods longer. Hence increasing your odds to fill your tags. We need to be flexible and mix-up your hunting hours.
Going unconventional will find you setting up where you or others don’t typically hunt in your area. Deer pattern people as much or more than people pattern deer. Going untraditional may mean hunting between hunting blinds or areas where hunters are normally set up. Find unhunted upland travel corridors as well as wooded creeks and bottomland deer love. Mature whitetail bucks know the weak spots in your “normal” game plan. They can walk across a property without being spotted, even if it means going across a wide-open field where he knows you are not.
Also, consider hunting untraditional areas at untraditional times, especially during a full moon. During a full moon, deer move more during midday, and if you are in the “wrong” place at the “wrong” time, you might just surprise olde big boy.
From what I have seen this past week, the second rut is kicking in. While I have personally seen smaller bucks chasing does, I have received reports of monsters being taken while chasing does. This time of year can be exciting, so changing things up you can fill those final spots in your freezer. What do you have to lose? Tag soap is tag soap, and doesn’t compare to fresh venison.