deer hunting

NICE SHOT — Brady Hammond poses with his trophy 10-point buck (190 pounds, dressed) in Carroll County.

Well, the early season whitetail deer hunting has passed, and many still are hunting hard and trying to "fill their deer tags." The farmers all have harvested the crops, and the deer hunting is going to be much tougher. The hunters have to be able to adapt to different hunting strategies if they want to be successful. True, the hunting conditions might be tougher, but they are not impossible. In all honesty, I personally prefer hunting during the later season, and hopefully, I can share some tips and techniques that will assist you during the later portion of deer season.

The hunter has to first realize the crops that were available earlier are now gone. Very little nutrition is available like it was in September and October, and the deer have completed the "rut" and once again. Their main consideration is acquiring enough food to put the weight back on that they lost during the rut and improving the chance of surviving the cold winter.

In order to do this, they will be drastically altering their habits. They will be "herding up" and relocating to winter food sources, and hunters needs to alter their hunting techniques to locate these winter food sources. When they locates deer, they should discover a large number of deer so they can start strategically placing their hunting locations to intercept the deer as they arrive to feed.

What the late-season deer hunter needs to consider is the early-season food sources have diminished. The deer have to eat all year, and food is very important in the cold months because it is in short supply. Deer need a lot of it to produce body heat and survive the winter. Acorns are a primary food in winter because they are a great source of energy. Deer can locate acorns in the snow, but the turkeys and squirrels are also competing for acorns. When acorns start to disappear, deer often start hitting farm fields for any leftover waste grain as well as trying to locate winter wheat or a "second-planting" food source. Deer also search out honeysuckle or adequate browse, and the hunter can use the fallen snow to visually locate deer tracks and trails.

Once hunters have located "alternative winter food sources," they needs to prepare themselves for the colder temperatures, and this requires eating a hearty breakfast, dressing in quality thermal underwear, and dressing in layers so they do not "work up a sweat" walking to their hunting spots. Quality insulated hunting boots, socks, and gloves are imperative, and I like to wear a neck gator to keep my neck warm. A couple hand warmers are another great addition on cold days. Once the hunters have themselves prepared, they just need to apply their hunting effort, be confident, and remind themselves, "You can't harvest a deer at home!" You have to be committed, so get out of bed and head for the woods.

Another advantage of late-season hunting is less hunting pressure. Many of the early-season hunters have either "filled their tags," or they have given up. So in most cases, the deer have relaxed, are not expecting danger, and the dedicated deer hunter who is willing to continue hunting oftentimes can put their tag on a deer while many of their fellow deer hunters are sitting at home trying to figure out why they were not successful.

I can speak from personal experience in stating that I have taken many deer during the late-season hunting, and some of the largest bucks and biggest does have been brought home in my truck when I had to scrape frost off the windows before leaving the driveway. So don't consider the deer season being over when the snow flies or the temperature drops below freezing. I consider the best hunting to be just starting.