I think Ohio has one of the longest bow seasons. It starts the last weekend in September and continues through the first weekend in February. This provides plenty of time to key in on a certain buck and capitalize in the late season. I find that the pressure around me usually subsides after a weeklong gun season during the week after Thanksgiving. After this is when I go to work, if I haven’t filled my buck tag yet.
The first thing I do is locate the late-season food sources in my area. Deer are slaves to their stomachs at this time of year. Any standing beans or corn is the first spot I will hunt if I find those available. If not, there are several other food sources deer will frequent. My favorite two are winter wheat and leftover acorns. Both seem readily available in my area, and I don’t have to mess around making food plots. Bucks must replace up to 25 percent of the body weight they lost over the rut. High-protein food sources are a perfect place to find them. This is especially true when the temperature drops or the weather gets bad.
After I locate the food sources, my next step is to brush in my ground blinds. This step is important be- cause you want it to look as natural as possible. I prefer to hunt from the ground lin ate season for a few different reasons. The first is that it’s hard to find good cover 20 feet up in a tree with no foliage. The second is that it’s not as cold, providing you have a good wind block. You can also take a small propane buddy heater in a ground blind if you prefer. The last reason I like to hunt from the ground is that deer will bunch up into large groups. It’s easy to get picked off drawing your bow back with 20 sets of eyes looking around. For me, sometimes it’s a challenge with only one set of eyes.
Another great option is a tower blind, if available. They can give you an elevated viewpoint and be a lot warmer. There are several forms, from homemade to manufac- tured. I have even used a gravity wagon in the past as a blind because it is a natural object in a farm field at any given time.
After I have located a food source and blind location, the next thing I do is set up a cell cam. I use Stealth Cam fusion cams to minimize my pressure in the area. Cell cams are great at patterning deer. With the pictures get- ting sent right to your phone, it is easy to check the wind direction and weather. This step is important because it shows me what way the deer enter the field on any given wind. This step also helps me to determine what is the best wind to hunt. Don’t just rely on cell cams, though.
Nothing beats boots-on-the-ground scouting. I have also seen deer purposely avoid cameras in high-pressure areas.
Entry and exit are probably the most important things to plan for the hunt. Deer don’t bed far from preferred food sources in the winter. They conserve as much en- ergy as they can, so traveling long distances is not ideal. You need to know exactly where they bed with each wind that you will be hunting them.
I usually try to hunt a just-off wind. This gives me and the deer an advantage. Just be ready to capitalize, because shot opportunities can come fast. There is not nearly as much cover in the winter, because foliage has died off. Sometimes you must go way out of your way so as not to bump any deer. If they wind you before you get to the blind, your hunt is over before it even starts. I use the phone app HuntStand to check wind. It gives me all the information I need as far as direction, speed, and duration. It even has a scent drift feature that will place wind direction markers over your area so you can see it in real time. Another great tool I use for the wind is milk- weed seed pods. There is nothing better to check the wind and thermals, and this tactic is free. Collect and dry out a few pods in late summer and you will have enough to last all season.
When I head out late in the season, I like to only hunt on the best days. These are usually some of the worst weather days of the year. The day is usually one of sub- zero temperature, lots of wind and some sort of precip- itation. With those conditions ,you must have gear that can keep you in the stand for extended periods of time. Scentlok’s Fortress system is the perfect system for these conditions. It is windproof, rainproof, and has thermal mapping to make sure there is insulation in all the right spots. This hunting system, paired with Scentlok’s climaf- leece baselayers, will keep you in the stand all day. I can’t forget to mention the carbon alloy technology built into all Scentloks clothing that helps to lock in human odor.
I take every advantage I can when it comes to beating a Whitetail’s nose.
Good gear for late season is crucial. As the temperature drops and precipitation flies, you want gear you can depend on. I like to use fixed-blade broadheads in the late season. Helix makes the perfect fixed-blade broad- head and it doesn’t have any moving parts to freeze up. It’s the same situation with my bow. All the accessories on my bow can withstand the harshest weather. I per- sonally use a three-pin slider bow sight from Redline Hunting. It is easy to use in the worst conditions. As far as ground blinds, my preference is TideWe. They offer a great blind for the price. They have see-through technol- ogy while helping to control scent.
Another App I use is Huntwise. It not only offers you the wind and weather but can also help in other aspects of the hunt. The app will help with scouting by providing all the different maps and layers. The app also offers Huntcast, which is an algorithm that takes in several different factors, such as barometric pressure, moon, weather, and time of year to provide the best times to hunt. Not only does this app offer best times to hunt each day, it also provides the best day to hunt within a 15-day stretch. This app is perfect for people who can’t hunt every day to get the most out of their opportunities when the do hunt. You can even create custom alerts for your area. If you are in the market for a new app or haven’t checked it out it, investigating this is well worth your time.
There are a few other things to be mindful of in late season. One of the most important aspects is to know your deer. I say this because the later in the season it gets, the more likely it is for a buck to shed his antlers. The last thing you want to do is shoot a shed buck think- ing it was a nice doe. The next thing is that deer group up in large herds. Instead of one set of eyes, you may have many. Keep all movements slow and move as little as possible. Lastly, the days are short, and it gets dark fast. Getting to the stand early for evening hunts is crucial. I have found deer to move several hours before sunset in the late season, especially in bad weather.
Hopefully, if you still have a tag in your pocket during the late season, this article will help you fill it. Late sea- son can make for some of the best hunting of the year. It can also provide some of the most predictable times of the year. Deer are slaves to their stomachs, and in late season want to move very little if possible to get to good food sources. If you find their preferred food source and figure out where they are bedding you can capitalize on filling that late-season tag.