Psyched by pre-season scouting you marked the calendar like a kid at Christmas – the first day of archery season couldn’t arrive soon enough. Motivated by the giants on your hit list, those first few weeks in the treestand were euphoria. Each new sunrise was laced with the anticipation that this would be the day you’d bring home Mr. Talltines.
Now things have changed. It’s post rut and the bucks have been pressured for several weeks. The countless hours of sitting in the stand have left you wondering if the bucks on your trail camera were a mere pre-season mirage. Disappointment has caused second-guessing and your asking yourself, what did I do wrong?
Although you may be suffering from a case of bowhunter blues, this is not the time to confuse feeling with fact. The fact is, late season bowhunting is a great opportunity to harvest the deer of a lifetime.
Now is the time to take a step back, re-strategize and make the last few weeks of bow season really count.
Go Scouting Again
Seemingly able to vanish into thin air, late season bucks can make you believe they have the ability of a Disney super-hero. Changing weather, hunting pressure, food sources and post-rut recovery are factors that determine where a buck will reside late season. If you’re having a hard time locating your trophy, stop hunting and take the time to do some serious late-season scouting.
Implement whatever tactics are necessary to find where your buck is hanging out. If it means repositioning your trail cameras, using a spotting scope to glass certain food sources or setting up a ground blind at a safe distance and watching through a pair of binoculars, scouting will be your ticket to late season success.
Not only will scouting help you locate your deer, but just one glimpse of that bruiser buck will get you out of the doldrums and help energize you for the late season.
Small but dense wood lots are a favorite hangout for late season whitetail. With the undergrowth shedding the last of its leaves, deer are seeking to find security in thick cover. This doesn’t mean a buck will altogether abandon his general core area but he will likely migrate to the thickest part of it.
The size of a patch of cover is less important than the quality of cover. This time of year the small and overlooked pieces of property can become inhabited by a buck seeking sanctuary and relief from hunting pressure.
These small and ignored gems can often be located a few hundred feet from a house or residential area. Don’t be too proud to hang your stand or set up your blind within sight of someone’s home.
In spite of how small an area might be, if it has good cover and is close to a food source, you should check it out. You might be surprised at the quality of deer that are finding a haven there.
Find The Food
Post-rut bucks are worn out from long nights and hot dates. This makes finding a viable food source number one when trying to come up with a late season strategy. From acorns to corn stubble, it’s important to take the time and locate the best food source in your area.
A buck might pass up acorns in early season when he has crops to dine on, but when crops are gone and he’s in need of some sustenance, he’ll come back to the rich nutrients of an acorn. Hunting over this type of food source is vital during the late season.
Knowing you’re hunting in an area where a buck feels secure, has ample cover and is close to sufficient food, will help to give your confidence a much-needed boost.
Stay The Course
Early season confidence prompts carefulness. Maintaining that carefulness is just as important in late season. Waiting for the right wind, maintaining proper scent control and continuing to access your stand as carefully as possible, are fundamentals that can’t be ditched during moments of disappointment.
Don’t allow fatigue and frustration to wear you down. Get some rest, stay sharp and re-focus on the goal at hand. If anyone is worn out, let it be the trophy you’re hunting and not you.
If you’ve done your homework, there’s as much opportunity today as there was the first day of season – or maybe more. Bundle up, buck up, and brave another all day sit in the stand. It only takes a matter of moments for it all to come together. Don’t let a case of the late season blues keep you from harvesting the buck of your dreams.
Keep believing – a lot can happen in a short amount of time.
By Randy Hynes