Tips to Overcome Late Season Bow Hunting Challenges
There’s a certain breed of bow hunter who actually likes to hunt the late season. Many will say they do and talk the talk. But when it comes right down to it, most of them will avoid late season deer hunting to focus on house work or the holidays. Why? It’s a lot of hard work and takes determination and mental toughness to sit through late season conditions. But late season bow hunting can be an amazing time to fill that tag that’s burning a hole in your pocket. It’ll taste a lot better on the grill than that piece of paper too.
But the problem is that the late season months can be really challenging, especially for bow hunters. Bitterly cold weather and sitting motionless for hours are bad for shoulder mobility when the shot opportunity arises. When you go to draw your bow back, your 70-pound draw weight will suddenly feel a lot harder than it did in the early season. As you struggle to draw it, you could very well blow your opportunity to shoot a buck of a lifetime. Fortunately, there are ways around the complications you’ll face.
Bow Hunting Deer : The Wishbone Buck
Cold Weather and Late Season Bow Hunting
Before we discuss any deer hunting tactics, let’s discuss the primary challenge you’ll face with late season archery. Depending on where you live and hunt, the late season can be slightly uncomfortable to intensely miserable. The further north you hunt, the worse it will be. But there are many ways to (at least partially) get rid of those issues.
First, you should realize that sweat is your enemy. If you get too hot and sweaty on the way to your tree stand, you will have to fight an uphill battle against your body to stay put. Hypothermia can set in if you get too sweaty and try to tough it out for too long. So try not to rush on the way into the stand, for a few reasons. One, you’ll likely spook deer when you break branches underfoot in your hurry. But you’ll also get too hot and cause issues for later.
Another way to combat the elements is to wear deer hunting clothing in layers. By adding a jacket or removing a vest, you can easily adjust your body temperature so you don’t get to the point of sweating in the first place. Focus on staying slightly cold while you’re active, and then add layers again when the activity stops.
A final way to beat the weather is to hunt in an enclosed blind whenever you can. Some of today’s blinds are fully insulated with silent windows, and can be equipped with a portable heater as well. This is more like a mini cabin, so it’s no wonder it’s comfortable to hunt out of. We realize it’s not an option for everyone to sit in an insulated high-end blind like this, particularly for public land hunters. But even being able to huddle behind an enclosed camo burlap wrap on your tree stand is better than nothing when the wind is howling up in the tree.
Where for Late Season Bow Hunting
After the rut, bucks are really worn-down animals. Chasing and breeding does and resolving territorial disputes with other bucks occupies most of their time, so feeding takes a temporary backseat. In fact, it’s not uncommon for them to lose up to 25% of their bodyweight. Once the rut is over, bucks will again focus intensely on feeding to replenish calories before the cold winter weather really sets in. That makes food sources a fantastic area to hunt for late season bow hunting.
While they are still cautious creatures from being hunted throughout the fall, some bucks will be a little more willing to enter fields as long as a high-quality food source is present. If hunting pressure has been light on your particular property and there is standing corn or beans present, it’s very likely they will enter the field during daylight. If you aren’t seeing bucks during daylight, you should move a tree stand to a smaller/more remote food plot or a staging area off of the main field, as bucks will often hit these during daylight and wait for cover of darkness before entering a main agricultural field. You’ll often find rubs in these small staging areas.
Additionally, the colder weather will start to push deer to seek out thermal cover. Rarely will you see a late season buck bed in the wide open as they might in the early season. Instead, plan on them using conifer stands, thick CRP fields, brushy draws, or south-facing hillsides for prime bedding spots. Bow hunting deer between these bedding areas and the feeding areas above is very likely to result in a daylight buck appearance.
When to Hunt in the Late Season
There are a few different views on the best time of day to hunt in the late season. Generally, the early late season (late November in many states) could produce post-rut bucks still looking for the few remaining does to be bred. During this time frame, an all-day hunt could be very productive as bucks will be cruising the woods.
However, most late season hunts revolve around the spots we discussed above: feeding and bedding areas. Whitetails feed heavily under cover of darkness, especially on agricultural fields or food plots. Towards morning, they usually make their way back to their bedding area to hide for the day. As a result, morning hunts are best for hunting near bedding areas. You can often catch a buck coming back to his bedroom in the early morning. But the opposite is true during the evening. In especially cold weather, deer will usually enter feeding areas early in the afternoon. Bow hunting near fields or food plots (preferably not directly on them) in the evenings will be most productive in the late season.
Archery Gear for Late Season Bow Hunting
If you bow hunt throughout the fall, you likely have all the archery equipment you need for a late season hunt. But there a few nuances. If you’re not used to shooting your bow in heavy winter clothing, this will definitely affect your accuracy. Your bulky sleeve usually interferes with the string when the bow is fired, which can cause it to shoot poorly. Take a few practice shots in your full hunting gear to see how it affects your shooting before you go on an actual hunt.
As far as broadhead choice, either will work well in most situations on whitetails. If you’re facing windy conditions and potentially longer shots, a mechanical broadhead is better than a fixed-blade option simply because it won’t wind plane as much. Additionally, the larger cutting diameter of the G5 Havoc or G5 T3 broadheads will produce unreal wound channels. Since there will likely be snow on the ground, you should have no problem following the blood trail of a well-hit whitetail using these broadheads.
Late Season Bow Hunting
If you’ve been looking forward to some late season whitetail hunting, the time is now. True, deer hunting in December has its challenges, but they can be overcome. Using the late season deer hunting tips above, you should be able to score big on a whitetail.