Alright so if you are like me and you still have a buck tag collecting dust this season you are probably racking your brain trying to figure out ways to close the deal on a buck you consider worthy of taking (whatever that means).
Well I have good news, it's the late season...most of the breeding has occurred which means in many ways the woods are more predictable now than they will be during any time of the hunting season.
Don't feel bad if you find yourself like me analyzing trail cam pictures from past years, current activity and all scouting signs you've collected this year trying to see if you need to hang new sets or abandon ones you thought were great....just breathe a little and read on.
The F-Y-I 's of late season are the 3 main principles I live by when hunting the late season.
F - Food
Obviously food is going to slowly become the primary and only thing on a buck's mind. Yes, breeding is still most likely at the top of the list as they see the window of opportunity shutting, however as the "I" part will point out food is your friend this time of year in more ways than one.
Last season I would have had many a chance at RD if I'd still been hunting when the harsh cold and deep snow hit in late December. During this stretch our brassica plot became the best food source around, and RD (along with many other bucks and does) would hit the plot on a daily basis well after light and well before dark. If RD is still alive and I don't harvest a buck before winter really sets in, you can bet everything I'll be hunting the food plot and the routes leading to it.
Keep it simple, and late season allows us to go the extreme and think just food once winter really sets in.
Y - Yearling Does
These young girlies running around in the doe groups are on average the last deer to come into estrous, and represent the area bucks last chance to breed. What this means is the cliche saying of "find the does and you find the bucks" couldn't be more true. This is coupled even more so due to the fact most doe groups now forming are shifting travel and bedding to accomodate their winter needs (food and thermal cover). Bedding areas will move closer to the food sources if possible which means keep a keen eye on this and adjust your entrance/exits accordingly.
The fact these young does are still coming into heat, can trigger some very aggressive encounters with bucks. Which is why many a hunter vouches a good decoy set up can really pay off and/or some aggressive type calling could be the ticket....I do offer one warning though. Realize the pressure that the deer have been put under as many locations reading this have already seen the brunt of their firearm seasons occur. Not all bucks are going to be too keen on responding so pick and choose your time to call wisely, but be prepared to go aggressive if you aren't getting one to turn or come in....it may surprise you how aggressive they'll get if they think another buck is taking one of the last does that is up for breeding.
I - Intersections & Travel Corridors
Pinch points and funnels are great locations all year long but this time of year can seriously ramp up their usefullness to the hunter ten-fold. This is due to the fact if you have a pinch point or funnel which is between the food and the closest bedding area, you my friend may very well be setting on a gold mine of activity. These are the areas you will still see some scraping action, rubs and the last of the cruising bucks happening. These spots combine the F & the Y into one...and that means good things!
Many other factors and things can be considered but stripped down these are the main things to consider when picking spots to hunt now that the leaves have fallen, prime breeding is done and winter is closing it's grasp on God's creation.
As always God bless and good luck out there!
Small Acre Hunting