13 Tips for Late Archery and Muzzleloader Season

Posted on December 30, 2013

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Andy Surra is the TSO Editor

Andy Surra is the TSO Editor

Need a few tips for hunting the late season? Well, you came to the right place. Enjoy!

1. Think Deer Survival: Heavy snowfalls will force deer into full survival mode. Bucks will never be hungrier during the hunting season than they are right now. Recovering from the rut can be difficult. Afterall, many bucks lose as much as one quarter of their body weight chasing does. During the late season they will be trying to fatten and prepare for the long winter ahead.

2. Go Door to Door: Don’t be afraid to knock on a few doors and ask for permission to hunt a new location. Many landowners are sympathetic to late season hunters. They can see the light at the end of the hunting season(s) tunnel. This is a great time to try to foster new relationships with landowners. If you are lucky enough to get permission from your new friend for a late season hunt, then it isn’t a stretch to say you increased your chances to hunt their property full time next season. Don’t be afraid to bring some leftover Christmas cookies with you as an excuse to stop by.

all in3. All-In on Food: Deer activity during the late season will be driven by food and food alone. Any late breaking does are few and far between. Ask any former wrestler and they will tell you rutting activity cannot hold a stick to hunger pangs especially after losing one quarter of your body weight. If an estrous doe is feeding where you hunt, then it is an opportunity no buck will resist but it is the food that will have brought in the doe. If does get nervous near a food source then get ready, a buck is coming!

Try different stand locations based on food. Go back to that oak flat or abandoned orchard you thought about moving to during the early season. Set up, be patient, and hunt deep into the waning hours shooting light. You will be surprised at what you can put on the ground during late season.

4. All We Need is Just a Little Patience: Even Axel and Slash can agree on this one. Be patient and fully identify your target. If you have a doe tag make sure you aren’t shooting a buck that shed it antlers early. Look over any larger than usual does especially if they are alone. You don’t want to down next season’s monster buck just to fill a doe tag.

5. Dust Off Your Decoys: A standing doe will help calm heavily pressured deer during the late season. Having a friendly face to welcome deer to a food source is certainly worth a shot this time of year.

Josh Keebler doesn't let a little snow keep him from finding big bucks.

Josh Keebler doesn’t let a little snow keep him from finding big bucks.

6. Become a Stealth Assassin: Big bucks do not get big by accident. They are smart and will pattern hunters the same as we pattern deer. It is often overlooked but deer will use sound as well as sight and scent to pattern hunters. If you’ve been driving your ATV/UTV to the base of your treestand all season long, then the deer have probably picked up on it. Instead making all the racket try leaving earlier and walk in as quietly as possible. It is time to mix it up.

7. Hunt Inside Out: Hunt heavy cover first, then field edges, and finally food plots. If deer can fatten and stay in cover, then it will. During the late season deer choose food sources close to cover over the risk of feeding in an exposed area.

8. Hunt Blizzards: There are few times better to sneak up on a buck than during a terrible snow storm. With their senses overloaded by wind and snow deer can be more easily approached. Like any other animal deer will take to cover during bad weather. Sneak into a pine thicket and look for bucks seeking a reprieve from the weather under the welcoming arms of hemlock branches.

9. Slow Push: While many hunters look down on deer drives during the rut, it may be time to consider this legitimate technic during the late season. That said, keep in mind that the deer have been heavily pressured and pushed hard for the past couple of months. Try using soft nudges in small thickets and not long pushes covering big pieces land. Larger and louder group drives on large pieces of land will push deer outside of your hunting area and could potentially threaten a depleted animals health. Two or three hunters sneaking through a thick laurel patch toward one or two standers is all you should need this late in the season.

10. Precious Commodities: So you’ve got many different food sources to hunt. Which one takes the top billing? Look for the food source available in least supply. Deer know it will be gone soon and it will draw the first deer. Hunt acorns this year until all the nuts are gone.

moon11. When the Moon Hits Your Eye: Deer movement with regard to moon phase is something we hold paramount at TSO. When the moon is full and the temperatures drop the deer will be feeding for most of the night. They will proceed to their bedding site at dawn and rest until late afternoon. Avoid hunting the full moon and you will see deer activity after first light in the morning and lasting throughout the day.

deer-tracks-in-snow12. Making Sense of Tracks: Odds are you will have some snow for the late season. It is very important to distinguish fresh sign from old sign.

Aging tracks can be difficult for beginners. Here’s a helpful tip. Use your fresh boot print as a guide. Your tracks can be used as a baseline to show crisp sharp edges and will help you age print definition, snow spray, and melted edges. All of which will aid in determining the age of the deer tracks you are looking at.

13. ‘JUST SAY NO’ High Winds: Experienced deer hunters will tell you high winds will wreak havoc on any deer hunters day in the woods. Deer need to feel safe from danger in order to avoid predators. High winds cripple their ability to detect danger leaving them no option but to hole up in a safe place. Look to hunt days with lower winds speeds. Anything under 15MPH is sufficient.

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As always, if you have any questions email us at teamsurra@gmail.com.

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