By Bob Humphrey
It’s December, and deer seasons are winding down across the country. Some hunters have tagged out while others have simply given up. And you almost can’t blame them. The cool of fall is replaced with the deep cold of impending winter. It can test the mettle of even the hardiest hunter. But the deer are still out there and you should be too, until the last hour of the last day of the season. Here are a few tips that just might help you make it to the final bell.
Find the Food
The rut is over - though there may be a minor flurry of late rutting a month after the initial rut - and about the only reason both bucks and does will be on their feet now is to find food. You should do the same. Seek out high-calorie food sources like hard mast, waste grain or late-season food plots. That oak ridge the deer visited sporadically in November, spilled corn or beans left by a sloppy farmer and the tuberous roots of brassicas all become deer magnets when the mercury drops.
Seek the Warmth
When they’re not feeding deer will be bedded, most likely someplace where they can conserve the most energy. In hilly country, look for deer on south-facing slopes where they can soak up the warm rays of the sun and be out of prevailing winds. In the big woods, look in the bottoms especially areas dominated by softwoods, which help break the wind and reduce snow accumulation, making it easier for deer to travel and avoid predators. In agricultural land, look in the draws and shelterbelts. Hunt close, but not too close, as deer will often use the same bedding areas regularly this time of year, especially those near a food source.
Make Yourself Comfortable
So much of success comes down to being in the right place at the right time. Hopefully you’ve picked the right place. Now you just have to wait your quarry out, and that task becomes much easier if you’re comfortable.
Dress in layers, and bring extras. You can always strip them off if you don’t need them. Wear a synthetic base layer to wick away perspiration generated going to and from your stand. Add an insulating mid layer to hold in body heat, and cover it with an outer layer that is impervious to the elements. Pay particular attention to head, hands and feet, and bring along plenty of air-activated hand and foot warmers. Bring food and water too. Both will help you generate heat and better withstand the cold and possibly long hours on stand.
Don’t Give Up
It can be tough to remain confident to the end. Deer have been pressured by the long season, and many removed from the population. But remember, all those bucks you saw earlier in the season where left over from the last season, and there’s likely just as many still out there now. Stick with it and you just may be rewarded.