Muzzleloader season closes today and it has not been a very good week to hunt from a weather standpoint. Wet, rainy conditions had the deer bedded down a good bit and there seems to be a number of good bucks still available.
Many people I have spoken with have seen a number of fresh rubs since rifle season, and the late bow season can be an excellent time to harvest one of those big boys that survived the early part of the season.
After the rut, the deer will be hitting the food heavy preparing for winter and the bucks will also have to put the weight back on that they lost during the rigors of mating.
Archers are still able to take a buck through the end of the year. The same stands that produced early in the archery season should be productive again late in the season if they are near heavily used food sources. The deer will be spending almost all of their time searching for food right now.
With the rut behind them, the bucks will be taking advantage of abundant oak crops and other mast that is still available. Any heavy crop near dense cover with a good escape route is a likely spot for a good buck to show up. Most deer will spend the majority of the daylight hours bedded down but they will get up from time to time for a bite to eat. They do not like to venture far from a good hiding spot to feed during the day after all the hunting pressure that they have been under for the last month.
However, one thing will get them up and moving during the day and that is a storm or cold front moving through the area. Normally deer will feed heavily as a front approaches then bed down during the storm.
Once it passes, the deer begin feeding again. Activity is dependant on the duration and severity of the storm but there will usually be an increase in feeding activity before and after a storm.
This is one of my favorite times to bow hunt for deer. I like to wait until after a snowstorm and sneak around dense cover that has grapes, greenbrier, crab apple, or some other tangled mast with an oak or beech flat nearby. When there is snow cover, it is quiet enough to still hunt slowly along the edges looking for deer feeding in the thick stuff on oak, grapes, or other available food.
The snow will muffle your sound as you approach such locations, and the deer are usually intent on feeding, making it possible to get within bow range. Snow cover also helps you determine what they are feeding on and which trails they are using as they travel to and from bedding areas.
Bucks like to bed near the food conserving as much energy as possible while recovering from the rut. If you can slip quietly around in a buck’s bedroom, you may catch him off guard coming or going and get a shot at a big buck that was smart enough to elude hunters for the last month.
Late season hunting is not for everybody. The weather can be terrible, cold temperatures and deep snows can make it tough to stay warm and difficult to hunt. However, the peacefulness and solitude of a snow-covered forest has a beauty all its own, and just being out there seems to revitalize the soul.
The chance for a big Christmas buck makes it all worthwhile.