Those Late Season Whitetails
t ain’t over until it’s over!” I am sure that somebody famous first used that line though I have no idea who that could be, but how true that statement is especially for deer season in Texas.
This great state still offers three more weeks of whitetail hunting in south Texas in the month of January. I suggest that if you still have a tag and an empty freezer you should not give up. Believe it or not, even though many deer have already met their demise, there are still plenty left out there. You should change your hunting tactics a little, but with a little luck and a lot of patience, you can fill that tag.
Late season deer are survivors. They have eluded hunters for months. They have found hiding spots that have proved to be successful. They have learned through this season and seasons past when to venture out into the open and when it is not safe.
No longer are the bucks looking to mate; although given the opportunity, I am sure they will. These survivors are looking for food sources now to get them through the coming months. This time of year should find the late season hunter near an old apple orchard, or on the edge of a field that still has a crop. During these later months, whitetails will fill their bellies and give you the opportunity to fill your freezer.
Another fact to consider is that you have much less competition out there. Most bow hunters have either already scored on a whitetail, or they have just gotten discouraged enough to prefer the comfort of the living room couch instead of the cold, steel seat of a tree stand. Human scent is at a minimum and the deer are more relaxed in their activities with each passing day. If you go to that favorite stand you hunted in the early season, you have a good chance of filling your tag. Hunt the food sources.
If you have a deer sanctuary on your lease, a place that you have left clear of human odor and off limits during the season, then you have a golden spot for the late season. A stand located just outside this deer haven could prove to be the ticket. You always have to remember to keep the wind in your face so your scent will not give you away to a smart whitetail. You might catch a deer walking out of that hot spot with his guard down, totally unaware of your presence.
So, let’s assume your lease does not have such a safe place. Then where do the deer go? Where do you find the deer in late season? Time to think like a true Star Trek fan and “Go where no man has gone before.”
Those little woodlots everybody walked by during the middle of the season quite possibly will have a deer or two waiting inside because it has been their safe home for a few months. It’s the area hunters have avoided simply because the woods looked too small to hold deer. After all, the big woods is just a stone’s throw away.
It might be that small patch of brush sitting 30 feet from the road. Once I walked to one of those small patches I just talked about. There, to my surprise, stood a nice big doe I had spooked while she slept. She stayed there and stared at me for a few seconds before deciding it was time to move on.
Then, to my bigger surprise, I witnessed a nice buck get up next to where the doe stood seconds ago. Two big deer were in a small patch that would take me a total of 10 minutes to walk around completely. I wondered how long they were using this small spot for safety. Even more important, how many hunters had carried their bows and rifles right past that area while the deer hid and watched?
I once had a lease that had tons of deer and tons of pressure. Early in the season, I would see whitetails every day and always thought I would wait for the “big one.” Well, that day never came. As I waited and as the days passed, the deer seemed to become invisible. The lease had two large woodlots and three huge fields.
To get to the woods, we would have to walk a long distance along a sparse hedgerow that led to one of the fields. One afternoon after another unsuccessful morning stand, I headed back to my truck for some lunch. As I walked by that open hedgerow, four deer appeared out of the knee-high grass and left in a hurry when they saw me. You wouldn’t think a mature deer could lie in that grass and be totally hidden from view, but that was what happened.
I will admit that late season deer are a little tougher to take with a bow, but it’s certainly not impossible. Isn’t that one of the reasons we decide to bow hunt in the first place? We are looking for the challenge.
You can’t raise your bow and shoot at a deer that has been spooked. You must either make the deer stop completely or walk slowly. For me, late season deer are better hunted with two or more hunters. I like to bump the deer along as I walk slowly through a small woodlot and have my buddies wait for a nice easy shot at one trying to sneak away. Again, if you keep the wind in your face, you can be successful with late season whitetails.
So, with this in mind, get off the couch and “Go where no man has gone before.”
Contact Lou Marullo at