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Monday, December 17, 2012

Late Season Archery

Late Season. Many hunters can't wait until snow is on the ground, the temperature is below freezing and the woods have that special stillness of a crisp winter day. Big bucks who can survive the archery season and the several week gun season will eventually find a wintertime safe zone. It is challenging to sort out the puzzle. Educated whitetails may find a place  where they have a vantage point to observe approaching hunters or hole up in dense growth where they feel protected and getting close can be a challenge if not impossible. These smart bucks have patterned hunters for several weeks and recognize slamming truck doors, footsteps of hunters on organized drives and the rhythmic steps of a solo hunter making a trek to a deer stand. The deer may have gone nocturnal for a period but as hunting pressure eased off after gun season, more normal movement slowly resurfaces. Deer will begin to feed at the field edges as the sun goes down. The buck in these camera photos survived at least 60 days of intense hunting pressure and will probably make it to next season. The odds were possibly tilted in the hunter's favor early in the season and during the peak rut but everything has now changed. The odds clearly favor this smart and wily buck who is slightly on edge and now may travel in a group with many eyes on the lookout for human danger. Here are a few Kodabow ideas that could be helpful during this period.
1 - The magic hours of 10AM - 2 PM.  Deer conserve energy and look to burn less calories during the cold weather. Bedding areas may be found on a southern facing hillside to capture the morning sun. After a snowstorm, a little scouting will tell you where the deer are hanging and moving. Deer may time their feeding movements when the sun is at the highest point and during the warmest time of the day to keep heat loss to a minimum. Position yourself in a good browsing area during this time. 
2. Hunt the Snowstorms and Bad Weather. If your buddies think you are nuts, it is possibly a good time to be in the woods. We have seen then biggest bucks move freely when the snow is falling. The caveat is if the wind is howling like a mad dog - reconsider only because of the danger risk associated with falling trees and branches. A soft snow and a slight covering wind that muffles the littlest noise can be ideal for the stalking hunter. Pay attention and move slowly. When you see a branch that appears to be a portion of a deer antler, your mind must be attuned to think "Deer" and not "Tree." Quiet and slow approaches can result in walking up on bedded deer within 10-15 yards especially if you know their hangouts. 
3. Dress warm. Hunt all day. The days are short and sunset comes early. The only way to do this safely is with appropriate clothing and gear.
One of the more memorable hunts was the day after Christmas. It was cold and I was hunting alone as I often do. Huge deer tracks were discovered in the freshly fallen snow. It was easy to recognize and appreciate where this deer bedded down the night before. The huge tracks showed a jagged pathway of the deer's morning travel through a feeding area. The right hunting decision was to back out of the area and put together a strategy for the next morning. Late season deer can be predictable and that was my expectation. Well before daylight on the 27th, I checked the wind and positioned a climbing tree stand along the previous morning's trail but well away from the bedding area. As the sun came up, I watched a farmer doing morning barnyard chores several hundred yards away. Then it happened - a large 10 point buck duplicated his movements from the previous morning. Like many hunters, I always have a strategy but most of the time, the best plans never seem to come together. (This is when my hunting friend always says, "That's why they call it hunting" --  like I didn't know that.) That morning, I guessed right. At 9:30 AM, on a calm still morning of the 27th of December, the late season came through again. See you out there! 
Chuck Matasic - Kodabow