Killing a deer at the end of the season can be tough, but some hunters do it every year without fail. Some of them just get lucky, but many of them know a few tips that put them in position to do so.
Davis Dodson of Marion, S.C. actually has more success during late season hunts than he does throughout the year, and the reasons for that can help other hunters. Dodson hunts exclusively with a crossbow, and because of the challenges that go along with that type of hunting, he is well-versed at what makes for a successful hunt as the season wanes.
“You’ve got to be close to shoot a deer with a bow or crossbow, and as the cold weather of December causes trees and brush to thin out by dropping their leaves, it gets tougher to hunt many areas because it’s tough for hunters to stay hidden well enough to get within 40 yards of a buck,” said Dodson.
Finding heavy cover is something Dodson has to do all season long, so December is no different for him. But for deer, things are different. They haven’t had to seek out heavy cover so carefully before now, because plenty of leafy greenery throughout the woods gave them a sense of security that they no longer have.
“I don’t change much about my behavior during the late season, but the deer do, and it never fails that I see more bucks and does during December than I do in other months. I’m always in heavy cover, and now so are the deer,” he said.
Dodson also advises other hunters to spend more time in their stands this month.
“Many deer just go straight nocturnal by this time of year. They don’t like being out in the open, so they will stay bedded down in thick cover during daylight. You won’t see many come into a clearing at daybreak or just before dark. They are more likely to feed and travel at 2 a.m. than during daylight. But, for whatever reason, if you hunt long enough during the late season, you’ll see deer at odd times of the day,” he said.
“Of all the December deer I’ve killed, most of them have shown up between the hours of 10 a.m. and noon, or between 2 and 3 p.m. I don’t know if it’s boredom, curiosity, or some need they feel to move around. Maybe it’s because they’ve learned that most hunters are out of the woods by those times throughout the season. I say pack a lunch, camouflage your stand in some heavy cover, and be prepared to sit longer than normal,” he said.
Dodson’s final tip for late season hunting is to make sure the deer have plenty to eat. If it’s legal in your county, he advises pouring corn out thick and often this month.
“The more it gets cold, the hungrier deer get, and with much of their normal food sources dwindling, they can’t pass up an easy meal. Put the corn out heavy. Just make sure you do it near some thick cover,” he said.