Keeping a trail camera alive during late season is not easy. Batteries lose their juice quicker as temperatures fall, and snow can build up over the lens. Many bucks have been shot and the number of big bucks on the landscape has dwindled. If you have been running a camera since the beginning of summer, you may think you have captured every buck in that area by now. The reality is, however, there is always a chance a new buck arrives, and that especially holds true in the late season.
The key to finding big sheds is just like hunting big bucks, go where big bucks live. It is only mid-December so although it’s not exactly shed hunting season, a well-planned feeding strategy can put more antlers in your hands when that magical time comes. When the bucks in your area are close to losing their antlers, they are usually run down from the rigors of the rut and are looking to pack on the weight they lost. Testosterone levels have dropped and they return to a travel pattern that goes from bedding areas to feeding sites.
If conditions are right, late season hunting can be just as exciting and productive as the rut. The key to late season hunting near a food source is to fill the field with what I call “confidence” deer. Confidence deer are basically all the deer that enter a field before your shooter is willing to expose himself during daylight.
With winter weather settling in across much of the nation, it’s time to take inventory of food availability in your area. Even if you had success with a food plot or left standing crops, keeping a supplemental feeding program active during the next few months will help your deer hit the ground running in terms of growth once spring green up occurs.
I hunted our lease in Nebraska this weekend and shot an old warrior we know as “Bowser.” Here is how the stars aligned and I was able to catch this mature buck on his feet in daylight.
Every year that I hunt, I hear reports from other hunters that usually sound like this: “You better get in the stand, they are rutting like crazy right now.”
Outside of the breeding season, deer are crepuscular meaning they are mostly active in the morning and evening. That pattern, however, changes during the breeding season. A buck could walk past at any time during the day, and if you are back home eating lunch you may miss your only opportunity at a trophy buck. All day sits can be mentally draining, especially if you are new at it. Here are some tips to help keep you in the stand and in the game.
When I am planning for a hunt, the biggest factor I consider is the direction of the wind. Everyone knows that white-tailed deer have an excellent sense of smell but it never ceases to amaze me how a deer 100 yards away can pick up on the slightest bit of human scent even though we are 17’ up in a tree.
While I was attending graduate school at Auburn University, I ran 6 trail cameras year-round within their 430-acre captive research facility. My study involved capturing newborn fawns and using their DNA profile to determine which bucks in the herd were siring fawns. For me, it was important to know what bucks were still alive during the breeding season so we could include them in our analysis of parentage.